Saturday, February 27, 2010

A whole lotta thoughts

As spring progresses, I plan on bringing my "A" game....which is, you know, still several notches below "adequate". Honest. Fucking honest! But for now, with the players settling in and the roster storylines still developing.....I got nothin' but quick thoughts.

.....I'm all over Travis Snider this spring. All over the dude. You'll recall me recently bringin' the hyperbole over the phenom's attitude heading into camp, but actions do indeed speak louder than words. Well, The Future strolled into camp in (apparently) great shape, and has tweaked his batting stance - something suggested last season but ignored. Opposite field fury, now coachable too!

.....This can't be overstated: Shaun Marcum's refusal to don the new BP cap for spring workouts is the stuff of legend. Never mind the bullshit and debate - that's your opening day starter.

.....So what's all this about the Jays interest in Cuban defector Jose Julio Ruiz anyway? A left handed hitting first baseman with gap power? Sound familiar? I suppose if he can be shifted to left field, a signing might makes sense. Consider me "intrigued".

.....Rumored interest in fellow Cuban SS Adeiny Hechevarria might make more sense. Of course, I know nothing of the talent either of these fellas possess, so there you go. But hey, I'm willing to buy into any and all hype around a potential "shortstop of the future".

.....via Drunk Jays Fans, I like the cut of Alan Ashby's jib. Seems the team's radio colour guy, like many of us, cannot for the life of him understand (or get behind) another year of The Manager. Last season, I happened to be listening to the radio broadcast (which is a miracle in & of itself, since radio coverage "out here" sucks) the day news broke of the clubhouse dissent. Still in a state of shock (where the fuck did that come from?), I was even more surprised to hear Alan & Jerry talking about the situation....of which they seemed anything but surprised. We'll know Ashby's true feelings if we hear him referring to "Clarence Gaston" at any point this season. Boo-ya.

.....At least Brian Dopirak's name is getting a token mention of being involved in a spring battle. Of course, it's a competition for a spot with fellow underdog and blogger fave Randy Ruiz for about 150 AB's. It's true what they say about backup quarterbacks, but when you've experienced Kevin Millar as your starter, it's an understandable position to take.

.....Baseball Prospectus goodness: "Youkilis isn't much fun to watch for non-Red Sox fans. he's an ugly, sweaty, man-beast with a pale, bald pate and a fondness for overgrown facial hair, he's got one of the game's most irritating batting stances, and he's a grade-A red-ass who takes particular exception to being pitched inside while standing on top of home plate (most recently trying to Oddjob Rick Porcello with his batting helmet following an HBP)."

Truth! I'll skip the next few sentences of the profile which go on to describe him as essentially one of the most valuable players in the game (also true). Why would I transcribe that?

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's gut-check time for Randy Ruiz

Yep, it's smaller. But still delightfully lucky when you touch it. Ruiz is looking so lithe, in fact, that The Manager is actually making the sane (if obvious) point that he deserves a chance to prove himself.

Meanwhile, AA is pitting Ruiz against Brian Dopirak in a Hell in the Cell Spring Training Death Match for one spot on the roster. And while we are rooting for both of them to break on through, we're going to have to side with the Brooklyn Buddha in this battle. (And this, in spite of the fact that Dopirak has been seen in New Balance kicks, which strikes us as the absolute coolest cleat choice ever. And those things matter to us.)

Speaking of aesthetics...
Note that Shaun Marcum is still refusing to wear the stupid NASCAR pit crew hats that New Era and MLB have mandated. You know why? Because Shaun Marcum won't lower himself to that sort of bullshit templated erroneous design. Which is why he's the ace of our staff. Because he's fucking nails.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So what Vernon is saying is...

So, if we're reading every story put out yesterday by every writer covering the Jays correctly, Vernon Wells is starting to feel like this is his team.

Really. Seriously, Vernon. That's where you want to go with this.

Somehow, over the past dozen years, there was something missing for you, because there were always those pesky folks blocking your way. Like Carlos Delgado. Or Roy Halladay. But now that those perennial All-Stars, Silver Sluggers, Cy Young winners and Sporting News AL Players of the Year are out of the way, you can feel comfortable enough to stretch your shit out and feel like the man of the house around Dunedin.

(Never mind the fact that there are two incumbent Silver Sluggers in your lineup who are on the cover of the Canadian editions of all the baseball preview magazines this year. Ignore that altogether.)

And here's the really sad part for us fans: If this has somehow become "Vernon's Team", it is due far more to the attrition of talent around him rather than his stepping forward and claiming that title for himself in any of the past four seasons.

And don't get us wrong here: We would really love to see Vernon and his Manboobs of Glory triumph over the AL and have him go 30/100 again. We even suspect that he could do it. But to be frank, there's something that is way wrong in that dude's head.

The Parade of Links to Vernon's Leadership Declarations

Griffin: The time has come for Wells to make the Blue Jays his own (Professor Griff, The Star)

Jays leadership role to Wells (Bobby Mac, The Globe and Mail)

Wells takes on leadership role (Bastian!)

It's his team now (Arash Madani, Sportsnet)

Wells is back in the swing of things (Ken Fidlin, Sun)

And to be fair, we've taken the bait, as have most of our blogging compatriots. (Although much praise is due to GROF's Drew and his actual statistical researching and pie-charting of Vernon's issues. Where we play the dime store psychologist for Vernon, he plays clinical psychiatrist.)

Still, this story takes on a predictable echo effect. Sorta like the Edge's guitar in the last few U2 albums.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Filling out our lineup card

Here's the thing about point our accusing finger at The Manager: As your didactic grandma might say, you end up with three fingers pointing back at you.

Ultimately, we'd concur with some of the kids who noted that The Manager doesn't have the most spectacular depth of resources from which to choose, and when taken in the context of the guys at his disposal, it's not totally nutty-cuckoo to think that José Bautista might be the most appropriate leadoff hitter on the team.

Our quarrel with The Manager, we suppose, has less to do with his actual tactics and more to do with the process by which he arrives at them. In some ways, we'd rather hear The Manager make a sound and rational explanation for the wrong move than to stumble blind into the right one. As's Cory Schwartz is fond of saying: "Don't confuse the process with the outcome."

