Friday, 30 September 2011

My End-of-season Awards

I'm going to give my awards, and justify why.  I'd like to point out that I'm not just going to sort by any stat (i.e. WAR, ERA, etc.), and give an award based on that.  I'm going to explain a whole lotta reasons why whoever gets my vote deserves it.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander.  Big fucking surprise.  Simply put, he was the best pitcher in baseball this season.  I won't acknowledge the .242 babip as an advantage or disadvantage to his win here, nor will I include fip/xfip, because that just kind of happens sometimes.  I don't think he'll ever be this good again, but that doesn't matter at all.  I'm looking at what happened, and not what should have happened.  Honorable mention goes to CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver.

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay.  Halladay was the second best pitcher in baseball this year.  I feel like it's going to end up as a toss up between he and Clayton Kershaw, but Halladay gets the nod, simply because Halladay put up similarly amazing numbers against a tougher division.  Honorable mention goes to Kershaw and nobody else, because those two separated themselves by miles.

AL MVP: Jose Bautista.  Simple, really.  The best hitter in baseball.  Leader in pretty much everything important (HR, OBP, SLG, OPS, etc.).  Second place, and not by that much, goes to Jacoby Ellsbury, who put together a completely retardedly amazing season.  Anyone who gives 1st place votes to anyone but those two, fuck you.  Ellsbury led the league in WAR, which stems largely from the differences in defense between the two.  Bautista plays RF mediocrely (is that a word), while Ellsbury plays a good CF.  The problem is that defensive metrics are too volatile to include in a single season.

NL MVP: Matt Kemp.  I'm honestly having a hard time coming up with anyone other than Ryan Braun that even comes close here.  Cool.

AL ROY: Jeremy Hellickson.  This one was close.  Pineda would have won, as that first half of the season was so ridiculous.  He kind of got figured out a big over the second half, and I'm sure the innings caught up to him, so he lost to the more consistent Hellickson.  HM: Dustin Ackley, Brett Lawrie, JP Arencibia, Mark Trumbo, Jemile Weeks, Pineda, Desmond Jennings, Alexi, Ogando, Eric Hosmer.... You can see where I'm going with this.  Everyone has pros and cons: Hellickson and Pineda are starting pitchers, and are thus more valuable than the others.  Arencibia plays a premium position and hit a bunch of homers, but hit like.222.  Trumbo hit a bunch of homers but is a first baseman.  Some guys didn't play the whole year, as opposed to JPA, Trumbo, Pineda...  There's a lot of ways this one could go.

NL Roy: Craig Kimbrel.  As a reliever, he isn't incredibly valuable (though he was the NL Rookie rWAR leader, and was close in fWAR).  I could certainly see a case for Freddy Freeman, Danny Espinosa, Brandon Beachy, and Vance Worley.  All of these guys were very good, but Kimbrel was straight up dominant until the last month or so of the season, where he was clearly being overused.

For the Bluejays, my awards go to Ricky Romero as best pitcher, Jose Bautista as MVP, and JP Arencibia as ROY.  Lawrie probably could have stolen that away with another month or so of playing time, assuming it remained at the level he was producing before his injury.

Playoff Primer- St Louie

I'm totally going to mail this one in, because there ain't no way in heeeeellllll St. Louis gets past Philadelphia.  It's a best-of-5 series, in which they will be facing Roy Halladay, Clifton Lee, and Cole Hamels.  There's no Adam Wainwright to throw out there, and it's going to be Kyle Lohse going against Halladay in game one.

Beyond Albert Pujols facing Halladay and making my groin explode, I can't really see this series providing much in terms of excitement value.  The Phillies are just miles ahead of the Cards, save for offense, where it's a very slight advantage to STL.  Having said that, PHI's pitching is much better than STL's offense.

I will say this: STL drastically improved their bullpen by acquiring Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel.  Dotel hardly fucking pitches against LHB's anymore, which makes him kind of good, as opposed to how he was in Toronto, and Rzep has been his usual excellence.  Getting Edwin Jackson at the trade deadline is going to allow the Cardinals to throw their worst starter, whomever they choose that person to be, in to the bullpen, so if STL somehow manages to fall ass-backwards in to a lead somehow after 6 innings or so, there is a pretty good chance that they'll be able to shut things down.

I honestly don't give the Cards much hope, and think that it would be a surprise if they could win 1 game out of this series.  I'm not going to waste anymore time on this one.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Playoffs Primer- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

That's right folks, Devil Rays, as in "Sold their soul to".  They're evil, they're feisty, they're like a little dog that chews at your ankles all the time; no matter how hard you try and pound them, they're just too dumb to ever stop, and they'll always come back for more.  They're also the most properly run franchise in professional sports.  There, I said it.  They've out-Moneyballed the Moneyballer.  Beyond that, they have a really good manager, hipster glasses or no.

This is a team who is built from the ground up, and is as efficient as any team has ever been, with the exception of the aforementioned Moneyball-era Oakland A's.  Andrew Friedman has essentially discovered all of the market inefficiencies within baseball in the last 5 years, and has exploited them before anybody else has had a chance, and has done it better than anyone coming after him.  Veterans who can't play defense used to be the thing that smart GM's stayed away from, letting others overpay for the likes of a Pat Burrell, or Raul Ibanez.  People started catching on, and Friedman pounced on a cheap Johnny Damon, who provided excellent offense from the left side.

Beyond Friedman, Joe Maddon has been an excellent manager all year long.  His use of splits and platoons, and his lack of favoritism among his players has given the Rays chances to win games despite not being an incredibly talented offensive team (Matt Joyce, for example, has a .292/.361/.505 line against RHP, and a .217/.287/.370 line against LHP, so he just doesn't play much against lefties!).

The obvious strength of this team is their pitching.  Top to bottom, this rotation has been downright excellent all season long.  This is a product of Andrew Friedman and his staff, drafting and developing pitchers better than anybody else has done in recent memory.  The bullpen has been really good all year long as well, with the exception of JP Howell.

The offense isn't incredibly talented, but, as mentioned already, Joe Maddon uses what he has better than anybody else to squeeze every little bit of value he has out of his lineup.  Evan Longoria is obviously really awesome, as is Ben Zobrist.  Everybody else flashes brilliance here and there, but beyond those two, nobody is so outrageously good that they deserve a mention here.  Simply put, they have guys who get on base, and are given a chance to play to their strengths as effectively as possible.

Defensively, this team shines, not only in ability, but in versatility as well.  The versatility of the defense allows Maddon to use his entire team as effectively as possible.  The fact that Ben Zobrist can play 80 different positions allows others to be inserted in to their best defensive positions, while putting forward his best lineup to face a given pitcher.  This team is full of guys who can play multiple positions well, which is part of the reason the pitching staff has such amazing numbers.

As a whole, the Rays only have a few names that really jump off the page to you, but have a lot of guys who are slightly above average, with the odd excellent trait.  By exploiting all of their strengths, and shielding their weaknesses from opposing teams as effectively as possible, this becomes a team who doesn't give up many opportunities.  It's incredibly fitting that the Rays made their way in to the playoffs less than a week after the Moneyball movie came out, because this team is Moneyball part 2.  They're built for sustained success, and that success is coming as inexpensively as ever before.

The pitching depth makes this team much more dangerous than they would appear to be on paper.  Combine that with the offensive strategies, and the defensive prowess, and you have a sleeper contender to get through the AL side of the bracket.  I hope this isn't a recency bias kicking in, but I think the Rays will make it to the World Series.

Last night

I've spent most , if not all, of my life as an atheist.  Religion and whatnot just aren't for me.  I respect your beliefs if you're stupid enough to believe that there's something going on up there, even if you're an otherwise intelligent person.  Some people are just raised to be all god-loving and whatever, and that's on their parents, as I'm sure a lot of people who are currently religious wouldn't exactly be so if they were allowed to just find this stuff on their own (maybe I'm wrong... don't really care though, I'm just trying to fill up a little bit of space here with drivel before I get to the real meat of this post).

Having said all that, watching last night's ballgames was the most fun anyone could possibly have without liquor or nakedness.  The fact that Boston lost made it that much sweeter.  At the time of that rain delay in the Boston-Baltimore game, the Red Sox chances of making the playoffs were probably in the range of 99%.  Two innings left, a really good bullpen, and a 1-run lead, plus a 7-run deficit for the only team that could block your chances.  Well, ladies and gents, I think something was proven last night: Gods do exist.  There is simply no other explanation.  I'm not talking about all-seeing, all-knowing, powerful burrito microwaving lords here; I'm talking about the deities who, without a doubt, rigged last night's American League games.  Not only do these gods exist, but they're mean.  Much meaner than any of us could possibly imagine.  And they hate the fucking Red Sox, so they punished those idiots by giving all that joy, and all that hope of virtually guaranteeing a return to the playoffs, and then ripping it away.

So a gentle "Fuck You" to the Red Sox, as they go enjoy what is left of golf season, knowing that "the greatest team ever assembled" has just completed what has to be the biggest collapse in the history of September baseball.  The best part of this?  The Atlanta Braves just collapsed almost as hard as Boston, and hardly anybody gives a shit.

