Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Tweet Bag - Your Pertinent Questions, Impertinently Answered

Let's git it on!

Unleash the ! He asks: keep one, demote one, release one - mastro, podsednik, Patterson.

Keep: Patterson. Because he's a better than decent defender and his value isn't completely tied up in his speed. Demote: Mastro. Because maybe he's the next Reed Johnson, and you can get two years of marginally above replacement value from him. But not now, Murray. Not now. Release: Podsednik. Because we doubt he'd allow himself to be sent to Vegas. So let him walk.

Ottawa sources say that would ask: Who's 1st Jay 2 break camp & get released/sent down? Why does Dunn's put that batter on fries when everyone else stopped by '03?

Usually, there would be an extraneous reliever or dodgy fifth starter who'd get their walking papers before they start to play outdoor baseball at Rogers Centre. But given the depth of the bullpen and the relative strength of the rotation this season, we figure that it will be a position player. And likely whichever of the slap-hitting bench outfielders makes the trip north won't be here for the full season.

As for the fries, you must be talking about the Dunn's on Queen at Bank. Because on Elgin, the fries are actually not bad. Dripping with grease to the point where they are a little too dark.


Gentleman and scholar asks: There's noway Stewart makes rotation over Litsch, Rzep or Drabke right?

Wrong. There's always a chance. Though once you add options and starting his clock into the equation, you're probably right. Considering that the Jays sent Cecil to Vegas for a few weeks at the start of last season while keeping veteran Dana Eveland, we'd imagine that Litsch and Rzep will at least get their chance to show what they've got through April. And don't go sleeping on Jo-Jo Reyes, neither.

Frequent commenter asks: Where is Jobau more valuable, third or right field and why? Where is he the better fielder?

He's clearly more valuable to this team as it is constructed today at third, because the alternatives are not entirely enticing. But even in a vacuum, we think we'd much rather see him at third. Fans have a notion because of his strong arm and the occasional outfield assist that he's an asset in right, but his -8.3 UZR/150 begs to differ. (Mind you, his -10.4 at third isn't making our case for us either, is it?) Were the Jays to find a solution at third that makes sense, and find enough at bats for Travis Snider, we could be talked into JoBau back in right. Now if you'll excuse us, this fence that we're sitting on is crushing our nuts.

BMX wizard queries: Richard Griff in his Q&A yesrterday said Lawrie could be up with Jays by May. This sounds way too early no?

We'll cut Griff a little slack here, because we haven't seen Lawrie swing a bat. And if we did, maybe we would find ourselves short of breath and ready to crown him as the corner infielder of the future. (True story: When we first saw Randall Simon in AAA, we thought he was going to be a legend. Sometimes, hearing the crack of the bat will mess with your head after a long winter.) May certainly sounds early, but remember that Griffin is in the Hyperbole Business. (AND! BUSINESS! IS!...meh, it's okay.)

Which is to say: May seems a bit early, but don't be entirely surprised to see him here by year's end.

Hey look! asks: chances of a Rasmus trade for some pitching to StL?

More true stories: Our version of the Jays in our latest run at MLB 2010 The Show has an outfield of Snider, Rasmus and Jay Bruce. So if stocky left-handed white-boy outfielders is a type, then we probably have one.

But the question remains as to which pitcher the Jays would have to send the other way, and we're not entirely sure that we'd want to part with Cecil, Drabek or Stewart to bring Rasmus back. Certainly, the Jays have depth at starting pitching, but get beyond those assets, and you're suddenly talking about Scott Richmond and an injured Dustin McGowan contributing this year. And we can't imagine anyone wants to look forward towards seeing that.

Mindreader passes this along: I want Richmond and McGowan pitching like yesterday.... any chance we get to see them play this season?


