Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

Felix Anaheim

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that’s filled with heavy doses of drudging, sludging and other words that don’t actually exist but rhyme with “udging” and connote menial and tedious tasks that are ultimately distasteful. It’s my hope that at the end of such misery, at that moment in time that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to read some random observations about baseball and contribute your own thoughts on the subjects that are broached.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday:

King Felix’s Reign Extended

Felix Hernandez is a very good pitcher. After signing a five-year extension that guarantees the right-hander $175 million over the next seven years, he will now be paid as the very best pitcher in baseball. He isn’t. Justin Verlander is definitely better. Clayton Kershaw, too. Neither will complain about being underpaid in comparison, though, because their time will come, and when it does (after the 2014 season at the latest) they’ll have this contract to thank – in part – for their massive salary. I might put Cliff Lee above Hernandez as well, but I recognize my personal bias in believing the Philadelphia Phillies starter to be among the top five human beings ever born.

There are a number of ways to justify this contract from the perspective of the Mariners, but the most interesting is the increased likelihood of a larger regional television broadcast contract. Extending Hernandez’s stay in Seattle is believed to make the team a more valuable asset to a sports network, but only through that increased value could the team afford to commit to such a large contract.

The risk is simple and uncomplicated. Pitchers break down as they get older. No one has thrown more innings than Hernandez has over the last three seasons. In fact, he’s pitched so much in his first seven years in the league, that I’m not sure if it makes a better case for his unequaled reliability or impending breakdown.

According to FanGraphs, Hernandez has been worth an average of almost six wins above replacement over the last three years. This contract pays him as though his true talent is currently five wins above replacement. If he averages around four-and-a-half wins above replacement annually over the life of the deal, it’s a good team contract. That’s not unreasonable for a 26-year-old with his track record, and expected decline.

However, locking up Hernandez means that the Mariners are unlikely to trade him in their ongoing efforts to construct a competitive team. Given what the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets acquired this off season in exchange for James Shields and R.A. Dickey, this might not be the greatest use of Hernandez’s immense talent, at least in terms of roster construction. The flip side of that is obvious: It’s Felix Hernandez we’re talking about. He’s kind of one of the best players in the league right now, and trading him to acquire a player that merely might be as good as him in the future is showing too great of respect to timing.

Undue Criticism

The New York Post received some scorn on Twitter for relating the King Felix signing to the New York Yankees, referring to it as bad news for the ball club. Yes, that sort of entitlement will eat away at fans of other teams, but the truth of the matter is that the New York Post isn’t a national newspaper, and Ken Davidoff isn’t a national columnist. Their audience is mainly New Yorkers, and articles appearing in the post keep that in mind, and rightfully so.

The same relation would be made in any baseball mad city, because any baseball mad city would be curious to know what the signing means to their local team. The Yankees have a reputation for spending money and being willing to do so. Therefore it makes complete sense that they could be interested in acquiring a pitcher of Hernandez’s magnitude if he were to become available.

We get columns like this almost every year about Michael Young in Toronto.

Assumed Answers Before Realistic Questions

Staying in Toronto, the assumption exists that given the current state of affairs in Baltimore, Boston, New York and Tampa Bay, the Blue Jays have a clearer path to the top of the American League East than the heavily forested area to which they’ve been accustomed in the past. Sure, I can go along with that, but a full season from Evan Longoria, and likely improvements from Desmond Jennings and Matt Moore have me thinking that the Rays aren’t in the same position as the Orioles, Red Sox or Yankees.

Competition aside, I wonder if we’re not hasty in our anointing of the Blue Jays as one of the better teams in the American League. You can ask questions of any squad’s starting lineup, but the questions that come to mind when looking over Toronto’s roster are far less forced than they might be for the other teams that are considered elite.

