Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Upgrading Second (or Third?) Base

Image stolen from The Star

Alright, so Brett Lawrie's out for another couple weeks, which means that if the Jays weren't standing pat figuring out what to do with the 2B situation before, they definitely aren't now.  I think we can all agree that Lawrie moving to 2B was a temporary solution, and that is made pretty evident by the way Juan Francisco has swung the bat in the last month or so.

Francisco, for the year, is swinging a .235/.315/.530 bat (128 OPS+), and that's certainly some decent production relative to other 3B's.  He's the lefty part of a platoon, and when he isn't being exposed to lefty pitching, he's obviously better, coming with a .264/.344/.586 line vs. RHP.  Things could be worse, especially when the next best option is, like, Munenori Kawasaki or Steve Tolleson or Jonathan Diaz or Ryan Goins or whoever.

The obvious problem here is that the bulk of Francisco's production came early on in the season.  Humor me while I cherry-pick some stats. I kind of guesstimated where the halfway point would fall, as far as plate appearances are concerned, so as to not make this a completely arbitrary endpoint, so there's still a flaw in what I'm doing here, but still; In Francisco's first 26 games with the Jays this season (102 PA's), he hit .292/.373/.629, with 8 HR's, 11 walks, and 36 strikeouts.  Since then, he's played 29 games (23 starts, 82 PA's) and has batted .173/.244/.413 with 4 HR's, 6 walks, and 33 strikeouts.  I'm sure I could make that look worse if I tried, but whatever, that's not the point.

The point is that he had a really hot start, and has sucked since, and teams are now adjusting to his tendencies of SWANGing and not being able to handle a breaking ball.  Despite the red-hot start, his offensive numbers for the season (slash-wise, anyway), when adjusted for park and league, are almost perfectly in line with his career numbers.

Which isn't saying anything in one way or another... he's a perfectly serviceable as a platoony-type backup guy that can fill in when Brett Lawrie can go play 2B and Ryan Goins is seriously considered as a candidate or whatever.

Which brings us to Steve Tolleson, I guess.  He's kind of the bizarro-Francisco, with less power and more defense.  He also has 3 hits in June.  Neither he, nor Juan Francisco are exactly world-beaters.  Both have holes in their swings, and neither are especially good defensively (Tolleson doesn't exactly have a reasonable sample though).

So yeah, Lawrie in a month or so, at which time, he'll come back in the lineup everyday, hopefully taking Tolleson and Francisco's place, as opposed to taking Muni's.  I say this, because I'm hoping Muni's spot gets replaced long before then.

Ideally, Lawrie can go back to 3B everyday, and the Jays can find someone who plays 2B. In theory, however, Lawrie can play 2B everyday if needed, which means the Jays are on the lookout for either a 2B or a 3B, which certainly widens the talent pool from which to search.  Let's have a look, the same way we did pitchers last week.

AL East

As is always the case, trades from within the division are rare.  The Yankees and Orioles are certainly still in the thick of it, and aren't going to strengthen the Jays.  The Red Sox aren't likely to help out either, and certainly aren't doing so in the form of Dustin Pedroia.  The Rays are pretty unlikely to trade Ben Zobrist within the division, but it would be friggin' awesome if they did.  He can play several positions serviceably, is still very good with the bat (walks!), and is still under contract next season for cheap.  If the Rays decide the Zobrist is available, he'd be a worthy upgrade for several teams, so the price should be steep.

AL Central

The Tigers aren't selling, and don't have anything really all that good in the infield anyway.  The Royals probably aren't either, though they may look to dangle Omar Infante if someone were to make an offer.

I don't think Cleveland opts to move any of Kipnis, Santana or Chisenhall, but they really need pitching, so who knows?  Still doubt it.