McGowan's status is the most interesting, as the Jays (from what we understand, and please correct us if we're wrong) are out of options for him, and would have to place him on waivers if he's "healthy" and they want to send him down. We'd like to see if they can make something of him, because the talent is there if the body is willing. (And let Dusty Lambchops serve as an omen for those of you visualizing nothing but tremendous ascents towards Cy Young territory for Drabek, Stewart or whomever comes next. Stuff happens.)

As for Richmond, we wouldn't write him off, but let's not place an awful lot of stock in him being much more than a guy who can eat some innings if bad things happen to better starters.

Quickly! : what are the odds that if Stewart has a better spring than Drabek, he makes the team?

20%. Still think that they'll let him face AAA batters until it gets ungodly hot down there.

: what year are we going to make the playoffs?

Well, if you and I get into the right bowling tournament, we can make the playoffs this evening. (Pin Pals!) As for the Jays? We've got a feeling that it is soon (2012), and not an isolated appearance.

: 2011 Blue Jays MVP?

JoBau. Because a 40 homer, 100 RBI, .875 OPS season is still pretty awesome.

That's it! We're done...though we'll likely check back in through the weekend. Feel free to tell us how full of shit we are through the comments, because we feed of those interactions.

And also, tell us if we should go ahead and drop the "we" shit already, as an anonymous commenter noted yesterday. We know it's cloying, but it's a habit. And some people actually claim to like it. (But maybe they were being polite...and we don't expect as much from you.)

Rock on!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Slap Happy Jays

Within certain contexts, we can like the idea of Rajai Davis as an everyday player, even if his career isolated power number1 comes in at .102 (a number that puts you around the same territory as your backup catcher, but above the starting pitchers.) We're sure that his speed may well help turn singles into doubles and allow him to take extra bases and score runs, which is ultimately the name of the game, right?

But just about the moment that we start to get our head around that fact, it occurs to us that Scott Podsednik may well bring his marginally less impressive .101 ISO north to Toronto and get a few starts per week. And we would have been happy to write his Spring Training invite off as merely insurance against this rib injury or that pre-season ouchy until we were bombarded daily with stories of his foot problems. Which only served to make his presence more real.

And just as we've swallowed back some of the bile, it strikes us that Corey Patterson is skulking about somewhere. To his credit, Patterson's career ISO is .151 - three points lower than Joe Mauer's - though since he left the cozier confines of Wrigley Field, he's posted a .138. And balance off that marginal power value with a career OBP under .300, and Patterson seems like less of a clear option for the Jays' designated slap-hitter this year.2

We realize that isolated power is not the most flattering metric for this sort of player. Their career speed scores3 (7.7 for Davis, 7.2 for Pods, 7.0 for Patterson) would put them in the top echelon of sprinters, though below the 8.5 career mark posted by DeWayne Wise.

Which brings us full circle, more or less, to the fact that one of these three will get a regular turn and 500 at bats, while one will get the DeWayne spot on the roster (52 games and 118 PAs last season for Wise). And the third will either get a ticket to Vegas or his walking papers, whichever he prefers.

Given the deal he just signed, Davis is a given for door number one. God help us, we think we'd actually prefer to have Patterson over Podsednik, but what the hell do we know about that sort of baseball?

1. Just so we can seem super smart, we'll explain out the ISO number, so that we can feel like we've done you some service today.

Isolated power is a number derived by subtracting a player's batting average from his slugging percentage. The number essentially plucks singles out of the equation, and measures the number of extra bases a player gets per at bat. José Bautista led the Majors with a whopping .357 ISO last year. Jhonny Peralta had the 100th best ISO amongst qualified hitters with a .143.

And Yunel Escobar's .062 was the seventh worst number amongst all qualified hitters. Musta been all them drag bunts.

2. That's the deal, right? It's SlappyDome: Three slap hitters enter, one one emerges to make the team...Isn't that the deal? Because we can't imagine having a team full of these guys.

