Friday 28 February 2014

Needs More Muni

I should note that I've previously been pro-Goins at 2B, and have made posts defending the idea of handing him the job until he proves that he can't handle it.  If I remember correctly, those posts also assumed that the Jays would be devoting their offseason to finding pitching help, not standing there holding their dicks.

I know it's fucking spring training, but Munenori Kawasaki had two hits today against Pittsburgh, and that's entirely enough for me.

It's time to hand Munenori Kawasaki the starting 2nd base job.

In fact, there really shouldn't be a question here.  I mean, yeah, find a real 2nd baseman.  But if not, Muni.  Here's what we know:

  • Ryan Goins is good at defense, and not good at offense.
  • Maicer Izturis is not good at defense, and, well, isn't good at offense either.  I understand, given his contract situation, if the Jays want to make sure he isn't at least somewhat useful before they DFA him to the depths of hell, so he can have the bench role.
  • Munenori Kawasaki is good at defense, and at least offers some sort of positive, respectable contribution with the bat.  He walks a lot, and sees a lot of pitches, which is more than you can say about Goins or Izturis.
Simply, Munenori Kawasaki is the best option at 2B, and the more I think about it, the clearer it gets.  That's all fine and good, but then you read the money quote from John Gibbons today:
I said this all last year, when he's on the field, good things usually happen.  When he's at-bat, he gives you a good at-bat, fundamentally, he's a sound defensive player.  On the bases, he's got real good instincts.  Just a good all-around player.
By gum, he's right.  And if Gibby likes him, I likes him.  Walks, basically.

From a projection standpoint, all three stand to offer right around the same value-- in the area of 0.7 WAR (though given how awful Izturis looked last year, I question how they have him being a + defender)-- so it probably isn't going to be a huge difference, no matter who gets the job.  It's the same destination, there are just three different routes we can take to get there.

But isn't part of baseball-- the non-sabermetric part, I suppose-- about the journey, and not the destination?  I mean, I can't make a sabermetric argument that says Muni should be the guy over either Goins or Izturis without having some sort of bias or conveniently neglecting some info somewhere.  I can't see in to the future or anything, so if we had this season take place in three separate parallel universes, where each guy got the job in their own respective one, I can't honestly tell you which is the best and which is the worst.  But dammit, if they're all projecting to offer the same value, how is this

 the odd man out?

Can't be.

I mean, I understand that Ryan Goins is 25 or something, and that the other guys are in their 30's.  I get it.  You want a guy who can be the 2B for years to come, and Goins is the only one who has a shot at improving, given age and typical aging curves or whatever.  They want to give him the job just in case he turns in to something, or let him fail before he goes to Korea to play, a la Eric Thames.

But come on.  It's Ryan Goins.  28 strikeouts, 2 walks, .092 iso.  It's not like he's 20 and struggled against big league pitching the first time he came up either-- he had a .311 wOBA in AAA last year, and a .336 wOBA in AA in 2012.  That's not all that good, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he sucks at hitting against big league pitching, in the AL East no less.

I'm not really a big believer in intangibles, mostly because there's no way to measure them.  I won't argue that they don't exist, or that some guy being really funny and fan-favoritey doesn't have some sort of effect on a team, because it probably does.  I'd way rather, though, have a guy who is good at baseball and a solid hitter than have someone who stretches upside-down and keeps everybody loose with his antics.  Unfortunately, the former isn't really an option right now, which makes Muni the best of a bad situation.

Speaking of options, I think Goins has options.  Send him down.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Banking on Guys

That's a thing people say, right?  To bank on someone?  Like to rely on them?  K.

Just using Fangraphs here, since it's the first website I checked, but the Jays, as of right now, project to have an 82-80 record this year.  These projections, as far as I can tell, pretty much assign full projections of individual players and smash them all together to make a team projection, but I'm not expert.  Despite that, I do know that the individual projections that make them up take a lot of things in to account (such as past performance, player comparisons, age, regression of unsustainable stats like babip or HR/FB ratio) but they also correct for non-individual things like run differential.  These projection systems, for the most part, are pretty accurate to within a couple of wins a significant percentage of the time, but, as we may remember from last season, can occasionally be way, way off.

The Jays, by and large, were favorites to run away with the AL East in 2013, and were being thrown in to some early World Series favorite discussions, yet we know how that turned out.  I'm sure if you were to go back and look at a post from this time last year (go ahead, I'll wait.  It's only like 40 posts anyway), you'd see something that suggests the Jays lining up for 90-some odd wins.  ZiPS, which is my preferred projection system, had the Jays at 88 wins (45 WAR) last year, and whiffed big time.  Of course, 10 of those projected WAR were from Ricky Romero, Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow, so you see where we're headed here.

Alex Anthopoulos, as you must be aware of by now, neglected to do much of anything this offseason.  JP Arencibia was replaced by Dioner Navarro, Emilio Bonifacio was kind of replaced by Ryan Goins but not really, Rajai Davis is probably going to be replaced by Anthony Gose or Moises Sierra or something, and then Ubaldo Jimenez nope on the rotation.