I wonder what the Twins would want for Trevor Plouffe.  He's going to start getting expensive (2nd time through arbitration this coming season), and the Twins have a couple of infield prospects coming through the pipeline that they might rather give playing time to.  Plouffe's numbers are deflated thanks to playing in some shitty ballparks (Minnesota, Detroit), but he still shows some power, the ability to walk, and versatility around the field.  Mashes lefties too. Let's get that done.

As far as the White Sox go, they might want to move Gordon Beckham, but that doesn't really scream upgrade.  He can get on base and kind of hit one out of the park by accident.  He's mashing lefties this year, but is usually pretty neutral as far as platoons go.  He's under control next year as well.  Might be a fit, but meh.  Conor Gillaspie is having a career year offensively, but upon closer observation, he's got a .388 babip and is a platoon guy at best.

AL West

The A's are buying, and probably kind of like what they have going on in their infield. The Angels aren't going to sell while they're in the wild card lead, unless it's a swap of something that they can address a weakness with.  There's nothing extra there, and they don't have any glaring weaknesses.  The Mariners currently hold the 2nd wild card, so unless they fall apart, they'll be buying as well.  Plus, Cano and Seager aren't likely to go anywhere.

Would the Rangers trade Adrian Beltre?  I doubt it, but maybe?  They need to make room for Profar with one of Andrus, Odor and Beltre, but that probably won't be an issue that they address until the offseason.  Odor isn't exactly a blue-chipper, so it might not even matter.

The Astros don't need to trade any of their infielders, as they're all either young, not good yet and under control for a while, or Jose Altuve, who is young, under control for a while, and good.

NL East

Atlanta is actually probably looking for a 2B, what with Dan Uggla being terrible and all.  The Nats apparently don't want to trade Danny Espinosa, but a change of scenery might do him some good.  There's going to be a little roster crunch when Bryce Harper comes back, and the odd man out will either be Espinosa or Denard Span, though both would be entirely serviceable bench bats, of which you need plenty in the NL.  The Marlins will sell if they come back to earth, which seems pretty likely.  Casey McGehee would be really interesting if he becomes available, but again, the Marlins would need to start losing soon.

The Mets probably don't want to trade Daniel Murphy, but that would be a nice fit if they change their tune.  Murphy is a good hitter, fields a respectable 2B, and has a year of control left after this season.  The Mets, though, apparently don't want to trade him at the moment, according to everything about him on MLBTR today.  You'd better believe that the Jays are in if Murphy is available though.

As far as the Phillies go, Utley has already said that he won't waive his no-trade clause, and the Phillies probably aren't going to trade him anyway.  There are no other options here, so let's move on.

NL Central

The Brewers are in the lead in that division, but they could still feasibly move Rickie Weeks, not that he's done anything of note in 3 years now.  The Cardinals are either sitting pretty in the infield, or buying something, so they're out of the question.

I'm not sure the Reds or Pirates believe that they're out of it yet, but if they do decide to sell, I don't really see a fit.  Nobody in the Pirates middle infield is all that good, and the Pirates seem to enjoy Pedro Alvarez too.  The Reds would probably trade Brandon Phillips if someone came asking, but he's signed through 2017 for like $72MM or something.  Todd Frazier seems pretty much entrenched in Cincinnati, but you never know.

Luis Valbuena is suddenly good, so maybe the Cubs sell high on him?  Otherwise, there's nothing useful there.

NL West

The Giants haven't gotten much production from 2B, and they'll look to improve there if Joe Panik doesn't pan out.  The Dodgers are buyers.

The Diamondbacks have Aaron Hill and Martin Prado, if they choose to sell, but Aaron Hill might be back to being bad Aaron Hill, and he's under contract through 2016, so if he is bad again, then it's an all too familiar albatrossy kind of thing.  Martin Prado might suck now too, actually.  Striking out more, walking less, decrease in power, etc.  Prado is also signed through 2016, although he has a much better history of being good than Hill, so there may be something left in that particular tank.

