Oh, is noon on a Friday not technically the weekend yet? Well, it’s my birthday and there is, like, twelve straight hours of playoff baseball that needs to be watched, so… SMOKEBOMB!
Posted by Andrew Stoeten under Paul Beeston, Payroll Parameters on Oct 03, 2014
When following the Blue Jays these days, it’s important to remember that Paul Beeston has a job to do. It’s also usually impossible to forget that he does, because boy, does he ever shamelessly hump that notion hard sometimes.
That isn’t to say that he isn’t good at the P.R. aspect of what he does, or not capable of pulling hope rabbits out of every hat, sleeve, and orifice. It’s just, one sometimes needs to pay some pretty careful attention in order to avoid actually paying attention to whatever the latest blather he’s bringing us is.
Does any of that make any sense?
Actually, it doesn’t matter, because neither did much of the aural application of lipstick to a pig we were treated to on this morning’s Jeff Blair Show on the Fan 590, on which Beeston appeared.
Ben Nicholson-Smith has an excellent roundup — with the full audio included — over at Sportsnet, but I suppose I ought to go through what was said in my own special way, eh?
Here are the highlights:
- Beeston hasn’t signed a new contract with Rogers. He admits he’s in the last year of his contract, but “I’m here for as long as Rogers wants me here,” he says. And at the point when they don’t, or he doesn’t want to be here, he expects they’ll work together on “some kind of organized phase out.”
- “I think that you can read into that,” he says of the idea that Anthopoulos and Gibbons will both be back. “I can say for a fact that Alex is back, unless, you know, he’s leaving,” he added, meaning leaving of his own volition.
- “We were trying to build something that was sustainable. We may have fast-started it by the 2013 moves, but nevertheless, when you start looking at what we did then, it was to give back to the fans.” Awwwww, bae.
- He doesn’t want to blame injuries, because everybody has injuries, but… um… about all those injuries we had! [Note: the Orioles say hi.]
- Blair pointed out that the TV ratings were quite strong this season, even though attendance at the Rogers Centre fell. But Beeston says the fact that it didn’t fall a whole lot is actually impressive, given all the advanced sales they had in 2013, the terrible season that turned out to be, and (with a little nudge from Blair on this one) the traffic mess Jays fans were faced with much of the year. Can’t actually disagree with them here.
- “It’s been escalating,” he says of payroll. “It went to 90, it went to 125, it went to 137. And you know it’s going higher next year,” he added emphatically, likely so as to drown out the laughs. Sounds great, though. I’ll believe it when I see it.
- Blah blah five year plan blah.
- “You’ll have to ask Alex that one,” he says when asked why Melky Cabrera wasn’t signed mid-season.
- The Jays are getting new turf for next season, and “we want grass for 2018,” he says. After some talk about the technological difficulties, Blair asked about the possibility of getting the All-Star game once the stadium playing surface isn’t dogshit, and Beeston said their plan, while not formalized yet, is to try to get it.
- Beeston calls new commissioner, Rob Manfred, an excellent choice, and points out that he was the one who hired him back when he was working for the commissioner’s office. The fact that he initially didn’t vote for Manfred at the recent papal conclave, he says, won’t carry any repercussions, as it was a “no win” situation, and he had to vote for someone, but felt both were great candidates. Beeston’s son works for Tom Werner, the losing candidate who Beeston initially voted for, so maybe this passes the smell test.
This was probably my favourite part of the whole affair, though:
Beeston, once again saying *anything* to maintain consumer confidence. “MORE PAYROLL, GRASS, THE ALL STAR GAME!! [renew season tix plz]”
— Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF) October 3, 2014
The team hasn’t sniffed relevance in 20 years. Maybe the legacy suit is the problem?
— Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF) October 3, 2014
List of things Beeston accomplished without Gillick is short. List of things Gillick accomplished without Beeston is long.
— Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF) October 3, 2014
So… there’s that.
Posted by Andrew Stoeten under Aaronxta Sanchez Vicario on Oct 03, 2014
Greg Wisniewski has an excellent piece up at Blue Jays Plus, where he uses actual numbers and logic in an attempt to answer the question that was on a lot of minds during the latter half of this summer: should Aaron Sanchez remain in the bullpen?
