Showing posts with label Jays History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jays History. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

McGriff Pennance, Overestimating Overbay, and the First Base Pantheon

(And before we get started, it's nice to be back. We were off in some of the loveliest places on earth, but we were working our ass off while there, and barely had a moment to spare. It's nice to be back here with you kids.)

In the midst of a bit of preemptive nostalgia for the presumably departing Lyle Overbay, we shot out a quick tweet last week speculating on the order of the pantheon of Blue Jays first basemen over the years: "Carlos, Olerud, Upshaw, Lyle. Right?"

Boy, were we wrong, and didn't you let us know it. We got dozens of responses that night (which we didn't see for another day or so) quite rightly haranguing us for leaving out Fred McGriff from that list. It was an honest oversight from a tired and overworked lad who had barely thought the notion through before he tossed it out.

That oversight shouldn't be regarded as a slight towards McGriff, nor should it be interpreted as an indication of our lack of regard for his contributions to the Jays. You might not remember it, but in the eve of last year's 17th/18th Anniversary Notalgia Orgy for the World Series teams, we made a bit of an impassioned plea for recognition of McGriff's part in the team's success in the late '80's.

Still, the backlash against our omission of McGriff (as well as John Mayberry, which is another good point) got us to thinking a little more about that pantheon of first baggers.

Looking back over the history of the team, there were really only six players who held down the position for any length of time: Mayberry, Upshaw, McGriff, Olerud, Delgado and Overbay. (Shea Hillenbrand and Eric Hinske need not apply here.) And a casual look back at their numbers (mostly OPS and OPS+) suggest that in our rush to canonize Lyle, we may have inadvertently underscored his underwhelming performance in comparison to those other names.

Here's what you get when you take that glance.

Career OPS as a Blue Jay:

Delgado - .949 (in 12 years, 1423 games and 6018 plate appearances)
McGriff - .919 (5 years, 578 games, 2322 PAs)
Olerud - .866 (8 years, 920 games, 3689 PAs)
Mayberry - .802 (5 years, 549 games, 2102 PAs)
Overbay - .800 (5 years, 693 games, 2731 PAs)
Upshaw - .762 (9 years, 1115 games and 4172 PAs)

OPS+ as a Jay:

McGriff - 153
Delgado - 142
Olerud - 130
Mayberry - 119
Overbay - 111
Upshaw - 104

(We'd love to supplement this with WAR as a Jay, but we haven't quite figured out that trick. Yet.)

So on that cursory look, you'd almost be left with the impression that Overbay rates as the second worst regular first baseman in the franchise history. (And don't even get us started on how Willie Upshaw has somehow become a legend in retrospect. We love the guy, but we clearly have no perspective on him.)

But don't get us wrong: We're not calling Overbay a bad player, and we're not going to go down the road of calling him out for not being a bigger power threat because "you gotta have that from your first baseman, right?" Lyle's greatest strength was his defense, which is hard to account for, though our memory tells us we'd rate him at the top of the list. (With a caveat that our remembrances of John Mayberry are vague at best.)

Still, looking at the top line numbers for those six guys, it's hard not to be left with the impression that our affection for Lylo and our desire to push him as one of the greats might have something to do with his historical proximity, and our desire to want to think kindly of him as we send him out into the world.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The last time The Manager saw the end of the road

(You see that picture above? That's what you get when you can't bring yourself to type the actual name of The Manager into a Google Image Search.)

Ideally, this year will mark the end of The Manager's second tenure in Toronto. (Or at the very least, the end of his tenure in a uniform and in the dugout. He'll never really leave the Jays.) With that in mind, we started to cast our thoughts back to The Manager's final season of his initial managerial stint.

With so much time having passed since that 1997 season, it's almost hard to recall just what a mess that season was. So we took a stroll through Baseball-Reference's archives for the team, and found some fuel to our irrational distaste for the man we once championed as an under-appreciated genius.

A team that was built to win. Sort of.
For anyone who wants to be the contrarian, and posit that the 1997 squad was a bad team that no manager could fix, think again. That year, the team underwent significant change, bringing in big time free agents Roger Clemens and Benito Santiago (fresh off a 30 homer season).

The team jettisoned John Olerud - never one of The Manager's favorites - in that offseason, sending he and his team-leading .854 OPS to the Mets for starter-closer-starter-closer-starter Robert Person. (And before you make the claim that this was to clear room for Carlos Delgado, you should know that Joe Carter was first baseman to start the season. Because The Manager loved Joe, even after he fell off the cliff. So there.)

