Saturday, 29 December 2012

How Did They Do It?

I assume everyone else has also been watching the 1992 World Series, re-airing on Sportsnet over the last couple of days.  Not sure what the fuck else anyone could be doing at this time of year, but that's here nor there.  Seeing as nothing else is going on around the internet baseball community (and I don't want to make it seem like I'm just giving up on writing or anything), I kind of feel like getting my thoughts about the '92 Jays on paper.  I don't really know where I'm going with this piece, but I'll just get everything out there and we'll organize it in to a few coherent thoughts later.

  • I had just turned five at the time, and while I claimed to remember all of the events from those fateful days, watching these games over the last few days makes me realize that no, I really don't remember everything.  I definitely remember Jimmy Key tossing a gem in game 4, and I remember Borders playing out of his goddamn mind, and obviously the Otis Nixon bunt to win it all, but hey-- I was five.  Bed time was like 8pm.  I had school in the morning, and I probably didn't last past the fourth inning without falling asleep on most of these nights.  Don't get me wrong, I definitely made it the whole way for some of these games (aforementioned Key gem, for one, since that game took about 2:05 to complete), because much like age-25, 5-year old me cared about baseball and only baseball.  I think what's happening is that I know that all this stuff happened, and I'm imagining it all in my mind as if I do, in fact, remember it all, when really, it should be a lot more hazy than it really is in there.

  • The big thing that I don't actually have ingrained in my memory is the regular season.  I know all the players, and have a vague idea of what their roles were with the club, but I've only been an internet baseball nerd for about five years or so, so it took me a little while to realize that Joe Carter just wasn't very good, or at least wouldn't be so universally loved in today's world.

  • I remember Carter as being the hero of the team; beyond the leadership qualities that he offered, he was a threat to get hits, HR's and steals, while playing decent defense in RF or LF.  Turns out his career OBP is .306, probably due to his Arencibia-like approach of swinging at practically everything.  Sure, he was that legitimate average/power/speed guy for a few seasons earlier in his career, putting up 5 WAR for CLE in 1986 (130 OPS+, 29 HR, 29 SB), as well as his first season in Toronto (4.5 WAR, 124OPS+, 33 HR, 20 SB), but for the most part, he was league-average at best, and borderline bad at worst.

  • I'm not saying anything here that hasn't been said already-- in fact, Ian at BJH and Tao of Stieb have both really given it to Carter in separate posts on their respective blogs, and Carter may have even responded to Ian about his approach to hitting and what his job was with the Jays throughout his tenure.  Whether or not that's actually Carter answering in that BJH post is kind of irrelevant-- Carter has said many times in interviews that he doesn't care about stats; wins and championships matter, and wins are achieved by knocking in runs.  And Cito.  God, Cito.  From ToS linked above:

3) Joe Carter was The Manager's type of guy: If there is one thing that buoyed Carter's status in Toronto for many of the years that he played here, it was the insistence of The Manager that he hit cleanup, and that he hit like a cleanup hitter. Go up there and drive in runs. Swing the bat, hard and often. And you'll be rewarded by keeping the fourth spot in the lineup for as long as you keep hacking away. {...}Cito loved Carter, and couldn't wait to mould John Olerud into a hack and slash hitter like Joe. And when Olerud couldn't suck like that, they shipped him out of town.

  • Olerud is probably going to make a few HOF ballots, but ultimately miss out (that's my prediction anyway), but he was really fucking good.  61 WAR over 16 seasons for Fangraphs, 53.7 for b-ref.  He had a .295/.398/.465 slash line for his career.  A CAREER .398 OBP!  His 1993 season (which, I'm sure is worthy of another post, probably next offseason) saw him put up a slash line of .363/..473/.599, good for 8.4 WAR.  That's pretty good. 