The Padres might trade Chase Headley, but it might be too late for them to get any real value from him.  He'd be a pure rental, he's making $10.5MM, and he might not even be league-average anymore.  Might be a flyer, especially getting him out of Petco.

Finally, with the Rockies, I'm not sure why they'd trade LeMehieu or Rutledge since they're both still young and cheap, nor am I certain either is an upgrade, but it could happen, I guess.

So yeah, there are a few candidates at 2B, but it's expanding the search field to 3B that really makes a few options appear.  I kind of like the idea of Trevor Plouffe if the Jays are in to cheap options, but there are some bigger names that could really bring the house down if they're available and, more specifically, available to the Blue Jays.  Zobrist, Beltre and Murphy would all be big additions for this year and next, but again, it's unknown whether those guys are available and if the Jays have what it would take to get that deal done.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

In Your Clubhouse, Taking Your Pitchers: NL Edition

He looks like a fucking alien
Dig right in, I guess.

NL East

Atlanta, Washington and Miami are all within a game of each other, but are also all a few games out of the wild card hunt.  If anything shitty happens in the division race, they're a lot more likely to be out of the playoff race entirely.  Anything is possible with these three teams as far as the division goes.

Atlanta could possibly consider moving a pitcher even if they aren't out of the race, but I kind of doubt it.  Some sort of pitcher-for-outfielder deal could happen, I guess, but I suspect Atlanta tries to add something using their prospect depth more than anything.  If they fall out of it, Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang are both free agents, and they could probably sell high on Gavin Floyd too.  Sounds kind of wild, but a Colby Rasmus trade isn't entirely out of the question of they don't think he re-signs, and maybe a rental-for-rental trade could happen with Ervin.

Washington pretty much has no impending free agents, and have a reasonably good team right now, which suggests that they won't be making any major selling moves if they start losing.  They're more likely to acquire a piece that will help them next year too.

Miami is kind of a surprise contender right now, but they're all really young and under control for several years.  Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are going to anchor that rotation for another few years behind Jose Fernandez, and the rest of the rotation has largely disappointed.  They've got some young guys coming through the system right now, so they might end up moving guys for some missing pieces down the road, but I largely expect Miami to either stay put, or to buy something that stabilizes the rotation and make up for the lack of Jose Fernandez.  I could see Steve Cishek being traded.

The Mets could really do anything.  They've gotten reasonable production out of Wheeler (not happening), Niese and Colon so far, and those guys would all be upgrades over JA Happ if both teams are willing.  Colon is signed through 2015 and is 40 years old, which always sounds risky, and Niese is a roughly league-average pitcher signed through 2016 (with club options taking him through '18).  Again, the Jays have said that they prefer rentals, but I wonder if they'd listen if discussions started-- The Mets should have Matt Harvey back next year, and need to eventually make room for Syndergaard, deGrom, Montero, and Jenrry Mejia if they want him to start (I feel like I'm forgetting someone from this system too).  It's hard to have too much pitching, especially during a rebuild, but I count 8 guys right there, plus Dillon Gee, for five slots.  Gee is a pretty strong candidate to move, especially given his low ERA but high FIP/xFIP, but that's more likely a move to a bad team that wants to take a flyer on him.

The Phillies are the most interesting team in the East.  They suck so bad, and they're paying so much money to do so.  The problem is that they gave pretty much everybody no-trade clauses.  They probably don't want to trade Chase Utley anyway, but he just signed his extension this past offseason and has a full no-trade, which, thanks to a provision written in to Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard's deals, gives them full no-trades too.

Cliff Lee is currently hurt, though he's apparently pretty close to rehabbing.  Scary thought, acquiring a recently injured (elbow, at that), 35 year-old who is owed about $45MM+ over the next two or three years (vesting option/buyout).  Pretty good pitcher though.  Oh yeah, he's got full no-trade protection that he'd need to waive.

Cole Hamels is pretty good, but is owed another $100MM or so through 2018 and would cost a ton.