3. Bill James' created speed score based on six factors: stolen base percentage, stolen base attempts, triples, runs scored, GIDP, defensive position and range. It's beyond us as to how it's put together precisely, but we'll follow along.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

List-o-Mania - Five Guys Who Give Us Worry

Hey! It's a new recurring series of posts!1

Why? We've probably gone to the genius well once too often around here2, and would prefer to indulge in some hacky, almost-writes-itself filler to make us feel like we've done our blogging job and that we've kept you distracted by baseball fun for an extra three-to-five minutes of your day. You're welcome.3

Besides, people love lists, and love to comment on them (YOU FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING/GUY/STUFF! IDIOT!). And we are, above all, a comment whore.4

On with this week's exciting episode: Five Guys Who Give Us Worry...or The Proactive Analysis of Potential 2011 Whipping Boys.

1. Yunel Escobar: We know that there's some notion amongst us Jays fans that there was a magical healing power that washed over the Cuban shortstop once he left those bad guys behind in Atlanta. Look at that behind the back flip! Look, he hits homers! Drag bunts! But take a step back, and you see Escobar posting a sub-.700 OPS in his time with the Jays, with his numbers sliding backwards month-over-month.

2. Brandon Morrow: If only because we've started to recognize that we're starting to take it as an article of faith that he'll be a Cy Young contender this season, and we're not even sure if he can pitch more than 175 innings. Also, we worry about his diabetes. Which is kinda weak and vaguely offensive, but still. Pitching as a starter takes a lot out of a body, and we worry about the ongoing impact through the hot months.

3. Travis Snider: We keep seeing flashes of that nascent premium-level talent. But it keeps getting run off the rails by tweaky injuries. And this rib thing? Yikes. We keep seeing this year play out for Snider like one of Jeff Bagwell's late-career, injury-addled seasons.

4. Adam Lind: We worry about Lind on both the offensive side as well as in the field. While we have a suspicion that you'll see a return to form at the plate (perhaps even fueled by the happy vibes of playing first base), the helpless flailing that we saw from him against lefties last year occasionally gives us knots in our gullet. And as for the first base experiment: We figure he'll be okay, but we can see some spectacular eff-ups, which we hope won't pile up.

5. Kyle Drabek: The jump from Double-A to the fourth spot in the rotation isn't that small of a leap. Drabek pitched well enough in his brief September callup, but can he give the Jays 180 quality innings? Can he withstand nights in New York and Boston, where the umpires will offer him a postage stamp sized strike zones into which he can pitch? Is there enough movement on that fastball?


1. Which likely means this is the last time that we do this.

2. ...or not.

3. Condescending much? I really need to check myself...

4. Seriously. We crave your approval.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spring Training Tea Leaves

We've got nothing better to do than fret over the coming season, so join us as we read entirely too much into the handful of stories emerging from Super Awesome Truck Parts and Lube Stadium1 in Dunedin.

Snider's Ribs, Early Edition: Sure, we could devolve the conversation into a smoking, saucy pile of nonsense. But for a guy who grips-it-and-rips-it like Snider, a rib cage injury (Whole Lott of NatPost!) can be a nagging, long-term issue, and it's enough to have us balancing out worry over how soon he can return, or whether if he should.

Scotty Pods' Podiatrical Problems: Recent signee and new Jays fan favorite Scott Podsednik (who you clearly love more than we do) has the plantar faciatis troubles (via The Star) once again. Having once struggled through similar issues, we can attest that it is a painful problem. Also, it seems to strike old tubby guys who are trying to be more active than they should. So our recommendation to Podsednik is to take it easy, do lots of foot stretching and don't scamper about too fast. And if it means that you have to stay off the active roster for the bulk of the season, so be it.2

Johnny Mac and the Tools of Ignorance: We've known for years that John McDonald was the Jays' emergency (he prefers "safety valve") option behind the plate should both catchers go down within the span of nine innings. But after seeing some pics of McDonald in full backstop's regalia, we couldn't help but wonder: Could a guy with his baseball IQ but middling offensive skills actually extend his career by serving as a backup catcher? Imagine that we're coming into the season, and we've got J.P. Arencibia and John McDonald as our catchers: Is that any worse that JPA and Random Molina3?