There's not really much else to look at here.  We do know that the playoffs begin Friday, and that the matchups will be NYY-DET, TEX-TB, MIL-ARI and PHI-ASTL.  The CC-Verlander game 1 in the NYY-DET series sounds fucking awesome.

The Jays are having some kind of year-end press conference thing, where AA is just taking a bunch of questions.  Sportsnet's Mike Cormack is pretty much live-blogging via twitter (@mikecormack), though I think it's pretty well over now.  Anyway, the AA highlights include:

  • He likes that way Farrell self-evaluated himself.  Recognized weaknesses and strengths, and will likely learn from them.
  • Offseason focus is strictly improving the team, as opposed to last year, where he was improving staff, i.e. scouts, managers, etc., and evaluating what they had and where they had it.
  • AA likes Kelly Johnson, and KJ will be in the mix for 2B next season.  Johnson becomes a free agent after the World Series, and is probably the best 2B available in a market where there are practically no 2B's.  The Omar Infante extension of 2y/8MM pretty much leaves Johnson and Mark Ellis (and Aaron Hill).
  • He compares Colby Rasmus' first half-season as a Blue Jay to Yunel Escobar's.  Up-and-down year, tough to transition, injuries, etc.  I think we all know how that turned out.
  • If the Jays add a SP, it will be a front/mid rotation guy.  The back of the rotation belongs to the young guys currently in the Jays system.  My guess is that they add nobody, but Buerhle, Vazquez, Livan Hernandez... an older dude who can throw a lot of innings without a huge injury risk.  Because old people are leaders...  As for the bullpen, that will almost certainly be filled via free agency because the depth just isn't there within the organization.  I don't particularly agree with that, but he's smarter than I am.  Litsch, Janssen, Frank, Perez,Villanueva is a pretty good start.  Cecil(?), Carreno, Farhquar, Beck, Drabek, Mcgowan, and Mills should all be in the mix depending on what the rotation looks like.  I think it's more likely that AA is going to try and find spots where he can outbid other teams on potential type-B's and either turn those in to draft picks or trades, and letting one/some of the above mentioned names wear that while they still have options, while being Mike Mccoy'ed back and forth in the event of an injury.
  • Entire coaching staff will be offered contracts for 2012, but they're all free to explore other options.
  • Beeston gave AA the thumbs up to sign Lackey or Bay in free agency two years ago.  Whether or not they tried to sign either, we don't know.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Last day of the season

Well folks, this is the end of 'er.  It was fun.  Coupla trades, coupla taters, few laughs, the odd heartbreak.  It went by fairly quickly if you ask me.  I'm fairly excited for the playoffs, to the point where I don't even know what the hell happened in the game last night.  I heard that both starting pitchers were pretty good, and that the Jays lost, but beyond that...

I went to Moneyball last night with my girlfriend.  I won't give an amateur film review, mostly because everyone and their mother has already done so, but I will say that I quite enjoyed it.  I wish they included the "Hatteberg's wife hitting him tennis ball grounders" part, but I suppose there wasn't enough room for it or something.

As a quick aside to the Moneyball story, the Jays once fleeced Billy Beane in a trade for a piece of that very good 2002 Oakland team.  Billy Koch, drafted in 1996 4th overall by the Jays, was traded for 2002 AL Rookie of the year Eric Hinske, and the very mediocre Justin Miller during the 2001 offseason, right around the time that they found out that they wouldn't be resigning Johnny Damon.  Hinske, of course, was a 17th round selection who happened to be blocked by Eric Chavez.  Given the first-base quandary they were in, I bet Oakland immediately regretting that trade.

The Jays got about 6 WAR out of Hinske (as opposed to the 2.2 Kock offered), and then traded him to Boston for cash.  They also got 180+ innings out of Miller before he was ultimately released in 2005.  Koch was involved in a trade to Chicago for Keith Foulke and others after the 2002 season, who put up 3+ wins in 6 straight seasons as a closer.  Koch was never above replacement value again.

Anyway, I can't wait for tonight's games to start.  Philadelphia and Atlanta play in a game to determine Atlanta's fate in the NL wild card race, after having it all but clinched a month ago, while STL plays Houston to try and complete the comeback.  If STL and ATL end up tied after tonight's games, they will play tomorrow afternoon in a 1-game tiebreaker.  On the AL side, Boston plays Baltimore, with Jon Lester throwing on short rest, and Tampa Bay plays the Yankees in a game in which New York has already ensured us that they will start their bench, instead of actually trying.

Both the Rays and the Red Sox won last night, but in very different manners.  The Rays pretty much got our of the only jam they faced by turning a triple play.  The Red Sox, on the other hand, won 8-7, including a 29 pitch save by Jonathan Papelbon.  Even if he does happen to be available for tonight's game, that looks rough.  If both teams remain tied after tonight, they'll play in a 1-game tie breaker tomorrow night.  Boston's starter for tomorrow's game, if necessary, remains unannounced, partially because all of their starters suck now, but also because Theo Epstein is trying to swing a deal to acquire a starting pitcher for that one game.  Any player traded after August 31st may not participate in the playoffs.  If Theo does make a trade, it would have to be done today, to ensure that whoever he does get will be with the team tomorrow when the game starts.

I love baseball, and I love games that really mean a lot even more.  Tonight, there are 4 simultaneous games that mean everything to the seasons of 4 teams.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Playoff Primer- Justin Verlander

What?  He's not the whole team?  Oh.  Well, they're fucked.

No but seriously.  It's like, Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Avila's .554 babip or whatever the fuck that is. And Detroit has already announced that in the ALDS, Verlander will throw on regular rest, which, thanks to the schedule re-alignment, means that he will throw game 1 and game 5 if necessary.  Good luck squeezing a win out of anybody else against a playoff team.

Verlander is probably going to win the AL CY, and deservedly so, but I don't think people pay enough attention to how easy the schedule is for AL Central teams.  Remember how I like to throw the Blue Jays in to other divisions and claim that they would have been very competitive this season, just to make myself feel better?  The Toronto Blue Jays would have won the AL Central this season by at least as big of a margin as the Tigers did this season if the Tigers and Jays switched places.

I honestly struggle to pick out anything about the Tigers that says to me "this is the best aspect of this team" when it comes to the 3 things that comprise baseball.  The rotation, I suppose, is kind of strong...?  Verlander is obviously a complete animal who can go throw 120 pitches over 8 innings and then come shut you down in the 9th with a 101mph fastball.  Beyond that... Doug Fister and Max Scherzer are definitely there, but under no circumstances do they add up to make a rotation that will be good enough to shut down the Rays/Red Sox, Yankees, or Rangers.

Furthermore, if you're going to play those teams, expect to throw a lot of pitches, which in turn, will get to the bullpen earlier.  Any game that gets to the bullpen early is probably going to be bad news for the Tigers.  Sure, Jose Valverde is 47/47 in saves, but that ignores that 4.5bb/9, the .242 babip against, the 82.5% strand rate (average is about 75%, but even elite pitchers can get that to ~80% sustainably... 4.5bb/9 doesn't sound elite to me), and the fact that he's outperformed his FIP by about 1.4 runs, and his xFIP by nearly 2 runs...  and he's a closer, who typically pitches one inning, with a lead, without inherited runners...  basically there's not that much value to a guy like Valverde.  Basically, Valverde is league average at best, Joaquin Benoit has been good, Al Alburquerque has been awesome when healthy, and that's it.  If these guys get gassed at all, watch out.

Beyond Miguel Cabrera, who is certainly a top-5 hitter in baseball, I can't point to this offense and suggest that they can outslug any other playoff team.  The Alex Avila party has got to slow down sooner or later, and Victor Martinez is the only other clearly above average contributor offensively.  The offensive numbers of the entire Tigers lineup need to be taken with a grain of salt; they play in a park that favors hitters (not necessarily in homeruns, but average, doubles, etc.), and their schedule allows them to play against significantly weaker opponents and thus lower quality pitching much more often.

Defensively, it's pretty much hit or miss with this team.  Austin Jackson plays a very good CF, and Peralta is a good defensive SS, but beyond that, there's not much.  The Tigers and Rangers are currently playing for the right to not face the Yankees, which is always a privilege, but I honestly can't see what good it's going to do.  Detroit is a worse team than the Yankees, a worse team than the Rangers, a worse team than the Rays, and if the Red Sox manage to get the Wild Card, Detroit has a better rotation that doesn't nearly make up for the fact that they'll have a much worse offense and defense.  There is literally no circumstance that I can envision, short of some hilarious 3rd party interference, that sees the Tigers in the ALCS.  Beyond that, anyone making bets should load up on whoever the Tigers play, because oddsmakers won't look at the regular season schedule situation when setting odds, so whoever they play will get an excellent price.

The AL Rat Race, and stuff.

