Tuesday 30 July 2013

Quickly, on Colby

Not even once

Oh, right right right right right.  Forgot something yesterday.  It was actually the entire point of my story.

Rasmus, much like a lot of hitters in baseball, hits way, way better at home.  The thing with that is that the Rogers Centre Skydome is one of the more hitter-friendly parks in baseball, especially this year.  Again, still good away from home, but really, really good in our happy little blue graveyard.

.289/.346/.520 at home (.375 wOBA), .248/.322/.442 (.335 wOBA) away.

This is probably about as good as Rasmus will get, and with another year before he hits free agency, his value is at it's peak right now.  It would be a great time to either extend or trade him.

Monday 29 July 2013

Trading Colby Rasmus

Colby Rasmus has quietly been the Jays' most valuable player this year, according to both Fangraphs and Baseball-reference.  Positional value helps that a lot, as does his defense, which isn't terribly reliable in the small samples of a single season (though both Fangraphs and B-ref agree that he's been worth somewhere around a win so far with his defense alone), but the bulk of that is his offensive value; Rasmus has a 125 wRC+, which puts him in the same category as Adam Jones, and ahead of guys like Dexter Fowler, Jacoby Ellsbury and Austin Jackson.

At the start of the year, we were kind of barking at Rasmus for all the strikeouts, but here we are, a few months later, and suddenly, Rasmus is one of the top CF's in the game.  All that talent, all those tools, all that potential, we are finally seeing the results.

So why trade him?

Rasmus is a year away from free agency, and is going to get paid.  Pretty sure Stoeten at DJF already tackled this one, but given his age and production, both offensively and defensively, Rasmus is probably in line for a five-year deal in the neighbourhood of $10-$15MM per, assuming he doesn't entirely fuck it up next year.  BJ Upton got 5-$75 and Adam Jones got 5-$85 afterall.  Rasmus' production this season is almost a mirror image of Jones, and is certainly comparable to what Upton has done over the course of his career until he got AIDS in Atlanta this year.  There's a lot of value there.

Beyond that, there's not much out there for free agents in 2015 as far as CF's go.  Especially if you consider Emilio Bonifacio as a CF.

Rasmus is rocking a nice tidy .359 babip on the season, compared to a .297 career mark.  His walks are down and his strikeouts are up.  He's been an average defender in CF over the course of his career.

This isn't to say that Rasmus isn't a good, useful player, because he's probably above average as far as CF's go.  I'd guess that a .300 wOBA over a full season is pretty average (i.e. 2 WAR pending defense and baserunning) for a CF, and Rasmus, even with babip regressed, walks often enough and has enough power that he should be good to go for that moving forward.

He's good, I just don't think he's this good.  The production that he's offered this year doesn't seem to be sustainable, and his value will probably never be higher.  Anthony Gose is waiting in the wings, and will offer more than enough value with his defense to offset the terror that is his bat.

Just spitballing here, but Texas and Atlanta seem like two pretty good locations for Rasmus.  BJ Upton is beyond terrible now (and is hurt), and Lance Berkman is out for the year.  Texas could certainly shift Rasmus in to the outfield and move Nelson Cruz to DH.

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Casey Janssen: Closer's Mentality

Not sure why this is coming up, but check it out.  First, I clicked on Casey Janssen's baseball-reference page, and then his 2013 game log.  I then sorted by decision (W, L, S, H, BS, BL).  Janssen has 2 wins, no losses, and 1 blown save in 2013, as well as a single hold that came somewhat recently when Steve Delabar was brought in a few weeks back to get the last out when Janssen got in a jam.

Save for that game, Janssen has been pretty lights out all year, especially in save situations.  Now, I'd like to point out that I'm not typically one for the glorification of the save statistic, or the notion that you've got a 9th inning guy, or that there's a certain mentality to closing out ballgames or whatever.  An out in the 9th inning is equal to an out in the 4th inning, just as a runner on base in the 9th is equal to a runner on base in the 4th.  Obviously the context is a little different, but it's not any more or less difficult to get a batter out based on what inning you're in.

Having said that, Casey Janssen is doing his damndest this year to prove me wrong (see: sample size, small).  Below is a small graph of Janssen's season stats, first in save situations, and then in non-save situations:

* There was a tie-game-and-therefore-non-save situation a few weeks back where Janssen threw 1 pitch and induced a weak grounder to 1B, which was subsequently botched by Josh Thole, leading to a team loss, but a Janssen ND. Should probably have been an out. Regardless, the run wasn't charged to Janssen there.  The NIBB column features an HBP in the non-save row, if that matters.