Snider's Ribs, Late Edition: Catching up later, looking for links, we notice that Snider hurt himself while golfing (Gregor, via msnbc).4 Seriously, what the fucking fuck. We're beginning to think that they should hold early workouts at the Rogers Centre so as to avoid this sort of monkeyshines-induced infirmity. And as a sidenote to our good pal the Lunchbox: Take it easy on the links, dude. You don't need to impress anyone with your golf game. Use a three-iron off the tee, and keep it in the fairway.


1. Likely not the actual name, though we'll never remember what the real one is. This seems close enough. Or certainly not much more comical than the actual one.

2. Oddly, we'd just started to warm to Podsednik as bench depth. This joke is our subconscious way of getting ourselves back to slappy-hating.

3. 2010 OPS: McDonald - .727 in 163 PAs; Molina - .681 in 183 PAs.

4. And yeah, we realize that the fact of the golfing was right there in the lede of the Lott piece. We went back afterward to find the links, so we were in the dark as of the writing of that initial item. Now you know.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tumblin' dice: Assessing risk and the JoBau deal

Signing any player to a contract is a risk, and with more money and more years, you only magnify that risk.

Add to that the lack of clear evidence based on past performance, and the backlash amongst some of us against the José Bautista deal hopefully seems less like smarmy snark directed from the back of the class. We can't speak for Dustin or Drew or Stoeten or others who've raised concerns about the deal or questioned the urgency of signing this now (and they can speak for themselves just fine, we're sure), but there is something about the balance of risk that Alex Anthopoulos has taken in this deal that left us uneasy.

(And not to bore you with the plight of the blogger, but it's weird how we spend years getting accused of being on Rogers' payroll - I wish! - and how we're apologists for everything they do, and the moment we look with hesitation on a deal, people write us off as cynics. Cripes.)

Now that the deal is done, we're left trying to piece together the rationale. And with a full night's sleep and some time spent thinking in a manner that we assume AA might think, we're coming to a point where it's starting to come to us.

While we still more or less agree with Parkes' recent point that the Jays needn't have made a move early on Bautista, we're rethinking the equation and coming to this point: The Jays were set on this guy, and not just potential value.

What we mean is that the notion of acquiring value back for Bautista later this year in the form of returns from a trade or draft picks was less appealing to the Jays' brain trust than working through to achieve the best value that they could in order to retain the player they had.

It's not exactly "we want Bautista, whatever the cost". But certainly, they were set on this particular asset. It wasn't his level of production that they was him.

(And maybe it would be too cynical to tell a bunch of baseball fanatics that we really shouldn't start naming the animals on the farm or getting attached to them, because those attachments are half the reason we're here writing, and you're here reading.)

Once you set it in your mind that the Jays wanted the man himself, then the timing starts to make sense. Whatever his performance in the first few months, the Jays were going to start to lose leverage in their ability to retain him. If it's June 2nd and Bautista has 10 homers, would the Jays have been able to grind him down to a three-year deal? And if he has a three-homer day on June 3rd, and hits five more within two weeks, and suddenly he's back on a 40-homer pace, does the price go back up? Could they get one type of prospect on June 2nd, and a whole other level on July 1st?

And would they have wanted to play that game all year?

It's pretty clear at this point that the Jays would not have retained Bautista had they not moved before this season. We love what he produced last season, and we're really quite happy to have him back in the fold. We share your enthusiasm. (For criminy's sake, we compared him to Lolita and us to Humbert Humbert last Spring.)

But know that this is signing is a risk. They say that fortune favours the bold, and this sort of deal may be as bold a move as Alex Anthopoulos has made since he's arrived. By giving significant money to Bautista for several years, he's begun to sketch out for us what the team will look like four or five years down the road. While some other deals looked as though they had an eye towards the future, none did as much to solidify the roster's composition for the 2014/2015 seasons.