I mean, yeah, injuries kind of piled up, and Maicer Izturis was supposed to quite a bit better than the worst player in baseball last year, but (1) injuries happen to every team, (2) health, to an extent, is a skill, and (3) some things worked out alright too.

If the three above statements are true, then GM's should:

  1. Stop assembling injury prone players
  2. Have a backup plan for injuries
  3. Not use up roster spots on guys like Mark DeRosa, Aaron Laffey, Ramon Ortiz, who aren't going to work out alright.
I'm getting a little astray from the point that I didn't yet make here, which is that by not improving the rotation, which ranked 26th in total combined WAR, 29th in combined ERA, 28th in combined FIP, 28th in combined xFIP in 2013, and 28th in innings pitched, one of the following must be true for 2014: 
  • AA is banking on some combo of a return to form from some rotation guys (Dickey, Morrow, Romero?) and a coming of age from others (Drabek, Stroman, Hutchison, maybe Sanchez? Nolin?)
  • AA is expecting even more from his offense (i.e. similar production from Bautista, Edwin, Rasmus, Lind, with more from Lawrie, Reyes, and Melky), with the hope to offset the rotation woes.
  • AA's bank is outta money all of a sudden.  The plan was to go buy a free agent pitcher and suddenly, the money's at Fred's house.
I'm kind of inclined to believe bits and pieces of all three of those, actually.  If it took that long for Ubaldo to find 4/$50MM, especially with reports suggesting that the O's decided just the other day to up it to a 4th year, the Jays probably could have had him at a pretty similar price if they wanted to offer it at some point over the last two weeks or so. Similarily, if all it took was a fourth year at $12ish, for a team spending $130MM or so already, and with a bunch of that money coming off the books before that 4th guaranteed year, no less, so maybe they really just didn't want him.

I guess, in a roundabout way, I'm trying to bring this back to the thing about projections taking some things in to account, and not taking in others.  Again, you can look at every team and find an exception or two that we'd never find in projection systems, but I dunno.  This thing, I guess:

A lot of those things aren't accounted for in projection systems.  So, where do we go?  Using ZiPS, one by one, I guess:

  • Dickey was complaining about upper back/neck issues for the early part of the season, and said that the WBC sort of messed him up as well.  Now, he says, he'll be more ready to go early on in the year with a no pain and a full spring with his team.  He also doesn't have to pitch with the fear of throwing a knuckleball towards JP Arencibia in the event of something going wrong with Josh Thole.  ZiPS expects 3 WAR out of Dickey, and I'll not argue.
  • Mark Buehrle is projected to supply 2 wins and 168 innings.  That's just how projections work.  Most people don't throw 200 innings every year the way Buehrle does.  Most people see their production drop off by half a WAR per season after a certain age.  Most people get hurt and spend time on the DL at least once in their careers.  Even at 35, I'd probably use a pen to write that Buehrle will throw closer to 200 innings than 168.  After this though, we're getting optimistic.
  • Brandon Morrow missed three quarters of the season last year, and didn't look good for the other quarter.  He was clearly pitching hurt, but still put up some ugly numbers, which do fuck around with projections (2013 is weighed more heavily than 2012, which is weighed more heavily than 2011).  Still, he isn't exactly a model of health, and shouldn't be relied upon to throw 200 innings until he does it a couple times.  ZiPS likes him for 2.2 WAR and 127 innings, and frankly, we should be thrilled if we get that.
  • JA Happ got clocked in the head by a baseball last year and missed a bunch of time.  Most people don't get clocked in the head by a baseball and miss a bunch of time, so it's hard to say what we should be expecting from him.  It's certainly fair to say that he would have been in the rotation all year had he not been clocked in the head by a baseball last year and missed a bunch of time, but projection systems take in to account injury, not head clockings.  Had he missed time with an arm or shoulder injury, we might have a different story.  Had he pitched fewer innings thanks to being relegated to the bullpen or minors we'd have a different story as well.  He probably won't be clocked in the head with a baseball this year, because most pitchers aren't clocked in the head with a baseball every year.  Happ is still a mediocre pitcher, but innings pitched is a component of WAR, which is useful since every inning he throws is one that Ramon Ortiz doesn't.
  • Marcus Stroman is a rookie with 0 big league experience.  If he makes the opening day rotation, he shouldn't be expected to do a whole hell of a lot.  ZiPS has him at 114 innings and 1.2 WAR.  There's tons of upside there, but it's unfair to expect much from him.  Still, I think the absence of a Santana or Jimenez means that Stroman is pitching as a starter, and is going to be in the bigs before the all-star break.  I don't necessarily expect Stroman to start the season in Toronto, for development reasons, for service time reasons, and the simple fact that there are some guys without options, and others that are probably ready to go without any extra development in the minors.  They might let Stroman work stuff out in the minors for a few starts and take a flyer on some other guys in the meantime. For example:
  • Drew Hutchison, Kyle Drabek, Dustin McGowan, Esmil Rogers, Sean Nolin, Ricky Romero, Todd Redmond, Deck McGuire, Chad Jenkins, or someone else.  Those names aren't all making the rotation.  They won't all get to be the fifth guy in the rotation, and some might not even be Blue Jays by opening day, but a year of healing for some, development for others certainly helps.  Redmond will have to pitch better than he did last year in order to be the guy who gets the call when a pitcher is needed.  Nolin is better than 1.1IP of 40 ERA ball.  Romero won't be 6th on the depth chart unless he pitches well out of the gate.  The depth is better, and if someone comes up and Chien Ming Wang's a start or two-- I use that as a verb despite the fact that 3 of his 7 starts were downright reasonable-- there should be a shorter leash, as opposed to this past year, where there was no option for a while other than to stick with him.  This year's next best option ought to be a lot better than last year's next best option, and it's going to take more injuries to get down to the riffraff 
As far as hitters go, I think we can expect more of the same from Edwin, and most everything else has some variables.
  • Melky Cabrera is pretty much the whole reason I decided to make this post.  He had a tumor on his spine that limited his running.  Defensively, we should hopefully see a guy that can actually run around a little bit out there, even if his speed-power or power-power doesn't return.  Even if he ages at the normal rate from a true-talent standpoint, I don't see why that power or mobility wouldn't return at least a bit.  ZiPS has him at 575 PA's and 1.2 WAR, and any other projection system is reasonably close to that, but again, if we can blame the tumor then we should be able to expect more.  His batted ball profile this year was pretty much in tune with his career numbers, but his power numbers were way, way down.  At the absolute worst, he's in a contract year so he should be awesome.
  • Adam Lind's projection probably isn't taking in to account the fact that he won't see many lefties this year.  I assume the 524 PA's that he's projected for (ZiPS) consists of good performance against righties and bad performance against lefties, so that needs to be weighted differently, whether that's higher value for him or for some RHB getting more lefty time.
  • Colby Rasmus will probably take a step back, given his babip spike and better-than-normal defense.  If he doesn't, though...!
  • Maicer Izturis probably isn't a -2 WAR player, and if he is, the Jays probably just release/DFA him.
  • Can we expect full-ish seasons from Jose Bautista and Jose Reyes?  Is Dioner Navarro going to be able to handle a fuller workload behind the plate?
  • 24 year old's with 1100+ plate appearances tend to get pretty good eventually.  Brett Lawrie is projected to be worth 3.5 WAR per ZiPS, and something like that on most other systems..
Obviously things aren't work out perfectly for everyone, but I think it's pretty clear that AA's mind was made up entering the offseason-- the 2013 iteration of the team wasn't bad, it just couldn't stay on the field.  I'm not so sure.  Yeah, 2013 was pretty unfortunate, but even if this is the exact same team that 2013's version was supposed to be-- and it isn't; Reyes is a year older, Bautista is a year older, Dickey, Buehrle, Edwin... all a year older, all a year past their theoretical primes, wherever the fuck they may be-- injuries and performance rates are going to have to be more preferable than the typical year.  And remember, health is a skill.  Morrow, Reyes, Lawrie and Bautista are all odds-on to miss at least some time. This was a bad offseason.