Moreover, they also sent a number of prospects (who turned out to be nothing much) to Pittsburgh for Orlando Merced, Carlos Garcia and Dan Pleasac (who, aside from Pleasac, turned out to be nothing much). With the acquisition of the 30 year-old veteran Merced, The Manager could push the young Shawn Green back to the bench, in spite of his two respectable seasons as a 22 and 23 year-old (.835 OPS in '05, .790 OPS in '06).

This was truly a team built for The Manager. He could rely on a group of aging, rickety old sods whose reputations far outshone their performance. He could field a lineup with a 38 year-old Otis Nixon and his rapidly declining defense. He could continue to pencil the 37 year-old-and-declining Carter into the cleanup spot for most of the season (and the three-spot when he really struggled). He could push Delgado and Green into the sixth and eight spots in the lineup, or park them on the bench in favour of Juan Samuel or Rueben Sierra.

(And let's not forget what a massive clusterfuck that whole incident was. The Manager felt that two years worth of decent production wasn't enough proof of Green's worth, and he felt that Green still had to play his way into the lineup, even as veterans scuffled their way into playing time. Somehow, the rotted-out hull of Rivera, who had just been tossed to the scrap heap by the Reds, merited at bats while the future of the franchise languished...Nobody recount this story to Travis Snider, okay?)

As the year went on, and the Sierra experiment blew up, the Jays slipped to the back of the AL East. It took until June 23rd, when the team was already 14 1/2 games out of first, before The Manager would slide Delgado, by far the team's best hitter, into the cleanup role. King Carlos would eventually hit fourth in 40 games, which is exactly one more than the number of games that busted-out mediocrity Mariano Duncan (and his sub-McDonaldian .531 OPS) hit second.

Duncan had taken over the two-hole and second base duties from Carlos Garcia, who spent most of the season revealing himself to be Carlos Garcia: A below-average slap hitter with terrible plate discipline (.253 OBP, .309 SLG).

That 1997 season was a long arduous slog, made all the more so by the high expectations coming into the year. The light at the end of the tunnel came only after it was clear that the season was finished, and the team began moving towards its next generation. Shannon Stewart would step in for Nixon, Green would get a regular turn, and newly-acquired José Cruz Jr. would take Merced's spot in the lineup. The team that would go on to win 88 games the next season under Tim Johnson was beginning to finally take shape, while The Manager was setting the scene for an acrimonious and unapologetic exit.

In the midst of a late season slide that saw them lose 11 of 13 games, the team finally gave The Manager his walking papers on September 23rd. Joe Carter would switch his jersey number to 43 in memoriam. Pitching coach Mel Queen took over for the final five games of the season, and promptly moved Green into the two-hole, while relegating Duncan and Garcia to the bench.

The team went 4-1.

(And in case you are wondering: Yeah, there is totally a way that we could look at this and point the finger of blame at Gord Ash. Except that The Manager had a lot of sway in those days over the young GM through his close relationship with team President Paul Beeston. Umm...oh. Ruh roh.)

Friday, September 7, 2007

It was twenty years ago today (well, this month)

If the Jays' offensive hadn't induced enough nausea for you so far this year, then read this article from the Hardball Times' John Brattain, who compares the Jays' hitting with RISP to that of the Jays during their week long meltdown in 1987.

We're pretty sure that when we get to hell, we will be forced to watch those Jays-Tigers series on an endless loop. But at least this year has braced us for the pain.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Interleague Tomfoolery

Our pal Neate has gone off on a bit of a rant about interleague play, complete with gratuitous Chumbawumba references.

As for us, we still kinda dig interleague play. Maybe it's just the novelty of seeing different parks and different teams - one can only watch Ty Wiggington so many times in calendar year - but there's something about interleague that gets us at least 6% more interested in the games.

The worst part about interleague play for Jays fans is the loss of Montreal as a natural rival. Those series provided some pretty memorable moments, including Jeff Juden's Canada Day gem against Roger Clemens in 1997, or Orlando Cabrera's 2001 walk-off at the Big O off Paul Quantrill. (Wait a second...why are we only remembering Blue Jays losses?)

And after watching the Jays hand the Phils their asses last night, we think they should be playing the NL East all year long.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Monday, April 23, 2007

Easing back away from the ledge

Cheers to those who helped to put this weekend debacle in perspective.

Neate Sager - a prince of a guy, and the overlord over at Out of Left Field - points out a few other slow starts in Blue Jays past. Most notably, the 1989 Jays, who started off 12-24, only to finish off 89-73, good enough to win the division (only to get their keysters handed to them by the Bash Brothers era Oakland A's).

And what was the turning point that season? Firing Jimy Williams.

We're just sayin'.