One way or another, José Bautista is going to be central to the conversation five years from now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too long. Too much. So what?

Earlier in the week, we quipped in tweets (ouch) that we'd lose our minds if the Jays were to offer José Bautista something to sign that committed them to pay him for longer than four years.

Before we start fretting over the salary flexibility in the 2015 season, we'll wait until later this afternoon to see how much of the rumoured five-year, $65 million contract is guaranteed. And to see whether Alex Anthopoulos has worked some magic that gives him far more control over this situation.

Ultimately, we're happy to know that Bautista is coming back, and that he'll be the face of the franchise for the next few years. (Yes, he will.) And we're doubly happy about the notion that his preferred position is suddenly third as opposed to right field. We're also filling our head with mammoth shots into the upper tank just to bring the sunshine back into our cold heart.

Still, we can't help but think of the elation throughout Blue Jay Land a few weeks ago when they off-loaded a big money deal that wasn't paying sufficient dividends.

More later, as more is known...

Update - From the presser
Deal is as reported: Five years and $65 million. Breaks down as $8 million, then $14 million over next four years. Frankly, I probably would have liked to flip that.

Uggla's deal was a barometer.

The deal is based on what they think of Bautista as a person.

Sweet jiminy jillickers...we love The New Manager. John Farrell has a "why am I here" look. Then takes a question and sounds like a frickin' awesome sage cowboy genius business executive.

And then, the press conference is over, with Jay Stenhouse's clever mention that single game tickets go on sale tomorrow. BUY BUY BUY!

A final blogged reaction for today
I don't hate this signing. I worry about the last three years on the deal, but that's just my nature. I'm a worrier. In the short term, I'm really happy to have a guy who may well be a premium offensive talent with some positional flexibility on the roster. The bilingualism is an asset as well on a team that has begun to bring more young Latin talent into the fold. Having your clubhouse leader be a guy who can address the entire clubhouse is a good thing.

We'll try not to poop all over this, even if we don't like the fifth season. The money seems as though it might be fair, and not so much of an albatross that the Jays will be unable to eat it if JoBau regresses.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The JoBau Extension Predicament

We'd spent most of the Winter hoping and wishing and praying for the announcement of some sort of deal between the Jays and José Bautista that would buy out his arbitration and keep the newly-fashioned King of Swing in Toronto for the next few years.

But then, over a couple (or six) beers with The Score's Getting Blanked baseball-blogger-in-chief Dustin Parkes a week or so back, we came around to his way of thinking: That this wasn't urgent, that the Jays could wait this out, and that they were in a better bargaining position than people thought.

By taking the 2011 season to get a better sense of what JoBau has to offer over the next few years, the Jays would have avoided a situation in which Bautista turns into a pumpkin, and they end up on the hook for a biggish deal to a guy who is a 25/85/.815 guy for the next few years. (And while we have a lot of faith in the adjustments that Bautista made last season, we have some worry that the rest of the league will have spent the offseason figuring out how to pitch him and where the holes may be in his swing.)

The downside of waiting is that Bautista may follow up his otherworldly 2010 with another insane year of 50-plus bombs, find himself in the position to get real paid, and take off, leaving Toronto in the worst case with either draft picks or whatever they could get for him at the trade deadline.

The upside is if Bautista gets hurt or flames out, you're not left with several years left on a significant deal that cuts into your payroll flexibility just as the team is ready to emerge into a legitimate contender. (And need we remind you of the deal that the Jays unloaded in recent weeks, and how that may have impacted on their payroll?)

There are lots of reasons for us to be enthused by the delay that was granted on the arbitration hearing, and the potential a long term deal. Tangibly, Bautista had one of the most offensive seasons in the history of the franchise, and while his track record of that level of excellence is sparse, it's at least feasible to conceive of him putting up WARs above 4.0 for the next three years.