Honestly, I can't be assed to watch Jays games anymore.  They don't matter at all, and I'll only get frustrated, what with lineups including Mike Mccoy, Mark Teabag and David Cooper and the like going out there and getting shut down by Dylan Axelrod or something like that, while Yunel Escobar and Brett Lawrie sit and hang out on the bench with booboos.  People are sore, and they're playing for wins that don't really get them anywhere (I'm talking about .500 here), and a privilege of signing Type-A free agents for slightly less compensation than was originally thought, a privilege that won't be exercised.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Bluejays the way I love one of my many illegitimate and unknown children (absently, without ever meeting any of them, and from halfway across the country!), but when some games actually mean a lot, and some mean pretty much nothing, well, teams be damned, I'm going to watch the important games.  The TOR-TB series this past week was fun, and had a great atmosphere.  The NYY-BOS games this weekend were great, and seeing BOS lose to BAL last night made me about as happy as a pig in shit.

The Red Sox and Rays are now tied atop the AL wild card race, each with two games left.  The Rays are playing a Yankees team who, despite having a 14 inning game two nights ago, are very well rested, and will probably continue to rest their regulars, while TB is going to dig their heels in and keep fighting, whether the Yankees just donate the last two wins of the regular season or not.  Boston, on the other hand, have two games left on the road against a Baltimore team who just refuses to give up.  Or at least that's the way it appears, especially when Boston plays so terribly down the stretch. Erik Bedard will start for Boston today.  Last time he pitched, also against Baltimore, he went 2.2IP and allowed 4 runs (1 earned).

Naturally, I'm pulling for TB.  Mostly because I like them way more than I like Boston, who I can't stand, but also because Boston had a $200MM payroll this year, and I like it when those teams miss the playoffs.  The way they've played in the last month makes me so happy.  The mere fact that they were a 95% favorite to make the playoffs 2 weeks ago, to now being a cointoss away from elimination makes me giddy inside.

For some excellent Red Sox trolling, mind this thread.

The White Sox actually got something in return for their manager, who they essentially fired yesterday.  What. The. Fuck????  At least the Logan Morrison rumors got shut down pretty quickly.  Good ole outspoken Ozzie Guillen.  A model citizen to teach those rambunctious kids to not use their twitters and respect people, and all those other things Logan Morrison totally wasn't doing.

Here's a list of the Midwest League's top 20 prospects, with Jays farmhands being in the #3 and 14 spots.

Your American League MVP

Monday, 26 September 2011

Playoff Primer- The Arizona Iced Teas

By my count, since the Aaron Hill and John Mcdonald-for-Kelly Johnson trade, the Arizona Diamondbacks are 23-7, good enough to go from a small defecit, to an 8 game lead over the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants for the lead in the NL West.  You can add the NL West to the list of divisions that I believe the Toronto Blue Jays would at least be competitive in this season, and with the imbalanced schedules allowing Arizona to play teams like Colorado and San Diego  (15 and 21 games below .500 respectively), or the Dodgers (Juan Uribe= 3 yrs, $21MM) more often than any other, it's not incredibly tough to see that a good, young team in a division with little competition will probably win.  When SF is trotting out guys like Miguel Tejada, or Aaron Rowand instead of young studs like Brandon Belt, the two choices of a division champion will get whittled down to one eventually.  It took a few injuries and some regression of an already mediocre offense to do it, but the Giants(' position players) showed their true colors.

The question mark of the D'backs is certainly their pitching.  Playing in Chase Field doesn't hurt at all (it's like the Skydome on crack), but they have gotten some really good seasons out of a few guys.  Justin Upton has been ridiculous all season long, Miguel Montero finally turned in to the fantasy baseball steal that I expected him to be last year, and some breakout performances by guys like Gerardo Parra and Ryan Roberts have made up for the fact that Chris Young has forgotten how to hit, the loss of Stephen Drew, and the fact that Lyle Overbay was the everyday first baseman for a little while.

Trade deadline acquisitions Aaron Hill and John Mcdonald have contributed to the recent success, Hill by coming out of nowhere and hitting .328/.388/.517 since the trade, and Mcdonald by flashing his standard defensive awesomeness.

The big surprise from this team, however, has been the starting rotation.  Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter and Dan Hudson have all been excellent this season, negating the lack of fifth starter, which is not at all needed in the playoffs anyway.  The bullpen has been solid throughout the year as well, especially considering all the game in the offense-happy Chase Field.

My big problem with giving the D'backs any chance at all to win is the fact that they will probably be the worst team in the playoffs this season, though Milwaukee isn't much better (I realize that I said MIL was the worst in the playoffs in their primer, but I take it back).  PHI, MIL, and ATL all have better rotations and offenses than ARI.  Much like MIL, any playoff success is going to come down to the marginal runs saved due to defense (ARI is good at defense, MIL is dogshit at it; ARI needs to continue to play good defense, MIL needs to start playing average defense).  Arizona is currently slated to get facefucked by the Phillies in round 1, and I can certainly see that one getting ugly.  PHI's offense is bad enough that each of these games might not be blowouts, but the pitching staff is good enough that, especially away from Chase Field, we're going to see Halladay and Clifton do some dominating.

Alright playoffs....

Seriously, let's get on 'er guys.  Jays games definitely don't mean anything now, especially now that we're done spoiling things for others.  I'm also fairly certain that the Jays can't get to the bottom 15 places in the standings to protect a first rounder, because, if they lose all of their remaining games, they'd end up tied for 15th with Washington or Cleveland, both of whom had worse records last season, which is the tie breaker.  It doesn't seem like this will really end up making a difference though, given AA's plan to slowly break down every GM in baseball via the trade system, and not free agency.

The Jays lost a couple games this weekend, and also officially lost Yunel Escobar for the rest of the season.  Couple that with the Jose Bautista injury yesterday (I personally wouldn't play him for the rest of the year... just not worth it), Colby Rasmus having the flu, Adam Lind making a new baby with Shaniqua Laykeshia... you get what I'm giving here... the Jays are a bit banged up, even with expanded rosters.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued to be unreal all day yesterday, hitting 3 HR's in the double header with the Yankees and singlehandedly being worth half a WAR in one day.  The Red Sox lead is now down to 1 game with 3 left.  Hopefully those idiots are really tired and beat up so they can get swept by the Orioles, because Tampa will need a bit of help from the Yankees to get to the playoffs.

Atlanta also Boston'ed it up by losing to Washington yesterday, crunching that Wild Card race in the NL to 1 game over STL.

All things considered, I have a headache.

Primer comin'.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Walkoff Flocka in the Sendoff Flocka

Another extra innings home game, another walkoff.  I'd have much preferred the tater to be of the Jose Bautista, or the Mike Mccoy variety, but I'll take Carlton Fisk Edwin version.  Speaking of Mike Mccoy, uhh... Wheaties bro.

Jose can have a Zaunhead since he got on base 5 fucking times, though Henderson Alvarez was good, and Edwin obviously deserves a little bit of credit.


Shi Davidi of spoke with Alex Anthopoulos, who tells us more of what we already knew, and that is that AA prefers the trade route to free agency.  We all know that AA loves his draft picks, plus he finds free agent contracts too risky.  He claims that via the trade, it's easier to control exactly what you get in terms of age, build, service time, and price, as opposed to the limited number of free agents, most of whom are in their 30's and demand multi-year contracts.

AA also says that he figures Nestor Molina, Drew Hutchinson, Chad Jenkins, and Deck Mcguire will all contribute in some fashion next season.  Let's not forget guys like Dustin Mcgowan and Kyle Drabek are still around as well.  The downside of having all these young guys around is that it is rather unlikely that the Jays are a real threat to compete next year, despite the elevated likelihood of improvement.

The Jays win last night, combined with the Rays spankjob of the Yankees last night, puts the Angels a game back of Tampa, and 3 games back of the Red Sox, who didn't play.  Tampa, now 2 games back in the Wild Card race, beat the Yankees 15-8 in a game that was never as close as the score indicates, which says something since it was a 7 run game.  Rays' rookie Matt Moore made his first career start against a hilarious version of the Yankees, and struck out 11 over 5 innings, hitting 97 on the gun consistently.

The Yankees will play the Red Sox thrice, and the Rays will play the Jays thrice over the next three days.  This is important.  Tampa pretty much needs to sweep the Jays and then do well against the Yankees after that if they want any hope at the playoffs.  I'd certainly love to see the Yankees put up their best against the Red Sox and then give all their regulars three days off against the Rays to do their best to sabotage the Red Sox' playoff chances, but I can't really see that happening, despite it possibly being in their best interests to do so.

Tigers' Manager Jim Leyland has confirmed that he's an idiot once again, by saying that Justin Verlander will start game 1, but will not start on short rest in the series, even if the Tigers are facing elimination.  He plans to use Doug Fister in game two and Max Scherzer in game three, but hasn't announced his game 4 starter yet.

Marlins' closer Leo Nunez is a big fat phony, according to MLBTR, as his real name is Juan Carlos Oviedo, and he's 29 years old, as opposed to the 28 he's listed as.  Many international free agents do this to increase their value on the market.  For example, which would you rather: a 16 year old who is 6'2'' and throws 92MPH, or a 19 year old who is 6'2'' and throws 92MPH?  Obviously, the former is better, since he can still grow and has more room to mature, thus having a higher ceiling.  Let the "Albert Pujols is actually 35 years old" rumors begin.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Playoffs Primer- Mawokee Broors

That's what it sounds like when you say it kind of fast.  Shut up.

