Monday, July 12, 2010

SWOT Analysis! The first half in rebuke!

(Sorry to Harry Shearer for stealing his joke, although I don't believe that "The Year in Rebuke" is a copyrighted segment of the broadcast. Yet.)

There are few things that we enjoy more than getting together over the board table, pulling out the flip charts and going through a SWOT Analysis. (So long as there are crullers!)

For those of you not familiar, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and it is the sort of tool pulled out by unimaginative management types to simply and easily compartmentalize all of the shit that is dragging their organizations into the crap heap. It also allows them to scrape some of the dung off of a situation, and spray it down with the perfume of optimism, and make it sound as if all is going to be just fine, and that they are the victims of circumstances beyond their control. Mostly, it's a tool for people to stop any sort of change or progress from making its way into an organization...but never mind all that. It's Monday, and you are all probably bummed out enough already by being at work.

So please join us as we critically examine the first half of 2010 for the Toronto Blue Jays, with a view towards constructive analysis, building towards a specific, defined and measurable outcome on a going forward basis.

No one in baseball has clouted more homers than the Jays, who have 136 for the season thus far. Eight Jays have ten or more homers, and Travis Snider has six through just 33 games. José Bautista leads the collective circuits with 24 homers, while Vernon Wells leads centerfielders and Alex "Defensive Specialist" Gonzalez leads all shortstops in round-trippers (19 and 17 respectively.)

They are also second in the Majors in doubles, so the overarching takeaway here is that these guys hit the ball hard.

In terms of pitching, the Jays sit sixth amongst the 30 teams in strikeouts, and are just above league average in WHIP and Ks/BB.

Defensively, the Jays sit tenth in defensive runs saved above average, which sounds okay to us.

The team is getting a good performance from Wells, their most costly asset, which only enhances the opportunities to possibly move the back end of that deal in the next two years.

Finally, they've gone into the international free agent with the gusto that they promised before the season, helping to perhaps level the playing field with their AL East rivals.

There must be a lot of solo homers this season, because the Jays' .306 OBP is third worst in MLB. They've also knocked out the fourth-fewest hits in baseball, and if you care about such things, their batting average is also fourth worst.

And if you're going to say that batting average doesn't matter (as we are always tempted to), then you should know that there is not much solace from the base-on-balls category, as the Jays rank in the bottom third (21st) in terms of drawing walks.

Perhaps most worrisome, they have two Silver Slugger winners who OPSing 40 or more points lower than Johnny Mac.

The Jays are consistently strong but rarely overwhelming at any spot in the lineup. JoBau and Vernon and Gonzalez and Buck have all had great seasons, but this team and those players make a lot of outs. The Jays have struck out the sixth-most in the Majors, and in close games, this team is too easy to shut down if your pitchers can get off-speed pitches over for strikes.

For all of the talk before the season about "100 loss seasons" (and you know who you are), the Jays have hung tough and actually have a chance to play games with small shreds of meaning through the second half.

We note this because of what we perceive to being a detrimental effect of playing out the string. If Alex Anthopoulos decides to empty the cupboard before the trade deadline, then so be it. But having a team play ball above the .500 level and attempting to compete is going to help in the development of a winning atmosphere in the clubhouse. Intangibles!!!1

Moreover, the reemergence of J.P. Arencibia and the strong performance of Kyle Drabek provides hope that he and a few other prospects (Brett Wallace?) should be able to step into the lineup in a meaningful way within the next 12 months.

Also, strong performances from potential free agents could mean the Jays will be dealing with possible Type A free agents, who will provide more value in trades or will return draft picks should they choose to go elsewhere in the next couple of year.

The starting staff is young, under control, cheap and shows signs that they can be effective one through five in the next few years. Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow all look like they could be strong number two starters in the coming two years, and a staff with that many top-of-rotation options could carry the team over the hump, or could be raided to solve other problems.

Much as we wanted to see their perfomance last year as the tip of the iceberg, the steep declines by both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill portend something much more concerning: That they've already had their career years, and that anything from this point on will pale in comparison.

We've watched Hill with some concern lately as the ball seems not to be coming off his bat with nearly the same velocity this year. (We're trying to track down He's seeing far fewer fastballs, and his swing looks longer and more convoluted than ever. It could be that he's still hurting from his early season boo-boos, but there's plenty wrong with the way he looks, and the results certainly aren't lying.

Brian Tallet. That is all.

The pitching staff is young, and so there are always injury concerns. Shaun Marcum already heading back to the DL once, and we worry almost daily about Ricky Romero, who has yet to have any significant arm trouble. The AAA and AA arms have also been a bit of a mess of injuries this season, detracting from the team's rotational depth.