The questions:

  • Can Ricky Romero rebound after a horrendous season?
  • Can Brandon Morrow remain healthy for an entire season?
  • How will R.A. Dickey’s different knuckleballs perform in a different environment after a season in which his approach wasn’t yet known by opposing hitters?
  • Is Mark Buehrle in the American League East really going to be anything more than a back of the rotation starter?
  • Will Josh Johnson’s fastball ever be as good as it once was? Will he be able to throw breaking pitches for strikes?
  • Can J.P. Arencibia actually manage to avoid getting out in more than  70% of his plate appearances?
  • Can Edwin Encarnacion carry on with his success from last year?
  • Can Adam Lind actually hit left handed pitching? Will he actually be worth an entire win above what a replacement player might offer?
  • Who will emerge as the starting second baseman?
  • Will Brett Lawrie emerge as anything other than an adrenaline fuelled swing machine with little power?
  • How will Jose Reyes adapt his game and hamstrings to the turf at Rogers Centre?
  • What on earth can we expect from Melky Cabrera coming off his embarrassing drug suspension?
  • Can Colby Rasmus exhibit the least bit of plate discipline in terms of both strike zone knowledge and swing mechanics?
  • How will Jose Bautista adapt his swing – one so dependent on maximizing leverage through body weight transfer – after a serious wrist injury?
  • Who is going to emerge as the team’s closer? Both options – Casey Janssen (currently the first choice) and Sergio Santos – are coming off surgery that can’t merely be shrugged off.

Some of these will be answered positively, some negatively, but whichever way the majority go is likely to define the Blue Jays season.

Tim Raines

Normally, the Canadian baseball circle jerk that is the Hall of Fame ceremony in St. Mary’s wouldn’t receive much more than a yawn from me. However, the induction of Tim Raines is cause to remember what a shame it is that his greatness isn’t more recognized. Of course, the real baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown hasn’t yet recognized him, but the methods for induction are so laughably askew, that such ignorance hardly surprising.

What I hope for when it comes to Raines, is merely a greater general acceptance of how abnormally fantastic he was as a baseball player. Many columns have been written – most notably by Bill James, Joe Posnanski and Jonah Keri – about the amazingness of Raines, but David Schoenfield of ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog has a nice post up today that summarizes all of these:

He scored runs. He’s 51st on the all-time list and of the 50 players ahead of him, all eligible candidates are in the Hall of Fame except for Jimmy Ryan and George Van Haltren, two 1890s outfielders; turn-of-the-century shortstop Bill Dahlen; and Rafael Palmeiro.

A common refrain about Raines from his advocates is that he was one of the best players in baseball over a span in the 1980s. This isn’t some after-the-fact hocus-pocus going on. It was widely believed at the time. In a 1984 Sports Illustrated piece on Raines, Pete Rose said: “Right now he’s the best player in the National League. Mike Schmidt is a tremendous player and so are Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson, but Rock can beat you in more ways than any other player in the league. He can beat you with his glove, his speed and his hitting from either side of the plate.” In his annual Baseball Abstracts, Bill James often argued the case of Raines’ all-around brilliance. Raines finished fifth, sixth and seventh in MVP votes, despite playing for mediocre Expos teams.

Raines’ five-year peak was 1983 to 1987. According to Baseball-Reference’s WAR ranking, the top five players during those years were Wade Boggs (39.7), Rickey Henderson (34.1), Cal Ripken (33.3), Schmidt (31.4) and Raines (30.7). Pretty nice company. (The next five were Alan Trammell, Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Murphy and Keith Hernandez.)

Some characterize Raines as having too short of a peak level of dominance. From 1988 to 1995, he averaged .283/.375/.409, with 81 runs and 33 steals per season. Maybe not an MVP candidate anymore, but still a good player, top leadoff hitter and valuable contributor. He’s hardly alone in this aspect. He had six seasons with an OPS+ of 130 or higher, the same as Jim Rice, Dawson and Ernie Banks, and more than Kirby Puckett, Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra, Tony Perez or Robin Yount.

Amazing.

This Is What Tim Lincecum Looks Like Now

lince

Of all the hair to cut off of Tim Lincecum, how on earth did that little bit of dirt above his chin not get cleaned away?

Boras: Fighter Of PEDs

Scott Boras has come out to take an interesting stand against the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball. The super agent is going to open up a private multi-million dollar sports fitness center in South Florida for the exclusive use of his clients.