As yesterday went on, and folks challenged us to come up with a better lineup, we were given some pause. Could we actually fill out a better lineup? And does it even matter?

We're supposing here that lineup construction does matter, because we don't put a ton of faith in the projection systems. (And that's a whole other series of posts that we'll get into eventually.) As such, here's the two basic lineups that we would fill out for the Jays for the initial first few months of the season.

On the typical day, when they'll see a righty, we'd send them out like this:

1. Overbay, 1B: Lyle-O has the best OBP of any hitter on the team, and we'd rather have a guy who can get on base and move along with the offense behind him as opposed to a guy who gets on at a sub-.300 clip and can steal a bag here or there.

2. Hill, 2B: Wait...what?? Yeah, you read right. We'd far prefer to have Hill hitting fourth or fifth behind Adam Lind. If Vernon Wells were to demonstrate that he was able to make solid contact on a regular basis, we'd move him up here.

3. Lind, LF: Yeah, we'd put Lind in the field, and we'd leave him third in the lineup. At least, we would in this lineup, to keep a left-right balance. Plus, Lind still brings a high OBP, so keeping him towards the front of the lineup (rather than fourth, as we'd prefer) isn't the worst sin ever.

4. Ruiz, DH: Get some guys on in front of Ruiz, and let's just see what sort of monkeyshines he can create. If he struggles in the first month, maybe you move him down to sixth in the lineup, but we'd be willing to take a shot on a guy who hit a homer every 11.5 ABs and who slugged .615 in his limited time in the Bigs.

5. Snider, RF: Once again, we're leaning on a left-right-left lineup construction towards the top of the order. Plus, we'd like to put the Great Rosy-Cheeked Hope right in the middle of the lineup and let him learn by putting pressure on him, rather than "protecting" him further down the order and keeping him on the bench against lefties.

6. Encarnacion, 3B: We've run out of lefties at this point, so we're pretty much just taking the best bat available. Encarnacion stands out to us as a guy who could have a pleasantly surprising year. Moreover, he sports a career OBP of .341, higher than Wells' .329. He'd be a guy that we'd watch closely in the first few weeks, but we'd be willing to take the shot on letting him produce from the bottom third of the lineup.

7. Wells, CF: We'd like to put Vernon down a bit farther in the lineup to create an atmosphere where his free swinging ways can create runs if the guys ahead of him get on base. If his wrist is right and his swing comes back and if he doesn't look like he's gorged himself on Texas barbecue all winter, we'd consider moving him up the second, or sixth or even (gasp!) cleanup. But he's got to prove it first.

8. Buck, C: Because of the two dudes left, he's the better hitter.

9. Gonzalez, SS: Great glove.

And on those odd days, when they get a right-brained southpaw, we'd send them to the plate in this order:

1. Bautista, RF: Wait, isn't this what The Manager said? Well, yeah. But we'd reserve this spot for when at LHP toes the rubber, given JoBau's career .360 OBP and .478 SLG versus lefties.

2. Hill, 2B: Again? Yeah, for pretty much the reasons listed above. And it makes us wonder if the Jays didn't miss out big time on Johnny Damon. Although we're willing to let the Tigers that that $8 million gamble.

3. Lind, DH: No real change...

4. Ruiz, 1B: ...Though we'd let Ruiz have his turn in the field and sit Overbay, so long as he is here.

5. Wells, CF: We bump Wells up versus lefties, given his career .859 OPS (.364/.495) against them.

6. Encarnacion, 3B: Eddie's numbers against lefties actually stack up against Wells' (.370/.461), but we'll give the nod to Vernon given his higher slugging.

7. Snider, LF: We'd keep him in the lineup, and let him work his shit out versus lefties. Because if he's the face of the franchise, he's going to have to start hitting them sooner or later.

8. Buck, C: Well...Where else are you going to put him?

9. Gonzalez, SS: Nice glove.

As always, your input is warmly welcomed. (So long as you agree with us and flatter us along the way.)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Manager is going to be the death of us (if not the team)

For the sake of our future children, and our sanity, and our heart health, and the safety of others, we really should not read anything that The Manager has to say.

The fact that he even has a job with the team headed into this year, and that he's decided that it is best for him and the team if he hangs out and lets all of the newcomers to the team have the opportunity to sniff his glorious carcass for the next nine months drives us insane. The notion that every time we tune into a game this year, we'll get to see The Manager propped up in the dugout like the corpse of a once-great man is enough to make us want to take a year and really get into the CFL.

We know better than to try to parse The Manager's thoughts on the best way to run the team, because madness is sure to follow. And yet, we just can't help it. We can't keep ourselves from reading the crazy-ass things that he throws out there, almost willy-nilly: Hill and Lind need to stay where they are in the lineup; Vernon's confidence will get tore down if he loses the cleanup spot; it's going to be easier to manager the rotation now that Doc's not here; Brett Cecil might be on the outside looking in. It's all such crazy-ass shit.

We could get into a whole deeper discussion as to what this means, and whether if our current frustration with The Manager makes us feel stupid for ever having revered him. But since GROF already went there splendidly and eloquently, and we prefer not to pick those scabs in our psyche just yet, we'll let it slide for now.

For the time being, we're just going to try to find the positive. We're going to put our trust in AA and Bruce Walton (who we're convinced is going to be awesome) and Brian Butterfield (who is and always was awesome). We're going to look for solace in the quiet turmoil.

Because we might not last the year if we really started to put any energy into The Manager's last stand.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bullpen Gospels - A Book Review in Many, Many Parts

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of posts, in which we meander our way through a review of Jays reliever Dirk Hayhurst's narrative non-fiction tome, The Bullpen Gospels. We're going to review the book bit by bit, and piece by piece, because we're just not the sort of cat who can sum up our thoughts neatly in 600 words. And because we'd like to stretch this out to continue pimping Mr. Hayhurst's book between now and the time that it is released on March 30. (So much for critical detachment, right?) By the way, you can pre-order this puppy at, or whichever Amazon store is most geographically correct for you.

It's hard to resist the temptation to turn this review into a series of blurb-o-matic statements, meant to sum up the book in a glib and snappy manner. We've probably written about a dozen one-liners meant to make their way onto the dust jacket (which, we realize, has already been printed, and already features zippy blurbs from Keith Olbermann, Bob Costas, Rob Neyer and Cy Young's ghost. So much for that.)