Speaking of the minors, running the top level arms out to the mound in the arid, altitudinous Pacific Coast League has proved to be problematic over the past two seasons. Watching prospective pitchers' ERAs skyrocket makes us worry about their psyche, and whether if a team can really chance having youngsters make adjustments to pitch in those conditions. Trying to pitch around players and setting aside breaking pitches that don't break could mess up a really vital pitching prospect. Here's hoping there's a spot in the International League next year.

Finally, the on-field leadership of the team going for is in question for the players, the members of that staff and the fans alike. The ridiculous decision to maintain The Manager for one final victory lap this year means that players who are emerging now through the team and its current philosophy will have to adjust to a new manager and possibly a whole new staff next year. Wither Butter? Wither Pappy? Will the players be able to get onside with a new manager and new coaching staff immediately?

(And if any of you want to complain that I didn't separate this appropriately between internal and external factors, you can kiss my ass. I didn't ask you to facilitate this process, did I?)


Drew said...

I'm excited for you to drunken make a pass at The Ack during the team building karaoke session.

Tao of Stieb said...

Team Building Excercise? Not tonight, baby.

Ty said...

Today's news that the Jays are shopping all three of Downs, Frasor, and Gregg kinda looks like an indication that they'll still be sellers this month despite their decent start, which I think is awesome, and says a lot about AA's dedication to his plan (unlike certain other GMs in recent memory who were so quick to use a .500 record at the All-Star Break as an excuse not to cash in on valuable trade chips). It appears that John Buck is one guy who almost certainly needs to be traded as well, if only because his value will likely never be higher and I'm pretty sure Arencibia has hit a home run every game for, like, the past couple of months.

That said, what's the consensus on Bautista as trade bait? I'd love to see them hold onto him and use him wherever there's room for him next year (depending on who else gets traded and such), but I can certainly understand why they might also want to cash in on his ridiculously awesome first half. Gonzalez is kind of in the same boat... he probably won't keep up this level of production next season, but at the same time, who else is going to play shortstop next year if it's not him?

Tao of Stieb said...

Frankly, I think I move those three pitchers and Buck, but I hold onto Bautista for at least a year.

You've still got one more arb year with JoBau, and if he has another stupid awesome year in 2011, you're cashing in on draft picks if he walks.

Plus, Bautista provides them with plenty of roster flexibility, as he can play the outfield, corner infield and possibly even at short or second in a pinch.

Peter DeMarco said...

Maybe this should be posted under your Sell, Sell, Sell, blog, however, I think the biggest opportunity in the second half come with potential deals. Yes what we have in the minors is exciting, but isn't the unknown always a little bit more interesting?

I would make everyone available in the right deal, for instance, if Texas had offered Justin Smoak for Shawn Marcum, it should be a deal that needs to be considered. Or what about the Yankeees and Jesus Montero? I'd give them a call and ask them which of my players would bring me him in return?

Yes Downs, Frasor, AGon, Gregg, Buck, Overbay and Bautista are the obvious guys to try and trade, but I wouldn't limit myself to these guys, sometimes it is better to trade a Marcum before he gets expensive or injured.

Also, don't make a deal for the sake of a deal, only trade for talent you think has potential. Everyone else is a dime a dozen.

Peter DeMarco said...

Tao, SELL HIGH. The Jays would be insane not to try and trade Bautista now, his value will never be higher.

The key word it TRY of course.

The Ack said...

Based on nothing but internet reports - which are always right....right? - it seems teams in contention are more willing than in years past to part with top prospects for in-season acquisitions. They've always been there, but maybe the much-touted 2011 draft pool makes the comp picks that much more valuable....and by extension the player traded for more valuable as well?

In short, prospect porn rules.

Ty said...

Peter, I'd be inclined to disagree. Right now Bautista is obviously playing at a higher level than he ever has before, but it seems to me that an entire year of this production would make him more valuable on the market than the half-year he's had so far. Of course there's no guarantee that he'll keep it up, and I know the general assumption is that he won't, but I'm still not ready to buy the idea that his trade value will never be higher. It might not, but then again, it might.

And even then, who's to say that the prospect(s) they get in return for him will wind up being worth more than keeping him around for this year and next? There's a ton of uncertainty either way.

Tao of Stieb said...


JoBau's value will never be higher? Truth is, it's not very high right now. A good year next season proves this isn't a fluke, which means a slightly better prospect.

The other guys are what they are.

Peter DeMarco said...

The problem with that logic is that it relies on another good season, and I think he is more likely to hit 18 home runs next year than have a repeat of this season. Also, if you trade Bautista now, you will be trading a year and a half of his services rather than the half season next year.

However I agree with you, that if they can not get value in return for Bautista, they are better off keeping him. I just think that if the Raptors can trade Hedo Turkaglu, the Jays should be able to find value for Bautista.