Much like everything I tend to write as of late, I don't really know if I have a point here.  Obviously half a season or so isn't a lot of data for anybody, much less a closer, but the point remains: Casey Janssen has been really good this year in non-save situations, but has turned it up a notch or two in high-leverage spots.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Time for my Weekly Post

So work has been kicking my ass over these last three weeks.

This is really just going to be me stopping by to do some math, just in case anyone is still going to try to put a positive spin on this season.

The Torontoes are 45-50 through 95 of 162 games.  They are in last place in the division, and thus have at least two teams to pass in the standings before they can even sniff playoffs by way of wild card.  According to coolstandings.com, the Jays are rocking a nice, tidy 3.1% odds at making the playoffs.

That 3.1% is made up of some whacky formula that I'm probably not going to even try to figure out, but I think we can probably conjure up some way to mathematically get something going here, similar to how it's been done the last couple times I've done it.

The Jays have 67 games left, and in order to make the wild card even a realistic dream, they'll need to win 43 of them.  That's being generous, by the way, since the Rangers, Orioles and Rays are all projected to win 87+ without winning their division, and that's before teams make their plays at trade deadline acquisitions or tank or whatever.  43 of 67 is a .641 win percentage.  It took the Jays like 90 games to win their first 43 games, so I'm not sure why they'd win 43 over 67.  Do another 11-gamer and we'll talk.

In the meantime, I've got something sticking in my craw.  Alex Anthopoulos claims that he's not going to be trading away his veterans, which makes me sad.  I can understand not moving Josh Johnson-- he's at the nadir of his value right now, given his performance and injury issues, especially since having him back on a 1-year qualifying offer next year isn't the end of the world-- but if someone calls asking for Darren Oliver, Mark Derosa, or Adam Lind, then deals better get done.  Having minor additions like Sergio Santos re-join an already strong bullpen, or having Melky Cabrera come back for the last 60 games isn't going to turn this team around to a .641 winning percentage.

Winning 43+ of 67 isn't something that you can really plan on.  There's too much variance in baseball.  That's why the Astros and Marlins aren't 0-95 right now.  Winning 64% of your games over a 2 month sample is more or less accidental.  Obviously good teams are infinitely more likely to win at that rate, and the better the team, the more likely it is to happen, but there's a reason why it's pretty rare for even the best teams in baseball to win much more than 60% of their games, which translates to 98 wins over a full season.

In that regard, it's time to tank.  It gets more draft money for the multiple draft picks that will come next year, thanks to the non-signing of Phil Bickford, and it gets more international spending money for Cubans and Dominicans and so on and so forth, all at the expense of a couple more losses.  There is literally no incentive to finish the season with 82 wins, as opposed to 72.  In fact, it's a detriment.

I realize that this was supposed to be the year.  But it's not.  Things didn't go correctly in the early going, and frankly they're not going correctly right now.  The pieces are still there for next year; Bautista, Edwin, Reyes, Dickey, Lawrie, Morrow, etc are all under contract, and it seems pretty likely that Josh Johnson is going to come back on a 1-year deal next year, but there are assets that are just simply going to expire.  Whether that be Lind, Derosa, Oliver, or just some random bullpen arms that might not necessarily perform at the same level as this year, there are guys there right now who are assets who won't be assets six months from now.  Veterans on one-year deals are replaceable.  Bullpen arms are replaceable.  Righty-mashing, all-bat-no-glove, platoon guys with wonky backs and numbers that are plummeting back to career norms are replaceable.

Of course, maybe AA is just trying to drive the price up for those guys, in which case this is all moot.

Saturday 13 July 2013

The Second Coming of the Second Baseman

Brett Lawrie is back today, apparently, and will be playing at second base, as opposed to his usual third.  This isn't a huge surprise-- he was playing 2B in Buffalo during his rehab assignment and we all heard about it and reacted.  So what's the plan here?

Is Lawrie at 2B for good?  Is it a good thing?  He's certainly athletic enough to play second, given how well he plays third, and of course the bat plays a little better there as well, given how low replacement-level is among second basemen across the league.  I feel like putting him at 2B is a big of a waste of the arm, though I suppose he's made enough throwing errors over the past few years that whatever.

