Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Tweet Bag

Is it back-to-work already? Oy. Upon returning to the cold climes of our home and native land last week, we were fully prepared to burrow into a hole and let our body sustain itself on its holiday meals for the next two months. Alas, duty calls.

We spent a good amount of time monastically pondering the Blue Jays over the past week or so, but before we share what we think passes for insight, we figured we'd take the pulse of the merry masses and answer some tweeted questions that have built up over the break.

First up, a two-parter from : A. Bailey went for very little. Jays could have offered more. But so could 20 other teams. Why did he fetch so little? Same could be said for Carlos Quentin. Is there something wrong with those 2 players.

The Red Sox got Bailey for Josh Reddick, a young left-handed hitting outfielder who is about on par with Eric Thames offensively and much better defensively. For a one-inning relief pitcher with a history of elbow trouble, that sounds about right to us. Hindsight is 20/20, and we're sure that some would now be willing to offer up Travis Snider in exchange, but we're frankly not sure that the A's would have been willing to do that deal.

We like Bailey, but there is something that has bothered us about the discrepancy between his strikeout-to-walk ratio at home versus on the road. For his career, he has a 5.58 K/BB ratio in Oakland, and a 2.27 K/BB ratio everywhere else, and there's something about that discrepancy that would have scared us away from offering something better than Thames or Snider in return for a guy who might throw 60 high-leverage innings.

As for Quentin, we'll confess to not knowing much about the package that is going to Chicago in return for him, but we'd offer this as an explanation as to why it might seem underwhelming: Jays fans aren't as plugged into the prospect speculation in the Padres system as they are to their own, and it could be that those a halfway decent pieces.

The question unasked but implied here is: "Should the Jays have made a move to acquire these players?" Given the moves to bring in Jason Frasor and the previous move to acquire Sergio Santos (who we like a lot more than Bailey), and given the logjam of bats that need to get playing time at DH and LF, we'd say no.

Next up, two related questions. asks: Which of Drabek, Cecil or McGowan would be best suited as a reliever? Also, asks: Where do you see McGowan next year? Also, if Drabek doesn't have a great spring, we he be at AA or AAA?

Before we answer the questions, indulge us as we point out the depth of the Jays' pitching corps. No, the Jays did not acquire Gio or Yu or whoever else became and overnight must-have. But there's tremendous depth to the Jays' pen, with some decent options at the back of the rotation.

As to which of the three starters would be best suited as a reliever, we'd lean towards McGowan. We still think that Cecil could be a good starter if he comes into the season in shape and with his head screwed on right, and given his success last July (2.19 ERA in 37 innings), there's still reason to be optimistic.

Drabek had too much trouble throwing strikes last season for us to even ponder having him come out of the pen, and his delivery seems to take a lot of effort and is rarely repeated from what we've seen. He could very well come back this season with a clearer mind and a quieter body, but our guess is that he's sent to Las Vegas for a month (while it is still something less than scorching hot) until the Jays need an additional arm.

As for McGowan, his inspirational story overshadowed the fact that he had lots of trouble finding the strike zone in his return, though his pitches still had some heat (93.0 MPH average on his fastball) and nice tailing movement. McGowan still seems like he'll be a bit of a long shot to make the rotation, and the Jays may prefer to just establish him as a reliever and let him spend the year in the pen, crowded though it has become.

You can never have too many pitching questions, so asks: Do you see the jays signing a SP for a one year plus option(Francis, Oswalt etc) till the younglings are ready?

Yes, we can absolutely see the Jays taking a run at a starter who would be a third or fourth in the rotation for a year or so. Roy Oswalt will have a lot of other options, and given what's become of the starting pitching market, we'd assume that a deal with a second year or options won't be out of the question for him. Would that be something that would interest you?

Oswalt's lost something on his fastball (1.2 MPH, on average versus 2010 according to Fangraphs), but wouldn't be the worst option for the back of the Jays' rotation. Jeff Francis, on the other hand, may well be the worst option for anyone's rotation at this point. Francis strikes out fewer than five batters per nine innings (4.48/9, if exactitude is your thing), and lobs in his fastball at 84.7 MPH. You remember the Jays' former lob-ballin' lefty Brad Mills? His fastball averaged 85.6 MPH, and he got his weak stuff crushed all over the yard. Francis is not an option.

More pitching questions? But of course! asks: Joel Carreno - SP? RP? Swing man? I feel like he has the k numbers to be a closer but will he get the opportunity?

