Sunday, 29 September 2013

Thank God That's Over: Assorted Thoughts about FUCK YOU 2013

I sat in my living room thinking, today, about what a clusterprick this season has been, and how this year, and not last one, as previously thought, was the season from hell.  The record was better this year, but the expectations were through the roof.  It's kind of like the time that I saw the trailer to the movie 300 and thought "Holy shit.  This is going to be the best thing ever."  It was good, but it wasn't the best thing ever, and I was therefore pretty disappointed.  This season was World-Series-or-bust.

I did quite a bit of reflecting today.  Most of that reflection was about Breaking Bad (which happens to be on right now-- I'm waiting for it to be on the internet, and am writing this only as a means of passing an incredibly long hour and change without checking facebook, twitter, reddit, or anything that might have anything to do with being an avenue to pass along spoilers), but there were certainly some thoughts about the season that could have been, the coming offseason, and the 2014 season that still might very well be.

I tried to think back to what was up in my life at this time last year-- I was mostly sitting there ready for some playoff baseball, but was irrationally angry at the Baltimore Orioles for their little facade of being good in 2012, and didn't really have a big woe-is-me attitude.  Fairly surprising.

I dunno-- I guess this is good news: with their loss today, the Jays secured a bottom-10 record in baseball, which means that their first round pick in 2014's draft will be protected, even if they sign a "type-A" free agent, or whatever the fuck I'm supposed to call those these days.  That might not matter, but it might matter.  It makes signing Brian McCann a better idea, as it will only cost a 2nd round pick.  He's the only real target I see the Jays going after out of all the guys who might get qualifying offers.  We can dream about Robinson Cano, I suppose. Neither Matt Garza nor that Tanaka guy from Japan will cost a draft pick.

That means that the Jays will have the 10th and 11th picks in the draft this year, no matter what, thanks to the failure to sign Phil Bickford last year.  This year's draft is apparently quite a bit deeper than last year's, so that's pretty good-- obviously having one extra arm in the system for another year is probably better, since we're taking the player and not the entire draft class, but still; two top 11's is a pretty good lotto ticket.

Beyond that, let's just hope that everybody recovers well over the offseason.  Morrow being 100% would be pretty extravagant.  Bautista, Edwin, Rasmus and Reyes all have 5 months to heal up their various knicks and scratches and come back ready to go.  Buehrle and Dickey are used to the turf or Canada or the Dome or whatever the fuck they had for excuses for the first half of the season, and all the kids are another year older.

This was, in fact, the season from Hell.  It can only get better from here, right?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The End

Everybody!  It's happening!

At some point in the last few hours or days or something, Alex Anthopoulous admitted to reporters that he's not an idiot!  I mean, not in so many words or anything, but he let us know that it's okay at least.

Scott McArthur of TSN wrote this morning that AA told reporters that there was going to be a need for more production from behind the plate:
"Offensively has probably been the one area that I'm surprised by," said Anthopoulos. "One thing you felt confident was J.P. would be a .700 to .720 OPS guy with some upside to do better than that. He's always had the ability, he's got power to the opposite field. He's shown the ability to use all fields and you felt that was probably going to be what the floor was for him. Didn't expect it to go the other way."
So yeah.  Sounds like we're going to have a new catcher to watch next year, or at least Josh Thole will be freed a little more than he has been of late. More likely, I think, is that AA will be looking outside the organization for catching help, and, frankly, I kind of feel like JP wouldn't have been thrown under the bus like this if he were coming back next year.  I'm probably getting ahead of myself here, in that he's probably not going to be non-tendered or released, given what's out there for catching right now, and he's at the absolute nadir of value right now (given that he's made headlines lately for having the worst OBP for someone getting a full season worth of PA's in history, or something?  Only person with 20 HR's and an OPS below .600 in a season, or something?  Yeah.), so I doubt he gets traded either.

Buffalo, I guess?  Even if he's out of options, there's not a huge issue in getting him signed and then DFA'ing him afterwards to open up a roster spot.  If that's how it works.  I mean, B-Ref has him at around replacement level, even with his 57 wRC+ batting contribution.  If you want to upgrade behind the plate, though, there's no room for JP.  The bat doesn't play elsewhere, and Josh Thole is there for R.A. Dickey-related purposes.

So where do we go from here?

I touched, lightly, mind you, on this a few weeks ago, but I don't see a reason not to rehash.  My choices for targets, in no particular order:

Brian McCann is going to be the most expensive, as far as free agents go, coming in at somewhere in the range of 5 years and $80MM, give or take.  It's costly, especially for someone who plays a position with a huge attrition rate, and he doesn't exactly have a sterling health record, but he's pretty good at hitting, and can certainly DH at times (making Adam Lind expendable?  Please?)  McCann is just fair against lefty pitching, and may eventually need to come out from behind the plate full-time.  I doubt the bat plays at 1B/DH under the same contract.  With the dearth of teams looking for catching upgrades, I really don't see McCann's price coming down at all, so he won't even be a bargain.

