Tuesday, 30 August 2011

It's a point of pride

Warning: this is kind of rambly, and will end up being pretty controversial.  If anyone completely disagrees with what I'm saying, you have every right to.  Frankly, I'm not even completely sure that I agree with myself.

All too often do we hear casual sportsfans, who don't know anything about anything, make a wild claim about their team upon realizing that there's not much chance at a playoff berth (i.e. Jays fans circa each of the last 20 years).  They'll say stuff like "They should just lose the rest of their games on purpose so they can get the first overall pick," or something along those lines.

Now of course:

It's obviously an incredible shit in the mouth of your fans and players to just go out there and fuck off for the last 2 months of the season, which explains why nobody goes to Marlins games.

But the Bluejays are in a pretty unique situation, and I'm not sure it's a complete accident.  Thanks to the perfect storm of affairs going on with this team, including but not limited to:

  • Their incredibly tough division, and thus, incredibly tough schedule,
  • Injuries to their starting (and backup) CF,
  • Poor performance by supposed impact guys Kyle Drabek and Travis Snider,
  • Several potential Type-A and B free agents,
  • The strength and hype of the farm system,
  • The willingness to spend, and the availability of money from ownership
The Blue Jays can actually get away with playing guys like Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco as often as they have, despite how terrible they've been, since they're both close to free agent comp status.  They can also have a guy like Darin Mastroianni starting in CF at times, because OMG PROSPECT! and thus, not necessarily going out there and putting the best lineup forward everyday, but without slapping fans in the face.  On literally every Bluejays telecast, we get a "farm report", exaggerating just how good some of these guys within the system really are.

This isn't to say that the Jays farm isn't as good as advertised, because it definitely is good, a consensus top-5 system based on several different opinions.  Unlike most teams, however, we (the fanbase as a whole, not necessarily people who go out of their way to read stuff about the Jays and advanced stats and whatnot; I mean your average Jays fan who catches 50 games a year on TV) are getting a very good idea of not only who these people are, but also how close they are to making it to the bigs.  Brett Lawrie got his balls waxed by Sportsnet literally all season long, as did Eric Thames before his callup.  Drew Hutchinson and Nestor Molina have been getting a ton of attention since the Henderson Alvarez callup, and Marcus Knecht is Canadian (!!!!!) and tore up single-A this year.

Most people who only watch a couple of games a week (read: most Jays fans) now actually know who some of these guys are, which gets them excited, since every team who ever hears anything about any of their prospects assumes that they're going to be an all-star in 3 years.  For example, remember that time David Cooper hit a homerun this year?  8 years, $120MM at least.  Remember that time last year where Brad Mills went 8 innings allowing 2 hits against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, or the fact that he's torn up AAA each of the last two years?  He's Shaun Marcum!  Travis d'Arnaud won the AA MVP award!  Bautista 2.0!

What's my point, you ask?  Well, we all know how AA loves his draft picks, which explains why Jon Rauch keeps getting a chance to close despite how terrible he's been.  That's because saves count more than they really should when it comes to free agent compensation.  Well the thing with free agent compensation is this:  It's great to get compensation for losing your guys, but something that the Jays haven't done in a long time, but could very well do this offseason (*cough* Prince Fielder*) is actually acquire one of these free agents that could cause them to lose a draft pick.

Question: But wait a second, Grady.  Wouldn't losing more game just mean that the Jays are giving up a better draft pick?
Answer: No, you fucking idiot.  The 15 teams with the worst records in baseball are protected from losing their first rounder if they sign a Type-A.  Currently, those teams include all the embarrassments of the league, plus the Rockies and Jays.  Cleveland and Chicago have a better winning percentage as of right now, but there are still about 25 games left in the year, and lots can change in that time.  The Jays are tied at the moment with the Reds for the 15th worst record, thanks to the recent skid, despite Cinci's schedule being way easier.  The tie-breaker is determined by last year's record, which the Jays win against CIN and CHI, but lose to both CLE.

I submit that if the Jays are going to make a serious run at any type-A's, thus forfeiting a draft pick, it's not a terrible idea to get some AAA and AA players up as some September callups, and let them play in a bunch of games.  This gets them time in the bigs to see what's to be expected in the near future, it doesn't alienate the fans because prospects are making their major league debuts, and all prospects are as good, if not better than, Brett Lawrie despite being Americans/internationals.

They don't necessarily have to do it everyday, and are still trying to win games.  It's not like fans will be be pissed with a 6-man rotation comprised of whatever they have plus Brad Mills or Kyle Drabek or whatever the fuck, or giving Adam Lind a coupla days off a week[sidenote: can Cooper be as bad as Lind has been over the last two months?  Might even be an improvement].

The Jays' current draft picture for next year includes the 15th overall selection, the 21st overall as compensation for failure to sign Tyler Beede, and a pick or two (maybe more) from guys like Kelly Johnson, Jose Molina, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco, plus the 15th pick of each subsequent round.  By having a protected pick in the first round, the Jays could conceivably sign a guy like Prince Fielder, plus have 6 of the first 50 picks, on top of having a top-5 farm system.

The best (worst?) part?  The Jays don't even need to tank all that bad.  They pretty much have to play as they've been playing, considering their last 28 games are made up of a schedule that leaves 6 games with Baltimore, and 22 others against teams with better W-L records, including 15 against the Yankees, Red Sox or Rays.  Of these 28 games, the Jays could seriously play some good baseball and lose 15+ without the bat of an eye.  It's not like Baltimore or Chicago are an automatic sweep, nor are the TB/BOS/NYY series an automatic get-swept, but .500 for the rest of the year, given the schedule, is probably a bit ambitious.  Especially with NYY, ANA and BOS fighting for the division, plus CHI has an outside shot of making their division semi-close with a win streak.

Is there really a big difference between a 2nd rounder and a 1st rounder?  Well, probably not big enough to justify intentionally losing any games, given the volatility of the MLB draft (that is, first rounders sometimes flame out and never become big leaguers, 15th rounders sometimes become superstars).  But on average, according to some guy, a pick in the 10-20 range of the draft is worth just over 4 WAR, whereas the 50-60 range is worth 1.4 WAR, which is a difference of about 2.75 WAR.  This seems like an "extra 2%" situation, where you have to capitalize on every edge you have, no matter how small.

Basically, what I'm saying here is that I wouldn't be all that upset if the Jays got some September call-ups in to the lineup a couple times, as they probably will do anyway, and just lie to us and say "we want to see what some of these guys can do" with regards to their prospects, instead of saying what they mean, which is "Yeah, we wanna tank a couple games to stay behind Cincinnati in the standings because we want to have Prince Fielder, but also a first rounder."

Then again, they got Daniel Norris with a third round pick so I'm just talking out my ass here.

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