Friday, September 9, 2011

Epic Tweet Bag! So Many Questions, Not Enough Answers!

We asked for your questions, and you provided them in abundance. (Even with our caveat that we wouldn't answer anything to do with the growing obsessions for Joey Votto, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.) So without any further dithering about, it's your Tweet Bag column!

asks: Do you think Lind can be fixed? And if so, how? And what about Aaron Hill being able to hit in the desert?

To the first part, we continue to wonder if there isn't something that's gone from nagging to chronic in Lind's back as the season has progressed. He missed a month, came back and raked for two weeks, then basically fell off a cliff for the remainder of the season. (He also appears to be swinging with his arms as opposed to his whole body, which is why we have our suspicions.) As for why he'd continue to play through it, we figure that he (and the Jays) though that it was a manageable injury...But we're getting way ahead of ourselves. But if it is injury-related, hopefully some rest will help to put him straight.

As for Hill? It's amazing what staring into the abyss will do to a player's motivation. Also, he's playing against lesser teams right now. Let's not assume too much.

Onward ho! asks: Do you think Farrell will replace either the pitching coach or the hitting coach in the off season?

A couple of things: First, we don't think that John Farrell makes that call himself. But second, we think that there will be turnover in the staff over the winter. Nothing overly dramatic, but we think it is entirely within the realm of possibility that one of the Jays' coaches gets snatched away by another team, which will mean that the roles of the remaining members of the staff get tweaked, and maybe Luis Rivera gets to sit in the dugout.

More along these lines from : How much should we read into the Mottola "call up"?

Chad Mottola has (according to the players who've come through Las Vegas) done a stellar job in helping to identify subtle tweaks to their mechanics that have helped them to thrive this year. So maybe he deserved a call-up, just as David Cooper or Adam Loewen did. But should his presence in Toronto mean that he should size up Dwayne Murphy's locker space? Not necessarily.

If there is something to read into this move, we'd point to the depth that the Jays are creating in their coaching ranks. The Jays already have more coaches than they can fit into uniform on any given night, and if they find individuals who are able to help, why not keep them in the system? Why not have the single largest coaching staff in the league? And why not offer a bit of enticement for minor league instructors to stay within the fold?

We're guessing that whether if his future is in Toronto or Las Vegas next year, Mottola is feeling the love. And when you feel the love, your interest in sticking it out rises, and your interest in seeking the next best opportunity might not be as strong.

Next up, fantasy baseball guru asks: WAR is wins above replacement, by definition, wouldn't this indicate the league's most valuable player?

Oh...if only it were that simple. On the one hand, a stat like WAR isn't going to speak to the narrative that some writers like to use in order to fill out their ballots. It might contribute, but it's amazing how the traditional markers (played for a contender, RBIs, stolen bases) still matter for a lot of people in the discussion.

On the other hand, there's a growing issue that we have with that specific metric, specifically around how it integrates defense into the equation. Increasingly, we're becoming uncomfortable with Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) as a precise measurement for a player's defensive output in a given season. Players seem to jump up and down dramatically from year to year, though we understand that more data (several seasons worth, apparently) can help to make this metric more meaningful. Having said that, it seems wrong to give it as much weight as it seems to have in the current configuration of Fangraphs' calculation of WAR, especially when discussing a single season performance.

There's an illusion of precision that WAR presents, because this player is 0.5 wins better than that player, and so on. But as ESPN's Keith Law notes, that's tantamount to a rounding error. We're not suggesting throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and we still feel pretty good about the calculation of offensive WAR, to which we often refer. In the interim, we're working hard on our new metric: The Cut of his Jib Above That Other Dude (COJATOD), which should be ready any year now, and will be absolutely bullet-proof.

Nextly, asks: Does Loewen have a place with Jays in 2012? If so, how do Jays juggle him with Snider & Thames?

As nice as the story is with Loewen reshaping himself and coming back as a position player, we don't think there's going to be room for him on the roster. The Jays not only have Snider and Thames to consider, but also Rajai Davis for their outfield spots next year. Certainly, some of those bodies might move in trades over the offseason, but there's still a few too many players ahead of him to figure on a spot for 2012. Our guess is that the Jays allow Loewen to test the market, and someone sees enough in him to offer him a minor league deal with a better chance of cracking the 25-man roster.

Our next contestant, has this: Two questions from the UK: Opening Day rotation using available pitchers/current roster, second base next season: KJ or AH?

How could we not answer a question from another continent?

