Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

Fact: Time slows down from its normal pace between the fifteenth and seventeenth hour of every Friday. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It’s as though the celestial hour glass becomes ungoverned by gravity for those hours only.

Another Fact: Reading the latest edition of Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday is guaranteed to speed up that no man’s land of time that exists only on Friday afternoons, or you can have your money back.

How To Solve A Problem Like Frank Francisco

Toronto Blue Jays fans have been frustrated all season long by Frank Francisco’s inconsistency. Normally, when a mildly successful pitcher suddenly becomes not so mildly successful, there’s something you can point to other than just the number of runs he’s allowing: the velocity on his fastball is down, the movement on his splitter is different or he’s dropped a pitch from his repertoire.

Nothing so obvious is happening for Francisco. The average velocity of his four seam fastball is higher than it’s been over the last two years, it has the same movement as when it’s been most successful and he’s throwing it at a similar rate to the rest of his career. Nonetheless, his fastball has been judged to be -2.8 runs above average, after being his most successful pitch year after year.

His numbers against left handed hitters are especially terrible, and while he’s facing lefties at a higher rate than normal (likely due to the plethora of right handed relievers in the Jays bullpen), his approach doesn’t appear to have changed from the last three seasons, when he actually had a lower FIP against left handed batters than right handed.

While he’s hitting the strike zone a little bit less than normal, and his swinging strike percentage is down as well, the biggest difference from last season is his abnormally high BABIP. In fact, no reliever in baseball is giving up more hits on balls that are getting put into play. Normally, that number is attributed to being outside of the pitcher’s realm of control, and having more to do with sheer luck and team defense.

I haven’t completely calculated it yet, but by looking at a few of his particularly bad outings it appears to me as though Francisco is getting hit off pitches he’s left up in the zone. However, overall, his location doesn’t seem all that different from previous seasons, leading me to believe he’s merely leaving the wrong pitches, sequence wise, up in the zone. When deciding what pitch to throw it might be beneficial for Francisco not to throw his splitter, which often ends up high in the zone, on counts where a batter is more likely to swing.

Another trend I noticed is the likelihood of Francisco getting hit hard when he tries to challenge hitters with nothing but fastballs. Last night was a perfect example, as he basically just unloaded four straight fastballs at Cano, who hit the fourth one hard to center field. So, the splitter definitely remains an important part of his arsenal, he just has to use tool a little bit better.

Guarantee

Remember all the talk about the All-Star Game, and how it doesn’t work, and how there are too many players, and how it doesn’t mean as much as it used to, and how the format is terrible, and how players who are selected have a responsibility to attend, and all the other outrages that dominated sports radio, baseball blogs and the scribblings of beat reporters across the country?

By the end of the weekend, you won’t. And then we’ll get to bring up the entire conversation again next July as though we didn’t say the exact same stuff last year.

Is Colby Rasmus Worth It?

When word broke earlier this week that the St. Louis Cardinals would consider trading Colby Rasmus, the fan bases of every team in baseball suddenly developed the look of frenzied and hungry wolves. With long rumoured issues between Rasmus and manager Tony LaRussa, the young center fielder had been a target of trade speculation among arm chair general managers for more than a year.

As a young center fielder who has experienced success at the Major League level, with both his bat and his glove, Colby Rasmus sounds like a dream acquisition for any organization. However, there are a couple of warning signs that might scare off some suitors looking to compare his fantastic 2010 season (.366 wOBA) with his merely above average 2011 (.329 wOBA).

Most notable is his decreased BABIP (from .354 in 2010 to .291 in 2011) and HR/FB (from 14.8% in 2010 to 8.1% in 2011). While there’s some dispute as to what degree these numbers are associated with luck, a significant change in BABIP is almost always a good indicator of something else happening.

In the case of Rasmus, we can see two things leading to the lower batting average for balls in play: 1) He isn’t hitting the ball as often the opposite way; and 2) he’s getting dummied by changeups low and away far more often than last season (11.9% whiff rate in 2010 compared to a 19.0% whiff rate in 2011 on changeups).

While the Cardinals may not be known for having the savviest of front offices, any team interested in giving up the rumoured cost of a top of the rotation starter, must wonder why St. Louis would doubt Rasmus’ ability to adjust to a seemingly obvious difference in his results at the plate. On the flip side of that coin, if it’s that recognizable, any team pursuing Rasmus must be aware of it, and thinking that they have the tools to fix it.

In my own mind though, fixer uppers should be had at bargain rates, never top dollar.

OttoNeu Pick Six

We’ve shared our love for all things FanGraphs several times before, including their excellent fantasy baseball games. The latest bit of innovative awesomeness to come from Big Green is a pick six game in which every night you’re given a budget and a mission to pick the six best players in baseball for that specific evening.

I like trying to win it all using the smallest budget possible, all in the hopes of one day unlocking that Tampa Bay Rays achievement. I just know I can do it.

No, you lead a sad existence.

Shameless Self Promotion

As always, you can check out our facebook page by clicking here, and if you’re into it, try “liking” us to get updates in your facebook news feed. And staying on the social media train, you can also follow me on Twitter here so that we can make snarky comments together during baseball games.