I think the bigger part of this, however, is the idea that replacing 2B internally allows AA to go dip within a larger market and find a suitable upgrade for the lineup.  There is a much larger market for quality third basemen than there is for second basemen.  And after all, if AA does decide that he wants to upgrade, and he finds a 2B, Lawrie can just slide back over to third.

A quick look at the 2B market shows a 34-year old, oft-injured Chase Utley, and not much else.  Second base is pretty barren these days.  If we're looking for bad offense and mediocre defense at 2B, we've got Kawasaki, Izturis and Bonifacio already, so there's no real need to go out and trade for another one.

The 3B market doesn't have a whole lot more, but there are some pretty good options if available.  The Padres have somehow not extended Chase Headley yet, and he's going to be nice and expensive in his last year of club control, given his $8.5MM salary this year.  San Diego currently sits 8.5 games out of the division lead (not that the Jays are doing much better), so if they choose to move Headley, they should get a pretty big return on their investment.  Beyond Headley, Aramis Ramirez is there as well, despite the fact that he shouldn't be playing third base anymore.  He'll be making $16MM next season, plus he has a $4MM buyout on a club option for 2015.  I'm sure Milwaukee would be ecstatic to move that contract, given the fact that they're worse than the Cubs at this point in the year.  Michael Young would probably be an overall upgrade over Bonifacio or Izturis or whatever, even with the shit defense.  Despite his $16MM salary, he should only cost a prorated $6MM (slightly less than $3), thanks to Texas paying $10MM of that.

Obviously they'll need another big winning streak after the break, but if the Jays can line up a bunch of wins together, AA might find himself looking to acquire a third baseman to upgrade second base.

Friday 5 July 2013

Familiar Patterns, or Fun with Arbitrary Endpoints

I'm not sure if you remember this guy.  He looks a lot like the guy who was tearing the cover off the ball for about a month or so not too long ago, but it isn't.  It's actually a guy who I've pleaded and begged the Jays' front office to DFA and give up on about a hundred times.  That guy, right up there, is Adam Lind, at some point in 2011 or earlier, when he was terrible at baseball (from an MLB standpoint).

Lind had a good season in 2009.  We all knew this already.  In 2010-2012, he hit .246/.296/.428 and walked 99 times over 1400+ plate appearances.  We also knew that, to an extent.  That's probably decent production for a shortstop, catcher, and maybe a CF who plays good defense.  Not for a 1B/DH, who doesn't even do that well.

Ok, great.  We've beaten the "Adam Lind sucked from 2010-2012" horse long past it's time, regardless of how frustrated we were.  But it's 2013 now, and Adam Lind is good, with a .316/.375/.528 slash line.  All is forgiven, right?

Well, I wouldn't say so.  You see, I quite enjoy being the bearer of bad news, and am typically the first to point out that I atodaso.  Trailer Park Boys has been confirmed for an 8th season, by the way.

Lind's hot start was probably due to a multitude of different things; I can't really say a whole lot about the approach, any health concerns or lack thereof, or mental and physical fatigue, but here's an interview where he addresses that kind of thing.  As far as quantifiable evidence goes, though, we can see that Lind has a .363 babip on the year, versus a .299 career average, and a 9.3% walk rate, versus a 6.9% career rate.  It probably helps that he was being shielded for a little while against lefties, because he does mash righties pretty well, and being put in a position to succeed rather than fail is always good for a player. As result of all these things (or some of them? none of them?), his batting average and OBP are way up, his isolated slugging is kinda sorta approaching his 2009 one, and altogether, he has a 144 wRC+.

Just watching games early on, I can remember thinking things like "Man, Lind's approach seems a lot better.  He's not just flailing away at everything and SWANGING at everything trying to crush it.  He's waiting for strikes and letting garbage go and actually walking some."  I said something like this, live, from the 500 level on April 21, the day he went 0-for-0 with 4 walks.

About that.

