Thursday, 24 April 2014


Image Credit: Brendan Kennedy, The Star

That's what I'd call it, anyway.  Zaun called it a caddie on TV last night.  Either term is fine, I guess, as long as the point gets across.  Basically, I'm talking about what I think could/should be done with Dustin McGowan, until he's stretched out all the way and isn't getting tired 60 pitches in to each start.

I don't think it's a big secret that pitchers statistically perform relatively well their first time through the batting order in each game, and get progressively worse each subsequent time that they turn the order over.  Nobody's shut up about Dickey's struggles the 3rd time through the order all week long.  That's a bit of an extreme case, but the same thing can be said for every starting pitcher in baseball with enough of a sample size.  The more plate appearances a batter gets against a pitcher in a game, the better he will perform.

The Colorado Rockies, rather infamously, went with a four-man rotation at various times over the last two seasons, having young guys start games and typically only throw three or four innings, and then have someone else come and take over.  The idea was two-fold. Batters never see a pitcher a third time in a game, and the pitching staff gets to have a combination of regular work and enough rest.  The Jays have done the same with their A-ball rotations for the last few years, mostly as a way to keep everyone's innings and pitch-counts under control.

Obviously, the Rockies have stunk the last couple years, so it's certainly not perfect, but I think that's more a function of them being bad at baseball relative to other teams, and less so at the system working poorly over a pretty small sample.  Plus, that park.

And of course, I'm not suggesting that the whole rotation gets piggybacked-- just McGowan.

Really, this all stems from last night and the way Gibby's hook worked.  Again, Zaun had a bit of a rant about this, and I agreed with him wholeheartedly, even before he said it.  McGowan was yanked with the bases loaded and with nobody out in the 5th inning, having thrown 70 pitches.  Obviously, hindsight would suggest that he shouldn't have started the 5th inning, but even with my play of going through the order twice, no more no less, McGowan gets pulled at the same point in the game. Any way it gets sliced, McGowan doesn't face Markakis a third time.

Perhaps, though, if McGowan is tiring at the 60-pitch mark, he should throw his 4 innings, and then let someone else start the fifth fresh, rather then risk getting in to a jam that someone else has to come try to clean.  If the Jays are carrying 8 relievers, three of whom are longmen, they may as well use them to their full effect.

I guess I say this because Redmond came in to the game last night in a pretty shitty spot-- go-ahead run at the plate, bases loaded, none out, meat of the order coming up.  This is a high-leverage spot in the game (3.15 leverage index, and a .330 WPA for Cruz on the HR), and is probably a spot better reserved for, say, Brett Cecil, with Markakis and Davis at bat and in the hole respectively, plus how well he's handled Adam Jones.  Steve Delabar is probably good here as well, given his ability to get strikeouts.  If the idea is to get multiple innings from Redmond (or Happ, given the lefty-righty construction of the O's lineup), he should be coming in with a fresh slate.  Plenty of time to warm up, start of the inning, etc.  Let him feel like he's starting.

Given the offday Monday, Mcgowan can be skipped in his next scheduled spot.  Whether they decide to ramp up his work between now and his next start to try and build more stamina, or just decide to let him do as he's been doing and go with a piggyback is obviously yet to be seen.  I'm certainly not ready to give up on the McGowan-as-a-starter business, but if you've got a starter who is tiring after 60 pitches and keeps getting beaten up and yanked in a jam in the fifth, something needs to be done.  There's my idea.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A Cry for Sanity

That sure looks like the image of a guy who just struck out, doesn't it?

Now, I'll not be the first to mention that Ryan Goins is on this team thanks in large part (whole part?) to his defense, and that we aren't supposed to expect him to do much hitting, if any.  We knew he couldn't hit, and that he was going to strike out at an outrageous clip, provide no walks, no steals, and relatively few quality plate appearances.  We didn't necessarily agree with it, but we knew what was coming.

I also know that we're 9 games in to the season, which amounts to 20 plate appearances for Goins, and that probably 18 of them have been utter garbage. Those 20 plate appearances amount to about 60 innings defensively, which certainly haven't been bad, especially given that he can fill in admirably at SS, along with playing a pretty good 2B.

Goins has been getting pinch-hit for late, or has been stuck in to games as a defensive replacement quite a bit so far over the first 9 games (you're looking at the "Inngs" tab to show what innings he's played in each game), so it's not like the Jays aren't already well aware that Goins should be batting is little as possible.

I don't think I've said anything yet that nobody knows, so maybe I'll just say what we're all thinking: send Goins down to the minors, and do it now.

I realize that we're dealing with a really small sample here, but Maicer Izturis seems completely reborn.  I don't expect him to continue slashing .455/.500/.500, but I would expect something a bit closer to his .270/.332/.373 career batting line than what he did last year, even if he is on the decline part of his career.  His fielding should also improve from the -18.5 he put up last year according to Fangraphs.  He's no longer a good player (was he ever good?), but if there's anything that we can draw from a 9 game sample, it's that he's also not the worst player in baseball.  That's a role reserved for Ryan Goins, I guess.

Beyond Izturis, Jonathan Diaz is certainly making the most of his first real look in the bigs.  He's not hitting the cover off the ball, but he's at least not flailing away at everything in sight.  Diaz is definitely a defense-first kind of guy, but he's also walking at a 10% clip.  Again, it's only 19 plate appearances, but (1) walk-rate is one of the first stats to stabilize, at around 120 plate appearances, and (2) Diaz has a career 13.9% walk-rate over 3000+ minor league plate appearances.  I'd say 10% in the bigs is a bit ambitious, but something close to that isn't outrageous.  Goins, to compare, has a 7.8% walk-rate over 2100+ PA's in the minors, and a 2.3% walk-rate over 141 MLB appearances.  Again, walk-rate tends to stabilize around 120 PA's.

Diaz isn't a bad fielder either-- he's playing shortstop, after all, and seems to be doing a reasonable job over a pretty small sample.  Given that, I don't think we're really missing all that much by sending Goins down, are we?  Especially if it's Munenori Kawasaki coming up the other way?  Imagine the standing O's and the walks.

Of all the middle infielders on the big league roster right now, Goins is playing the worst baseball by far.  We're (apparently) about a week shy of having Jose Reyes back, which obviously leaves enough room for two of Izturis, Goins, and Diaz.  Diaz has outplayed Goins badly so far, and I'm sure he's good enough to figure out 2B, especially in a reserve role.  Let Goins figure out how to hit AAA pitching, and if he can't do that, then he certainly shouldn't be in the majors, glove be damned.