Also feel free to subscribe to our iTunes feed which will bring all the audio goodness of our podcasts and live streams to your computer free of charge.

A couple more things:

  • I’m really excited and proud to let you guys know that starting next Thursday, I’ll be doing a weekly column for Baseball Prospectus, covering the American League East.
  • At The Score, we’ve started a new radio show called The Bloggers where a rotating panel of blog editors and writers basically rip off TSN’s The Reporters (which is definitely a rip off of ESPN’s The Sports Reporters) and discuss some of the subjects that they’ve written about this past week. We talk about baseball for the entire first half of the show, touching on the Rogers Clemens trial, All-Star Games and first half MVPs.

Roster Forecasting

With Jesse Litsch seemingly ready or close to being ready to start for the Toronto Blue Jays again, I’m ready to bid adieu to the JoJo Reyes experiment. If the Jays still aren’t yet ready to cut bait on the left hander, though, at the very least send him to the bullpen where his awful endurance will be less of an issue and he can more easily get away with using a lesser arsenal.

There’s a common link between the two or three good starts that Reyes has had this season: his changeup. When he chooses to mix in an effective off speed pitch with his usually successful two seam fastball, Reyes doesn’t have to turn in desperation to his his four seam fastball to find the strike zone. Unfortunately, these nights are few and far between.

With Litsch taking Reyes spot in the rotation, the Blue Jays could then send Luis Perez, despite his decent work in relief this season, back down to Triple A. However, any roster movement involving the bullpen has to keep the imminent return of Casey Janssen in mind.

Assuming the team hasn’t already worked out an agreement in which Octavio Dotel will automatically refuse arbitration if offered by the team, the Blue Jays should give Dotel his release. Remember that Toronto only receives compensation from him signing elsewhere if they first offer him arbitration and he refuses. There is no way in Ned Colletti’s wildest dreams that Dotel will be offered a salary higher that the raise on $2.75 million he’d receive in arbitration with the Blue Jays.

Contributors

I’m not sure if you guys have been checking Getting Blanked on the weekends, but if not, you’re missing some great content from the boys over at The Platoon Advantage who visit these parts every Saturday and Sunday to lay down some serious excellence. We’ve got an entire fleet of really good writers to not only check out here on Getting Blanked and on their regular sites, but also follow on Twitter.

Just Do It Already

I’m sorry New York Mets fans, but this whole “we’re still in it” thing despite being 11 games back of the Phillies in the NL East, and seven and a half games behind the Braves for the Wild Card, and only half a game in front of the Washington Nationals (the Washington Nationals again for effect) is far too reminiscent of J.P. Ricciardi’s shtick in Toronto. Mets management isn’t fooling anyone, least of all the San Francisco Giants, to whom they should just trade Carlos Beltran already.

While it seems ridiculous to suggest, Pat Burrell’s recent bone spur should further cement the Giants need for an outfielder who can actually produce runs and not cost them defensively. Again last night, San Francisco came back from a 1-0 deficit to the Padres in the ninth inning, only to win it in extra innings. The team’s entire pitching staff has been phenomenal, but they deserve a whole lot more from their offense.

Consider this: As a team, the Giants have the fourth worst number of runs scored and weighted on base average in the league and, yet they find themselves three and a half games ahead in the NL West. Even the Minnesota Twins have a better offense than San Francisco. Beltran would immediately become the best offensive player on the team, with a wOBA sixteen points higher than Pablo Sandoval’s. Beltran is almost an entire win above replacement better than the Giants cuddly third baseman who is the top Giants’ position player.

The Definitive Summer Album

On a completely unrelated to baseball tangent: Every summer, a particular album emerges as my personal sound of the summer. It’s the go to album when your friends are over hanging out on your patio. It’s the music that forces your neighbour to complain when you blare it at three in the morning after getting home from the bar. It’s the collection of songs that you can’t hear later in your life without it instantly reminding you of that summer and the people you were hanging out with.

It doesn’t have to have been released that year, or even that decade. And as I’ve learned over the years, it can’t be forced. It has to happen organically. It all began in 2004 when a friend kept playing George Harrison’s The Concert For Bangladesh. The next summer it was Spoon’s Gimme Fiction. Last year it was Comfort Eagle by Cake.

It’s completely arbitrary and totally personal. The early summer favourite for this year’s edition is Hall and Oates’ Voices.

Wonder Dempster

As I write this, it’s the bottom of the sixth inning in Chicago, and Ryan Dempster has a two-hit shutout against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs starter is well on his way to completing his fourth season in a row with over 200 innings pitched. Over that time he’s been the model of consistency, never straying from a yearly FIP range of 3.41 – 3.93, or a K:BB ratio of 2.42 – 2.65.

Jim Hendry takes a lot of shit for some of the horrible contracts he’s given away, but Dempster’s $52 million deal over four years is not one of them. It’ll be interesting to see what Dempster chooses to do with his player option at the end of this season for $14 million. A deciding factor could be the difference between standard statistics and more advanced metrics. While his FIP and K:BB ratios paint him as a far above average pitcher, his .500 record and plus five earned run average could hinder him from receiving a multi-year offer as a free agent.