We want to say things that sound really cool, like: "The Bullpen Gospels is a work of remarkable honesty and insight." (Because it totally is.)

Or we want to say: "Dirk Hayhurst demonstrates a self-awareness rarely encountered in professional athletes. The Bullpen Gospels is a funny, frank and revelatory look into the uncertain life of a young player on the cusp of losing the last remnants of his prospect status." (And the book is certainly all of that.)

We might even be tempted to offer up a notable quote, like: "The Bullpen Gospels goes places that you simply don't expect from an baseball bio. It offers up painful and unvarnished looks into the psyche of a young athlete which vividly portray the fragility of a pitcher's confidence, and the hard road traveled to develop the poise necessary to succeed in the game."

(We also really wanted to work the word "perspicacious" into the review, both because it is a really fun word, and because it truly sums up Dirk Hayhurst as an author. And given that this is part one of a multi-part series, there's still time.)

But, if we're dropping the sheen of quotatiousness and being really real with you, we'd say this: Beyond being a really great baseball book, The Bullpen Gospels is a book that speaks as eloquently as any that we've read on the gripping power of doubt, and the arduous process of transcendence. And on that level, it's far more than just a baseball book.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

It's a good time to be a Blue Jay

(full credit for the above photo to intrepid reporter Jordan Bastian. If you're not following @MLBastian on Twitter....well, you oughta' be. You can't pay for this type of spring training coverage.)

"It's a good time to be a Blue Jay"

....and with that, we're off and running.

Before we get started, let's get one thing out of the way....if you think that I'm above a hackneyed, cliche-riddled blog post on the beauty of spring training, obviously haven't been following along.

Seriously, is there anything better than the start of camp? New faces trying to show they belong. Old faces battling to maintain their spots. Players in their prime establishing leadership position. Which brings us back to the quote above.

If fans of the team were worried about a leadership void after the trade of the Jays heart and soul, Aaron Hill is showing he's ready to be The Man inside the clubhouse. That's big. At the ripe old age of 27, Hill spent his first day in camp setting the bar for all current and future Jays:

"I hope these guys know what kind of opportunity they have," Hill said. "If I'm seeing it, I just hope that they see it. I love seeing guys really get after it and fight for it. I hate seeing young guys, or anybody, that just expects to be given something. You should always work for whatever it is -- not just baseball. I want to see the edge, the fire in these guys' eyes, to get out there and just kick some butt."

Hill has a unique perspective in that he's had to battle hard to get back on the field after the knockout blow by that goon Eckstein (heyo!). Realistically, I don't think anyone should expect the second baseman to belt 36 home runs again this season, but Hill is already showing his value to the club lies far beyond that.

Catching up with Doc (already)
I can't wait for the time that I can read a Halladay-related article without my heart sinking. Here, Griff (who's a monster in the spring, by the way) finds ol' Roy still saying all the right things and doing nothing to ease the pain.

Do a quick google news search, if you're brave enough, and you'll find a boatload of the requisite articles detailing how the Phillies youngsters are soaking it all up, getting into camp earlier than ever, sponging up the knowledge, etc. Ugh.

....and getting to know Drabek
It's not all sad times. Now that spring has arrived, we'll get a chance to learn more about the future of the club, starting with this quick piece on key rotation piece Kyle Drabek.

Nothing groundbreaking here, except for the money quote:

"I kind of like blue."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Because every catching depth chart could use a Molina

At last, our long Molina drought is over.

Jordan Bastian (in between snapping photos of pre-report pitching and catching and dreaming of the day that he and Eddie Vedder have a barbecue and solve the world's problem, one power chord at a time) tweeted the news that the Jays have signed another of the catching Molina brothers, locking up José for $800 K, or $400 K, or something. (It got a little confusing there for a moment.)

And right then, for just a moment, we considered going to Fangraphs to compare the offensive numbers that Molina put up in comparison to Raul Chavez. But then we realized that it would be a bit like having Jim DeRogatis come listen to your 18-month old pounding away at their Fisher Price xylophone. It's a lot of work to find out not much of any relevance.

Okay, screw it. We'll bite.

In 52 games with the mighty mighty Yankees in their Matchbox stadium, Molina put up a .560 OPS (.292 OBP, .268 SLG). That is the lowest slugging percentage that we've ever seen for a man of Molina's significant girth. And there is something really and truly wrong about being a fat slap hitter. (Which is why we quit the game.)

Raul Chavez, on the other hand, sported an exemplary goatee and this moustahce combo under his catcher's mask last season for the Jays. He also put up a .632 OPS (.285 OBP, .346 SLG) in 51 games last season.

And we'd tell you what the projection systems think he'll put up, but we doubt that they have anything more to say that whatever we would just make up on the spot.

What interests us most at this point is how many times either player gets referred to as a "catch-and-throw-guy" in the next three weeks versus the number of times that Travis D'Arnaud gets called "catcher-of-the-future" and J.P. Arencibia gets referred to as "stagnating prospect".

We don't know about you, but our love for John Buck just grew a little bit deeper.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Uniform templating creates ugly uniformity

We're kinda caught between a rock and a hard place today. We want to write a celebratory post on the fact that the pitchers and catchers for some teams will report for active Spring Training duty today. But on the other side, the Jays won't officially pop the top on their Spring activities for another four days. So really, what milestone are we celebrating today?

Maybe we can celebrate the fact that MLB and New Era have outdone themselves this year in creating a crappy, goofy-looking batting practice cap. While the new edition doesn't feature the weird cut-out panels above the ear like the last iteration, they have managed to sully the front panel and bill with racing stripes in what appears to be an appeal to NASCAR fans.

This is why creating design templates to apply across the entire league is a bad idea. If one or five teams decided to do something outlandish with their uniforms (e.g. White Sox short pants, Astros' starburst, Pirates' square caps with stars), then that's a bit of fun colour and enhances the experience of being a fan. Those things become touchstones that you can laugh about or defend (ironically or otherwise). But when the league hands down an edict that says all teams shall comply with the new template, and they shall all feature ear flap panels or racing stripes, then there's no room to compare and contrast the individual aesthetic choices of the teams. And where's the fun in that?

