Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Get Ready for the Future

Coming into this year, the notion of "The Future" for the Jays was a dreadful one.

We say this mostly because the future was some unattainable goal, far down the road and only in some sort of hypothetical world where the Jays budget suddenly increases, and all of the draft picks pan out and the Yanks and Sox decline and the Rays return to the mean and the Orioles continue to suck. Once you start using that many cards to build your house, it's easy to see how it falls apart before you even have it built.

But the past week has been an interesting one for us. Maybe we've dropped our rationalistic guard a bit, or maybe we're just a little more attuned to what's going on inside. Whatever it is, we have to admit to feeling very differently about this team. Much of this new, weird feeling likely comes from the lead up to the non-waiver trade deadline, and what the action (and lack thereof) says about the direction that's being taken, and the current state of the franchise.

As the Jays moved from the spring to the summer months, the conventional wisdom held that the team would eventually stop competing and sell off just about everything that wasn't nailed to the turf. It's the sort of thing that signals to the fans that you've given up, and that you're just trying to make the most of whatever shit sandwich platter you have in front of you. But the moves made through Alex Anthopoulos' inaugural season at the helm have shown exceptional foresight, and an ability to recognize that moving early in some situations and standing pat in others can remove you from the perfunctory urgency brought on by the arbitrary dates on the baseball calendar.

Acquiring Fred Lewis early in the season and Yunel Escobar well ahead of the trade deadline helped set the Jays up to a point where they didn't need to move near the deadline. Moreover, the decision to move Brett Wallace - heartily criticized by yours truly on Twitter in the moments after it was announced - was facilitated by the fact that the Blue Jays have a plethora of corner infield and outfield options that are under control and reasonably priced. Even without Wallace's high ceiling bat (and fat ass) next season, there's a full cupboard for now and next year, and something (in Anthony Gose) for down the road.

As we've been moving the tiles in the slide puzzle around, it amazes us how many premium pieces there are already on the Blue Jays roster, and how little room there will be next year for new faces in new places on the 25 man roster. The Blue Jays could legitimately not pick up a single piece in the offseason, and still assemble a roster that has the potential to win 90 or more games in 2011. J.P. Arencibia and Kyle Drabek may well shift into the big club's plans for next year, as will Brad Mills, Josh Roenicke, and Marc Rzpeczynski.

A new first and/or third baseman may need to be found, although the Jays won't need to shell out in free agency or the trade market to pull in someone, especially when internal options include moving either Aaron Hill or José Bautista to third and possibly Adam Lind to first. Or they can settle for a player who is posting a 106 OPS+ in the coming year. Say what you will: Edwin Encarnacion is not a bad option.

(And to drive home the point, as Wilner has through much of this season: EE's career OPS is 30 points higher than Aaron Hill's. Cover their names, and you'd almost certainly pick EE to be on your roster.)

Through all of this, we're finding something to grasp that isn't a vision of the Jays that we're talking ourselves into. (If you want examples of that particular mindset, may we suggest the 1500 or so posts on this blog.) To us, the future seems less like something tantalizingly out of reach, and more like something that's about to come sharply into focus.

It's truly an exciting time to be a Blue Jays fan.

23 comments:

eyebleaf said...

This has no doubt been the most exciting Blue Jays season in recent memory.

(And to drive home the point, as Wilner has through much of this season: EE's career OPS is 30 points higher than Aaron Hill's. Cover their names, and you'd almost certainly pick EE to be on your roster.)

Mind: blown.

The Ack said...

Can't you save The Epic material for mid-week or so? You know how bad this makes me look coming off my weekend keyboard mashing?

Ghostrunner said...

And to drive home the point, as Wilner has through much of this season: EE's career OPS is 30 points higher than Aaron Hill's. Cover their names, and you'd almost certainly pick EE to be on your roster.

I would be more inclined to agree with this if Aaron Hill's nickname was E-ron Hill or E4 Hill. Defense matters! As does not being a fat guy!

Drew

Fangarello said...

I love the post. I do wonder, however, if once we start seeing the line drives scream their way towards Adam Lind at first base or Lind stretching for Ill-thrown balls to first, whether some sort of posthumous Lyle Overbay Commendation Affiliate might spring up next year. Jays fans have been pretty hard on Lyle over the past year & as things appear right now I fear we may miss him when he's gone. Any further thoughts about first base?

Tao of Stieb said...

Folks are gonna miss Lyle Overbay when he's gone. That's for damned sure.

Because we had a decade of Carlos Delgado at first, people got the impression that you could put any stiff there and it doesn't matter what they do. But if you take a moment over the last few weeks of the season and watch Lyle Overbay's footwork at first, you'll be stunned at just how good he is over there. He rarely takes a wrong step, which is pretty critical at first.

Having seen Adam Lind run the bases, and how his feet can get tangled, I worry about the transition to first, supposing that he goes there.

Frankly, I could see Snider as a better fit, although I'd bet he still wants to play the outfield long term.

One other notion: Maybe JoBau ends up at first. Might seem like a waste of a great RF arm, but if you need to find lineup spots for good bats...

Ty said...

Another post where you took everything I was thinking, and said it much more succinctly than I ever could have. Agree 100% - it's a very exciting time to be a Blue Jays fan.

I've seen a few people touting EE's offensive resurgence since being recalled from AAA, but credit where credit is due: dude has been playing some very good defense as well. He's made a few spectacular plays, but even better, I no longer cringe when he has to throw the ball across the diamond; his throws have been strong and accurate.

Tao of Stieb said...