Alright, we're not going to kid ourselves and say that STL is going to catch MIL for the ML Central division title.  It's a 4.5 game lead with 7 games left, which may as well be as insurmountable as the Red Sox 9 game lead over the Rays at the start of September...

The Brewers shored up that rotation in the offseason, adding both Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke to join Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, forming a prettay, prettay, prettay good starting 4.  NL offenses are pretty horrible, but Marcum and Greinke have both transitioned quite nicely to the NL (as if that could possibly be difficult), and deadline acquisitions, have turned a good bullpen in to a great one.  This team is a testament to the advantage of having unbalanced schedules, and 54 games (or whatever it is) against the Cubs, Astros and Pirates.  I don't think pitching is going to be much of a problem, but the awesome pitching numbers that these guys have put up are slightly misleading.  I maintain that, in the weird scenario that places one of STL, MIL, or CIN in the AL East and replace them with the TOR, the Jays would be a playoff team from that division.

Offensively, there are 3 weapons on this team to avoid if you're an opposing pitcher.  Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder are all really good at baseball.  Fielder has an OBP over .400 for the season, and Ryan Braun has an OPS of almost 1.000 with 31 steals and 31 HR's.  Both guys are putting up MVP caliber seasons in a world where Matt Kemp doesn't exist.  Beyond those guys, well, it's nothing to get too excited about.  Rickie Weeks has regressed from last season's numbers, as expected, but has still been well above average, and George Kottaras (Canadian!) has had a good second half of the season.  Nyjer Morgan has completely lost his mind, but is getting on base at a .362 clip since the allstar break, and if Moneyball has taught us anything, getting on base is what truly matters.

With a plus rotation and an average-to-slightly-above-average offense, you'd think that this is going to be a team to contend with in the playoffs, right?  Not so fast.  First off, there are better offenses, and better rotations among the playoffs teams.  Secondly, the defense on this team is completely atrocious.  Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan have played some excellent defense in the outfield this year, but an infield that features both Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt is really scary bad.  Casey McGehee has a UZR of 7.4, which is miles ahead of his career -3.3 (that 7.4 is an outlier; you need at least 3 seasons to determine a reasonable sample).

I honestly expected them to go find someone who isn't Yuniesky Betancourt at the trade deadline (not that there's an overly impressive SS market), because that guy sucks incredibly hard at everything, and they may end up regretting the lack of upgrade there, because they could certainly use another bat in that lineup, or a better glove in the middle of the infield.  Instead, they have one of the most useless players in baseball taking up a spot.  McGehee isn't a whole lot better.

The playoffs, as I have mentioned many times before, is just a small-sample party; any team can go ahead and win 3 of 5, especially with starting rotations as strong as each of these NL playoff teams.  There is quite a bit of parity between MIL-ATL-ARI, all of whom will be underdogs against the Phillies for the NL Pennant.  The NL series without the Phillies will be the funnest to watch, since the two teams will be matched up very evenly, but even if the Brewers end up against Philadelphia, it won't be a forgone conclusion.  Baltimore just took 3 of 4 from Boston, and the Jays did the same last week.  It's not absurd to say that MIL couldn't catch fire and take 3 of 5 from the Phillies.  Having said that, I rank Milwaukee as the worst playoff team in the NL, and expect them to lose to whoever they face in the first round, but it's close enough that it wouldn't be an incredible shocker if they moved on to the 2nd round.  Anything more than that, and we've got a nice underdog story on our hands.

So long, dental plan.

The dental plan, in this case, is Brett Lawrie, who broke a finger yesterday during warmup, and is now finished for the season.  Lisa, in this case, is John Farrell, and the braces can be... Edwin playing third, I guess?  At least until Yunel Escobar comes back, if that even happens.  Jonathan Diaz is available, and is now probably even more likely to get a callup than he was before.  It was already rumored that he may be on the way up, and now with no infielders left, who knows what's going to happen?  There's only 7 games left, so it's not a huge issue, but Jose Bautista could potentially play third for a week and give Adam Loewen everyday action in right.  They could also just keep Adam Lind at first everyday and have Edwin play third hilariously.  It doesn't really matter though.

The real story here is the way the Rays and Red Sox can't win games anymore, letting the Angels right back in to this race.  2.5 games is a pretty big lead with just 6-7 games left, and the fact that the Sox play the Rays thrice this week is actually pretty bad news for LA.  I feel like both Tampa and LA need to win the rest of their games to get in, and neither has a particularly easy schedule finishing out (LA plays 1 more against the Jays, 3 against OAK and 3 against Tex, TB plays 3 against TOR and 3 against NYY).  TB's double-header loss yesterday was an absolute fucking disaster.

There's a little bit of the same nonsense coming from the other side of baseball too: Atlanta has been doing some serious dog-fucking the last week or so, and have completely squandered their giant lead in the wild card race, allowing St. Louis to catch up to the tune of a 1.5-game lead.  STL finishes their season about as easily as possible, with 1 more against the Mets this afternoon, then 3 against the Cubs and 3 against the Astros.  Atlanta is off today, then play 3 against WAS and 3 against PHI.  This should get interesting.

This basically means that I'll have to wait a couple days before finishing all the playoff primers, but should be able to get most of them done while the wild card races are finishing up.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Well that was a facefucking

Man oh man oh man.  Man!  Yeah, I just linked to Homestar Runner.  I'm currently still in highschool (not really).

That got ugly quickly, though I guess that's what happens when everything that makes contact with a bat falls in for a double.

Here's something that's awesome:  Brett Cecil was puzzled at getting yanked after 3 innings last night, according to John Lott of the National Post.  Cecil tells us that he was "Really surprised, I think that’s why I’m at a loss for words. I only had three innings to work. Just can’t find the words to really explain anything right now,” but then used words to explain that he "Just got the ball up a little bit. Gave up three runs. Done it before. I don’t know.”

Kyle Drabek then came in and got slapped around a bit too, but I don't really see a whole lot wrong with what he was doing, as long as it's okay for me to cherry pick the pitches that resulted in hits, namely, those 5 in the bottom left corner, and the one that was at (I think) Callaspo's ankles.  I mean yeah, there's a meatball or two in there, but whatever.

I'm over it though.  This season's pretty well over, and it's not really about wins and losses anymore.  I've actually got enough intrigue in the Boston-Baltimore dumpster fire series to actually follow the games.  I take enough pleasure in watching Boston lose and blow the nice big lead they had.  More importantly, I'm enjoying Tampa Bay enough, mostly because they're catching the Red Sox and making this whole race beyond interesting.  See Papelbon blow that save last night was really awesome though, especially knowing that Tampa had already lost to the Yankees.


Yunel Escobar has been placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to the 11th, which was when he was hit on the elbow by a pitch.  Of course, with expanded rosters, there is absolutely 0 advantage to DL-ing him, and the only disadvantage is that he is no longer eligible to play in games until he's activated.  He'll be eligible to return Monday, and isn't expected to be cleared for game action before then, so it doesn't really matter either way, but I just don't understand what positives can come from placing him on the DL, unless it has something to do with insurance and salary relief that the Jays could get from DL-ing him and getting someone else to pay 15 days of Escobar's salary or something.*

Edwin Encarnacion and Shawn Camp both apparently want to come back to Toronto next season, according to Shi Davidi.  I would gladly take Edwin back, but Camp... heh.  He was real good last season, but has stunk for the better part of this one.  I can definitely see the Jays choosing to bring him back on a really team friendly deal, but Camp started the year as a type-A, and is now unranked.  Granted, he's got a couple outings where he's given up 6 runs on 7 hits or something similar, which, to be fair to him, is pretty much mop-up work; he wouldn't be left in the game after giving up 3 runs in an inning if it wasn't a bullshit game already, so that's kind of misleading.  Still, I'd want it to be on a 1-year deal worth not very much, just so the Jays could dump him easily partway through the year if he sucks again.  I'm not all that sure what the Jays plan is going in to next year with regards to the bullpen makeup, but if it's a question of some young guy within the organization losing a chance at innings because Shawn Camp is there, I might get a little furious.  On the other hand, if we're looking at guys like Wil Ledezma or something similar, yeah, fuck it, I'd take Camp back for another shot.

From Fangraphs, a discussion between two guys who are way smarter than I am, about evaluating pitching performances.  NL CY YOUNG VOTERS: WHO YA GOT?!? THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!

Notgraphs presents their take on Eric Thames hitting himself in the face with a foul ball the other day.  I don't see any mention of the fact that this pitch comes on a full count, in a close game, with Jose Bautista on deck, or that that pitch almost hits him in the face without him swinging at it.  Learn to walk Eric.

Also not graphs, Mike Stanton hits the ball far twice.  That man is terrifying.