  • The '92 Jays put up 41 WAR, according to baseball-reference, which indicates that they should have been a 90-91 win team.  Pythag (i.e. run differential) actually has them as a 91-71 team, but they ended up winning 96 games.  A bit fortunate, but nothing ridiculous.  I'm pretty sure pythag and WAR models for team wins kind of go out the window right around the time of the trade deadline, since many teams give up on the idea of putting a respectable product out on the field in exchange for future teams.
  • Jimmy Key was relegated to the bullpen for the playoffs when the Jays opted to go with a shortened rotation, but was ultimately brought back to the rotation to throw game 4, and it was probably the right move.  What the fuck, Cito?  Scroll down and look at pitcher stats.  Jack Morris was 37 years old and threw 240 innings in the regular season, with an ERA over 4.  Key threw 216 innings of 3.53 ERA ball.  Seems whack, right?  I mean, I know FIP wasn't available on the internet back then, but Morris had a FIP of 3.78, with Key's being over 4.  Probably better to have an extra lefty out of the pen anyway.  Something about blind squirrels, since the real motivation was likely Morris' 21 wins, vs. Key's 13-13 record.
  • Just for the sake of referencing it, ERA's, FIPs, innings pitched and fWAR of the pitchers from the season, in no particular order:
    • Cone:  2.55/3.56 over 53 innings.  Had been worth 4.4 WAR (2.88/2.79 over 196 IP) with the Mets, pre-trade.
    • Guzman: 2.64/2.60 over 180 IP. 7.4 WAR.
    • Stottlemyre: 4.50/4.41 over 171 IP, 1.6 WAR
    • Morris: 4.04/3.78 over 240 IP, 4.0 WAR.
    • Stieb: 5.04/4.53 over 96 IP, 0.4 WAR.
    • Key: 3.53/4.02 over 216 IP, 3.0 WAR.
      • Pat Hentgen and David Wells each made 14 starts, with Hentgen being below replacement, and Wells being worth 0.5 WAR, also coming out of the bullpen 27 times.
      • Duane Ward threw 101 innings out of the bullpen, and was worth 2.5 WAR with a 1.95/2.58 ERA/FIP.  Interesting career-- He was really only active for 6 seasons, which isn't a huge surprise given that he was a reliever throwing 100+ innings a year, but he was worth 15.2 WAR over that span.  Good luck finding someone that dominant and consistently available out of the bullpen these days.  Not surprisingly, his career was over  after the '93 season, since I can only assume that his arm literally fell off.  Scaled downa  bit, this, to an extent, is the way the internet baseball community wants to see closers used.  Fuck this 9th inning bologna-- get your best guy in the game in the 7th if that's the highest leverage event of the game.
      • Mike Timlin threw 43 innings to a 2.62 FIP, allowing 0 HR's, but succumbing to a .337 babip against and a 65% strand-rate, leading to an ERA over 4.
      • Tom Henke threw 55 innings, of 2.26/3.48 ERA/FIP ball, good for 0.7 WAR.
  • It's possible that I've seen this referenced before, and maybe that's why it popped up in my mind so immediately, but Pat Borders was worth 3.6 WAR in the 1990 season, and never eclipsed 1.6 WAR in any of his other 20 seasons over his career.  He is regarded as a decent backstop, defensively, thanks to Fangraphs.  Offensively, he had a few outlier seasons as far as babip is concerned, but his career line of .255/.288/.375 seems like a pretty fair assessment of his overall talent.  His career best walkrate is 6.3%, and his career best k-rate is 12.7%.  He never really strayed too far from that, walking in 4.4% of his 3500 PA's, striking out in 16% of them.  Against LHP, Borders was actually quite good for a catcher, with a 267/.308/.403 line.  JP Arencibia hits for significantly more power, and is probably a fair bit worse defensively, but the 6.3% walk-rate and the 28.2% k-rate serves as a not-terrible look at things to come for JPA.  We can talk about the differences between these two guys all we want, but ultimately, JPA has back-up written all over him.

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