@Drew

The defensive part is obviously the stick in the rudder to that equation.

But check this out:

2010 UZR: EE -1.4, Hill -2.0
2010 UZR/150: EE -4.3, Hill -4.0

Cover the names...

eyebleaf said...

Jesus. I thought I couldn't quite possibly become even more disappointed and disillusioned with Aaron Hill. I was wrong.

Tao of Stieb said...

In Aaron's defense: His BABIP is ridiculously low this year. Then again, he's hitting fewer line drives and a lot more fly balls. Which means there's something fucked with his swing.

Ghostrunner said...

Good point, though I'll (safely) counter that UZR is a long for stat.

The last two years bring Hill closer and closer to simply league average, with +3 UZR/150 for his career. Dewan's +/- (or DRS) loves him though, giving him a +19 last year and +5 this.

EE comes with a -12 UZR/150 for his career, with DRS echoing the thoughts - though they support that he's about league average in 2010.

Hill's slippage is troubling, no doubt. His offense offers few, if any, glimmers of hope this year. He's a streaky dude but this is sick.

Ghostrunner said...

For the record, I meant "safely" in the "chickenshit bet-hedging" sense.

Not "safely because I'm right", as I'm likely not.

Dustin said...

Regarding Aaron Hill: I'm still under the belief that his injury in April affected him long after he came off the DL, at least defensively. He had almost zero range in the early part of the season and I was beginning to think his days of being the second coming of O-dog were gone and his new days of being Dan Uggla were upon us. However, over the past month or so his defensive range has improved considerably and he looks close to the Aaron Hill of old. I see a major resurgence in his overall game for the rest of the year and next year as well.

mike in boston said...

And to drive home the point, as Wilner has through much of this season: EE's career OPS is 30 points higher than Aaron Hill's. Cover their names, and you'd almost certainly pick EE to be on your roster.

in addition to the points made by others, years removed from his best offensive season:

Hill: 1
E5: 3

i don't know anyone who thinks E5 is going to OPS 830 again. most people expect Aaron to bounce back.

Ghostrunner said...

The ugly side of this debate comes back to optics. EE appears slightly out of shape, had a bad rep coming in. Aaron Hill is a gritty gamer.

I think the bad rap and our inability to shake our preconceived notions of the kind of player we're talking about weighs heavier than the hushhushracialhushhush issues we ARE NOT talking about.

Tao of Stieb said...

Mike:

I don't doubt that people believe that Aaron is going to bounce back and Edwin won't. That's half of my argument here: People want to believe in Aaron Hill, and they don't have any time or inclination to like anything about EE.

The point is that people somehow have made up their minds that Aaron Hill is an up and comer, and that EE is done, even if EE is younger.

Here are a few more things to consider:

Number of seasons with OPS over .800: EE 2, Hill 1.

Number of seasons with OPS over .750: EE 4, Hill 2.

(And plus, I know that people are going to want to think that EE is an aloof dude who doesn't hustle and doesn't care, and that Hill is a Gordie or Dougie, and deserves the captain's C on his chest. But in every interview that I see of Hill, he comes off like a prick. Yeah, you heard me: A dickhead. There. I said it. Let the hate mail come pouring in.)

The Ack said...

Gotta say, I don't see where that comes from re: Hill comes off like a prick.

I loved his attitude heading into the season, urging the "young guys" to recognize the opportunity they have, etc.

I just don't see what you're seeing there, I suppose.

Tao of Stieb said...

I don't know. I guess I see him on those Blackberry videos, and he seems like a jerk.

EE Superfan said...

Aaron Hill Hatred Advisory readings, anyone?

Ty said...

And with the future in mind, tonight we get to see Lind's first professional start at first base. And Snider stays in LF, with Fred Lewis DHing again.

Four months ago, I never thought I'd say this, but so much has changed since then: I love Cito Gaston.

Anonymous said...

Basically, Overbay has been (since the contract) the worst first basemen with an everyday job.
http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=1b&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=300&type=1&season=2010&month=0

A .327 won't make me miss Overbay.

Tim in London said...

@ Ty:
I agree EE has been much better of late. I wonder if, even when he has his dumpster fire defensive outings that we don't realize how lucky we were to watch Rolen at third. I was always amazed at how that guy would pick the ball and then fire it to first so accurately that Richard Simmons could have caught it.

Steve G. said...

I agree with Anon 739 - Overbay stinks. I don't really care if he picks it like Doug Minky, his line is 249 / 330 / 414, he plays first and he's 33. He was OK last year, due to a 12-point spike from his career average in OBP, but he was just passable in 2008 and well-below average in 2007. So in five Toronto years, he's been bad in two, good in two and great in one (2006). If he'll come back for less than $2 million, maybe it's worth kicking the tires on him, but otherwise, he looks cooked. (Where's Randy Ruiz when you need him?)

Also, isn't Aaron Hill a second baseman? It's much harder to find a decent bat at that position than 3B, or at least, it usually is. His performance record is as spotty as Overbay's and EE's, but there aren't as many viable offensive options there as with 1B and 3B.

Buck16 said...

My friend met Aaron Hill in the Skydome Hotel two weeks ago as he had a drink with Buck Martinez after a Saturday game.

She had got a ball at the game and she sheepishly asked him to sign it, which he did without hesitation. She said they chatted and he was very nice, and then his wife and kid came into the bar and he acted like an excited Dad, picking his daughter up and playing with her... y'know just being a regular guy.

A prick would tell my friend to fuck off. Although, her undeniable hotness probably didn't hurt...