*- I do know that most, if not all, contracts signed by MLB clubs and players are insured by the clubs in case of injury, but I'm not sure of the logistics of who pays whom and how much when an injury occurs.  With Joe Mauer making like $18MM this season, but spending half the year on the DL, I know that there wasn't a sunken cost of $9MM to the team, as they would get some of that back through the insurer.  With a 15-day DL stint for a guy who makes $2.4MM, I'm not sure what, if anything, the Jays would get from an insurer, I'm simply trying to come up with something to make sense of placing Yunel on the DL for 4 days.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The importance of the loss as a pitching stat/my problem with WPA.

Okay, so, the Jays pretty much stole a win that was getting stolen from them.  Follow?  Me neither.  Basically, the Jays hit about a thousand line drives and were robbed on many occasions by some pretty good defense from the Angels' infielders.  This game probably should have been a 4-run or 5-run win for the Jays based solely on the amount of chances they had to score (1-for-11 RISP, 9 LOB).  Having said all that, the Angels pitching staff gave up 0 earned runs.

Erick Aybar made an error in the 10th, and then botched another taylor-made double play ball, which eventually led to Torii Hunter fucking the dog on the walkoff fielder's choice to 2nd base, allowing Mike Mccoy to score the winning run, giving Scott Downs the loss.  Downs' line of [1.1IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 0 ER, 1k] doesn't really portray just how effective he was yesterday, especially against a team who has a pretty complete scouting report on him, but an error and two fuckups (I'd have given Hunter a throwing error) not only gives Downs' a loss, but also earns him a -.140 WPA.

I don't really know exactly how WPA is calculated or calibrated, but I'm fairly certain that defense isn't taken in to account for it.  That seems fine for position players, but for a pitcher to go out there and do his job effectively, only to have his team take a crap or dump on the field seems pretty unfair to me.

This is obviously an extreme example, and for the most part, your guys with the highest WPA in a game will get the Zaunhead be the most valuable, but I'd be pretty shocked if anybody who watched that game, Scott Downs included, said anything at all similar to "Scott Downs just wasn't very good in last night's game," which is equivalent to saying that Downs' really hurt his teams chances of winning that game by 14%.

Speaking of Scott Downs, and I mentioned this earlier this season when the Angels were in town, I'd like to take a second and address every Jays fan that was at the game yesterday.  I don't give a fuck what Scott Downs does, don't you fucking dare boo him ever again.  This isn't Josh Beckett or Jered Weaver or Alex Rios or some other douche who takes too long or gets mad at hitters when they're successful against him or handcuffs hometeams with terrible contracts; this is Scott Downs.

Remember?  The guy who used to single-handedly make close Jays games bearable?  Remember when the other team would rally late in the game, and we'd be sitting there panicking?  Do you know who got brought in to the game to remedy that situuation?  Scott Downs did.  So he threw a pickoff attempt to first base-- it happens.  It's part of baseball.  Scott Downs was a class act the entire time he was in Toronto, he contributed more than half the team (from the bullpen, mind you), and blossomed in to one of the best relievers in baseball in front of our very eyes, and it was our team who didn't offer him the longterm contract that he deserved.  Stop being fucking idiots and appreciate the game.  Boo the people who deserve to be booed, cheer the people who deserve to be cheered, and shut your fucking mouths when you're too goddamn stupid to do anything else.


Settling down now...  Ricky Romero was excellent yesterday, as always.  He gets a Zaunhead, which he seems to do every single time he goes out to pitch.

We felt the wrath of Jhan John again yesterday, when Brett Lawrie was forced to bunt.  That's your second best hitter, John.  Don't do that anymore.  But shit, it worked, so I must be wrong here.  No but seriously, that was fucking stupid, especially since Jose Molina was given the chance to swing the bat immediately afterwards.  I had a talk about bunting with my dad the other night.  "It's good baseball" he said.  When asked to further explain what made it good baseball, he kind of shrugged.

Yunel Escobar is still out, which means that we're still getting a nice healthy dose of Mike Mccoy up top.  Escobar doesn't really have a timetable for a return, as he's still lacking range of motion in the left arm.

Brett Cecil has been cleared to start tonight.  He cut his finger on a blender for some reason last week.

Cecil was rumored to be making his final start of the season last week, which could very well make his start tonight is last.  If that happens, expect Kyle Drabek to fill in.  Gregor Chisolm wrote last night that Farrell believes Drabek will get a start before the end of the year, and that seems like the only logical spot to stick him in there, unless they just want to go with a 6-man rotation.

Within that same piece, Jonathan Diaz is expected to get a callup within the next couple days.  He was pretty good in spring training this year, if I remember correctly, which doesn't really mean much of anything, but whatever.  It says that Farrell isn't expecting anymore callups, but I read the other day that Moises Sierra told someone that he was expecting one this week, despite the contrary being said in this piece.  I think it was Dave Gershman who said that, but I don't remember.  Might take a while to find that tweet.

Edit-- That was fast.

Monday, 19 September 2011


I like it when that happens.  All it took was a month of suck and the Yankees entire bench to play.

And Adam Lind is good again... Well, probably not, but still.  Two taters is pretty good.

Uhh, it's Monday morning.  There's never anything to write about on Mondays.

MLBTR has a bit of Jays news.  The real meat of the post is a quote from AA saying that they wouldn't be doing much searching on the free agent market, as he prefers trade-rapes.  Within the comments, idiots shine. I'm kind of wondering how anybody can question the fact that this team is at least kind of close to getting good.  It's not like they wouldn't win or at least be in the race in the AL Central, AL West, NL Central or NL West, and are pretty much taking 2 of 3 from everyone despite this being the hard part of the schedule.  I mean, there are still a bunch of teams that are better from a true-talent perspective, but I don't really think that we can just look at the 77-75 record and say that they're anywhere near the 14th best (or whatever) team in baseball, considering the Corey Patterson/Jojo Reyes/Juan Rivera factor.  Just gotta spend $30MM on free agent closers in the offseason and we're all set!

Of course, we already knew that AA wasn't going after Fielder or Pujols, since there are no 6 or 7-year deals coming this offseason for Toronto.  Of course, there's nothing written about 8-year deals for Brett Lawrie.

Anyhoo, the Vernons are coming to town now for a 4-gamer, so uhh... yeah... whoopty fuck.

I think the best storyline going on in baseball right now is how terrible the Red Sox have been these last couple weeks.  They're 4-13 in September, which has seen them turn a multiple game lead in the division to fighting just to hold on to their wild card spot against the Rays.  They lost 3 of 4 this weekend against TB after getting swept last week.  Schedules favor the Sox, since they play 7 of their last 10 games against Baltimore and 3 against the Yankees, while Tampa has 7 against the Yankees and 3 against the Jays.

That Red Sox rotation is some kind of combination of terrible and depleted, with Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Kyle Weiland and Jon Lackey starting a bunch of games lately.  Erik Bedard isn't a huge upgrade, but he is scheduled to be put in to the rotation this week, and Josh Beckett is set to return as well, but Boston is playing some really bad baseball, and Tampa is playing pretty damn good.  At least this is entertaining.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Non-Phillies things

Hoppin' straight in to the "Stuff" category here.


Dave Cameron from Fangraphs, and less importantly, from Lookout Landing, which is a Mariners blog, points out in a tweet that Daniel Bard, despite getting his shit pushed in by the Jays twice in recent memory, is still a good pitcher.  But do you watch the games, Dave?  He says it's not panic time though.

Wood bats vs. Aluminum bats: who ya got?  I'm pretty sure I saw something on Sports Science or Mythbusters or something that claimed that both types of bat were pretty much the same with regards to ball speed and offensive contributions and so on, but maybe not.

Gregor Chisolm, beat writer for the Jays, did a little Q&A with Jays fans. Warning- there's a Papelbon question...  There is also a question about the catcher logjam that appears to be on the way within the next year or two, with both JP Arencibia and Travis d'Arnaud offering promising futures behind the plate.  My take?  If d'Arnaud is ready (which he probaby isn't), give Adam Lind the boot, and see if one of them (JP most likely) can play first base.  Between JP, d'Arnaud and Edwin Encarnacion, I'm sure the 1B, DH and C roles and be filled there.  This assumes that Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols aren't coming to Toronto, of course, which, as we all know, they aren't.

Chisolm also fields a question about whether or not Adam Loewen has a spot on this team next year, and answers by saying something along the lines of "only if they cut Teahen".  Now let's take a look at this situation for a second:  Your typical roster is going to be something like 13 pitchers, 12 position players, 8 of which are your starters.  Among those 4 bench players left, 1 is a backup catcher, and there's at least 1 infielder there. The outfield currently consists of Colby Rasmus and Jose Bautista, both of whom are locked in there for the next 3 and 4 years respectively (though I suppose Bautista could become a DH or 1B by the end of his contract if need be).  That will leave LF to one of Snider, Thames, Loewen, or Davis, and there's bound to be some kind of 4th OF role there as well.  I assume, with his speed and ability to hit lefties (not to mention he's the only RHB within the 4), that Davis is going to get that 4th OF job no matter who the everyday LF is.