The argument for is fairly elegant: even though we can expect some regression, given his otherworldly beginnings as a big league reliever and the fact that the league has only seen 30 innings of him so far, he still could be a spectacular, bullpen-saving multi-inning reliever.
Imagine the Jays with Sanchez doing — albeit via groundballs, not strikeouts — what Dellin Betances did for the Yankees this season, throwing 90 relief innings over 70 appearances, 35 of which saw him get four outs or more.
It’s tantalizing, and — as Greg argues — it’s a way to get a tonne of immediate big league value out of Sanchez, rather than either having him toil in Buffalo or by making room for him in the rotation only to have him shut down late in the season because of an innings cap. It also, I might add, leaves him somewhat stretched out, and therefore more ready than most to assume a spot in the rotation should anyone go down to injury or need to be demoted for performance reasons — at which point his innings will likely have been suppressed enough that worrying about an early shut-down will have stopped being an issue.
This is all well and good. Counterintuitive as it may be to want to take innings away from what may be one of your better pitchers, you can make a pretty compelling case out of these ideas, I think. But if I were to take sort of issue with Greg’s piece, it would start around here:
The argument I’ve heard against the whole idea is that of the possibilty of injury. Frankly, I don’t buy it, and I don’t think the Blue Jays worry about the bullpen causing injuries to starters due to a change in routine. Sanchez, Stroman, and Daniel Norris (not to mention Brandon Morrow and Kyle Drabek) were all put in the bullpen this year after starting games, and there was no hesitation to do so from the Blue Jays front office.
Injury may well be an argument against the notion that some have made, but I personally wouldn’t make it — for exactly the reasons Greg cites — and I wouldn’t call it the argument against the scheme, either.
What I would call the argument against it is essentially twofold, though comes down to one central conceit: you eventually want Aaron Sanchez to be a starter — and not just any starter, but a very, very good one. That’s a key difference between him and Betances, who seems now a reliever in full. And the timeline for Sanchez’s future in the rotation isn’t necessarily just some vague “eventually,” but actually rather specific and, frankly, pretty soon.
J.A. Happ’s contract is up following the 2015 season. Mark Buehrle will hit free agency after next year as well. R.A. Dickey will likely be around for one year after that, but it’s too early to say whether his 2016 option will be picked up, and not impossible to think that injury or poor performance could force the Jays to drop him, creating three large holes in the club’s rotation twelve months from now.
Daniel Norris would ideally be able to fill one of those holes, but Sanchez, coming off a mere 100 inning season, likely could not. At least not in the way that you’d want.
The BJP piece notes that the Jays attempt to be gradual with the way they increase their young starters’ workloads, which they say poses a problem for Sanchez next spring, as he’ll be coming off a year in which he logged just 133.1 innings. But though Greg notes at one point that 30 inning increases are generally the maximum, he shows later that Marcus Stroman’s total this year actually went up by 42 innings. Daniel Norris also jumped about that much, from 90.2 last season to this year’s 131.1. And Drew Hutchison’s career high was 149.1 innings back in 2011, before he went up to 184.2 this year — a smaller jump, yes, but still above 30 and maybe more risky given his surgery and how long it had been since his arm had been built up to that point.
Not only does that make something closer to 175 innings — i.e. just ten innings fewer than Hutchison this year — plausible for Sanchez in 2015, it also puts him in line to pitch with no restrictions the following season (provided good health, of course). That’s not the case if he becomes a 100 inning guy this year, and while I’m sure the Jays could find a way to work around it (or, given their actions with Hutchison, simply increase his 2016 workload to 40-odd innings above its previous peak), it’s not the only problem that arises from bullpen plan.
There is also the issue of his repertoire and its development.
Sanchez essentially ditched his changeup while working out of the Jays’ bullpen this summer, throwing it just 4.2% of the time according to the data at Brooks. His curveball showed up just 13.1% of the time, while the rest of his pitches were either sinkers (59.7%) or four-seamers (23.0%). That’s not exactly the way to hone still-developing secondary offerings, nor is the fact that as a reliever he wouldn’t be turning lineups over particularly great for his development either.