The Astros are still a couple years away from contending, so I wonder if Jason Castro could be pried away.  Castro is just 26, still have 5 years of team control remaining, and has hit .276/.350/.485 over 491 plate appearances in 2013, good for 4.2 WAR.  He'd probably be pretty expensive, as far as the prospect haul or whatever that goes the other way, and I think the Jays will be more comfortable moving prospects to acquire pitching, given the reduction in top prospects after this past offseason, and the performance of the rotation this season.  Still, Castro is young, has upside, can play both offensively and defensively, and is under team control (i.e. cheap) for a few years.  The Astros are going nowhere for at least another year, and probably more than that, so they could make a move with Castro.  They have Carlos Perez, Max Stassi and Carlos Corporan in their organization at the moment as replacement depth.

If the Brewers wanted to tear everything down and try again, Jonathan Lucroy could be a nice piece.  He is under contract through 2016 (with an option for '17), is beyond competent offensively, and is excellent defensively, being classified as one of the better pitch-framers in the game.  Again, this would cost a lot in terms of (probably) prospects or (less likely) big-league players, but hey, if you're going to do it, do it right.

I think I already pointed this out before, but there's not a whole lot out there in terms of quality catchers, so it's more likely that we'll see a fairly cheap free agent signing, or a minor trade, I suppose, involving a Kurt Suzuki-type guy who, while technically is an upgrade over JP, is still relatively crappy when compared to all catchers.

Not that that's all that much of a bad thing.  Anything is an improvement over the worst thing ever.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

September Call-ups, and 2014

Every September, it's more or less inevitable that someone, somewhere across the league, gets called up and sets the league on fire, at least for a couple of weeks.  Avisail Garcia is hitting .317/.345/.460 since being acquired by the White Sox, and Moises Sierra has more doubles than anybody in baseball since September 1 (I think I heard that somewhere anyway), just looking at examples from last night's Jays-White Sox game.  Invariably, a few weeks of decent production is bound to get a few people excited for no real reason.  I decided that we should have a look at the Blue Jays' September callups from this year and see how they might help out for next year, given that LF and 2B might be a couple of positions to improve upon.

Garcia is actually a legitimate prospect, in that he's 22 years old and has some halfway decent numbers in the minors, even despite the strikeouts.  Moises Sierra, though?  He's 25 as of today, and repeated AAA this year, putting up a rather uninspiring .261/.309/.422 line in Buffalo, over 400+ plate appearances.  His first trip through AAA was a bit better when you adjust for the Las Vegas hitting environment-- .289/.360/.472-- but the point remains the same; when you're old for a league, you should be better than the league.

Sierra's true-talent level might very well be higher than what he's shown over his two years of AAA ball, but there's no way that he's actually someone that should have anything to do with a .297/.363/.495 major league line.  His 131 wRC+ in Toronto is better than any wRC+ at any level in the minors, and it is fueled largely by a .377 babip.

Here's where things get weird though: I expected Sierra's numbers to be largely caused by seeing more time, or at least having a significant production boost, vs. LHP, and sitting more vs. righties.  I don't really know where I'd go to find detailed splits of his minor league numbers over the last couple years, but since coming to Toronto, he's actually handled RHP better.  I assume this is just small-sample noise, but I dunno.  Regardless, what I was expecting to say was that Sierra probably has a future has a 4th outfielder-- maybe a Jonny Gomes type who can mash lefties.  I don't even know if I can say that though.  There's probably a reason that Kevin Pillar was the first call-up when Melky Cabrera went down.

Speaking of Pillar, I don't think we've been given any reason to expect that he'll be around to start next year, if Melky Cabrera happens to either miss time at the start of next year, or if he's moved to DH.  Pillar has hit at every level in the minors, so there's certainly hope, but he looks to be fairly overmatched so far in the bigs.  Things seem to be going alright against lefties (.250/.323/.429) over a small sample, but righty pitching is proving to be a real problem.  He's only had 1400 or so plate appearances as a professional, so there's probably still room to grow, but again, he's 24.

Ryan Goins has impressed with his defensive play so far, and replacement level at 2B is low enough that he can probably offer more than, say, Maicer Izturis, at the keystone.  I'm not sure there's a whole lot that should suggest that Izturis is actually as bad as he's shown in 2013, but it is pretty safe to say that he's lost the 2B job for now, and will need to earn it back if AA doesn't go out and find someone from outside the organization.  Goins' major league numbers, so far, aren't going to blow anybody away (.247/.263/.323, .258 wOBA), and even his minor league ones aren't awe-inspiring.