AJ Burnett had a great year last year, and started this year killing it as well, but that's gone to shit.  He got beaten up pretty badly throughout the duration of May, though his last two starts have been a lot better.  Mind you, those two starts have come against the Padres and the Cubs, but there's still probably something there.  Worth monitoring anyway.  He's got a bit of a wacky contract situation for next year-- it's a mutual option for $15MM, or a player option for $7.5MM that has some escalators for games started.  And of course, limited no-trade.

There's nothing else really interesting there-- maybe Kyle Kendrick?  Kind of sucks-- but the Phillies really should be gutting this team and reloading for the future.

NL Central

I imagine the Brewers will be buyers.  They're in first place in the division with a 3.5 game lead, despite a run differential that suggests they should be right around even with STL.  STL is still projected to win the divison, but the Brewers have done enough to this point that they'll at least contend.  That leaves Cincinnati, the Cubs and the Pirates

It's hard to say what the Reds are up to.  They obviously still have some really good pieces, but they've disappointed two years in a row now.  That Bailey contract already looks like a mistake, and the Phillips one isn't much better.  Injuries have played some part in this, so they might just decide that they're still good and keep it together for next year.

If they do blow it up, they could eat some of Phillips' contract and get something back from the number of teams who are weak at 2B, they could move Latos for a good haul, they could move Chapman for a great haul, and they could move Johnny Cueto for a metric shit-tonne.  Mike Leake still has a year of control left and is only 26, and Alfredo Simon could be a good sell-high candidate, given that unsustainable ERA in the 2's.

I don't expect Cincinnati to blow it up, but if they do, it would be fireworks.

The Pirates have Francisco Liriano, a would-be rental that is sure to be moved, and has some decent peripheral stats.  He's given up HR's at an unreasonable rate, and his LOB% is way down, which mostly boils down to small sample bad luck.  ZiPS and Steamer projections both predict his performance to regress.  The only real problem is an increase in walks, but his line drives are down, his groundballs are up, and a 3.48 xFIP is pretty solid.

The Cubs are really the team that everybody is watching right now.  Jeff Samardzija might be the prize of the trade deadline, but Jason Hammel, Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta are all apparently on the block as well.  Samardzija has another year of control, and has pitched his bag off this year so far.  He'll cost a shitload, but it may be worth it to a team that is still looking to contend next year.  The Cubs are apparently scouting the Jays' minor leaguers, having looked at Daniel Norris recently.

Jason Hammel seems more the Jays' pace at the moment, however.  He's on a one-year deal and will be a strict rental.  Whatever's left on his $6MM deal is certainly affordable, and he's only under contract for another couple months, so he won't be incredibly expensive in terms of prospects.  He's having the best year of his career, and is only getting kind of lucky with batted balls.  He's striking out a lot of guys, is walking practically nobody, and even though his groundball rate is down, he's not giving up many HR's.

Edwin Jackson has a really high babip and isn't stranding any runners, but his FIP and xFIP like his work so far this year.  I still can't imagine having any interest in that contract though.  Arietta has pitched excellently for the Cubs so far, with FIP and xFIP under 3.  I'd expect he'd be expensive. Travis Wood has been reasonably good as well, and would probably be a slight upgrade over Happ, but he has 2 arbitration years left, so I don't expect the Cubs to trade him.

NL West

The Giants are going to go for their once-every-two-years World Series run, and are expected to buy.  The Dodgers are far from out of it, with their roster.    Everyone else is fucked.

The Rockies had it going early on, but have since cooled it down severely.  Jorge de la Rosa is a free agent-to-be, and is somehow giving up runs at an above-average rate, despite a .251 babip and a somewhat reasonable walk-rate.  Of course, a 15.9% HR/FB rate is a culprit, and Coors Field has something to do with that.  I'm nowhere near smart enough to try and determine what that could mean pitching out of Toronto, but JdlR could be a reasonable target.  He's actually a better pitcher at Coors than away from it for his career, which is sort of weird.  Tough case.