To prove the point: Take a gander at all of the caps, you'll notice that the ones that look the best - Cleveland, San Francisco and Seattle - are the ones that do their best to hide the template components.

If the game is, as Jerry Seinfeld said, all about laundry, then it would be nice if the league would allow a little more diversity amongst its clubs. Just because they are called "uniforms", it doesn't mean that the league needs to mandate uniformity.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The five guys we (almost) completely forgot

We were half way through this article in today's online edition of the Star about the numbers game with the Jays as they approach Spring Training when we were shocked and bewildered by a name that emerged from the foggy mists of the past: Jesse Carlson. (Wha? Who's that guy?)

We're not at all being facetious when we say that we figured Carlson was already gone and on his way to scraping together innings here or there wherever he could, or picking up with an ultimate frisbee team and to play in regional tournaments where he could hook up with his female teammates.

(Side note: Ultimate is the urban hipster version of paintball. Just so you know.)

This isn't to say that we think that Carlson has no value for the Jays. His ERA climbed significantly last year (from 2.25 to 4.66), even as his strikeout and walk rates remained pretty close to the same. This might have something to do with his BABIP jumping from .230 (probably unsustainably low) to .300 (possibly higher than he deserved).

We've likely misplaced Carlson in our mind's muddled filing system because there has been so much transition and turnover within the Jays' roster since the middle of last season. We're getting old and forgetful in the twilight of our youth, and have too often reached for the "what's-his-name-the-guy-with-the-tattoos" to get us through a line of thought in the middle of a conversation. And a scan through the roster has led to understand just how many of these guys have completely fallen out of our mind since the end of September. Here's a few other dudes who totally fell below our dim radar over winter.

Chad Jenkins: Not that we were necessarily expecting this guy to step in and make his presence felt this year, but the Jays' top draft pick (20th overall) in 2009 was supposed to be fairly polished as a college pitcher and at least closer to the Majors than some other picks. Maybe the fact that Jenkins didn't pitch in affiliated ball last season helped push him to the back of our dusty cranial filing cabinet, but we're hoping to get to know a little bit more about him than his college stats (8-1, 2.54 ERA, 98 Ks / 15 BBs in 92 IPs).

Brad Mills: At a certain point last season, there was actually some talk that, amongst the endless line of left-handed pitchers at the top of the Jays' system, Mills might be the best of the bunch. But he slipped backwards in our consciousness because of the performances of Brett Cecil and Marc Rzepczynski last season, along with the shitkickings that he took in his two starts.

Brad Emaus: Emaus was the talk of Spring Training last year after he tore things up good. People even started speculating as to who would have to move where when he stepped up and pushed Aaron Hill aside. As it turned out, Emaus stumbled to a .712 OPS in New Hampshire, while Hill did okay for himself.

Scott Campbell: Speaking of guys who were supposed to supplant Hill, the Kiwi (with Canadian roots!) who put up pretty respectable numbers (.825 OPS) at Double-A in '08 and represented the World team in the Prospects Game stumbled backwards in '09, posting a .747 OPS at New Hampshire and a .608 OPS in his 27 game taste of Triple-A. Unless he makes some significant step forward, Bob Elliot can probably file away that profile that focuses on Campbell's Canadian roots, and just how goshdarned Canadian Campy (or Camps or Campser) really is.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Was that the problem with Scott Richmond?

As last season limped to its sad conclusion, feel-good Canadian storybook icon Scott Richmond became something less than an afterthought. A stint on the DL followed by two months of execrable performances led us to figure that the homeboy from the other side of the country may have run out of fairy dust, and that hitters had figured him out.

So poor was his performance in the last two months that it was enough to make us forget that he had managed to win the AL Rookie Pitcher of Month for April, after posting a 2.70 ERA in the early part of the season. By the time the final month of the season came around, Richmond's ERA soared to 9.46, while he was getting hammered all over the park, with a HR/9 of 2.78.

Now, with the news that Richmond is suffering from a should impingement and will miss some significant time, the pieces of this story seem to all fit together a little more snugly. And while the possibility exists that this injury is the harbinger of something worse, and that Richmond may have really torn some stuff up in his shoulder, we'd prefer to take the positive outlook and assume that once ScottyBoy has dealt with all of the ouchies, he'll be back in April/May form.

Or so we hope. Then again, was anyone putting any stock in Richmond at this point?

As those sage fellas over at the Drunk Jays Fans rightly point out, this is precisely why you invite a ridicuous number of marginal pitchers to join you in Spring Training. For those of you playing the home game, bump Dana Eveland up one slot on depth chart.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday quick hitter

Just a quick post today to keep the page fresh, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint). This is just one of those "busy with life" weekends coinciding with, uh, nothing going on with the Jays. So here's a few thoughts.....

I had originally planned to write up a post exploring the benefits of having a look at a sans-Boras Felipe Lopez. Then it occurred to me that it would be exactly the kind of signing that I couldn't really care less about. Really, I do see the benefits of improving the team, even in a "building" year....but how much would Lopez really improve the team? He's a switch hitter and versatile enough, so he couldn't hurt. But I'm not going to go scouring MLBTR about it.
And speaking of Lopez dumping it possible the tides are turning against the super-agent and the front offices around MLB have had their fill? Mix in a little Johnny Damon stagnation, throw in a James Paxton dilemma.....nah. He's still the most powerful agent in sports. Bears watching, though.
I'm all for players choosing their own destiny and leaving the game on their terms.....but it's tough to watch a Hall of Famer announce his retirement when he hasn't been able to land a job in a few years.
Hey, any chance JP Arencibia can come up mid-season and be that right handed thumper the team needs in the lineup? Have we given up on him entirely? (I haven't). Can his selectivity improve enough so that he can be more than Barajas-lite? (I hope so.)
Count me on team GROF when it comes to Rocco Baldelli. Without the massive man-crush, of course. (Never again after Doc). I think he'd be a perfect fit for that extra OF that AA seems to be trolling around for. And if not Baldelli, how come we never talk about Jonny Gomes?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Vernon Wells is going to make Blue Jay history in 2010

As we were scrolling yesterday through the PDF pages of SABR's awesomely free Emerald Guide to Baseball, we found lots of informational nuggets that could have been turned into some sort of trivia challenge, if we were so inclined. (Of course, the most amazing prize that we could offer is probably the opportunity to share a six-pack of Carling with you on your front step, so it hardly seems worth the time to set up any such game.)

