Friday, November 23, 2012

Tweet Bag - Pertinent Questions, Impertinent Answers

These are interesting times, no?

About three weeks ago, I knew that between work, family, home and all that other non-blog life that I allegedly have, I was about to head into a dark tunnel. "But thank goodness the Jays aren't really going to do much until after the Winter Meetings" I thought to myself. Hey-o!

But enough of my excuses and explanations. Your questions and queries have piled up. Let's get to it.
Oh, for sure, and if my immediate reaction to the Marlins trade was somewhat tempered, the subsequent signings and announcement of John Gibbons' hiring have certainly left me feeling light-headed with excitement. Which isn't to say that this team is guaranteed of anything next year, but it certainly piques your curiosity going into 2013.

My greatest concern heading into the free agent signing period was that the Jays would shell out and overpay on a couple of big contracts to players who might not be worthy aside from the mere fact that they were available. And so the thought of six year deals for Anibal Sanchez or Edwin Jackson had me feeling dread at the possibility of this "big splash" merely for the sake of filling the transactional void.

But what the Jays have managed to do is bring in an elite player at a premium position for the long term and a potential ace for the 2013 season, then supplemented those moves with a reasonable deal for a player who is younger than you think and could be an all-star. There's much to like about that.

I think John Gibbons was an inspired choice. I couldn't be happier to see him back. And that's coming from someone who beat up on Gibby in the early days of this blog's existence.

I took some time in recent days to look back on my gripes or complaints about Gibbons, and it seems as though my greatest hangup was his constant rejigging of the lineup. Which is odd, because my biggest complaint about the last two managers was their unwillingness to change the lineup or reconsider "roles". Towards the end of his run, though, I think I had come around to appreciate Gibbons. I liked how he handled the pitching staff, and thought that he was tactically sound.

One thing that I think was under-appreciated  in his first stint with the Jays was the fact that Gibbons didn't indulge in "small ball". He didn't send runners or bunt or make calls just for the sake of injecting his decisions into the offensive game. After two years of Farrellball, I think we'll welcome the change.

As for who I might have hired: I was beginning to lean towards Sandy Alomar Jr. as my personal preference, and the influx of Latin players certainly helped to sway that thinking. But truth be told, I think the Jays made the better choice.
Although Josh Johnson might end up being the ace of the staff, I'd give the ball to Brandon Morrow on Opening Day. The role of "Opening Day Starter" is largely ceremonial, but I think that Morrow has earned that recognition for what he's done over the past two years. Also, I'd rather not hand it to the New Guy. But that's just me.

Moreover, I think that it is the sort of recognition that he would appreciate, and that would motivate him. It's easy to slip too far into the rational analysis sometimes and neglect to recognize that these players are people.  and sometimes, they need a pat on the back. Or a hug. Or a $10 LCBO gift card. Something to warm their hearts and make them feel special.

(I'm not even joking. Not really. Maybe a bit.)
I'd tweeted at some point that I thought the Jays should consider rotating Travis d'Arnaud into the 1B/DH mix along with Lind - presuming he's still here - and Encarnacion. I know the Jays had begun to get him reps at first in Las Vegas before he hurt his knee and ended his season last year, so I don't think that I am far off.

However, it's worth remembering how valuable d'Arnaud could be as a catcher if he is able to progress and become an above average offensive player while manning that position. There are only so many really good offensive catchers - Buster Posey, Joe Mauer, maybe Yadier Molina, and it drops off quickly from there - whereas you can find first basemen or designated hitters.

I think that the best course of action for this season is to allow J.P. Arencibia to remain as the starter, with John Buck backing up and d'Arnaud getting a month or two in Buffalo to prove he's healthy. But I think they should continue to give him a start or two per week at first if his bat merits it, so that if the Jays have a DH/1B opening, he can come up and get regular at bats.

Over the last two seasons, Smoak has posted a .685 OPS (.290 OBP) in 1024 plate appearances. Adam Lind has a .732 OPS (.303 OBP) in 895 PAs. Both have a 96 OPS+ in that time.

I don't see how there's any improvement to be found, unless you really put a lot of stock into the idea that Smoak still has his best years ahead of him. I would consider him if I didn't have to give up anything in return, but nothing more than that.

What's great about that list is now much positional and lineup flexibility the Jays will have next year. There are a lot of options that get covered off even with just those four players.

If either of Izturis or Bonifacio take the everyday second base job -  and that's my suspicion - then I think that you need to find someone who can cover off the infield in a pinch. The Rockies' Jonathan Herrera might be an option if he were non-tendered, though I use him more as an example.

You probably need one more outfielder as well in that list. Moises Sierra might be an option as the 25th man, though I wouldn't want to ever put him in centerfield, and Davis can't play there for any extended period of time. I've also seen Ryan Roberts' name on lists of players who may be non-tendered, and as a player who can slip from the outfield to the infield when needed, he could be a decent option. Though clearly, I'm not overly enamoured with any of these options.

But since the Jays have brought back John Gibbons, might I suggest that the Jays repatriate John McDonald as well? Sure, they have better offensive options on the bench, but as a versatile and beloved former Jay, I wouldn't mind him as the 25th man.

I have no idea why people would get upset by AA answering a question in French. If that was a complaint, it is beyond stupid.

As to the question of broadening the fan base: I have found that the Quebecois have been very reticent to warm up to the Jays, so I don't think that you'll see much of a movement of former Expos fans embracing the Toronto team. But it is worth noting that there are a half-million people in Ontario for whom French is their first language.