Obviously, such a facility would protect the players in his stable from associating themselves with people like Anthony Bosch and his Biogenesis wellness clinic. However, it’s interesting to note that Boras branded fitness centres with trainers and doctors on hand isn’t merely about optics or altruism. Boras claims that players can extend their careers by avoiding the use of substances that dramatically affect joints, tendons and ligaments.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to actually have definitive knowledge of banned substance use in Major League Baseball and learn who benefitted, and whose careers were actually diminished because of it?

A Glimpse Into Baseball Operations

Lost somewhat in the shuffle of Curt Schilling’s story about a member of the Boston Red Sox organization advising him to take steroids is what it tells us about how baseball teams are run. According to what has come out in the press, manager Terry Francona and General Manager Theo Epstein were supposedly notified of the incident immediately after it happened, they told Major League Baseball, who then launched an investigation into the matter, all while assistant GM Jed Hoyer remained completely in the dark.

He was asked about Schilling’s claims yesterday and told the hosts of a Chicago sports radio show:

The first I ever heard of that was this morning when I saw it, so clearly, no, it didn’t ring true to me at all. I can tell you it would be preposterous that Theo or I would be involved in that. So I can comment for the two of us. I obviously wasn’t there. I don’t know the story he’s talking about so I can’t comment on the rest of it. I can tell you certainly it wasn’t Theo or me.

It’s very hard to understand, or perhaps believe, that such an important lieutenant to the team would be completely oblivious to what seems like such an important investigation. Of course, Schilling never pitched another Major League game after the 2007 season, and Hoyer left to become the GM in San Diego ahead of the 2010 season.

Can’t Hit The Broad Side Of A Barn

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jonathan Sanchez this week. Sanchez is a terrible pitcher relative to other Major League pitchers, most notably because of his complete and utter lack of control. I wanted to see how often his pitches were judged to be in the strike zone over the last few seasons. While more than half of his pitches have been outside of the zone in each of the last three years, he isn’t close to the league worst since Pitch F/X data was made available in 2007.

Just last season, Jared Hughes of the Pirates only managed to hit the strike zone with 35% of his pitches over more than 75 innings. That’s remarkably inept, but it’s not the worst. No, that honor belongs to Tom Glavine, who in the final sad year of his illustrious career threw 1094 pitches, with less than 33% going through the strike zone.

Dimes!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, is the personally much admired Cliff Lee, whose under appreciated ability to hit his catcher’s mit wherever it might be placed, I have gushed over in the past. Of the twenty most impressive seasons of strike zone pitching, Lee’s name appears four times, including the highest ever recorded in 2011, when 61% of his pitches went through the strike zone. I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: When Cliff Lee pitches it’s just as much fun watching his catcher as it is him. No matter where that glove is set, that’s exactly where the ball is going to end up.

The Diamondbacks Lock Up Hill

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed Aaron Hill to a contract extension through 2016 that will pay him $40 million over the next four seasons. This is cause for great consternation among baseball fans, but the contract basically pays him like an average middle infielder which seems fair, given his wild fluctuations in performance.

Hill had a six win season last year in Arizona, with 26 home runs and the highest walk rate of his career. Among regular second basemen, only Robinson Cano had a better year. That’s been quickly forgotten, but what hasn’t is that he also owns two of the ten worst batting performances from a second baseman in baseball over the last three years. His wRC+ went from a pitiful 77 in 2011 to an amazing 131 in 2012.

He may be the most all or nothing player in baseball, and so it figures that his contract pays him as though he’s somewhere in the middle.

Comments (64)

  1. Parkes is always so negative/skeptical about the Blue Jays but positive about the fucking SF Giants. Arg… Its not so annoying that all the hipster Blue Jays fans are also conveniently SF Giants fans (but not bandwagon jumpers. no. long time SF Giant fans from the 80′s). No, what’s annoying is that all the hipster SF Giants fans are always so fucking negative about the Blue Jays while always singing such high fucking praises about the SF Giants.
    I’m calling all you SF Giant/Blue Jays fans out. Enough with the bull shit. If you call yourself a Blue Jays fan but would not trade Madison Bumgarner for Adam Lind in a heart beat then fuck you and your shitty loyalty. You are not a Blue Jays fan.