Jhoulys Chacin is another interesting guy.  He's got one more year of control through arbitration after this one, is still only 26, and had a 4+ WAR year in '13, despite being largely mediocre so far this year.  He's been fairly good away from Coors Field over his career, and the Rockies could decide to move him since he's getting more expensive.  It would certainly be selling low on him, so a deal seems unlikely there.

The Padres have gotten good production out of both Ian Kennedy and Andrew Cashner, despite being 14 games out of first place.  Both are on pace for 3+ WAR seasons, are getting more expensive, and are on teams that don't really have any chance of winning incredibly soon.  There's a Petco factor, mind you.

The problem there is that neither is a free agent until after 2015, so the Padres certainly don't have to trade either this year, even if they don't feel like exploring extensions.  I would expect them to look at extending Cashner for sure, but both are certainly trade candidates if someone is looking to control a player through next season.  Cashner is younger, and full of upside, while Kennedy is a bit more established as a league-average-or-maybe-a-bit-better pitcher with a ceiling.

Again, we need to be mindful of parks and leagues/divisions (i.e. pitcher vs. DH), but both have very good numbers this year and would be welcome additions.  I feel like Kennedy could be had for a respectable price, and that the Padres should listen and build up a young core.

Finally, the Diamondbacks have seemingly been out of it since the first two weeks of the season.  Brandon McCarthy is a free agent at the end of the year, and has been his regular old league-average self, complete with a bunch of ground balls and A 22.7% HR/FB RATE?!?!? ARE YOU SERIOUS?

This might be material for another post, or maybe google to see if someone's written it yet, but that's an outrageous amount of HR's and the only real question is whether or not he's throwing a bunch of beachballs.  His fastball velocity is up 2 MPH, he's struck out batters at a rate that's better than his career norm while keeping walks really close to what they've been, and he's getting more groundballs than ever.  By xFIP, which is better than FIP for samples of half a season, he's been pretty damn good, and his underlying numbers appear to be OK, so I think he'd be worthwhile to take a shot on since there can't nobody sustain 22.7% HR/FB, even in a bandbox like Chase Field or the Skydome, especially since his career rate is less than half of that, and roughly half of his career innings are in extreme hitter's parks (TEX and ARI).

Bronson Arroyo is signed through next year with an option/buyout for '16, which just sounds silly.  I doubt the DBacks would trade Wade Miley, as they'd be selling low.

So there you go.  As of right now, there aren't really a whole lot of guys that make a ton of sense, but there could certainly be some wiggle room.  Jason Hammel is the one sure shot to be traded and to have a nice market, assuming he stays healthy, and the Jays really should be all over that if they want a rental, but Francisco Liriano and Brandon McCarthy are two other names to keep an eye on, especially if their performance starts to match their peripherals.  We'll certainly know more over the coming weeks, as teams get larger samples of data to look at, and the playoff picture becomes more pronounced.

Monday, 16 June 2014

In Your Clubhouse, Taking Your Pitchers: AL Edition

Despite how well he's pitched lately, it's pretty clear that, barring injury, if the Blue Jays were to acquire a starting pitcher to anchor the rotation right now, and really turn this team in to something nasty, it would be JA Happ being relegated to the bullpen or the minors or wherever the fuck.  Obviously Buehrle isn't going anywhere, and if Drew Hutchison can stay healthy and stretched out and not need an extra day or two between starts, he'll remain in the rotation as well.  Stroman's looked great in the rotation, albeit over a very small sample, and RA Dickey is also a pitcher.

No matter who gets bumped in this scenario, though, that's not really what I'm here for.  It's mid-June, and we're about 6 weeks away from the trade deadline.  We have some sort of idea who is going to be contending, and who is already fucking out of the playoff picture.  We may as well go through the teams and try to figure out who the targets may end up being.