I don't think that you'll see bilingual announcements at the Rogers Centre any time soon, but it certainly doesn't hurt anyone to have a GM who can field a question in French once in a blue moon.
On the one hand, I'm tempted to dismiss your question by suggesting that you're getting way too excited too early about this team. Let's see them lead their division in June before we start comparing them to the greatest teams in franchise history.

I don't think the Jays will have three players with OBPs above .400 (as they did in 1993 with Olerud, Alomar and Molitor), and I don't think that they have the depth of pitching that the 1992 Jays did. But this is a pretty good team on paper, and they might have a lineup that runs five or six deep and enough pitching to get them to 90 wins. If all goes well (and it so seldom does, right?)

"Complainy." Just a stab in the dark, there. Though with lots of precedent.
Reyes SS
Rasmus CF
Bautista RF
Encarnacion 1B
Melky LF
Lawrie 3B
Lind DH
Bonifacio 2B
Arencibia C

Morrow SP.

So there. 

Edwin Encarnacion. He's dreamy.
Might be a decent buy-low option in that role, though his strikeouts would make people wistful for Kelly Johnson. I also thought that he had hit well at Rogers Centre, but the numbers aren't that impressive. Also, I think he wants a full time gig.
Shovel. My walk is smaller than a batters box.
I take the over. Even with his injury-hampered seasons, he's averaged 136 games per year since his first full season.

And one last one before we call it a day:
This is one that's hard for me to nail down, in part because I actually enjoy myself when I am able to make it to the game. I hear a lot of belly-aching that there aren't better food choices, and that the beer is too expensive and it's not from a craft brewery nearby and the grass too fake and the scoreboard is too busy and there are too many ads and the PA is too loud and the stadium isn't pretty enough. I dunno. Like I say: I enjoy myself at the ballgame, because I'M AT THE BALLGAME. But that's me. I'm pretty easygoing that way.

I will say that I think there has been a lot done over the past five years to help enhance the fan experience, from the vast expansion of the Jays Shop to many new food options on the 100-level concourse. The new options aren't mind-blowing, but I find that most of my non-baseball friends who come to a game with me are more interested in typical ballpark fare: hot dogs and the like.

One thing that might be nice is to see some WiFi installed, at least in certain nerd sections. (Might I suggest section 231?) The wireless coverage in the stadium can be dodgy at times, oddly enough, so to have a spot for those who like to have a phone or tablet fired up through the game might make sense.

Ultimately, the team shouldn't rest on its laurels. If there are some of the "improvements" that didn't necessarily resonate with fans - the chicken wing concession comes to mind - then they should always look to improve on those.

One hopes that the spirit of adventurous improvement extends beyond the field, though to be frank, I'd be thrilled to scarf back a hot dog and fries at a playoff game this year.


Stephen said...

I read this article on "Optimizing your Lineup by The Book," based on Tom Tango's "The Book." and it seemed to make a lot of sense. Looking at last year's numbers and Bill James projections, I think a lineup more like this would be best. The big points are that your best hitters should be in spots 1, 2 & 4, and that after #5, put your fast guys ahead of your slower singles hitters, so they can get home, and not be blocked by slow base-runners (sure makes sense to me):

Melky Cabrera
Jose Bautista
Jose Reyes
Edwin Encarnacion
Brett Lawrie
Emilio Bonafacio
Adam Lind
JP Arencibia
Colby Rasmus

Stephen said...

Oops -- here's the link:
The Book

Anonymous said...

No that I agree with that strategy, but even if you follow it...why hit Arencibia ahead of Rasmus? Bit of a speed gap there (and between him and Lind too).

Anonymous said...

Gibbons has already said what his first 4 are:

1 Reyes
2 Cabrera
3 Bautista
4 Encarnacion

He specifically said Melky would be at the top of the lineup. AA and Gibby both have said Reyes was leadoff.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if the batting line-up actually lived up to its potential. This past year's line-up looked promising with Bautista, Encarnacion, Lawrie, Arencibia and Rasmus in the mix, but it largely fizzled due to injuries and down years from Johnson and Escobar. I won't even mention the persistence of Adam Lind and how he solves absolutely nothing.

I'll temper the excitement until maybe the end of May. I'm not expecting 9 runs a game, I just hope that parts of the batting line-up don't resemble some kind of existential pit of chronic despair, like it did this past season.

yeah said...

Rasmus instead of Melky in the #2 hole?????? Having your own blog I thought you might know something about baseball.... Can you be so kind as to look up OPS, OBP, wOBA, wRC and BABIP over the past two years for both players please? Let me know how that goes.

yeah said...

sorry for being a dick, I don't know what came over me. I do, however, strongly object to putting Rasmus in the #2 spot. He can't get on base!!!!

Anonymous said...

I really think that the Jays are making some headway in Quebec. TVA sports broadcast a bunch of their games in French last year, and I've met more than a few francophone fans who are recent converts.

Jabalong said...

While I can appreciate the benefits of Wifi (free!), how is mobile reception (3G, 4G) at Rogers Centre?

Hear a lot of people complaining about poor Wifi at games, which has me wondering why they wouldn't just be using their mobile data connections?

These days, don't people have pretty generous data plans on their home networks, even unlimited?

(PS. Haven't lived in Canada in 10 years, so these are all genuine interrogatives.)