Intangibly speaking, there is Bautista's role as bridging figure between the Anglophones and the Hispanophones within the locker room, and his ability to be a "leader" without having to campaign for the role amongst the press corps, reiterating his willingness to take on that role long after he should have assumed it anyways.

(Yes, we're looking at you Aaron Hill. You can leave your copy of Vernon's "best shape of my life" talking notes in the locker room as well, because we don't need to hear those recycled by you either.)

If the Jays and Bautista come to an agreement for four years or less at an annual salary of $14 million or less, we could live with it, and not fret for how it might derail what has been a pretty sharp and astute track taken by Alex Anthopoulos towards building a long-term contender. Moreover, it would be fun to consider four productive years with JoBau in the middle of the Jays' success.

Just so long as he plays third base along the way.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Your Friday Sendoff - Rapid Fire Tweetbaggery!

No time for small talk...Tweetbag!

The Famous Mr. Drew (@DrewGROF for the n00bz) asks: True or False: Travis Snider's twitter feed salvages all banal athlete tweets with its sheer awesomeness?

Absolutely. There are very few athletes that we follow, because they are either boring or boorish, and sometimes they manage both. But we actually kinda like reading the Lunchboxhero's tweets, even if we might sweat and complain like bitches every time he posts a picture of his multilayered meat and sauce concoctions. But in the end, isn't it kinda cool to see a 23 year-old who has a fairly cultured appreciation of foodstuffs, and what seems like a just-dry-enough sense of humour? We'll likely unfollow the Beastmoders before the season starts, but we really hope to have fun reading Snider's thoughts about the 2011 campaign.

@Archizuber puts down the hunk of cheese and asks: Talk me into or out of rosterbating to Mastroianni prospect porn.

SNAP OUT OF IT! Darin Mastroianni is 25. That also happens to be the number of doubles that he ripped off of Double-A hitting. Which isn't bad, but doesn't make us weak in the knees. He's an okay OBP guy (.390 at New Hampshire), but a bit of a slappy (11 career homers in 426 minor league games). Let's not make this guy out to be the second coming of Reed Johnson or anything. (Because we have yet to confirm if he runs like a girl.)

Heir to a Mixed Drink Fortune and Celebutante Nelson Clamato (@nelson_c) commands us: how do you see the Jays catching situation playing out this year? Predict #'s

Yes sir. Right away sir.

Arencibia: 100 games, 16 homers, 52 RBI, .770 OPS, and lots of deserved complaints from Alan Ashby about his defense. But with upside.

Molina: 47 games, 4 homers, 30 RBI, .700 OPS, and lots of deserved complaints from Alan Ashby about his defense. But without upside.

D'Arnaud: Hundreds of blog posts written on his future, and calling for his immediate recall. Or at least a September call up. Or some playing time. If nothing else, enough of a showing so that he gets into MLB 11 The Show's roster updates.

Onward ho! Tweetbag regular Tim Duggan (@timmyd_) asks: Should the Jays care about where Bautista prefers to play? If so, how much?

Yeah, they should probably try to keep the player happy, especially if they have some notion of trying to re-sign him. And if he wants to meander out in right field and occasionally kill a baserunner with one of his throws, then good on him, we suppose. Though if Alex Anthopoulos can get a team to take the remainder of Vernon Wells' contract, then he should be able to use that Jedi Mind Shit to get JoBau at the hot corner, where he belongs and is most valuable to this team.

Finally: A sad hockey question from the inimitable @DannyHeatleySpeedwagon: Alfredsson will retire a Sen... yes or no?

Yes. No. Either way, it looks like a sad ending. Though we wouldn't mind him having his Ray Bourque moment. If it came to that.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Who backs up the backups? The soft middle of the Jays' infield

Here's what's been making us shift uncomfortably in our shoes these days: With all the talk of who plays third and where do we fit all the big-hit-no-field corner types into the lineup, we'd barely noticed how thin the Jays are in the middle infield.