There are some obvious targets: really good pitchers who are approaching free agency who are on really bad teams.  Jeff Samardzija was in the banner photo before I changed it, and David Price is there now.  Both are obvious targets, though both of these guys may end up being outside the Jays' price range, as AA has stated that the Jays prefer a rental over a player with more control; he doesn't want to move top prospects or crush the depth anymore than what was done last year.

I'm just going to go team-to-team, division-to-division and explore.

AL East

I don't really expect the Jays to get David Price, for a multitude of reasons.  The first is that they are in the same division as the Rays, and the second is that Price is controllable through next season. Price, in effect, would be pitching against Tampa next year, rather than, say, pitching in the NL-- Tampa wouldn't have to worry about running in to Price other than during inter-league series.  The Jays would also be paying a large price for a year and a half of Price, and they apparently don't want to go crazy with the prospect sales.

Erik Bedard has pitched reasonably well (albeit in a good ballpark and with a strong defence) in Tampa this year, on a one year deal, and he might fetch a low-level prospect.  Other than that though, the Rays have a bunch of cheap, controllable pitchers in their rotation, and have little reason to move them at this point.

For the same reasons as the Price thing, I don't really expect any other trades from within the division either; New York and Baltimore are doing well enough that they aren't going to be selling, and I don't imagine Boston has any interest in improving the Jays either, after the Farrell fiasco.

Having said that, if Boston does completely fall out of it-- and they pretty much need to play .600 baseball from this point forward to have any chance-- I would expect them to sell at least something.  They do have a few pitchers in their rotation right now that could be useful to someone, though a lot of their team is under contract through 2015 or later.  They do have some pretty decent pitching prospects if they wanted to move some starters.

Jon Lester is going to be a free agent at the end of the year, and is having a great year, so he'll (a) fetch a lot in a trade relative to, say, letting him walk for a draft pick, not to mention the immediate return vs. a late first rounder who will take multiple years to develop, and (b) is going to cost a lot to sign long-term from 2015 onwards.  Lester has mentioned that he wants to stay in Boston for the rest of his career, but we all know how often that's bullshit.

John Lackey has rekindled his career last year and so far this year, and he also has an option on his contract for next year at $500k.  He makes what's left on his $15.25MM contract, and there's practically 0 risk at taking him on for next year.

Buchholz and Peavy have both been a mess this year, and Felix Doubront seems like the kind of arm you'd want to build around.  De La Rosa, Workman, and Webster are all on their way up or are there, so Boston might want to move something.

AL Central

The Tigers obviously aren't selling anything, and I don't think the Royals will either, unless they just go on a huge losing streak.  James Shields would be interesting if KC does fall off, but I kind of doubt that happens.  Cleveland probably hangs on as long as possible to make up their minds, so the two real sellers are Minnesota and Chicago at this juncture.

Cleveland is pretty likely to move Justin Masterson at some point if things do go any farther south, though he's largely stunk to this point in 2014; strikeouts are down, walks are up, and velocity is way down.  ERA estimators aren't exactly banking on his improvement, though his peripherals and batted ball numbers are close enough to being in line with his career numbers that a comeback wouldn't be a big surprise.  Might be worth a flyer.

The only other useful piece in Cleveland's rotation is budding ace Cory Kluber, and I don't see any reason they'd want to move him.

The Twins have Phil Hughes, but he just signed a multi-year deal in Minnesota, and I don't imagine they have a huge interest in dealing him halfway through the first year of that contract.  He's pitched very well to this point, and may have spun himself in to a situation where he can be of value to someone.  I guess the big issue is that he's pounding the strikezone, but isn't giving up any homeruns.  Moving from Yankee Stadium to Target Field is obviously going to do that, so his stats need to be taken with a grain of salt, but a 3.46 xFIP looks pretty good regardless.  I'd say that Minnesota wants Hughes to be part of the plan, though.