Amongst the more interesting things that we noticed in combing through the Blue Jays' career leaders in a number of statistical categories was the number of places where Vernon Wells is poised to leapfrog over some of the greatest names in the Jays' pantheon in the coming year. The categories in which he's ready to bound ahead are all counting stats, so they are as much a tribute to Wells' staying power as much as his performance.

Here's some of the milestones that we can expect Vernon to pass in the coming season:

Games Played: Vernon (1236) currently sits 156 games behind Lloyd Moseby (1392) for third on the Jays All-Time list. A healthy season from V-Dub - which is by no means a given - will put him over in line to take over the Shaker and will set him up to pass Carlos Delgado (1423) and Tony Fernandez (1450) for first place in 2011.

At Bats: Wells currently sits fourth with 4880 ABs, behind Fernandez (5335), Moseby (5124) and Delgado (5008). Even with some time missed, Wells could easily reach the 456 at bats necessary to move ahead of Fernandez. (Supposing that Tony doesn't have one more comeback in him.)

Runs: Wells (710) has a ways to go to catch Delgado (889), but given his 162 game average of 93 runs scored per season, he should easily pass Moseby (768) for second on the all time list.

(A quick break to mention this: We're really starting to miss Lloyd Moseby right about now. A pretty great player with the greatest nickname in Jays history. And now, on with the countdown.)

Hits: Vernon (1368) should move ahead of his old pal Delgado (1413) for second place if he comes anywhere near his 162 game average of 179 hits. It would take Wells matching his all time best season of 215 hits to tie Fernandez (1583) for first all time.

Home Runs: Wells (192) needs just 11 homers to pass George Bell (202) and 12 to pass Joe Carter (203) for third and second place all time in dingers. It would take Wells close to six seasons of average (25) output to reach Delgado's 336 for first all-time.

RsBI: Wells (725) should again easily move past Carter (736) and Bell (740) to move into second place all time behind Delgado (1058).

(Another brief pause just to say: We are now kinda wishing the Jays had grabbed Delgado off the free agent scrap heap this season, if only so that he could put a little extra daylight between himself and Wells in some of these categories. Because it just seems to us as though Carlos deserves to be at the top. Let's soldier on, shall we?)

Stolen Bases: Surprising (to us, anyways) is the fact that Wells (84) currently sits outside to top ten in steals. A couple of swipes this year will move him ahead of Handsome Alex Gonzalez (85) and José Cruz Jr. (85) for 10th spot, far behind all-time leader Moseby's 255.

Walks: A full, healthy and patient season from Vernon could push him (356) past Willie Upshaw (390) for seventh on the all-time list. Barring a contract extension for Wells through 2020 (*shudder*), Delgado's mark of 827 walks seems safe.

Vernon's place in history
We're not sure if this is sad or not, but given his contract, we assume that Wells will fumble his way to the top of most of these categories by the time he's done stealing money from this franchise. (Actually, we're pretty sure that we're sad about that.)

If Vernon can bounce back to a form which somewhat resembles his All-Star days of yore, we can see these milestone moments being celebratory over the next two years. But if he limps over the line and stumbles his way into history, we could see his achievements being greeted with a funereal resignation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We shouldn't like Endy Chavez, but...

If you know anything about your good friend the Tao, you should know how much we hate small ball and the scrappy, slappy players who play that game. Small ball is for mosquito leagues. Or tee ball. Or the league-mandated women that you must carry on your co-ed, modified slo-pitch softball team.

It's not for a team looking to hang in the AL East.

But for whatever reason, we kinda can't help but like Endy Chavez, in whom JP Morosi of (via MLBTR!) says the Jays have some interest. Sure, he's got a career OBP of .312, and slugs a not-so-mighty .367. And for a guy who puts up those sorts of numbers, he doesn't exactly leave a charred path in his wake on the basepaths, posting stolen base numbers of nine, six and five over the past three season. (Albeit in limited time.)

Chances are, we just like this guy because we still think fondly upon the 2002 season that he put up with the Ottawa Lynx, where he tore up the International League with an .858 OPS (and a .343 AVG, which probably matters for a slap hitter.) Also, he sports some pretty impressive numbers in the realm of defensive metrics (how did we live before Fangraphs?), with a career 15.7 UZR/150 in the outfield (24.8 in LF, 10.7 CF, 19.8 in RF).

Maybe the best thing for us is if the Jays don't go ahead and sign him, so that he can remain a hero in our mind's eye. If we ended up watching him for a full season, it might start to dawn on us that he's the Latin Reed Johnson. (Although Endy doesn't run like a girl. Which is an important distinction.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Russell Branyan is someone's idea of slugger

About 10 years ago, in an age before blogs (really!) and such, people used to fart about on newsgroups, which were essentially long email trails populated in general by anonymous strangers with similar interests. (My, haven't things changed...Progress!!!1) Newsgroups were generally a tremendous waste of time, due in large part to the fact that you had to sift through post after post of idiotic blowhards who regarded a given newsgroup as their personal fiefdoms. They would look upon these online fora as the perfect venue into which they would unleash their wisdom upon the apparently unwashed, stupid masses.

(And don't get us wrong: We get that we do pretty much the same thing. But we'd like to think that we are vaguely entertaining and occasionally, we have pictures!)

We mention all of this because the talk last night about the Jays possibly showing some interest in Russell Branyan reminded us of one particularly obnoxious goof who used to regularly excrete his unbridled manlove for the big whiffing slugger when he was still a prospect in the Indians system. The poster, who went by the name Greyjay, would endlessly prattle on about how incredibly prescient and insightful he was, and how the multitude of absurd trades that he would suggest were the only path to glory for the Jays. (At some point, he was pretty much tossing Halladay into whatever package as a throw-in, while advocating the acquisition of Tony Armas Jr.)