    • Um, didn’t the Giants win the World Series in two of the last three years? When was the last time the Blue Jays were there?

      I’d say that if you’re a fan of both teams, there’s probably good reason to be more positive about one over the other.

      • Bandwagon fans are the fucking worst. The fact that the SF Giants won the world series is the only reason why they are SF Giants fans. They were probably Atlanta Braves fans in the 90′s . Its pretty easy to be positive about the teams you like when you have no fucking loyalty and jump from team to team only being “passionate” about teams that win.

        • I loved Atlanta in the 90′s because I could watch them on TBS all the time. Nothing like watching Full House and then a Braves game.

          • I think sports is the only place in the world where it’s not okay to like something because it’s the best.

    • holy, someone needs a Xanax

    • If that’s the cost of being a Blue Jays fan, I’d rather opt out. Fortunately, I can enjoy baseball in any fashion that I’d like.

      • You already did opt out. I don’t know any Blue Jays fans who would consider you a fan of the Blue Jays in anyway. When you appear on DJF podcasts, it brings the podcast down. Blue Jays podcasts are best when those doing them are actual Blue Jays fans.

        • You’re a real peach. This should go a long way to your candidacy for the humorless homer fan of 2013 award.

        • Bluejays podcasts are better when they involve people who know things about baseball. is there some rivalry between the jays and the giants? i cant remember them ever playing with each other in interleague. san francisco is an awesome town with an awesome team that has lits of personality and has won two of the last three world series and none of it at the blue jays expense since they didnt make the playoffs anyway. who are you to say someone cant like both teams.

        • I wasn’t aware that fans of a team aren’t allowed to make legitimate questions about their team.

    • Sean,

      Wow, you’re a real wank, yes? Almost all his bullet points are necessary questions, or “if’s” that when answered will go a long way towards answering how good this team will be: Is it going to win 80? or 90+. There are a lot of variables possible buddy, to how this could play out. Pointing them out, doesn’t mean he’s not a fan and not optimistic and hopeful.

      • The bullets points if coming from an actual Blue Jays fan would be legit. Coming from a bandwagon jumping, hipster, Blue Jays fan troll? Not legit. May as well be coming from a fucking Yankees fan although Parkes is worse then Yankees fans.

  2. And hate the Giants and think San Francisco is for gays and Asians.

  3. Some of those Jays questions still seem a bit forced…who will emerge as the starting second baseman? That’s neither a positive nor a negative, just an indication that the Jays have options at the position.

    How will Jose Bautista adapt his swing? This makes it sound like he is going to have to adapt his swing…I’m not a doctor, but I haven’t heard anywhere that this is the case.

    How will Jose Reyes adapt? Artificial turf is not a problem for hamstrings, and tends to turn groundouts into singles, so this shouldn’t at all be a problem. There is of course the risk of his play slowing down, just as with any other player, but I don’t see any reason why turf would contribute to this.

    How will R.A. Dickey perform in a different environment now that hitters know what’s coming? While his second half numbers were slightly higher than his first half last year, almost all of that is a result of a couple of rough outings in July. Hitters can’t “adapt” to a knuckleballer the same way they can to other pitchers because even the pitcher doesn’t know where the pitch is going.

    • Its easy to troll the Blue Jays when you have no loyalty and are also a bandwagon SF Giants fan. I wouldn’t expect anything else. Its not Andrew Stoeten (a real, loyal Blue Jays fan, not some hipster SF Giants fan who only plays off Blue Jays fandom as some lame excuse to gain sympathy for being a long time, suffering fan. typical fucking hipster behavior)

  4. The Lowrie trade, the biogenesis debacle…you ignore them all and put up a giant picture of Tim Lincecum and comment about his freakin’ hair.

    What other team’s fans freak out when one of their team’s players gets a haircut? Ugh, Giants fans are the worst…they treat baseball like TigerBeat.

    • Fuck all Giants fan.

    • You geniuses realize you’re talking about two different people, right?

      The names of the guys who write the posts are directly underneath the title, by the way.

      • Aaaaand, I’m a dope. Drew did post Lincecum earlier, but I forgot it was in here too.

        Characterizing it as freaking out still makes you an idiot, but… yeah… withdrawn.