To those points, here’s how Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus described the changeup he saw Sanchez using while pitching for New Hampshire on April 13th and June 8th of this year:
Poor pitch in both outings; lacks feel for offering; consistently misses up with CH; lacked consistent movement but showed occasional dive that didn’t seem repeatable; almost always overthrown and way too firm; needs to let the grip do the work; question whether feel will ever develop enough for average third pitch; stayed away from it in tight spots; seemed to use slower curveball as change-of-pace offering instead of changeup.
If Sanchez is being asked to come into high leverage big league situations and get outs all year, is he going to throw that pitch enough to really get the feel for it that he needs? Is practically shelving it for a year the best thing for its continued development?
These are important questions, and it would be easy to answer them with an emphatic “No!” But it’s not like he necessarily needs the change that badly in order to become an effective big league starter, either. In fact, in the concluding section of Anderson’s scouting report he says that Sanchez reminds him “a lot of A.J. Burnett in many ways.” Part of that is maybe just an overall feeling — he “will look brilliant at times and lost at others,” he says, calling Sanchez a future “mid-rotation starter who will have streaks where he can shows more than that” — but part of it too is that Burnett gets by just fine using a similar set of pitches.
Since 2007, Brooks says A.J. has thrown his changeup 5.9% of the time. The rest of his pitches, like Sanchez, have been a mix of curves, sinkers, and four-seamers. Burnett’s curve isn’t thrown the same way, his usage of it has been much heavier (31.6%), and his ratio of sinkers to four-seamers is quite different, but maybe he represents a sort of model of something you hope Sanchez can be.
It’s just… is that all you want him to be?
Sure, you’d take getting A.J. Burnett’s career out of Aaron Sanchez in a heartbeat. IN A HEARTBEAT. And consigning him to the bullpen for now won’t necessarily stunt him, so maybe my concerns about the lack of repetition of the changeup and putting off having him turn lineups over are a bit overblown. But I just can’t not believe that continuing to let him grow as a pitcher, rather than narrowing his focus at this still-crucial point in his development, is paramount. And combined with the innings issue you’ll run into when looking to him as a likely rotation piece in 2016, I tend to think that going for the short-term value gain of having him pitch as a multi-inning reliever next season probably just isn’t as worthwhile as it seems.
Um… unless you didn’t buy the arguments about using him in the ‘pen in the first place, in which case it’s exactly as worthwhile as it seems.
It’s playoff time! And naturally that means the Jays are no longer in it. But that doesn’t mean things around here are going to stop, and just like last year, to get you set up for each (non-weekend) night’s playoff action, and to give you a space to talk about the game, I’m going to be taking a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2014 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise. Tonight: J.A. Happ.
5:30 PM ET – Detroit @ Baltimore – Max Scherzer (6.0 rWAR) vs. Chris Tillman (2.4 rWAR)
8:00 PM ET – Kansas City @ Anaheim – Jason Vargas (2.4 rWAR) vs. Jered Weaver (3.0 rWAR)
In the overall, J.A. Happ didn’t have as good a 2014 as you probably think. Looking at the numbers, he certainly didn’t have as good a year as I believed — 1.3 fWAR, 1.4 rWAR, 4.22 ERA, 4.27 FIP, average HR/FB rate, almost three walks per nine innings, a K/9 that exactly matches his career mark of 7.58.
He really doesn’t even necessarily have long, stellar stretches to admire if we play the arbitrary endpoint game, either. For example, the end of his season was certainly better than the beginning, but his numbers after the All-Star break aren’t that different. The ERA is a tasty 3.56, yes, and the xFIP a handsome 3.65, but the FIP is 4.26, the strikeout rate is about the same (7.61), and though the walks were an impressively un-Happian 2.00 per nine, he was also getting some good fortune with respect to batted ball luck (.266 BABIP) and strand rate (77.8%).
Yet, 2014 felt like a real step in the right direction, odd as that may seem to be when you’re talking about a pitcher who turns 32 later this month.
Was it just the increased ability to limit walks? Not necessarily just that, but I think that’s one visible part of an entire reshaping of Happ as a pitcher that took place this season. One that we ought to hope he can sustain, as he’s in line to make just $6.7-million next season — provided the Jays don’t trade him, which could also be an intriguing possibility given their depth and the genuine value he built in 2014.