I also highly doubt that a 28 year old outfielder with 40 MLB at-bats is going to get the nod over a 24 year old with 3/4 of a season of average production, or a 23 year old "can't miss" prospect, but what do I know.  The thing is, however, that Loewen is out of options, while Thames and Snider each have one left.  I'm sure that the Jays management wants both playing everyday, whether it's at AAA or the MLB level.  I don't really give a whole lot of shits which plays where, but I'd rather see Snider playing in Toronto until he can no longer prove that he deserves every chance to succeed.  Though Thames is going to be 25, and might never learn to take a walk, so he might just be best suited to be on the bench anyway.

Having said all that, what the fuck does Mark Teahen do to deserve a spot on this team?  Is it the fact that they're paying him $5.5MM next season?  I can hear you all now... "Grady, you don't just cut a guy who's making $5.5MM."  Well, technically, you're supposed to be playing those guys, because they're not supposed to be the 63rd best player in your organization.  Kenny Williams gave him that contract, not AA or JP Ricciardi-- taking Teahen was just a way of giving the White Sox $7MM in cash for Edwin Jackson.  There is literally 0 difference between paying Mark Teahen $7MM to sit on the bench and travel with the team and paying Mark Teahen $7MM to sit on his La-z-Boy drinking beer.  In fact, if the Jays DFA him, there's a chance that another team could pick him up for league minimum money, and the Jays could then save themselves $400k.

Basically, Teahen is here right now only because everyone in the system is young and raw, and would be better suited for development in the minors, same with Chris Woodward.  If Mike Mccoy gets sent down next year and Teahen is still on the team, I might lose my mind.

That really turned in to a "go fuck yourself Mark Teahen" rant much quicker than I thought it would.  Speaking of which, I guess I'm not the only one.


Brett Cecil is a terrible chef, and has cut his finger for the second time in two years, which will result in a missed start.  Not really a big deal, as he was going to be shut down eventually anyway, may as well skip a start here or there.  If you don't remember, he cut his finger making a salad in spring training last year.  Well today, it was a blender.  Dustin Mcgowan will get the start in his place.  Yesterday's offday just means that nobody will get an extra day off, meaning Henderson Alvarez goes tomorrow and Brandon Morrow Sunday, both on regular rest.

Anthony Gose won some community service award for the Jays franchise.  Apparently he built a close bond with a kid with cancer in the NH area somewhere.  Good for him; AA likes these people.

The Jays also released their Webster Award winners, for the MVP of each minor league team.  David Cooper won for the AAA club, Travis d'Arnaud won for AA, and Jake Marisnick won for the low-A team.  A more complete list is here.

Apparently Adam Loewen is taking some grounders at first base with Butters before today's game.  I thought he played a bit of 1B last week in a game, but the internet disagrees.  He has played a few scattered games at 1B over the last two years in the minors though.  Let me get this one straight: Edwin plays 1B, but needs to learn the outfield, but Loewen plays the outfield and needs to learn 1B?

Dave Gershman (@dave_gershman on twitter... quite valueable for minor league stuff) confirms that Jays farmhand and apparent stud pitcher in the making Drew Hutchison has been shut down for the season.  He was re-assigned from AA to A the other day, but that was just to make a roster spot available once he hit his innings cap.  New Hampshire is in a playoff run right now, and as far as I know, his spot in the rotation has no more scheduled starts left, so I guess they just want an extra arm in the bullpen or something.

Update- MOAR MOAR!

No 6-7 year deals for the Jays this offseason.  So long Prince Fielder/Albert Pujols/infinite-term extension for Brett Lawrie.

Playoff Primer- Philadelphia Phillies

Crazy old me suggested at the start of the year that Atlanta would win the NL East, and that Philly would be fighting for a wild card.  I must be going CRAAAAAAAZZZZYYYYYYYYY.  No seriously, I actually thought that Philly's offense would be bad enough that it would undo pretty much all the amazing that the rotation did, and that there was enough parity in playing 100 1-run games that it's tough to give them enough wins in what was supposed to be a halfway decent division.  Give it another year I guess.

The Phillies have definitely emerged as the class of the National League, though that whole thing is just a complete joke beyond a couple of teams really (more on that when other primers come along *cough but also say 'Milwaukee' at the same time*).  The offense, while below average, has been good enough to accumulate a run or two per game, which is typically plenty for quasi-human pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt are both plenty good as well, though this has certainly been an off-year for Oswalt.  He's still miles better than any other #4 pitcher in baseball.  Beyond that, Vance Worley has been an excellent #5.  Beyond that, the bullpen has been pretty good as well, with guys like Antonio Bastardo coming from mediocrity to become a bullpen ace.

The fact that most playoff teams will carry a longer bullpen in exchange for 3 or 4-man rotations is a massive advantage to a team like Philly.  Between Halladay, Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies have a front three that will eat up a shitload of innings, giving the Phillies a chance to send out an ace every single game, and even if the need to use Worley or Oswalt arises, they have legitimate pitchers going out there.  Compare this with, say, the Red Sox, who have Jon Lester, and then a bunch of question marks.  Boston doesn't have the depth without Clay Buchholz in the rotation, especially if Josh Beckett isn't 100% healthy.  The way the schedule is going to work, offdays are only on travel days, and thus, Boston will probably need to use a 4-man rotation since the only real robot there is Lester.  As result, we're going to see at least one of Erik Bedard, John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller or Kyle Wieland make a start in the first round, and against a better offense than whoever the Phillies play.  Philly can probably get away with throwing Halladay-Lee-Hamels in the first three games, and if they don't sweep away whoever they play, Halladay and Lee probably have the ability to throw in games 4 and 5 if needed.

The obvious chink in the armor of the Phillies is their offense.  Beyond Shane Victorino, nothing is really a sure thing.  Utley is great, but he's only played 90 games this year.  Howard is good, but is also probably the most overrated baseball player of our time, and Jimmy Rollins is worse, and almost as overrated.  Left and right fields and third base are essentially a revolving door of replacement level players.

Basically, this is going to come down to the pitching.  If the rotation can crush as they have all season, and I'm sure they can, than the slightly-below-league-average offense can get away with scoring 2 or 3 runs a game and still be successful.  Fortunately for them, the Phillies are going to face either Arizona or Milwaukee in the first round, and either should be a cakewalk.  I certainly see Philadelphia winning the pennant without a ton of fanfare.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Bard-y Rockers in the House Tonight

It's nice to have someone on the Red Sox that the Jays just beat up on consistently, much like the Red Sox beat the hell out of everybody on the Jays staff, with the exception of Ricky Romero in his last two starts.  Thanks Daniel!

If you somehow don't know what I'm talking about, Daniel Bard, Red Sox "setup man" and closer of the future (probably) gave up 2 runs in the 8th inning yesterday, allowing the Jays to take the lead.  Bard also allowed 5 runs in the 8th last week to give the Jays an 11-8 lead.  Basically, jump in a fire Red Sox.  And that's a pretty good way to end the season series against Boston if you ask me.  I'm glad that I don't have to watch another one of their games until at least playoff time, and I'm equally glad that they have lost 6 of 7 or something like that.

Adam Loewen went ahead and had a real good two-game series at Fenway, and he earned himself another Zaunhead for his performance yesterday.  It was pretty much a tie between he and Edwin, but I reserve the right to use the catch he made Tuesday as a tiebreak.  Don't like it?  Complain.  Honorable mention goes to Edwin, of course, who went 2/3 with a walk and a really loud lineout.  More HM's go to Ricky Romero and Frank Frank, who pitched 8 solid innings and a clean 9th respectively.

Speaking of Loewen, Fangraphs wrote about him and his comeback yesterday.  They don't really say much, but they certainly acknowledge his existence.

The Jays will now face the Yankees this weekend after an inexplicable offday today.  Yeah, another one.  Not that I care, I'm going to see Elton John tonight, which I suppose sounds kind of gay, but by coming here, Elton usurps April Wine, or possibly Trooper, as the biggest musical act to ever come to my hometown.  Anyway, three against the Yankees, then four against Anaheim, and that's it for the home schedule.  They'll end the year on the road with three in TB and three in CHI.


It looks like Arod will be back in the lineup Friday against the Jays.  He hasn't swung in a week, but is penciled in for now.  Whether he plays will be based on how he looks in batting practice before the game.  Robinson Cano was hit on the foot last night in Seattle, but x-rays came back negative.  He might get a day off over the course of the series, but I'd expect him to play.

As for Jays stuff, Yunel Escobar's x-ray and MRI both came back negative, so it's just soreness and tissue swelling I guess.  That same article claims that Colby Rasmus will stay in New Hampshire until the Fishercats' playoff run continues, but then John Lott went on twitter and said that he's back Friday.  Not sure what to tell you.  They said that they wanted to get him as many AB's as possible but he went 2/3 with 2 runs last night so maybe that changed something?

Brett Lawrie left the game last night after tackling Jason Varitek at the plate yesterday.  All reports I've read say that it's just a bruise on his knee, and that he's day-to-day.  With the offday today, I expect him to be playing Friday and onwards.