The White Sox have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and then absolutely nothing.  Sale would cost a goddamn fortune if the White Sox are even interested in selling him, which I doubt.  Jose Quintana just got a five-year extension this past offseason, and is probably also going nowhere, given how well he's pitched.  Everyone else in that rotation is a testament to why the White Sox are in last place in the division.

AL West

The A's are obviously buyers, and are actually probably buying starters.  The Angels are the current wild card leader, which makes them buyers too.  Seattle seems like they're going for it this year, so they're pretty unlikely to sell anything either.

Having said that, they're only a game over .500 and 7 games out of first in the division, so they're far from a sure buyer.  If things get bad, though, there's not much to move around.  Felix is staying put, and Hisashi Iwakuma is relatively cheap next year, with a $7MM option.  If the M's decide to sell, it will likely be one of their young pitchers being moved for an impact position player.  Between Taijuan Walker, Erasmo Ramirez, Roenis Elias, James Paxton, along with Felix and Iwakuma-- someone might have to move sooner rather than later.  Elias isn't anything special right now, but there's certainly a bit of upside there, and Ramirez has pitched like dick this year.  Unfortunately, the Jays don't really have the position depth or the MLB-ready prospect to move.  Anthony Gose is a fit for Seattle, but that's not enough to bring something major back, and he's probably a contingency plan in case Colby Rasmus jets in the offseason.

Texas is an interesting case.  They'd be nuts to trade Yu Darvish, especially after spending so much money up front to get him.  I feel like I'd want to keep him around for at least most of the 6 years if I spent $50MM for the opportunity to pay him $56MM.

I'd expect Texas to try and move something, somewhere.  They have a lot of money committed to the next few seasons ($109MM for '15, plus arbitration raises and options), and a lot of it is currently on the disabled list.  Fielder, Harrison, Holland, Moreland and Soto are all hurt right now, and it's pretty impressive that they're at or around .500 at this point.  They have a top-10-or-so farm system that could graduate some guys to the bigs soon, so they may want to move some more expensive guys and try to get younger.

Off the top of my head, Darvish, Holland, Perez, Tepesch (Harrison can't really be relied upon) are the main 'when-healthy' rotation, though Texas is usually pretty active in the offseasons, and they have a couple of decent prospects coming through the woodwork.  I can certainly see them trying to move position players for pitching help, or hoping to retool for the future.  Ultimately, I don't expect Texas to move much pitching, unless Derek Holland comes back before the all-star break, pitches well, and gets moved.  Colby Lewis could be worth a shot, considering his .394 babip, but it's tough to call him an upgrade over anything.

Finally, Houston.  The Astros are in a pretty full-fledged rebuild mode, letting the young guys play, for the most part.  Scott Feldman is interesting.  He's striking out approximately nobody, but his LOB% is due for regression (maybe with a better defense behind him?), but I'm still not entirely sure he's an upgrade over anybody on the Jays right now.

Everybody else in this rotation is young, cheap, and have several years of club control remaining-- exactly what the Astros are looking for.  I'm sure more than one of these guys are going to get squeezed out, but there's no reason for that to happen now.  They're much more likely to hang on to all of their young guys and let them develop while they're still cheap, and then trade them before they get too expensive if they aren't winning.

The one exception is Collin McHugh.  McHugh is 27 on Thursday, and is severely out-performing his career numbers.  There's definitely a change in his strategy so far this year (he's pitching both up and down in the zone this year with his fastball) and it has led to more strikeouts, but he's 27 and hasn't done anything before this year.  It's a pretty small sample, and he may very well completely explode before the deadline, and the Astros may have zero interest in moving McHugh, but he could be a sell-high candidate for the Astros.

As a whole, there's really not a whole lot going on in the AL.  The best targets appear to be on teams that aren't likely to send much our way.  As far as AL teams go, Boston and Texas may be the most likely teams to move starters, but neither are sure things, many teams will be interested, and there's a strained relationship between the Jays and Red Sox already.