Part of what makes his year feel so much better than the aggregate numbers maybe look, I think, is our perception. I was at Brighthouse Field in Clearwater when Happ made his disastrous first appearance of the spring, and while he wasn’t quite as bad as his line that day made it look, it was pretty damn bad. And saying that the rest of his spring was equally vomitous is an understatement. I noted on March 25th that his Grapefruit League ERA at the time was a “cock-mangling 20.57.” That’s one of the reasons the club swallowed hard and started the season with Dustin McGowan in the rotation, with Happ taking a turn in Dunedin, then Buffalo before getting called up to join the big club’s bullpen.
He was awful, and I remember the lonely feeling of defending him to the frothing masses who found his atrocious spring bringing to mind the worst of the worst potential outcomes. (I… uh… I also remember the lonely feeling of saying it was dumb to call Brandon Morrow injury prone *COUGH*, so let’s not let me get feeling too smug about my predictive abilities here).
After a couple of relief appearances in April, it was revealed on May 1st that Happ would be getting a spot start in Philadelphia on the 5th, ostensibly as a way to get some extra rest in for the ailing McGowan (who, though the details weren’t public yet, was having trouble recovering from his starts) and the very green Drew Hutchison, who had been thrown into the fire with just 35.1 post-Tommy John innings on his arm. It was only a day later, however, that Brandon Morrow made his final start of the year, and Happ’s spot start turned into his becoming a fully-fledged member of the rotation, for better or worse.
Somehow, it was for better.
Much of it — maybe all of it — comes down to newfound velocity. Happ’s fastball sat at 92.7 in 2014, which was a 1.6 mph increase over the previous year (which was itself a career high), and a nonsensical improvement for a guy who made one start for the Phillies as a 24-year-old call-up in 2007, and sat at 87.7.
That velocity gain allowed him to change his pitch usage, too. He threw fastballs 72% of the time in 2014, which is a major change from 2010, when he moved from the Phillies to the Astros in-season, and his rate was just 58.9%. It was a big jump from what we’ve seen in his Blue Jays career, too, where he’d thrown it about 65% of the time. The increased usage came at the expense of his slider (used 6.3% of the time, compared to 10.9% in 2013, and 13.8% in 2012), and his changeup (9.5% in 2014 compared to 15.7% the year previous).
Meanwhile, he also built on steadily-made gains in terms of the percentage of pitches he threw for strikes — something it’s obviously easier to feel comfortable doing when you’re touching 94 and 95 than when your fastball sits at 87.7, or even, as it did in his first full year in the league, 88.9. Much of Happ’s plate discipline data doesn’t look terribly different in 2014 than it had in the years previous, though according to the Pitch F/X he threw strikes 52% of the time this season — a number that has steadily gone up since he bottomed out in 2009 with a 45.9% rate.
Velocity, it seems, is a good thing. Velocity and consistency might go a long, long way for Happ. He gave up four or more earned runs in ten of the 26 starts that he made in 2014, but he also gave up two or fewer in 12 of them. He didn’t have a lot of outings where he got his head handed to him, just a healthy number in which he was just kind of OK. And when you add that to all those good ones, for a back-of-the-rotation guy making $5.2-million this year and less than $7-million next, that’s really, really nice.
Who’dve thunk it? J.A. Happ is damn valuable. All it seems to have taken was a velocity spike at age 31. More pitchers should try that!
Posted by Andrew Stoeten under KawasakiTheBest, Minor Moves on Oct 02, 2014
On Wednesday, Munenori Kawasaki officially cleared waivers, was outrighted off of the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, and became a minor league free agent.
I get that.
The same scenario played out for Dan Johnson, as well.
I get that, too.
And according to a tweet from Mike Wilner, George Kottaras is likely to join them as free agents as soon as today.
This I do not get at all.
The answer to the questions on Kawasaki and Johnson are easy.
During his lengthy end-of-season press conference, which I recapped in detail earlier this week, Alex Anthopoulos clarified the utility infielder’s contract status, explaining that “Kawasaki, the way his contract is, even though he’s got — I haven’t looked at this, but — two years of service probably, or three years of service, he’s eligible for free agency. It’s just a clause in his contract. Most every Japanese player that comes over now, they’re not part of the reserve, you don’t get them for six or seven years and go through arbitration (unless they’re an amateur, and so on). So Kawa’s going to be a free agent at the end of the year — someone that I think we’re always going to look to bring back, one way or the other.”