Speaking of whom, Lawrie and JP Arencibia got a little rookie initiation after the game yesterday.  Ricky Romero snapped a couple of shots and tweeted them to the universe yesterday.

John Lott also spoke to Jays' pitching coach Bruce Walton about the weirdness of Brandon Morrow's season and just what the fuck might be wrong with him.

Everyone's favorite pitching sensation, Stephen Strasburg, gets his pre-Tommy John and post-Tommy John deliveries examined by pitching mechanics guru and funny asian guy Kyle Boddy of  This one is.... quite brief.   Kyle also recently looked at a mechanics change done by Jason Vargas, at the behest of Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez.  And hey, another former Mariner does this thing too...

Finally, Craig had a dream last night.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Well fuck: A series of seemingly unconnected thoughts

Nothin' like facing the Jays to get the Boston bats going again.  And Brad Mills is still a major league quality pitcher, right?  I'll be goddamned if that guy doesn't repeat as the PCL pitcher of the year for the next 5 seasons, because I seriously don't want that guy pitching for my team, especially in the AL East.

The worst part about all this is that TB lost last night, which, paired with the Boston win, sort of hurts in terms of Boston missing the playoffs.  I figure Tampa needs to win just about all of their remaining games, save for the odd one with the Yankees for Boston to full on miss the playoffs.  Heh.  I mean I am, and have been, trying to be really optimistic about this.  I really like playoff baseball, but Red Sox games are just so hard to watch when Jacoby Ellsbury isn't at the plate.  4.0 games is a fairly big gap for a team to make up in 15 games, and the schedules don't really match up all that well to suit the Rays, though the 4-gamer with the Red Sox (starting tomorrow) is enough to really close the gap and make it interesting.

Tim Wakefield went ahead and picked up his elusive 200th career win last night, despite the -.136 WPA he put up.  Sometimes your offense scores 18 runs off of a bunch of rookie relievers though and you pitch to the score.  Valuable stat.

JP Arencibia's homer yesterday was enough to get him a Zaunhead.  Jose Bautista also destroyed homer #42, and scored his 100th run of the year.

Tyler Kepner of the New York times has a piece about the unreasonable difficulty of the AL East, mostly from the Jays' and Orioles' perspectives.

The newest Elias Rankings are up.  Kelly Johnson is now the highest ranked type-B free agent in the 2b/3b/ss division, as opposed to the lower end of the Type-A's that he found himself in last time.  Edwin Encarnacion is still nowhere close for some reason, despite being the hottest hitter on the Jays for 2 months straight now.  Brett Lawrie is literally one spot behind EE with about a month of playing time under his belt.  Great system, really.

Jon Rauch might be in danger of losing his spot after.  I remember pointing out the other day that Rauch probably won't lose his place among type-B's, but he actually moved down quite a bit since the last set of rankings, to the point where, since he's not playing anymore, he's not really at a huge risk of become an unranked guy.  Not that any of this fucking matters, since nobody in their right mind would give Rauch a raise on the free agent market, making him a lock to accept arbitration, and thus, making the Jays a lock to non-tender that giant piece of shit.

Frank Francisco remains solidly with type-B status, and shouldn't have a problem there.  Shawn Camp is battling his way back too, but remains on the outside looking in.  Jose Molina is still a type-B, and will probably remain so for the rest of the year.

Ricky Romero pitches today against Boston.  Andrew Miller was supposed to pitch for Boston, but yesterday I heard that it's going to be John Lackey.  I don't really care all that much either way, since neither is very good.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Awake in a field

Fuck off, the game starts in half an hour, you come up with a more clever title.

Edwin's back in the lineup tonight, and since Tim Wakefield is pitching for Boston, I'd expect good ole' EE to either throw his fucking bat in to the stands again (and hopefully fucking hurt some idiot), or blow out his shoulder again.  Or both.

Barry Davis tells me that Yunel Escobar is still day-to-day with some kind of elbow scenario, after getting beaned this last weekend.  He also tells us that DeWayne Wise is unavailable with respiratory problems and dental work [note- pfffffffft hahahah].

In a separate tweet, we find out that Colby Rasmus is probably still out until Friday.  The Jays want him to get a bunch of AB's in his rehab stint apparently, though I'm seeing through this bullshit, and they're trying to stack their farm system and the playoff teams within it.  Clever piggy you are, AA.

Brandon Morrow starts tonight, and I seriously fucking hope he goes out there and does well, not only because he's sucked for 4 straight outings, but also because Boston is slumping real hard and fuck those idiots.  It would seriously make my day if they missed the playoffs after losing their last 22 games of the season and blowing the nice lead that they had.

Also, I don't want my team to be the one who Tim Wakefield gets his 200th win against.  F that nonsense.

Mike Cameron was released by the Marlins yesterday.  Slap in the face or what?  Anyway, Fangraphs chose to compare him to former Jay Devon White.  Cameron was never all that impressive, but he's been real solid for pretty much his entire career, and only really started to decline at like age 36 (hence the White comparison).

Monday, 12 September 2011

Jon Rauch to the DL, out for the season.

Holy cow that picture of Adam Loewen is blurry.

The Blue Jays official twitter page, and probably a bunch of other things as well, is reporting that Jon Rauch has been placed on the disabled list with a cartilage tear in his right knee, retroactive to Sept. 5th, when he last pitched. [sidenote-- really?  Has anyone noticed?  I know I haven't]

Now, my initial reaction was "whoopty fuck" since there's only two weeks left in the year, and Rauch sucks.  On top of that, he hasn't really pitched all that much lately (since Sept. 5th apparently), and the Jays have been just fine without him.  But then I had a quick think about this one.

There should be another update soon, but last week, the latest Elias Rankings pointed out that Rauch is still comfortably within Type-B status, and I don't think there's really any possibility of him falling out of that tree, considering the 8 people who are lower ranking type-B's than Rauch [sidenote #2-- WTF?].

The thing I'm more concerned about is Rauch being done for the year means that he can't beat up on September callups and get his piece of shit statistics to improve.  You know, the ones that other teams actually look at when considering whether or not to sign a free agent, such as ERA (4.85), saves (11), and WHIP (1.346), all of which aren't very good for a closer-type.

This has been a season complete with a bunch of blown saves and meltdowns, a career low k/9, a career high hr/9, a -0.7 WAR... basically Jon Rauch has been flat out terrible this season, by far worse than any other year of his career (almost to 2010 Aaron-Hill-OMG-this-has-to-be-an-outlier status), and the Jays now need to make a decision as to whether or not they offer him arbitration or not at the end of the year (assuming they reject his contract option).  By having Rauch make 2 trips to the DL, and having his worst season of his career, I find it pretty unlikely that he finds a raise on his $3.5MM contract this season, and will therefore accept arbitration if offered.  In other words, I don't think Rauch is going to be worth a draft pick for the Jays in the offseason, unless there was a handshake agreement between he and the Jays to state that he would reject arbitration.

And that, my friends, makes this entire season of Jon Rauch shittiness worth exactly half of one fuck.

Loewen Behold: Offday musings

Am I a journalist yet?  Look at that title.  A pun based on a guy's name, and it's a saying that 90-year olds say.  I swear I could write for the PGA tour (literally every time Adam Scott does something, the banner headline is "Great Scott!").

Anyway, yeah... Adam Loewen.  I thought he looked pretty good out there.  Better than having Dewayne Wise out there, that's for damn sure.  I'm going to go ahead and give him the Zaunhead, though David Cooper probably deserves on just as badly.  CF>1B though.

I'm not sure why, but I'm kind of digging Mike Mccoy these days.  He's somehow only hitting .207 (.323 OBP though, with 9 steals *swoon*), but it just seems like he's getting hits all the time.  Maybe I just need a new John Mcdonald-type to enjoy watching despite being replacement level talent.  Obviously I wouldn't have him as a leadoff guy for when Yunel is out of the lineup, but I guess there aren't a ton of better options (*cough * Brett Lawrie, Kelly Johnson).  I realize that it's just a temporary solution during the end of a lost season, but the point is still valid.

The Jays now come across one of those ever-painful-for-someone-with-nothing-better-to-do offdays, before going to Fenway for two games to ruin the Red Sox' playoff hopes.  Those idiots are in a tailspin, and the Jays will get to face Tim Wakefield and Andrew Miller, both of whom are terrible.  Boston got the shit kicked out of them yesterday by TB 9-1, and are now just 3.5 games up on the Rays for the Wild Card (bitches).  That's still a halfway decent lead, especially for a team of this caliber, but they're 2-8 in September, so I'm not writing their playoff primer just yet.  The Rangers now only have a 2.5 game lead over Anaheim, but I already wrote that primer, so fuck that.

It's Monday morning right now, and I'm at least a full timezone East of most people who write anything, which means that I'm pretty much the only baseball writer that has anything ready to go at this time of the day.  As result, the internet is pretty fucking barren of useful commentary that I could link to.  The only thing that might be at all relevant to the Bluejays (and this is a reach) is the fact that St Louis signed Chris Carpenter to an extension last night, which ties up $21MM over the next two years.  They are also expected to pick up Adam Wainwright's contract options for 2012 and 2013 (another $21MM over two years).  OMG they're out of money!  Albert Pujols to the Jays!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Walkoff flocka flames

I don't even like rap.  But I do like Walkoff wins.  I also like it when Kevin Gregg comes in to the game against the Jays, because that guy is fucking terrible.