Mostly, though, this dude would go on at length about how the Jays were stupid not to make a trade to get Branyan, as he was virtually guaranteed to hit 40 homers and drive in 125 runs every year. (And for those of you playing along at home, Branyan set career highs in those categories last season...with 31 homers and 76 RsBI.)

We're not sure what ever became of that dude, although we've occasionally convinced ourselves that he was either Bob Elliot or Richard Griffin. Considering the condescending tones of his writing, and the love of Canadian players and Expos, we could make an argument for either one. Whoever it was, we wonder today if he's be thrilled to see Branyan on the Jays radar, even if it is a decade later than he expected. At the very least, the guy would have to be impressed that the Jays could still acquire Branyan after his best season in the majors, especially considering that the other object of his affections in those days was the otherworldly talent of Ruben Mateo.

Our thoughts on Branyan
Even if he did manage to put up some numbers last season, Branyan is still an all-or-nothing hack machine, and moreover, one coming off a back injury that contributed to his posting a .688 OPS in the second half of last season.

He can scarcely play a position in the field (he's a -10.0 UZR at third for his career), and his presence would merely add to the log jam of LF/1B/DH types on the roster.

So, no, we're not a fan.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's wrong with Travis playing right?

Throughout the offseason, as futile conversations were held over potential acqusitions, folks were careful not to espouse anyone whose best position might be left field or batters box, lest that new body take away at bats from Adam Lind or Travis Snider. Because, it would seem, it is a fait accompli that Snider is going to have to play left field this season. End of discussion.

This leaves us asking: Why it is that people are so down on Snider as a right fielder? With only 28 career games in right, it's difficult to draw much of a conclusion from the metrics, such as they are. (He posts a career 1.7 UZR/150 in right, although that number barely means anything given the sample size.)

Qualitatively, Snider wasn't a graceful fielder in right last season, but we chalk that up to his following in the elegantly smooth strides of the Gazelle. Most teams don't have an high level defensive center fielder playing in right as the Jays did for the past few years, so maybe our sense of things is skewed. Snider runs hard, lays out, occasionally makes the wrong throw and takes some odd routes to the ball, but he seems athletic enough to play the position, at least in the short term. What sort of bulk gets added to that stocky frame, and how it will affect his mobility is an open question, but the Jays don't need to resolve tomorrow's problems before they become problems.

If the thing that is standing between the Jays making a run at Johnny Damon is the belief that Snider can't hang out in right, then that's not much of an argument. Let's not preemptively remove our own roster flexibility.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A plethora of potentially somewhat vaguely useful arms

We're back! Did you miss "we"?

And while we hate to spoil our return by engaging in told-you-so's, didn't we tell you before we left for our much-needed vacation that the Jays were certain to pull off a major move or two while we were away? That's what always happens, and we were certain that Doogie Anthopoulos would celebrate our absence with some earth-shattering move.

And thus, enter Kevin Gregg. (And Dana Eveland. But more on him some other day. Let's focus on Gregg, because he's stuck in people's craw.)

We have to confess that we've had a bit of a hate-on for Kevin Gregg for a few years now, mostly due to the fact that we were waiting for him to cough up his closer role for the sake of our fantasy baseball teams. (Go Marmol!) Being the gentleman that he is, Gregg accommodated us both in Florida and in Chicago, and for that, we are grateful.

But now that this joker comes to town, toting with him his 16 blown saves over the past two years, we figure that we have to find some way to wrap our head around the signing and feel happy about it, because there are only so many members of your team's bullpen that you can hate in any given year. Seeing as how we've dedicated most of our disdain to Shawn Camp, we've got to dig real deep and find some level of sweet charity for this chucker who has lost some zip on his fastball and gave up 13 dingers out of the bullpen last year.

The best we've been able to come up with so far is this: He's got to be better than Kerry Ligtenberg. (He really does, doesn't he? Right?)

Our feeble defense of this signing
Okay, so we know that the Better Than Ligtenberg defense is the faintest of praise, and one that we use a little too often to help keep us sane. So we're gonna dig deep on this one and try to find something (anything!) to make it seem a little more palatable.

And here's what we've come up with: Tonnage. As much as there is talk of the sheer number of average-or-worse arms that the Jays are bringing to camp this season, and the crowded bullpen picture, we look back at the past three seasons and see the numbers of pitchers who were pressed into Major League service before their time. It was fun and all to see Brett Cecil and Bobby Ray and Marc Rzepczynski and Brad Mills last season, but we would have preferred to leave them in the minors to develop instead of having the Phillies lineup school them on the way the game is played up top.

We made this argument to Mrs. Tao as she tolerated us watching a few innings of the Caribbean Series (in Spanish on a Dominican station, which was a weirder experience than we can easily describe.) As I got excited by seeing Randy Ruiz's plate appearances, we got talking with the missus about just how many players it takes to keep a baseball system running. Once you get past your 25-man roster, plus a few injured players, then about 25 guys per team in your system, you're looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 warm bodies to get you through the year, and not all of them are going to Chase Utley or Mariano Rivera.

What the Jays ultimately get in Gregg is a bullpen arm who has in the past posted sub-4.00 ERA's with a strikeout per inning over the past three seasons. He's a marginal, potentially useful piece who could be a significant part of the bullpen's back end if everything breaks right. At the worst, he's a guy who won't cost much (relatively speaking) and will be gone before any of us remember he was here.

And when it comes right down to it, that's not a bad play on AA's part.

Memories that we don't have
We don't seem to remember people losing their shit over the signing of Jaime Navarro back in 2001. Not that it didn't happen privately, but we don't remember it.

Scouting Randy Ruiz
So we got to see Randy Ruiz play a few innings in the Serie Del Caribe, which was just enough to stoke the fires of our Ruiz mancrush. We saw the big man whiff weakly in one at bat, but we also saw him hit a solid single with two strikes on him, go first to third on a sharply-hit line drive, and score on a single. Production!

Ruiz also looked very solid in the field, so if it comes down to it, we could imagine him taking a regular turn at first if he's needed there this year.

And finally, thanks and praise... the Ack for a stellar week. We'll confess that we get a little jealous when we go away, and then something happens and the blog gets oodles of visits and they're not coming just for our witty repartee. And we have a notion some days that Ack is getting ready to shove us down the stairs, just like Jessie Spano did to Gina Gershon in Showgirls. Which is why we're taking off our thigh-high patent leather boots anytime we walk in front on him down a flight of rickety stairs.