Cue warm fuzzies and trips to Buffalo.
Johnson, on the other hand, despite being a prolific Triple-A hitter, is 35 years old and clearly not in the club’s plans, as evidenced by the way he was used in September. He is out of options and not a viable option as a replacement for Adam Lind on a team serious about winning. So that’s good! With the difference between his cost and Lind’s cost there could have been some kind of ridiculous plan to use him as a replacement, but obviously — thankfully — the Jays aren’t that hurtin’ for money and ideas.
I know he’s not Dickey’s “personal catcher” or whatever, but there is actually quite a bit to like about the idea of Kottaras getting the chance to unseat Josh Thole as the club’s backup behind the plate.
First and foremost, he was Tim Wakefield’s personal catcher in 2009, spending 18 games behind the plate for the knuckleballer. If he could do the same ably for Dickey the Jays would clearly have themselves a more capable backup because of the difference on offence. To wit: Thole’s career wRC+ is 78 in 1311 plate appearances, whereas Kottaras has posted a 100 mark through 858 PA. Thole has struggled since moving to a part-time role, and especially over the last three seasons, where he’s posted just a 58 wRC+ in 658 PA — a putrid slash line of .225/.292/.277 over that span. Meanwhile, Kottaras’s last four MLB seasons have produced 109, 113, 103, and 150 marks by wRC+, albeit all in small samples.
Kottaras holds a .246/.338/.431 slash line as a Triple-A player, as well. And his walk rates have only improved as he’s matured: 13.2% with the Brewers in 2010, 13.6% in Triple-A and 8.1% in the big leagues in 2011, 17.7% in part time big league duty in 2012, 19.0% as a backup for the Royals last year, and in 2014, 14.3% for Buffalo, 8.5% in a small sample for Columbus, and 15.8% in the big leagues with three different teams.
It gets better: Kottaras has been stronger against right-handed pitching than against left (105 wRC+ compared to 82 against lefties), which is the exact opposite of Dioner Navarro, who produced just a 96 wRC+ against right-handers in 2014, compared to 103 against lefties, and whose career platoon splits have been even more pronounced (107 vs. LHP, 78 vs. RHP). Thole’s career mark against right-handers is just 85, and that’s lifted by his non-abysmal seasons in 2011 and before.
The Jays, in other words, could legitimately use Kottaras to spell Navarro against right-handed pitchers, even when Dickey isn’t pitching, and get a benefit. He isn’t great defensively, and he isn’t great with respect to pitch framing, but if he could catch the knuckleball the way he’s shown before that he’s capable, it’s a clear win.
So what gives?
Kottaras made $950,000 in 2014 and is arbitration eligible for one more season. Thole, meanwhile, has a club option for 2015, but he’s also arbitration eligible. The Jays could decline the option while keeping control of him, and then — as far as I understand, at least — release him if he loses the position battle next spring while being on the hook for just one sixth of the salary if they’re unable to trade him (a la Reed Johnson). The same would be true of Kottaras were he to lose the battle.
While one sixth of whatever Thole makes (likely a raise on his $1.5-million 2014 salary — i.e. something over $250K) isn’t nothing, it seems like a pretty small cost compared to a pretty big opportunity to make exactly the kind incremental improvement they need on this front.
Am I missing something? Perhaps. CBA stuff is always a bit tricky — ask the Edmonton Oilers! HEYO! — but I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. And if so, I just can’t understand why the Jays would be about to make Kottaras a free agent.
Maybe they tried him out with Dickey outside of public view and didn’t like the results, though that nobody heard any sort of whisper of such a thing is somewhat hard to believe. (Update: Or maybe I just don’t remember and they totally did have him try).
Maybe they think there’s enough opportunity for him here that they can get him to sign a deal that’s more favourable to the club than even what he’d be set to earn next year through the arbitration process.
Maybe they’ll defer to their nominal ace’s preference, though Thole’s half-season in Buffalo in 2013 while Henry Blanco caught Dickey suggests otherwise. Or maybe they don’t want to disrupt Dickey’s spring by having him throw to different catchers for most of it.