Lind's OBP peaked at .423, June 8th.  From June 9th to present, Lind has walked once, and is batting .268/.274/.537 since.  Sure, that's an .810 OPS, which is certainly effective, in the sense that he's not JP Arencibia.  But on June 8th, Lind had a 13% walk rate, and in a month, that's dropped down to a 9.1% clip.  In other words, a guy with a 13% walk rate went ahead and walked in 1.1% of his plate appearances over a not terribly small sample.*

*According to that link, Lind's 13%  through his first 180-something plate appearances should be pretty stable, or at least stable enough that his true walk rate shouldn't be miles from it over his next random cluster of 84.  Given his career totals, I don't think there was ever any reason to expect him to stay consistent at 13%, per se, but he probably shouldn't go down to 1% over his next ~100 either.

Need more?  Lind had a .387 babip from the start of the year through June 8th.  That's down, slightly, since then to .363.  Since June 9th, Lind's babip is a much more in-line-with-his-career-and-skillset .296, and his slash line over that span looks awfully familiar to his 2010-2012 one mentioned above.

I know that it's not incredibly useful to just look at 20 games and jettison the rest of the season, but I think we've all been agreeing with each other over the last three years, and the little streak he had against lefties early on was just that.  I mean, Vernon Wells would have gone to the all-star game if it were the Mid-April Classic for crying out loud.  Blips happen. Baseball is really random sometimes.

46 PA v. LHP, 213 v. RHP
We shouldn't need to regress the RHP numbers too much-- they're slightly better this year, but nothing outrageous-- but the LHP numbers need to be heavily regressed.  It's a pretty small sample, obviously, but DIPS theory is going to prevail on this one, and I just want everyone to be ready.  I just hope we can get everyone back on the "platoon Lind" train before someone blows a gasket.  Bargaining before depression.

Thursday 4 July 2013


Well I'll start off by saying this: Do not blame that game on the pitching, okay?  I don't care who you play.  Whether it's a little league team, The Tacoma Rainiers, The UNLV Runnin' Rebels-- much less an MLB team; when you make three errors; two in the second inning, one that led directly to a 2-out, 2-run HR, two others to put guys in scoring position-- you ain’t going to beat anybody I just talked about. Anybody. All right?

And that was a disgraceful performance in my opinion. We threw that game. We gave it away by doing that. We gave them the friggin’ game. In my opinion, that sucked. Ah. You know? You can’t give the Detroit Tigers five outs in the second inning like that. Holy crap! I don’t know who the hell we think we are when we do something like that. Unbelievable. Three errors. One of them for-- Emilio Bonifacio has made 7 errors in a part-time role, not to mention his .244 wOBA this year. That might be an MLB record! And we’ve still got eighty games left, so there’s no telling how many he’ll have. That’s pitiful! I mean, it’s absolutely pitiful to perform like that. Pitiful!

What's that? Uh-- Playoffs?!  Don't talk about-- playoffs?!  You kiddin' me?  Playoffs?  I just hope we can win a game. Another 40 games.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

Yet to See the Dream Team

This isn't just me saying something Jeff Blair-ish.  I'm not saying something like "Well, AA went out and spent all this money and all these prospects, and we haven't seen the results we wanted because they lost a bunch of games at the start of the year and now I'm sad and we should abandon until next year" or whatever.

No, this is actually a literal statement.  All the guys AA went and got to be on his team have yet to play a single game together with the guys that he deemed good enough to stay on the team and carry it to victory.  Obviously Johnson and Dickey and Morrow are never going to be in the same lineup, but beyond that.

I'm talking mostly of the guys with some star power.  Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Johnson, RA Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Brett Lawrie, Mark Buehrle and Melky Cabrera are the big pieces, while everyone else is a complement to them (though Adam Lind has stepped it up pretty hard).

Of the pitchers, only Buehrle has been healthy all year.  Dickey hasn't missed time, per se, but has struggled with neck and back pain, while Morrow and Johnson have both been on the DL.  Lawrie started the year on the DL, and wasn't back until well after Reyes hit the shelf.  Even with Reyes back, Lawrie is back on the DL, and Melky has joined him.  Beyond that, Bautista and Edwin have both, along with Adam Lind, missed time with day-to-day issues.

I don't really know what my point is here.  I guess I just wanted to point out that we're halfway through the season, and we still haven't seen a single game with the whole crew that was assembled.  Maybe I should research and compare other teams' success levels with the amount of injuries they sustain, but I'd be surprised if there weren't all kinds of data out there already that would suggest that the more games your best players play, the more wins you'd get, but whatever.

I guess sometimes not everything that comes to my brain needs to be said.