But don't listen to me, I was the one jumping up and down suggesting the Jays should trade Aaron Hill last off season because his value would never be higher.

Ty said...

I don't understand how you can imply with so much certainty that you were right about Aaron Hill based on his season so far. Three bad months does not a career make.

Peter DeMarco said...

Three bad month does not a career make, you are absolutely correct. But neither does one season of 35 home runs and do you honestly think that he will have another season like that even thought nothing in his history before or after suggested it was possible.

Hill is definitely better than he has played recently, and if I can say that with certainty, why is that so different than being certain that he will never hit 35 home runs in a season again? I also know that he will never be that young again, and there is definitely value in age.

Peter DeMarco said...

I don't understand how you can think that there will be another point in Hill's career where his value will be higher than it was as a 27 year old second baseman coming off a 36 home run season, gold glove calibre defense and on a reasonable long term contract.

Hill will need at least another year to regain that type of value and even if he did, he will be two years older with two years gone from his contract.

I'm not suggesting Hill is as bad as he is playing now, just suggesting that he wasn't as good as he played last year, which was obvious to me even before this slump.

Darren Priest said...

I don't think the Jays have a guy, or combination of guys, that the Yankees would take for Montero. They almost had Halladay and Cliff Lee for him. What needs do they have that could be filled by current Jays that would be more pressing than Montero taking over for Posada?

Then again, why do the Yankees care about the farm? The way they spend on free agents, their farm team could just be used as reward for the extended family and season ticket holders: cousin Chet just got dumped by his girlfriend, let's give him a week in AAA to cheer him up!

Ty said...

Pardon me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Montero a catcher who will likely be moved to first base eventually? And don't we currently have a catcher and first baseman in AAA who are out-hitting Montero at this point?

Peter DeMarco said...

The Jays have a catcher an a 1st baseman in triple A that are outhitting Montero. But you can never have too much depth, especially if you have a chance at getting one of the top prospect in baseball in Montero, who is what 4 years younger than the 1st base prospect the Jays have, yet playing at the same level.

MJK said...

the Jays have no urgent need to deal anyone so hopefully this translates to leverage at the deadline. Buck and Overbay don;t have positions next year so they need to leave one way or another. the little bullpen of horrors needs to be blown up so i would deal Downs, Frasor, Camp or Gregg in a heartbeat to the first team that offers something decent.

i'm inclined to keep Gonzales only because there is no viable replacement in 2011, and since any team acquiring him will primarily be interested in his defence, he'll be tradable again this time next year irrespective of his offensive numbers.

Bautista is tricky. If you get something good then of course you deal him, but there is no plan for next year at 3B and keeping him on the roster gives you that option, and lets the Jays focus their FA energies elsewhere.

Ty said...

Depth is great, Montero is the guy who the Yankees wanted to trade straight-up for Roy Halladay -- not exactly a depth kind of player. The Jays have plenty of good young pitching to use on the trade market, but why waste it on a guy who plays the same position as the two best position prospects you already have?

Peter DeMarco said...

Okay forget about Montero (who the Jays should at least inquire about), he was just an example of someone who they should look into. Another is using the rumour that the Jays and Dodgers have spoken, why not see what it takes to get Dee Gordon, someone who could be the Jays SS for a long time.

Tao of Stieb said...

Dee Gordon's got a sub-.700 OPS at Double-A this year. Lots of stolen bases, but speed fades.

Anonymous said...

Heche > Gordon

Ty said...

I wouldn't mind seeing what it'd take to get a certain other Gordon, though... this one's currently OPS-ing 1.024 in AAA, spent most of his professional career playing third base, and is (obviously) wildly undervalued by his current organization.

Team Scrappy said...

Ty, if you read Rany's blog of suffering through with the Royals, Alex Gordon no longer plays 3rd, period. Not even Butter's magical touch can bring him to MLB level.

Would anyone feel too rough with Mike McCoy getting ABs over JMac? I have really enjoyed Gonzales defense, it's Tony-esque.

Should AA be trading for need right now, or looking at team's best prospects and saying, yes, we'd like some of that no matter what position they play.

I take it Tallet, Brian should be laid off with the appropriate German accent?

J. Michael said...

Poor Brian Tallet. It's not his fault his sub par skills and hipster-doofus stylez are loved by a certain manager.

"Poor", of course, is a relative term here....

Ty said...

Team Scrappy, I know they've moved him off of third, but I really can't imagine him being any worse than EE at the position.

For comparison, Gordon has a career UZR/150 of -2.0, while EE sports a sparkling -12.5, and Jose Bautista has posted a surprisingly bad -10.4 for his career. Gordon is a pretty significant upgrade over either of those guys, and he'd surely also benefit from finally playing in an organization that is, y'know, not retarded.

Ty said...

I should note, those numbers are just for those players' time at third base, not any other positions.