Maybe they don’t want to mess with what was a pretty successful combination in 2014 (after a shaky opening four starts, Dickey settled down and pitched to a 3.41 ERA over 30 starts from April 22nd onward), but they can’t really think that comes down so much to his catcher, can they?
Or maybe — hopefully — Wilner is wrong on this one and the Jays will have enough sense to keep Kottaras around for a good, long look in February and March.
(Note: Big crotch grab in the direction of @CWSherwin for the tweet from Brendan Kennedy showing Dickey throwing to Kottaras)
Posted by Andrew Stoeten under Jose Bautista, Playoffs? on Oct 01, 2014
It’s playoff time! And naturally that means the Jays are no longer in it. But that doesn’t mean things around here are going to stop, and just like last year, to get you set up for each (non-weekend) night’s playoff action, I’m going to be taking a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2014 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise. Tonight: Jose Bautista.
8:00 PM ET – San Francisco @ Pittsburgh – Madison Bumgarner (4.0 rWAR) vs. Edinson Volquez (2.5 rWAR)
Jose Bautista seems like the appropriate guy to start off our Playoff Post(-Mortem) series with, and not just because he was in the news today, or because he’s awesome and this will be a real easy one to crank out. But he is all those things. What he’s maybe not is what you’ve heard a lot of the local media talk about lately: coming off the best season of his career.
That stuff comes down to intangibles, it seems, and there’s no doubt that he’s impressed in that regard this year.
The infamous agitation with umpires was kept to a minimum, fully manifesting itself only in a late-August ejection (which, as I wrote at the time, put him among the ranks of “fellow non-leaders Dustin Pedroia, Miguel Cabrera, Troy Tulowitzki, Albert Pujols, Carlos Gomez, Matt Holliday, Jason Kipnis, David Wright, and Russell Martin in getting tossed from a game this year”). And Bautista showed a much greater willingness to try to beat the shift, with 22.8% of his hits going to the opposite field, as opposed to 12.8% and 12.5% in the previous two seasons, according to the batted ball data at FanGraphs.
I’ve heard it suggested that this means Bautista was putting the team first and not playing for his own statistics, which is funny, because that’s exactly what Colby Lewis thought Colby Rasmus was doing by laying down a bunt to beat the shift in a July game against the Texas Rangers. Whatever narrative works for you, I guess, but it’s not like you can see anything in Bautista’s numbers that any of his own statistics were sacrificed: his statistics are still awesome!
His 6.3 fWAR is nearly identical to the 6.5 mark he put up in his breakout, 54 home run 2010 season, and the differences between the two seasons are probably about what you’d expect: he’s lost quite a bit of power (from 54 HR to 35, and .357 ISO to .239), but made up for it by walking more (15.5% to 14.6%), striking out less (a career best 14.3% to 17%), and hitting far more singles (96 to 56).
He was helped by UZR, which liked him more in 2014 than in 2010, but hurt by DRS, which is used by Baseball Reference’s version of WAR. In fact, according to BR, he was about a win worse than in his breakout campaign — a “mere” 6.0 WAR, compared to 6.9.
No, it wasn’t quite his monstrous 2011 year — a .427 on-base with a .610 SLG, 43 homers, a .302 average, 7.7 WAR by FanGraphs and 8.1 by BR, and the highest Win Probability Added (7.86) of any player over the last five seasons — which is, of course, the correct answer to the question about his best season, but it was really, really, really good.
Jose is just about absolutely as good as it gets, and a major key that needs to be mentioned is that for the first time since 2011 he was healthy. Impressively for all three of the seasons he’s had since his breakout in which he’s played at least 120 games, he’s been a six win player by both versions of WAR.
He earns just $14-million per year from the Jays. He is the 59th highest paid player in baseball.
That there are fans and commentators out there who dream up reasons for this organization to get rid of him based on completely invented garbage about what they want to believe he does or doesn’t do behind closed doors, and who believe that there exists a universe in which this Blue Jays team is better without him than with him, is absolutely fucking ludicrous.
Posted by Andrew Stoeten under Pointless Numbers on Oct 01, 2014
This doesn’t mean anything. Let’s get that out of the way up front.
