We’re moving ahead with Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday a little bit later than normal, so instead of allowing you to waste that last hour at work, hopefully this week’s edition will keep you entertained and thinking about baseball all weekend long.
First off, I just wanted to say a quick thanks for coming by and reading Getting Blanked. I know that this is going to come across as kind of lame to write, but I don’t know how else to express gratitude for all of your comments and retweets and overall participation, than to describe it as overwhelming. As a reward of sorts, and as a way to keep you coming back, we’ve got some great new content planned for the start of the season.
Hopefully, you’ve already been enjoying the work of Travis Reitsma and Dave Gershman with their weekly features on fantasy baseball and anything that can be explained in a graph, respectively. In addition to these two valuable new, uh, additions, we’re going to have a couple more new contributors bring their baseball smarts to this website. I don’t want to spoil too many surprises, but a couple things you can look forward to will be more weekend content, a cool new visual recap for the ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball game, regular chats on Tuesday afternoon and a return to the podcast studios for myself and Andrew Stoeten.
Off Site News
Not only is Chapter Three of Getting Booked: The Getting Blanked Baseball Book Club scheduled for 7:00 PM on March 28th at Opera Bob’s in Toronto, where the author of our latest book, Jonah Keri, will be coming to talk about The Extra 2% with us, but we’ve got a date set up for the first in a series of baseball movies that will be playing on off days during the baseball season at The Revue Cinema on Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s enough to write a run on sentence about.
We’re still ironing out the format and some other details, but I can tell you with no varying degree of certainty that Eight Men Out will be screening at the Revue on April 4th.
Speaking of Keri, the best selling author has a piece up at FanGraphs looking at over/under win totals for the 2011 MLB season. He says “under” for the Phillies and Angels, and “over” for the Rays and their current win total line.
At 76.5, the Toronto Blue Jays are offering a more intriguing line than anything you’ll get offered in the washroom at The James Joyce pub in Toronto on St. Patrick’s Day. The team outperformed expectations last year and its young starting rotation has another year of experience under their belts, but no one is expecting Jose Bautista to hit like he did last year, and while it’s all good for the long term, the team lost veterans John Buck, Lyle Overbay, Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg and Vernon Wells this offseason.
My decision on that one would sadly have to come down to cheering. Like most homers, I’m physically incapable of cheering against my local team, so I’d have to wager on the Blue Jays winning at least 77 games or walk away altogether. Considering that PECOTA has the Jays pegged for a 73-89 record, I think I’d do best to avoid this bet altogether.
I had this theory that playing in the American League East Division was especially tough, not only because you’re in the same division as the two highest payrolls in baseball, and likely the best run team as well, but also because you have to suffer through the wear and tear of playing those teams. In other words, not only are you facing tougher competition on a more frequent basis than other teams, you also have to deal with facing lesser competition after being beaten down by the tougher competition. More specifically, you would think that bullpens would get eaten up during a series with the Yankees or Red Sox because when their lineups aren’t getting to the pitchers, they’re taking a ton of pitches. How does this affect the series immediately following?
Well, for the twelve series that the Toronto Blue Jays played the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees in 2010, the Jays lost more games than they won in the very next series one time. Toronto won or tied all but a single series they played immediately after facing the Red Sox or Yankees.
Damn Your Lack Of Foresight Schedule Makers
For those who don’t know, Bill Hall got all upset with Cole Hamels earlier this week for “quick pitching” him during a Spring Training game. Quick pitching refers to pitches being delivered before the batter has time to set up. Hall wasn’t too impressed, and when he stepped out of the batter’s box to make his feelings known, Hamels responded with a fastball up and in on his very next pitch. After the incident, Hall called Hamels a marked man, which is somewhat awesome if you’re into the whole rivalry thing because the Phillies and Astros, the two players’ respective teams, open up the season against each other. Unfortunately, it’s a three game series, so assuming that Hamels is fourth in the rotation, following Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, he might not get to face off against Hall until September, if at all.
Opening Day Starters
Sticking with the Astros and Phillies, their first game on April first already has probably pitchers in Brett Myers and Roy Halladay. It’s kind of interesting that Myers got the opening day starting nod over Wandy Rodriguez who is a better pitcher and has played in Houston for longer. I normally rely heavily on numbers when I talk about baseball, but one area where I think it’s excuseable to shy away from stats is in picking the opening day starter. It’s an honour for a player to receive, and while it normally goes to the best pitcher on the team, I think it’s entirely excusable to let a veteran be the first to throw. It’s unusual that all five starters in a rotation actually get 32 – 35 starts in a season. Over 162 games, there’s going to be enough opportunities to get your ace out there. And who knows maybe it’s better to save him for a matchup against the second day’s opposing starter anyway.
Starter Vs. Reliever
If a pitcher such as Neftali Feliz is capable of pitching as both a starter or a reliever, he should be used as a starter. I’m shocked that debate about this even exists. Not only is a starter counted on to face more batters, pitch more innings and throw more pitches than a reliever, but he has such an enormous influence over the games that he plays in that their superior importance shouldn’t even be questioned. Even if you wanted to suggest that a reliever is used in more high leverage situations, the difference isn’t nearly as vast as you’d have to imagine it to be.
Let’s take a look at Feliz as a closer last season and compare the number of high leverage situations he faced with what C.J. Wilson, a starter on the same team, faced. Feliz pitched to 147 batters in high leverage situations, as defined by Baseball Reference, C.J. Wilson saw 144 batters in those situations. Not that much of a difference at all.
I haven’t checked his numbers lately, but there was a little bit of an uproar over Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia’s lack of success at the plate during his first few at bats of the Spring. The early numbers are obviously meaningless, but it did get me thinking about his future in Toronto and how long of a leash he’ll have beyond this season. It kind of surprised me how earlier this offseason, it was widely assumed that the Blue Jays would be looking to acquire a catcher. The mission was seemingly forgotten about though and it became quickly accepted that Arencibia would be seeing the majority of playing time behind the plate. The team’s depth at the position, including Travis d’Arnaud and Carlos Perez, might mean that Arencibia’s future in Toronto isn’t as safe of a bet as you might assume given how quickly and easily the catching reins were handed to him. It should be remembered that last year’s amazing numbers at Triple A came the season after he stunk up the joint in his first year at that level. There may have been health reasons contributing to his struggles, but if he puts on a similar display at the Major League level it’s unlikely he’ll receive the same kind of patience from the organization that he got then.
Shameless Self Promotion
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