(Which we don't do, seeing as how we live thousands of miles apart. But still, gotta keep these things in mind.)

But if someone's gotta be there to field the inquiries and keep the lights on, we're glad that we've got Our Man in Winnipeg on the job, because if he were writing for another blog, we're sure that it would be one of our favorites.

(Although if Ack starts to get ideas and a big head about this, we'd remind him that John Oates didn't do shit without Daryl Hall out front singing. And Andrew Ridgely's career evaporated when he wasn't standing just behind George Michael. So don't go making plans for that solo project just yet.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Travis Snider is the future

Travis Snider is a beast. And if you'd be so kind as to allow me to blatantly rip-off Jordan Bastian's (a beast himself - the best MLB beat writer going) article for a few moments here, I'm about to tell you why.


Travis Snider's physical talents have scouts drooling - he's a middle of the order, 40 HR hitting, OPS generating, opposite field mashing, 22 year old bundle of talent. Prodigious talent. Don't forget that. 22 years old. He's ready to "arrive".

It wasn't too long ago (like, this week) that yours truly was open to thinking about the possibility that Snider miiiight be best served learning more ropes in AAA Vegas. I no longer subscribe to the group that discusses that theory. You see, what was holding me back (earlier) was Snider's reaction to being sent down in '09. Refused to take instruction. Wouldn't address it with the media. Skulked down to Vegas. Said just enough of the right things upon his recall to make us believe he'd turned the corner.

Well, guess what, friends. Now he's saying all the right things, and I believe him. Partly because I want to believe him. but mostly because he's so easy to believe.

"I reacted as a lot of 21-year-olds would," he said, "instead of being 'beyond my years,' as I've been told I am many times."

How's that grab ya'? When I was 21, I was cruising through a degree, yet to realize that actually applying myself was the key to a career.

"And I wasn't allowing the people around me to help, or being willing to listen and understand what people were trying to say. Not to say everything they say is right or wrong, but there's a message that's trying to be delivered to you, and if you block it out completely, you're not allowing yourself to grow as a person."

Whoah. Massive physical talents, now showing the ability to learn & adapt.

"Why would you give somebody a spot guaranteed after last year's performance?" Snider said. "I'm a pretty realistic person when it comes to self-evaluation. That is the situation, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to compete for a spot."

You see, that's it right there. Some of us, this offseason, have questioned aloud Alex Anthopoulos' challenge to Snider - that he has to earn a spot in the lineup, as an everyday contributor, or risk being sent to Vegas. Snider isn't questioning anything. He's accepted the challenge, and he is going to fucking rake.

"Murph has watched me swing now for four years," Snider said. "He has a pretty good feel for what I'm trying to accomplish every time I go into the cage and what he feels it should look like. We communicate well, and I think as a person, there's not too many people like Murph in the game. He's really easygoing about things.

Don't underestimate this. Young Travis now has a champion in his corner - someone he can relate to, someone who knows him. Someone who can push Snider from "prospect" to "cornerstone".

(And if you think the above was filled with hyperbole - you're goddamned right it was. It's cold outside. Spring training is a few weeks away. Everyone/everything is pointing to a 4th/5th place AL East finish. I need something. Who better than the org's top young player? Building.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Quick thoughts on the 'pen

Eerily quiet day around Blue Jays camp after word broke on the Gregg signing, I suppose pending completion of a physical and such. I've been thinking more about the ramifications of the signing (and yes, I realize the absurdity of spending even more time pondering the merits and fallout of a $2.75M contract handed out to a reliever, but that's how I roll), and I'm no longer convinced another trade is necessarily imminent.

Perhaps Wilner's take has influenced my thoughts here, but it really is quite conceivable that the Jays head to spring with all the arms currently on the roster in tow, and let camp dictate the next course of action. I'll disagree slightly with Wilner in that it feels to me like Shawn Camp is far more entrenched than "being up against it", but what do I know? He gave the Jays 80 innings of serviceable relief in '09 - admittedly mostly low-leverage innings - but he pitched fairly well, posting a 3.50 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

That's my way of saying I don't get the Shawn Camp Hate.

Think good thoughts for the 'Foose
The relief situation became a little less cloudy (unfortunately), as the Jays (and Hayhurst himself) announced the reliever will go under the knife for exploratory surgery on a troublesome shoulder.

Say what you will about Hayhurst's pitching ability, but Dirk seems to be good people, and you have to feel for a guy who has spent a career bouncing around baseball's minor leagues finding himself on the precipice of a major league job....only to face the uncertainty of shoulder surgery two weeks before camp.

The Garfoose's tweets admitting worry about his career (and mortgage payments, etc...) pull the covers back just enough to make you realize that the players we incessantly (obsessively?) discuss and analyze aren't all that different from you and I. Except for maybe a tad more athletic ability, of course.

Here's hoping all Hayhurst needs is a little nip & tuck.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Making sense of the signing

Such is the state of the excellent and on-point Blue Jays blogosphere that often if you ain't first, you're last. I likely don't have any original "analysis" to add to the discussion, but hey - here you are and so am I, so read on.

Yes, the internets were scratching their collective heads on Tuesday when the word broke that the Jays had signed ex-Marlin and Cub closer Kevin Gregg. On the surface, the move is just that - a head scratcher. Standing alone, it's difficult to find the logic. Is Gregg really an upgrade over Jason Frasor? Scott Downs? Jeremy Accardo? Was there really a need to add another relief arm considering the club also has Shawn Camp, Brian Tallet, Josh Roenicke, Jesse Carlson, Dirk Hayhurst, Casey Janssen, Scott Richmond, Merkin Valdez, and rule-5 dude Zech Zinicola looking to eat some innings?

No, probably not. But there's the rub - it's probably unfair to judge this move on a stand-alone basis. Consider some possible scenarios:

(1) Anthopoulos has a deal in the works to trade one (or more) of the more notable bullpen arms - think Frasor, Downs, Accardo - thus the need for an experienced late-inning reliever to handle the 8th/9th. It's problematic in that it seems to be working backwards, but we've seen the domino-effect already this winter - the Jays/Phils/Mariners/A's deal as a prime example, and the Yankees/Tigers/Diamondbacks trade being another.