Today we’re going to take a look at the sixteen Blue Jays position players who had at least 100 plate appearances in 2014 and the winning percentage for the club in games that they started. It’s an interesting exercise, I think, even if we obviously can’t reduce what we’re seeing to silly “this is a ‘winning’ player” and “this is a ‘losing’ player” labels. Much of the variance is a function of when a player happened to be in the lineup. For example, many of us probably remember that last year Munenori Kawasaki was present for much of the club’s hot run that brought them back to the .500 mark by the All-Star break, but that wouldn’t make any of us think that he’s really a better option than Jose Reyes. Or, at least, it wouldn’t make any of us who wasn’t completely insane think that.
Still though, it’s a little bit interesting to take a look at this, even if, save for a few exceptions, the list looks quite a bit like you’d probably expect it to. It’s mostly just novel, but maybe it reinforces some things we might want to think about as the club heads into the off-season. Aaaaand I’ve already gone to the trouble of checking each guy’s game log page at Baseball Reference and pulling out the numbers, so… fuck it, we’re doing it regardless.
Here’s the list, in order:
Pillar 19-12 (.613)
Gose 44-30 (.595)
Lawrie 39-31 (.557)
Goins 30-24 (.556)
Lind 43-35 (.551)
Navarro 64-57 (.529)
Encarnacion 66-61 (.520)
Bautista 80-74 (.519)
Cabrera 71-67 (.514)
Reyes 73-69 (.514)
Valencia 20-19 (.513)
— Blue Jays — 83-79 (.512)
Francisco 40-42 (.488)
Tolleson 18-19 (.486)
Rasmus 40-48 (.455)
Kawasaki 30-39 (.435)
Thole 17-24 (.415)
So… what do we think? Here are some stray thoughts:
- The guys who played the most games have winning percentages pretty close to where the team was at overall, though they’re all a shade higher, presumably because those guys are good, and the team loses something when they’re not in the lineup.
- The wide variation between Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole is kind of interesting, almost making one think that there could be value in not pissing away a spot in the lineup for your knuckleballer’s personal catcher.
- Adam Lind is an outstanding left-handed bat and a big part of the reason the Jays were so much stronger against right-handed pitching than they were lefties. That, and the fact that he started almost exclusively against right-handers, shows up here pretty clearly. If only they’d filled the obvious need for a right-handed Adam Lind type before late August, eh? Not that they could have rostered one all year with all those spots being taken up by guys in other platoons, but still!
- It’s curious to see Pillar and Gose so high up the list, but they were both playing regularly during the two best stretches of the year — May and early September. Almost all the other games, until Pompey blew up (see what I did there?), were started in centre by Rasmus, who had an abysmal season. So… that kinda hurt the club in those ones. But we must also remember that Colby also didn’t have the privilege of playing as often with pre-pumpkin Juan Francisco, and was there through the worst of the worst — a huge stretch of the second half with Encarnacion, Lind, and Lawrie out.
- Speaking of Lawrie, when he was healthy he played great defence, hit same-sided pitching well (113 wRC+ against RHP), and really allowed John Gibbons to best utilize the other players at his disposal. How much of that went into the club’s winning percentage with Lawrie as a starter being so high, it’s impossible to say. There are clearly other factors at play. But he’s kinda important. Though I wouldn’t draw the same conclusion about Ryan Goins, even though the club’s record in their games is similar — which is pretty much exactly why this is a pointless exercise.
- That said, maaaaaybe Goins’ great defence and inability to hit really is better than Munenori Kawasaki’s so-so defence and slight ability to hit. Great at-bats, though. Great at-bats.
- This isn’t maybe spoken to so much in the numbers we see above, but just in general, having one Danny Valencia, or one Steve Tolleson, or one Juan Francisco, or one Munenori Kawasaki probably isn’t the worst thing in the world. Having four of them? Yeesh.
- Further to the above point, this team needs more guys who can hit same-sided pitching. The wRC+ of the Jays’ left-handed hitters against left-handed pitching was atrocious. Here are their leaders (minimum 30 PA in the split): Rasmus (92), Kawasaki (84), Thole (70), Gose (28), Francisco (10), Goins (-3), Lind (-36). League average for lefties on lefties is 83.
- In general, the team seemed to do better when good players were playing and worse when less good players were playing. Weird that.