It looks to me as though if the Jays acquire a pitcher at the deadline, it will come from the National League.  We'll look at that tomorrow.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Fun with Math and Playoff Odds

Hi.  I'm back.  I kind of decided last year that posting anything and everything that I thought of was sort of detrimental to this whole project.  Too much riff-raff, not enough good stuff.  Then I noticed that I wasn't writing anything at all.  Which is also detrimental to the project.  Guess I just have to start writing reasonable stuff, or at least make more .gifs of things, which I haven't gotten around to figuring out on Mac just yet.

Anyway, I kind of remember during last year's dumpster fire, mathematically taking a stab at figuring out what the hell was going to happen with the club, and what exactly was needed to even have a chance at sniffing the playoffs.

Obviously things are a little bit different this year-- the Jays have played 61 games this season, and have a 5-game lead in the division at the time of my writing this, having finished off a sweep of the Tigers this afternoon.  This is compared with a 25-34 record on this date last year, which was 10.5 games back of first.

Last year in mid-May, the Jays had, according to various sources and forumlae, somewhere in the area of 0.3%-5.8% chance at making the playoffs.  Then they got hot and got themselves to within a few games of the division, but still only found themselves at a high-water mark of like 17%.

Basically, you can get a pretty good idea of a team's end-of-season winning percentage and chances of making the playoffs by looking at their first 1/3 of the season (I read something 2 years ago that suggests something like 44 games is enough, though I can't find it at the moment).

So let's have a look at the math this year, huh?  I think the big thing to consider here is the relative pace that the non-Jays AL East teams are on this year.  Last year, four teams had at least 32 wins at this point, which is a .550 (or better) winning percentage.  I believe the number I was looking for last year was 93 wins, thanks to the pace everyone was on-- Tampa won 92 and lost the division by 5 games.

This year, you've got the Jays (.606), and then Baltimore (.526) as the next best.  As such, the O's are on pace for 85 wins, which should make 90* wins a reasonably safe benchmark for winning the division.

Charts that can be clicked upon to embiggen:

and playoff odds that reflect this:

* -- If we want to use 93 wins again, which suggests that the Jays can play .554 ball through the end of the year, Baltimore needs to play .600 ball for the rest of the year, which is 97 wins extrapolated to a full year.  Boston would need to play .640 baseball, or 103 win ball.

** -- Fangraphs uses projected runs scored and allowed, and regresses YTD team performance in their future performance, and is probably worth checking out more than any of the others.

As far as that chart goes, it's just some quick back-of-the-envelope math that compares what teams have done so far this year with what they will need to do to get to 90 wins.  Those last two columns signify what winning percentage a team needs to get to 90 wins, and then the full season pace when that winning percentage is extrapolated.  In other words, if the Red Sox want to win 90 games this season, they need to play like a 99-win team from this point forward, whereas the Jays only need to win at an 85-win clip, thanks to the headstart they've given themselves.

So this all means a lot, right?

Of course not.  Lose 5 in a row, or 7 of 9 or whatever, and this division is entirely back to normal.  The point remains, however, that 61 games is a meaningful enough sample size to suggest that this result isn't a complete anomaly, even if we can expect some regression.

In closing, this brings me to a point made by Paul Beeston last week:
There’s no magic number for attendance; if there’s a deal, it’s not going to be money that determines if it’s going to be done, it’s going to be wins. If we’re winning we’ll do it. I hope we have that opportunity
It's fairly evident that the wins are there, and that the Jays need to make their improvements as soon as possible to cash in on their odds.  In fact, the wins don't even need to be there at anywhere near the pace that they're coming right now.

Of course, we know that teams aren't typically selling until the deadline, so as to maximize the return -- demand is higher at the deadline, after all, and teams don't want to start selling until they know that they're out of it for certain.  The point remains, though-- the combination of the division being weak, and the Jays getting themselves in to such a position early on means that the time to buy is whenever someone decides that they're ready to sell.