There were a few rotation questions that came through this week, which we understand given all the extra arms kicking around the team this week. We could spoil the fun by saying that it's almost impossible to know. But we're not that much of a spoil-sport, so here's what we can figure: Ricky Romero (for sure), Brett Cecil (pretty sure), Brandon Morrow (uneasily unsure), Henderson Alvarez (optimistically unsure), and...well...from here, it's a crapshoot. We'll have a better sense after Sunday's outing from Dustin McGowan, but we'd lean towards him as the leading candidate to at least break camp with the team.

This all supposes no player movement, which is why asks: What are the odds the Jays go after CJ Wilson or Harden in the offseason? Also possible trade targets?

We'd figure Harden would be a better bet than Wilson, if only because we're reasonably certain that the Yankees will just keeping stacking thousands of $100 dollar bills in front of his house until he says yes. We'd probably prefer to give Harden a whirl in the bullpen, but we suspect that he might prefer a rotation spot. If no one else is offering that assurance, the Jays might have a shot. (And that has nothing to do with his being Canadian.)

As for trade targets, it's far too early to even guess. There's a lot of baseball to play yet, and many moves to be made between now and the winter meetings. Ask us in four months.

Also, relatedly, asks: Which current prospect not yet with the team will have the biggest impact in 2012?

Experience seems to indicate that the players who unexpectedly sneak into the mix tend to be pitchers, because you need a lot of them to get through 162 games. The playoff rotation of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats is as good a place as any to start your search, as four very good hurlers have landed there by season's end: Chad Jenkins (23), Deck McGuire (22), Nestor Molina (22) and Drew Hutchison (20) have all advanced through one or more minor league levels, and all have looked good (at least according to the numbers) in doing so. Jenkins would seem to have reached the age where he's ready to ascend, although he misses the fewest bats amongst that group (6.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 2.74 K/BB rate).

The other three put up drool-inducing numbers through this season.

-McGuire (at high-A Dunedin and AA New Hampshire): 8.9 Ks/9, 3.14 K/BB
-Molina (Dunedin/NH): 10.2 Ks/9, 9.25 K/BB
-Hutchison (Low A Lansing, Dunedin and NH): 12.6 Ks/9, 10.5 K/BB

Based on his experience at the higher levels, we'd guess that Molina is the most likely of that group to slip through and make an impact next season, though don't completely forget about Hutchison. A debut at 21 isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

Let's wrap this quickly. You've all got things to do this weekend, right?

: In what capacity, if any, do you see Johnny Mac coming back to the jays next season? At most, 25th man to start the season. Regular pinch-runner. Backup SS/2B/3B. Possibly transitioning into a coaching role.

: Do you think MLB should allow trading of draft picks? No, absolutely not. Did you see what the Pirates did down the stretch? Dumb teams would trade their picks to smart teams, who would stockpile them and...wait...this might work out well for the Jays!

: Scott Parker: Great Spur, or Greatest Spur? *Shakes fist* Why you. (This is a soccer thing. Gord is making me cry.)

: OK! I have decided that the Jays need Brett Gardner. Am I nuts? How do we make this happen? You are nuts. Why would the Yankees let a good player like that go? Back to the video games for you, son!

Finally, on a happy note, this from @: If you could drink a beer with 1 current Jay, 1 former Jay, and 1 other mlb player, who would they be? We'd grab José Bautista, Carlos Delgado, and Miguel Cabrera and a case of Presidente, and just listen to them talk about hitting jacks all night long. (Of course, we wouldn't understand enough Spanish to know what they'd be saying, so we might need to rethink this.)

As always, thanks for all of your questions, and we'll do one more of these before the end of the season. Have a great weekend!

5 comments:

Rob said...

Nice post, but come on....you really think there's room for both Mottola and Murphy on the Big Club? You're not going to have two different hitting coaches, especially these two who seem to have two pretty divergent philosophies.

It just wouldn't work. That said, I hope we keep Mottola.

Tao of Stieb said...

That's not what I said Rob.

I said I wanted to keep Mottola in the org, and if giving him additional opportunities like this makes him feel good about his position with the team, then that's awesome.

Paying attention to the depth of the instructional staff is important. That's a place where Toronto can easily distinguish itself.

Anonymous said...

on the other hand, don't the jays already have more coaches with the big club than they are allowed to dress for games?

Andrew said...

Good choice, I've heard drinking with Cabrera can become an epic night.

Anonymous said...

dude, you only answered 1 of the 2 questions from the UK guy, @SmellyMoss, & completely ignored the one about 2B nxt yr....wtf?