Lots of overly-optimistic speculation out there that the signing is a precursor to a deal to bring in the exciting young shortstop the club covets, but I'm not buying it. Young franchise shortstops aren't traded for spare bullpen parts - unless they're packaged with big-time talent. Which could happen, I suppose (lending credence to my oft-stated belief that a young starter is on the way out....), but I'm not holding my breath.

The question then becomes, who/what are the Jays targeting in return if the primary asset on the move is Frasor/Downs?

(2) As a Type-A free agent who wasn't offered arbitration, he comes to the Jays free of draft pick obligations, and the club hopes he holds that value throughout the season, effectively netting picks when he signs elsewhere in 2011. This can't be the primary motivation. Can't be. Way too risky, for a multitude of reasons.

For one, the Jays would have to offer arbitration to qualify for compensation, and the market clearly penalizes relievers designated with Type-A status. Gregg could very easily accept the arb, and the Jays are not only left pick-less, but with a contract (and player) they don't want. For we really think Gregg can maintain that Type-A status? Type-B maybe, but that's a big to-do for a sandwich pick.

(3) The Jays are aware of the arbitration risk, and instead hope Gregg pitches well enough to garner interest at the trade deadline, netting prospects in return. If this is the case, I don't see how Gregg ups his value pitching in the AL East. Best case scenario, he hits the deadline being viewed as potential bullpen help for a contending team - who'd be willing to offer contract relief and not a lot more in return.

(4) Gregg has a nice enough arm, the Jays felt he was undervalued in the market, and it's a $2.75M play for bullpen depth. That can't be it, can it? The Jays have been stockpiling relief all winter, and it's not like Gregg suddenly became available. He's been out there all winter with nary a peep until, uh, now.

Something has to give. I've mentioned thirteen arms above vying for major league innings. Half of those will make the team (yes, 6.5 of them). It's not like the rest can all go straight to Vegas, leaving no room for other prospect arms and rehab stints.

Reviewing the possibilities, it seems there has to be something in the works, no? Forced to choose, I'd say more trades are coming. I just wouldn't get your hopes up on that franchise shortstop we all dream on....yet.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And so we wait

....for Tom Cheek to rightfully receive his due. I'm past the point of outrage on this one, really, but recognition for (arguably) the most important voice of baseball this country has ever seen is long past due.

....for the Jays to take a run at that one free agent bat still kicking around the market. Damon? Delgado? Gomes? Branyan?

....for Alex Anthopoulos to pull the trigger on one of those deals he's been sitting on for the past weeks. He's hinted at working on a few things, and you know he'd like to make one more deal before spring training.

....for one of the bullpen arms to get moved. AA is stockpiling arms out there, and we've been reading lots of whispers of Frasor and/or Downs being available. Even in the Jays cone of silence, where there's smoke, there's fire.

....for Rod Barajas to get a job. I'm not even concerned about the compensation pick at this point (I'm lying), but Rod's got a family to feed, man. Do it, Omar.

....for continued progress from Dustin McGowan. Just how big of a boost to the pitching staff would a healthy Dusty be? Massive. McGowan/Marcum/Morrow/Romero/Cecil/Rzepczynski. 5 rotation arms aren't enough.

....for the start of spring. Because I'm sick of this long cold fucking winter already.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Damon dilemma

First of all, you have no idea how painful it was for me to drop an image of Johnny Damon at the top of this post. I have a feeling a reprimand is coming my way when the Tao returns from vacation. Let's hope he's in good spirits.

Anyway, to the point of the post here - and FYI, I'm using Damon as an example since his name has been bandied about and the club is showing at least limited interest - is it worth it for the Jays to spend the dollars on a short term deal for an impact free agent in a "building" year?

So far, I've avoided wading into this debate throughout the blogosphere because....I don't really know how I feel about it, to be honest. So let's have a go:

The Good
The Jays have a hole at the top of the order, and Damon could slide right into the leadoff spot. He's only OPS'd below .800 once in the last 6 seasons. He'll make the team more fun to watch and the season more bearable in the darkest of days. He's a veteran guy accustomed to winning, and he could show the kids a thing or two about being a pro (intangibles!). If the Jays really are intent on making Adam Lind a full time DH, as seems to be the case (though I disagree), Damon could slide right into left field and at least take a more direct route to balls than Young Adam (God bless 'em) would. On the right contract, he'll make a nice trade chip at the deadline, or likely garner Type-A draft pick consideration should he play out his deal. And finally, Damon (or Boras) has overplayed his hand this winter and will come cheaper than he really should have, at this point.

The Bad
I'm just not sure how long it will take to wash the douchebaggery from his essence, having spent the last 8 seasons with the Yankees/Red Sox. As a left fielder, he'll make a fine DH. He's a left handed batter - this is something I've been a little concerned with lately - and do the Jays really need another left handed bat in the lineup with Lind, Snider, Overbay/Wallace already slated for the middle of the order? (Though the fact he'll bat leadoff mitigates my concern somewhat). And he may have overplayed his hand, but being represented by Scott Boras means he won't be desperate.

The Ugly
How The Manager would play this one out frightens me. Cito seems entrenched in the idea of Jose Bautista commanding everyday at-bats in right field, which means no room for Snider. Obviously, that's a major jump to a conclusion, but it would mean Snider breaks Vegas. But can we discuss this? Are we positive that's a bad thing? He has absolutely killed it in his time there (1.094 OPS - holy shit!)...but it was only 48 games. Maybe a full year in AAA hanging in against lefties wouldn't necessarily be the worst thing in the world? And let's not ignore the elephant in the room wearing a service clock around his neck.

I guess I'm still not fully convinced either way, but at the end of the day.....Johnny Damon would make for a more enjoyable 2010 season. That's hard to argue against. Snider in the minors would detract from some of that enjoyment - IF that's the way it were to play out - but you could even argue that decision might have some merit. So, yeah - I guess I'm on board. I just talked myself into it.

Other than the fact that he'll probably sign a short term deal with the Tigers by the time many of you read this - what do you think?