      • Of course you are 2 different people. Andrew Stoeten is a loyal Blue Jays fans who opinions and analysis of the Blue Jays is legit and highly respected by Blue Jays fans. Dustin Parkes is a hipster, bandwagon jumping wanker who trolls Blue Jays fans and should be writing about for a Giants blog. In typical hipster fashion, he fucking slams and trolls the Blue Jays as much as he possibly fucking can on a blog and website predominantly frequented by Blue Jays fans, then fucking cries and whines when he’s called out on his trolling bullshit. For a guy who claims to not be a Blue Jays fan, he sure goes out of his way to have the most negative fucking view of them and everything they do. This is the asshole who last year on a podcast proclaimed the Blue Jays would never make the playoffs nor win a world series and all his “analysis” of the Blue Jays reflects this belief which isn’t what Blue Jays fans want to hear over and over and over.
        Dustin Parkes – Trolling and Pissing on Blue Jays fans cornflakes since 2011

        • Aren’t you trolling him now? Doesn’t that bring you down to his level? And what’s with the man-crush on Stoeten? I enjoy reading his stuff, but fuck man, you’ve professed your love of him multiple times now and it’s starting to get a bit weird. You’re making Jays fans look like idiots right now by commenting over and over again “Giants Suck”, amongst other idiotic things. Go have a drink and relax.

  5. Was that shot at the Canadian Baseball Hall really necessary? It’s important that we have a home for our country’s baseball history.

  6. i wish all the best to aaron hill, he was one of my favourite players when he was in toronto, and i even got and an autographed hat from him

  7. Just when I started getting all annoyed about those 13 questions, I realized it’s just Parkes trying to annoy Jays fans again…heading back over to DJF now

    • If you’re getting annoyed by those questions, you’re exactly the person who needs to see them. They’re entirely valid questions, and in no way is Parkes suggesting they should be answered in the negative, so… what’s the issue here? We want to plug our ears and just assume winning the toughest division in baseball is going to be easy?

  8. Parkes isn’t wrong about any of the questions, and it’s his way to be contrarian at times to present an opposite viewpoint. He’s not saying he believes everything will go wrong- we’re skewing his thinking that way. And as another columnist once said, you gotta ask the question(s).

    It’s hard for me to pick a clear favourite in the East- the Rays and Yankees got worse, Baltimore and Boston aren’t going to be in it except in the most optimistic of scenarios, and the Jays have enough questions to give me pause as to whether they’re clearly the best.

    • Don’t kid yourself. Parkes would love for the Blue Jays to fail. Then they could trade off all their good players to his beloved Giants. He’d be in fucking ecstasy. Its not bad that Parkes is a Giants fan. Its bad that he pretends to be a Blue Jays fan and plays the Blue Jays fan card when its convenient to him which is weak sauce.

      • If anything I’d rather not be thought of as a Blue Jays fan. I’d be very interested to learn though when it’s convenient to “play” the Blue Jays fan card. I thought I’d read somewhere that you “didn’t know any Blue Jays fans who would consider [me] a fan of the Blue Jays in anyway.”

        • You have to get through a full season of the Jays being good and not jumping on that bandwagon before I believe you’ve fully cut your Jays fandom ties, I think.

    • You think the Rays got worse? I know they lost Shields, but I’d say their lineup is better and they could afford the loss to the rotation where they have a ton of youth that could step right in.

      • Will they step in and be the 4-5 win pitcher that Shields was? And who is going to replace the 4 wins that BJ Upton provides every year?

        Matt Moore and Wil Myers could eventually replace that production (and more), but I don’t think even Tampa is banking on that happening this year.

        • Jennings projects to have a better year than Upton last season. Moore, Hellickson, Cobb and Niemann as a unit project better than Shields, Moore, Hellickson and Cobb performed last year.

          • http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/2013-zips-projections-tampa-bay-rays/

            I’m still not quite seeing who is going to replace the Shields and Upton production unless Moore and Myers step up much more than they’re projected here.

          • Also, the Rays got 9.8 fWAR from their 4 main non-Price starters last year (Shields 4.3, Moore 2.3, Cobb 2.2, Hellickson 1).