The thing with Goins is that, depending on who you ask, Goins has been worth somewhere between 0.2 and 1.1 WAR over a 28 game sample, despite that ugly looking wOBA.  Baseball-reference has Goins at +1.1 dWAR, while Fangraphs has him at +5 runs.  I think we all know by now that defensive numbers aren't exactly reliable, at least for a few years, but Goins has certainly passed the eye-test from a defensive point-of-view, and with Fangraphs and B-Ref agreeing, at least to an extent, that Goins is good with the glove... well there could be worse.  Goins hasn't exactly been a huge margin worse than Izturis offensively, and he's mile ahead defensively; I'd hate to say it definitively right now, but I think Ryan Goins can be penciled in as the starting 2B for next year, at least heading in to the offseason.

Finally, Anthony Gose is really only a Blue Jay at the start of next year if Colby Rasmus is no longer around.  He's still 22, and he can't really hit yet.  Stoeten kind of tackled this one yesterday at DJF, wondering if there's going to be a CF-for-SP trade involving the Jays this offseason.  My personal opinion on the matter is that Gose is just fine starting next year at AAA again, and that Rasmus is the best option in CF, but Gose certainly has some trade value if that's the alternative.  Gose has certainly shown signs of being an average-or-so hitter in the minors, if for no other reason than his speed translating to false power.

Stoeten's Michael Bourn comparison is probably a ceiling for Gose, but again, could be worse.  And still, Gose is just a kid, at 22.  He's still young for AAA, and has plenty of room to improve.  Offensively, he's definitely not a major-league quality player.  The other tools will more than make up for that-- he's super fast, has a great arm, and is certainly good enough defensively to play CF.  The big problem is that Colby Rasmus is a free agent after 2014, assuming the Jays don't lock him up.  Gose is the next best option, as far as replacements go.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Doesn't Need to be Painful

So let's review.

  • The season has been over, so to speak, since at least mid-July, if not earlier.
  • Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and now, perhaps, Edwin Encarnacion are all out for the rest of the year.  Those gentlemen, combined, have been worth 12.3 WAR this season.  They rank 28th, 29th and tied for 30th in the league for position players, per fangraphs.
  • Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow weren't things this year.  They were both supposed to be things, along with R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle, but, alas, they weren't.
  • Speaking of Dickey and Buehrle, remember how they've been pretty good lately?  12 earnies over 9.1 over the last two nights.
  • Regardless of expanded rosters, the whole fucking Buffalo team seems to be not only up, but starting every game, and apparently being the shining lights of the last two games.
I reserve the right to add to this, but uhh, we're pretty close to the point where the above video is accurate.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The New Guys

I feel like the fact that the Jays have never really been in any sort of playoff race this year, which has been blamed largely on the starting pitching, and, by association, injuries (Morrow missed pretty much the whole season, Johnson was probably hurt for a lot longer than he'd led on, and fucking Todd Redmond, Chien Ming Wang, Ramon Ortiz and whoever else have made starts this year), has sort of blinded us lately.

Yeah, Johnson was dick.  I'll give you that.   Put a big "X" on the face in the middle there.  I want to talk about Dickey and Buerhle or however the fuck you spell it.  I've been working so much lately that I'm hardly writing anything lately, and thus, haven't had practice writing his name.  In order to perfect anything, you need 10,000 hours of practice and experience, and I just haven't been putting in the time.

Anyway, we'll start with Dickey.  He had a pretty rough first half for the most part, throwing in the odd gem of a start here and there.  Cherry-picking his starts since July 1, Dickey's shown up with a 3.73 ERA.  He's still giving up too many HR's, but I suppose that's bound to happen in a park that is known for giving up a lot of HR's.  Most importantly, I think, is that he's throwing innings, which was one of the big reasons that he was brought in.  Assuming Dickey doesn't get injured or shut down or anything, he'll throw somewhere around 210 innings this year.  More on that in a minute.  I definitely don't think Dickey has been the guy that we were all hoping or expecting him to be, but what we've seen lately has been a lot closer.  Typically, that wouldn't mean a whole lot, but his last two months have been pretty close, performance-wise, to his projected performance heading in to the season, if not a more reasonable version of what we saw the last few years in New York.

As for Mark Buerhle, well, the guy that was brought in to be a "sure-fire, throw 6 innings+ a night 33 times this year, don't get hurt, don't get blown up" kind of guy has been pretty much that, save for a few funky performances early on.  His 3.88 ERA for the season is 0.07 runs above his career mark.  His strikeout rate is up relative to his career norm, though his walkrate is up as well, albeit barely.  Hits and HR's are about the same, and he's thrown 185 innings to this point, with probably four starts left.

Like Dickey, Buehrle is going to best 200 innings this season.  That's going to be 13 seasons and counting of 200+ innings from Buehrle.  The last time the Blue Jays had two guys throw 200+ innings in a season?  AJ Burnett and Roy Halladay, in 2007.

Things haven't gone well for the Jays this year, and there are all kinds of reasons for that.  Dickey and Buehrle were plenty to blame early on, but they've carried their weight nicely over the last few months.