Thanks also go out to Craig "Don't call me Drederick" Tatum, whose passed ball allowed the tying run to score, though JP Arencibia did get a hit which probably would have scored 2, but who cares.

Brett Lawrie hit another blast, as did Jose Bautista for #42, and is the recipient of another Zaunhead.  Henderson Alvarez was knocked around for about a thousand singles, which kind of defies all logic considering he was up against the Baltimore Orioles, though I suppose that kind of thing will happen on occasion when you don't miss a ton of bats and just get grounders all over the place.  I guess Voros was on to something.

Dustin Mcgowan will make his first start in over 3 years this afternoon, replacing Luis Perez in the rotation.  Good luck kid.


Yunel Escobar was pulled from yesterday's game after getting beaned in the elbow.  That's like the fifth time that's happened this year, so... I dunno, fuck off?  He'll be out for a couple days.

Edwin Encarnacion isn't scheduled to play today due to a pain in his shoulder that he suffered from throwing his bat making a weird swing the other day.

Brett Cecil may be shut down soon, and might return next year in a bullpen role, according to James Hall of  Cecil is pretty tough on lefties (.667 career OPS against, .529 this season, as opposed to low .800's both this season and career).  This is pretty much the same fate Jesse Litsch has suffered, and is actually a pretty good way to build a bullpen.  You may remember gentlemen like Jason Frasor and Scott Downs, both of whom are converted starters and have been pretty excellent relievers over the last couple seasons.  With all the depth in the minor leagues at starting pitcher, there needs to be some moves somewhere.  This could also open up a spot for a certain free agent from Japan...

Colby Rasmus played DH for New Hampshire in a rehab assignment last night.  That was a playoff game by the way, which New Hampshire won.  Rasmus went 0-2.  He's expected to be activated at some point early next week for the Boston series.

Speaking of Boston, they lost to the Rays last night in a walkoff flocka flame, and are now just 4.5 games ahead of the Rays.  This race isn't quite over, and it would make my day to see Tampa get the Wild Card instead of Boston.  Texas lost last night, and are now just 1.5 games ahead of the Angels.  Imagine Vernon Wells getting in to the playoffs in his first year in Anaheim.  That Tony Reagins is going to look like a genius.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Red Sux confirmed furious.

Why u mad bro sox?

Ok, so that series went about as well as any series with a 14-0 loss could have gone, save for the Frank Francisco meaningless homerun tally rising out of control.  The Yankees lost to fucking Baltimore last night and squandered their chances at a 3.5 game lead in the AL East.  Tampa Bay is now 6.5 back of the wild card, and dare I say, not quite out of it yet.  I don't care to look up their schedule, but they're definitely going to need some help from teams like Toronto if they want to catch up while playing .500 ball these last two weeks.

And of course, I'd like nothing more than to see Tampa catch up, because fuck the Red Sox.

Some quality performances last night from the Jays included taters by JP Arencibia, his 22nd of the season, Eric Thames, and Edwin Encanacion, with an insurance dinger in the 5th or 6th or something.  Brett Lawrie had 2 hits, and David Cooper had his first career 3-hit game.  Yunel Escobar got on base 3 times, and Ricky Romero went 6.2 innings allowing 5 hits, striking out 7.  My friend Mike was there and said JP's homer went really far, so I'm gonna go ahead and give him the Zaunhead (JP, not Mike), but I dunno... it's not like they really matter at this point in the year.

I heard that Colby Rasmus took BP yesterday and felt no pain.  I thought he was eligible to come off the DL yesterday, but I dunno what the deal is there.  It will probably be a couple days before he gets back in the starting lineup, but I'm sure he's available to run or something if needed.

Remember yesterday when I said that the Jays have said that Luis Perez will still start on Sunday, which basically meant that they were lying?  Yeah.  They were lying.  Dustin Mcgowan has been confirmed as the Jays 5th starter for the rest of the season.  They plan on letting him throw 80-85 a couple times and then extending him further afterwards.  I'm pretty sure that spot in the rotation will have 4 more starts (20 games left/5 starters= 4!), but there's always a chance that they throw a 6th starter in to the fire at least once down the stretch.

According to Gregor, Adam Lind, who was held out of the lineup for 2 straight days with wrist pain, will be back in the lineup Friday against Baltimore.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Jays win? More gifs!

First off, Brandon Morrow is broken.  Gregg Zaun figures it's probably arm fatigue-ish, and frankly I agree... because I don't really know any better.  It's fucking impossible to strike out as many people as he does and have numbers that bad.  Maybe let Mcgowan start in Morrow's place next time around?

Anyway, I think we could all tell, as soon as the top of the first was finished, just what we were going to end up with, especially with Wakefield on the mound for the Bostons.

Secondly, gif recap!

Morrow allows 3 runs in the first:

Secondly, Farrell leaves Morrow in for way too fucking long, which makes the Jays need to play ketchup against a superior team.  This isn't about any specific moment of the game, but when it's clear that Morrow isn't going to be on his game and you have fucking 90 people in the bullpen... well use your fucking head:

Arencibia taters to take a solo possession of the Jays record for homeruns by a catcher in a single season:

Bautista steals home:

Ellsbury homers, Morrow remains in the game:

Daniel Bard begins walking people at a feverish pace:

Edwin Encarnacion doubles, scoring three runs, giving the Jays a 3 run lead:

Adrian Gonzalez tees off on Frank Frank with a monstrous homerun, on a ball that was literally down the exact center of the plate:

But he saved the day, and the Jays can be no worse than 50% against the Red Sox for the series.

Other stuff:

Rajai Davis has either had a setback in his rehab, or the Jays just noticed that he's not very good at anything but running.  As such, he's been placed on the 60-day DL, which will allow the Jays to put someone else on the 40-man roster.  This, combined with PJ Walters' outrighting to AAA has freed up 2 spots on the 40-man, and has allowed the Jays to add both Adam Loewen and Chad Beck to the 40-man and MLB active rosters, along with the handful of other guys who were already on the 40-man that have been called up.

Both Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez will sit out against Ricky Romero today.  Hit and miss I guess... Gonzalez has 6 hr's in 8 games in Toronto, but Crawford has sucked this season, especially against elite lefty pitching like Ricky Romero.

Adam Lind is supposed to sit out the next couple of days (starting last night) with wrist soreness, according to @ShiDavidi.  I don't really care.  Let Loewen play.  Davidi also claims that Luis Perez, despite being terrible in his last two starts, will get another shot at starting when his next turn comes up, though there has been discussion of letting Mcgowan take that spot.  Remember when we were told that Brad Mills would get another start, and was then immediately sent back down?  Or when we were told that Travis Snider would remain with the MLB team for the rest of the year, only to be sent down like 3 weeks later?  Mcgowan gets the start next time Perez's spot comes around.

Gregg Zaun said the other night that JP Arencibia should be the AL Rookie of the Year, and then tried to defend that statement last night by saying that because JP's a catcher, we don't have to look at his .212 batting average, since he doesn't steal bases.  WHAT?!?!  What does one have to do with the other?

Don't get me wrong, I think JP deserves a lot of votes, but in no way is he the ROY.  I'd give it to Ackley, Hellickson, Trumbo, and maybe Jordan Walden before JPA, and would sprinkle in Jennings and Lawrie by the end of the season as well.  Jennings and Lawrie have been the two best rookies sorting by performance and abilities, but both are hampered in a (useless) debate over who the best rookie has been since Jennings was held down to avoid Super-2 status, and Lawrie was injured for 2 months.  I'm sure if both played full seasons that there would be little debate that they would be 1 and 1A in the ROY race.  Lawrie might still even win that thing.  But ultimately, who gives a shit?  It's a nonsense award, flogged by tightwad teams who delay service time of otherwise valuable assets and don't let the real rookie of the year shine through.

Some guy I talk poker with is writing for some sports blog in New York, and offers an interesting take on how to fix the monotony of meaningless September games and expand the playoffs by granting a spot to any team who wins 90 games.

MLBTR looks at the markets for Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.  This assumes that Pujols doesn't resign with STL, which, in my mind, is ludicrous.
Blue Jays fans, prepare yourselves for a November MLBTR headline that reads something like this: ‘Blue Jays Interested In Fielder, Pujols.’ Toronto’s front office is tight-lipped about free agent moves, so many available players get linked to the Jays, even when the club’s interest is tepid. The Jays have money and would be a better team with an elite first baseman, so that headline may be worth clicking on.

Again, I don't see Pujols not signing in STL, and I don't really see Prince coming to Toronto because it's just not the way AA (appears to) do business with regards to spending.  First base is probably going to be an area of need if the Jays want to compete in the AL East, but there are other options beyond 300 lb guys on 8 year contracts.