            If you believe in the projections (which, BTW, probably suggest the Jays have the best team in the division), ZiPS has their 4 main non-Price starters this year at 8.1 fWAR (Moore 3, Hellickson 2.5, Cobb 1.6, Niemann 1).

            They’re still going to need more out of those guys than that to replace Shields’ production.

            • I fully expect Moore to build on his good second half last season. IMO it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to be a 3+ WAR pitcher.

              • I don’t think it’s unreasonable either. But even that improvement still won’t be enough to replace Shields. They’re going to need more out of the others than has been projected.

                • Look at guys like Alex Cobb and Chris Archer, no reason to think they can’t out-perform their projections considering they’re both relatively young. Of course, it’s a boom-bust rotation. And Myers if all goes right would be ready to help out by June.

                • Sure, they could. But they could also under-perform them just as easily (or even get hurt). The Jays learned that lesson the hard way last season.

    • You could come up with very similar questions (and probably more) about each of the other organizations in the AL East. I don’t know if I would call the Jays outright favourites in a division with so many good teams, but the talent is obviously there for them to win it and that hasn’t been said for 20 years.

      • Moore was worth just two wins, per FanGraphs, last year, and I don’t think it’s crazy at all to think he doubles his value, and then you only have to get a couple wins worth out of Cobb or Archer, or whoever ends up in the fifth spot.

        I dunno… don’t you?

        • Not crazy, but making the jump from 2 win pitcher to 4-5 win pitcher is a rather large one. No, I don’t think that can be the expectation there.

          The Rays have been fortunate in the last few years, but you can’t forget that young pitching carries major question marks.

    • Snow days bring out all whack jobs, eh?

  9. Man, do I ever love those Giants. Nothing better than sitting back with a Pabst on a melancholy Sunday afternoon and watching the team that Sabean built. Yup, put those dark-rimmed glasses on the coffee table, wax my mustache and just take in the display put on by the Freak while listening to some Times New Viking. Nice piece Parkes. Keep up the good work.

  10. *yawn* Man, I can’t wait til we have something more substantial than Parkes’ alleged fandom to yell about. I don’t see why it matters what the laundry says, why can’t he enjoy good baseball wherever he sees it? The teams themselves certainly don’t care.

  11. Why are you touting runs scored as valuable? Aren’t they just as dependent on teammates as RBIs?

  12. When a Starter is traded, none of the remaining pitchers are replacing him. What they do, is be better (or worse) than last year. Even if the Starter isn’t traded you still expect the others to be better (or worse). That doesn’t change. The new guy is the one replacing the Traded Starter – how he does matters.

    Expecting the Rays to be as good as last year or better is based on faulty reasoning just as above. Expecting the Rays to try harder because of the loses is reasonable, just not fact.

    • But the parameter of the argument was whether or not the Rays would be better or worse this season compared to last. Not whether they were better or worse off with Shields in or out of the lineup. So, comparing the four starters in the rotation after Price in 2012 to the four starters after Prince in 2013 makes perfect sense.

  13. As a lifelong Giants fan (and native San Francisan), I’d like to say LOL to everyone but Parkes, whose enthusiasm for the Giants is just too adorable.

  14. Lincecum = Abed

  15. Save for a couple, I think those are all completely legitimate questions about the Jays. The only ones I’m not too worried about are:

    The Dickey knuckleball. I’m not sure what’re you’re getting at with this one, particularly the “not yet known by opposing batters.” Dickey had three consecutive seasons of very good performance with the same team. I don’t think there’s a good reason to doubt him, other than that a knuckleballer can “loose it” any old time. But that’s probably true of any pitcher.

    Who will be the second baseman. Who gives a fuck, basically. If everything else clicks, then whether it’s Bonifacio or Izturis is kind of irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned.

    But I do agree overall. There are tons of major questions about this team. I personally have them pegged for a high of 90 wins. I think to get beyond that and be a truly dominant series contender they’d need to have nearly everybody play to their peak (eg. Lind legitimately contributing; Johnson returning to elite form; Morrow putting in a solid high-value season; Lawrie playing at least a little better than last year).

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