Update- Yeah, This.

Monday 17 February 2014

Great Offseason

So the Orioles have signed Ubaldo Jimenez.


That's stupid.  At least JPA's gone.

And uhh, that's about it, isn't it?  I mean, the offseason isn't technically over, because we're still looking at Stephen Drew, Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz and Kendrys Morales all left unsigned.  It's just that... well.  Let's review, I guess.

  • Jettison JP Arencibia.  Addition by subtraction.
  • Add Dioner Navarro.  Addition by addition.
  • Don't sign Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, Robinson Cano (as if that was an option).
  • ??????????????????????????????????????????
  • Don't improve the 2B situation.

What might be the alternative here?  Get Stephen Drew to change positions?


Totally going to sign Ervin Santana now.

Now, a little bit of honesty here.  I wrote the following paragraphs, then deleted them, thinking that it was going to sound ridiculous and rash and too harsh, but ultimately I CTRL-Z'ed them back.

There is an outside shot of the Jays inking Santana and him not sucking horribly.  There is a shot of the Jays acquiring someone through trade.  There is a shot that Stroman starts the year in the bigs and cockslaps everyone, while Morrow and Dickey have good seasons.  The offseason isn't over, and even if it is over, the season isn't over.  Having said all of that:

Perhaps it's time to blow it all up and try again.  Obviously not right now.  Wait a while.  It might work out.  Get to the all-star break or so, and see if injuries fuck everything up, or if performances aren't awesome, and we start looking ahead to 2015.  Trade Bautista, trade Edwin, trade Reyes, trade Dickey, trade Buehrle, trade the whole bullpen, trade anyone older than 26, trade anyone making more than $3MM.

Build from the ground up.  Remember all those prospects that were built up in the pipeline?  Syndergaard, d'Arnaud, etc?  Let's get more of those.

I mean, if you're not going to try, what the fuck is the point?

Dunno, it's not like there's a whole bunch of time left in the offseason for "the plan" to come to fruition, assuming it hasn't already.  I really struggle to believe that the way this offseason's gone down wasn't really the plan all along.  What was up-- waiting for Ubaldo's price to come down to 3 years and $20MM?  I'm like, probably the biggest AA apologist there is, and even I think this is bullshit.