Oh, my. How we love Joel Carreno. Could he start? Absolutely. Swing man? Yes, please. Close? Sure! Why not? Ultimately, a good pitcher serves the team best by pitching as many innings as possible for them, so the preferred landing spot for Carreno if he pitches next season the way he's been hurling in our head all offseason is in the rotation.

On the other hand, we fully buy into the Earl Weaver edict that the best training ground for a young pitcher is in the bullpen, and if Carreno were to be used as a swing man or long reliever to start the season, it would give the Jays a better opportunity to assess his ability to get out big league hitters.

Those 15 innings of work for Carreno last season were pretty sterling, but the likelihood that he'll post an ERA in the low-1.00's going forward is more than a bit far fetched. He'll need to face a lot more tough hitters over a lot more innings before we can truly assess what we have in him.

And have we mentioned how much we love the idea of 100-inning relievers lately?

Apparently, the only one who cares about the offense is , who asks: Assuming no more roster moves, is Lind is a lock to start all year? Can he lose his job by not hitting first couple months?

Yes, sort of, but yes. In spite of the fact that every jokester and pundit has already cleared out first base for any number of other options (but mostly, Prince Fielder), it seems to us that the Jays are at least committed to starting the season with Lind as the everyday first baseman.

We're still convinced that Lind's back hurt him for a significant part of last season, and that he never fully recovered from the work that he did in Spring Training to prepare for his new role at first. (Paging Dr. Tao!) Moreover, we think that in a better lineup where he can slide down to the four, five or six hole, Lind may well be headed for a better season in 2012.

It's still hard for us to understand how a player can go from a full season of a .370 OBP to two straight seasons of sub-.300, though we understand why fans have a hard time getting enthused over the idea of Adam Lind in the middle of the lineup. But we're fully willing to give Lind another shot to get back to being what we think he can be. The upside is worth it.

And that's your first tweet bag of 2012! Thanks for the questions, and feel free to give us your rational, constructive feedback in the comments.


CaptainLatte said...

Damn, late for the Tweetbag again. I wanted to ask why Scioscia loved Mathis so much; what does he see that I don't? Do you think Murphy will be able to wake up the MathBat?

Tao of Stieb said...

I'm not sure that Murph is the answer for a lot of the Jays' hitting woes.

As for what Scioscia loved about Mathis, he was so fixated on the minutiae of catching that he could overlook the four terrible at bats per game that Mathis had. When you love catching and you are fixated on the work your catcher does for 30-some at bats and 150 pitches per night, it's probably easy to overlook the deficiencies.

The Ack said...

Part of me thinks Lind rebounds and re-establishes himself as a solid .820ish OPS everyday 1st baseman.

The other part of me remembers his awful, awful AB's vs LHP.

So put me in the "conflicted" boat, I guess...

Anonymous said...

End the Tweet Bags. Bring back The Ack.

Ian - BJH said...

Rockets AND Dubble Bubble? 2012 is going to be a great year.

Anonymous said...

Still not sold on Lind I think he'll fall apart again this year. Seems we were saying that Hill and Lind would rebound at this time last year.
Of anything I'm optimistic about the arms this year. Romero was top notch. Morrow was unlucky but seemed to put things together towards the end when he started throwing a cutter. Alvarez was great and can only get better. Cecil is supposedly in the best shape of his pudgy life. McGowan and Drabek is the 5th starter. Best part is we have addition by subtraction. As we should not need to see JoJo for 20 or so horrible outings. So many things went wrong with our rotation last year that it can't be that bad this year. Let's put it this way. We pulled a kid out of AA who had 10 starts out of A ball and he was our 2nd best starter. It can't be as bad as last year.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Mathis' pitcher ERA was a full run under Napoli's and other Angel catchers. Perhaps AA thinks this is a market inefficiency. I have to think there are other variables, quality of the pitcher being the main one, but I'm sure AA did his homework.

Steve said...

Hard to imagine Mathis will have a big impact on the team this season. If all goes to plan he will only play 20 games. Big year for JPA.

No one should be fooled by Lind. You can live with his bat at 1B if you have sluggers elsewhere in the lineup. The AL East demands lots of runs and I don't see him doing enough to help drive the lineup.

Have no fear, Pitchers are coming. Cost of pitching in FA and trade is far too high for my liking. Would rather spend on a All Star bat than any arm. Can you think of any such bat?

Naomi said...

I can think of this bat, but I doubt that we will ever see him in Jay's uniform. Too many questions and holes in the 2012 Jays lineup mean that even that single bat would not propel us past Tampa Bay (why some say are the best team in the league), Boston (who I think have the top 9 batters in the game), and New York (who despite themselves still finished 1st place in the AL in '11).