Monday, June 20, 2011

Three Thoughts on the Yunel Signing

These might be a bit too light or sparse to even be considered thoughts. Whims maybe, at best. (Have we made that joke before? It's one of our favorites.)

1) Timing is Everything: It's hard to think of a sweeter note on which to begin the interleague series in Atlanta than to have just announced a two-to-four year commitment to the guy that they could not wait to run out of town. If Yunel remains on pace this season and reclaims the 3.7/4.5 fWAR form he had in his initial pro seasons, the Jays will be getting a winning contribution from him as they ascend the AL East ranks, while the good old boys who chased him out of town will be stewing in their retirement and knocking up waffle house waitresses. Or something like that. Whatever: Eat it, ATL. (And do us a solid: Make sure that you fly the Canadian flag right side up this week, mmm'kay?)

2) Patience is a Virtue: There's this comment that keeps echoing in our head this year, courtesy of the father-in-law: "That Travis Snider...man, what a disappointment." This was in the first week of the season, mind you. And it's been echoed or magnified by others with any number of targets. Seemingly, for Toronto sports fans, the foam finger has been replaced by a pitchfork for one hand and a torch for the other, as any player who has a bad month/week/game/at bat gets figuratively chased out of town. As was the mistake in Atlanta with Yunel.

The point here is not to get overly comfortable with the likes of Juan Rivera or Edwin Encarnacion. (Though EE is actually younger than Yunel, for whatever that's worth.) But the notion of "this player is worthless, so he must be replaced immediately" is far too common considering what a reactionary and short-sighted response it is.

It's been stated repeatedly, here and all around the game: Baseball is a game of failure. If you cannot embrace that, then every throw in the dirt, every pop up to the infield, and every out with RISP will drive you nuts. You gotta breathe your way through that stuff, son.

And germane to this conversation: Yunel was once washing out of a dumb organization who wanted to give up on the future in favour of the next week's win. And then Brooks Conrad let the present skip under his glove anyhow.

3) Where Does Yunel Play?: The very first thought that we had upon seeing Yunel in a Blue Jays uni was: That cat's moving to third base. He's by no means the lanky, Tony Fernandez model of a shortstop who looks as though he's able to make all sorts of plays up the middle to save runs. Yunel is big and broad across the shoulders, and his straight ahead footspeed is not every impressive. He just doesn't look like he should be able to get to balls. And yet, as we've now had close to a full year of Yunel, we're starting to come back around on this thought.

(The fact that SS prospect Adeiny Hechevarria looks as though he may qualify as Alex Anthopoulos' first significant miss certainly helps to push this thought forward. Though, if we're heeding our own guidance from above, we won't lose the faith quite yet.)

There are a few things that we really like about watching Yunel play shortstop. He's cut down on some of the off-balance throws and has planted himself more consistently this year, firing hard and accurate lasers directly into Adam Lind's trapper. He also positions himself well with each batter, and has good lateral speed, meaning he gets to a lot of balls not by reacting to where the ball is hit, but by anticipating it and getting squared up in front of the ball.

We realize that probably sounds like middle age baseball writer hokum. It may well be. Yunel is posting a -1.9 UZR to this point, attributable mostly to a decline in range. (-2.5 Range Runs Above Average...or so they say. Generally, Yunel has been positive in this metric through his career, so we'll see what the second half brings.)

Besides: Cal Ripken Jr., who was 6'4" and 225 lbs played short until he was 35. Yunel (6'2", 200 lbs) should be able to handle the position until the end of this two-plus-one-plus-one deal, right?

6 comments:

mike in boston said...

But the notion of "this player is worthless, so he must be replaced immediately" is far too common considering what a reactionary and short-sighted response it is.

the way point number 2 reads is that, given the lesson learned from the Braves' premature trade of Yunel, Jays fans ought not to be crying out for the removals of EE and Rivera.

Is that your argument or am I misreading you? Do you really think that trading those guys would be an instance of "giving up on the future in favour of the next week's win"?

ck said...

the way I saw it, I thought getting rid of Yunel was more about him not "fitting in" with the rest of the team down there, not so much about his production

Tao of Stieb said...

I know that 2nd point is a bit tortured...in the case of Rivera, it porbably doesn't apply. But in EE's case, yeah, we'd like to see everyone chill and let the guy turn into David Ortiz, if that is possible.

The larger point being that you've got to relax, and take it easy on some of the guys who are underperforming, otherwise you'll send away a very useful piece of the future for a guy who might only help you in the short term.

As for Yunel's "fitting in" problem...I think a smart team doesn't go out of its way to chase it's own players out of town. Bad enough that the fans might want to do so.

Anonymous said...

But, Snider is a huge disappointment, right? This is the 2nd or 3rd totally lost season in a row for him, and now he has a concussion that could see him out for weeks or months.

. . . you can't "McGowan" everyone and hold on to them for years while they rehab and have setbacks, we need to move on from Snider and trade him this off-season if he builds enough value in AAA to get us something back.

It's all on you, Lawrie . . . see you in September.

Anonymous said...

Snider is 23. 23 for the love of god. 23!!!!!! For people clamouring for Eric Thames (24)....Snider is 23 for crying out loud!!!!!!! Most MLB players spend their age 23 season in AA or if their lucky AAA - Aaaaargh he's only 23!

Anonymous said...

Heh - literally laughed out loud at the flag comment - nice.