Sure, they have Aaron Hill and Yunel Escobar stationed at second and short to start the season, and that combo has the potential to be amongst the best in the Majors. (Avert your eyes from their 2010 numbers, and that statement seems a lot more true.)

(And permit us a quick diversion here: Is it just us, or was the body language between Yunel and Hill really crappy last year. When Escobar would take the ball to the bag himself, you could see the wind being taken out of Hill's sails. That's not going to work over a full 162-game season.)

Both Hill and Escobar have had spotty health records, either missing games or playing at a decreased level because they were hurt for parts of recent seasons. So it's not unreasonable to picture one or both of them nursing injuries or sitting out for weeks on end in 2010.

And who do the Jays have to step in and take over? On the active roster, you'd be looking at John McDonald as the first man off the bench, while the next options on the 40-man roster are Mike McCoy and Adeiny Hechavarria. And that's pretty much that.

We all love Johnny Mac, and if we had to see him play everyday for a week or two, we'd be fine with it. But for a month? Or the bulk of the season? That's a scenario that starts to chip away pretty quickly at our enthusiasm for 85 wins or more in the coming year.

McCoy, superduperplucky as he might be, looked as though he had no real business being on a big league roster in his 46 games with the Jays last year. (.511 OPS in 86 ABs). And Hechavarria would seem to require at least a year of having rough edges sanded and polished before he's ready for a full-time job in Toronto. So neither of them appear to be serious options for 2011. (At least not to us.)

Offseason acquisition and SuperStudCanadianDude Brett Lawrie has stated publicly that he's ready, willing and able to rock and roll all year-long at the MLB level, though his allegedly dodgy defense would not be suitable at short. Moreover, we're not sure that we share his sentiment on his preparedness for the big time. There's a possibility that second could be patrolled by Rule 5 draftee Brad Emaus if he were to be returned to the Jays from the Mets at some point this year. But again, not a shortstop.

Among some of the players who are out of options and may be available between now and April, there is Texas utility infielder Andres Blanco (.679 OPS, meh), perpetual Dodgers prospect Chin-lung Hu (.777 OPS in the PCL last year...he's been a longtime crush of ours, but at age 26, we're starting to give up on him), and Angel Sanchez (.664 OPS after being traded to the Astros for Kevin Cash.)

Which brings us back full circle, to John McDonald. Given the dearth of 2011-ready talent available, we're likely left praying for good health amongst the current starting keystone tandem, or relying on the the PMoD as an everyday player.

We'll leave it to you to judge how comfortable you feel about the notion.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brett Cecil won't be ignored

So we're gallivanting around Niagara-on-the-Lake this weekend, hitting various and sundry wineries along the way, when one of our companions points out to us that "Brett Cecil had to be the quietest 15-game winner" he'd ever come across.

Being the cordial type that we are, we went along with the line of discussion. Actually, we didn't. We got all snooty and all "pfftt, wins are a stupid stat" and then tried to demonstrate our baseball acumen to a minivan full of mostly indifferent (though vaguely tolerant) wine drinkers.

But when the vino cloud pushed on and we had some time to think about it, there was something to what he was saying. If you'd asked us on the spot that day what Brett Cecil's record was last year, we would have figured 11-9, or 12-10, rather than the 15-7 that he actually posted. And while his won-loss is likely a bad way of gauging his worth, our teachable moment here was that we'd almost completely neglected our bespectacled hero when we considered the 2011 campaign.

Mostly, we've been focused on seeing Brandon Morrow emerge into something of otherworldly splendor, or seeing Ricky Romero become a wiser and wicked dealer at the top of the rotation. We also pictured Kyle Drabek's emergence, and the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation, which would be won by someone so deserving (Zach Stewart) that they'd dazzle and amaze.

But Cecil? The dude who had us writing love poems to his thighs and they power they generated in his delivery? The dude who dazzled us with his ability to pitch blind (or at least without his glasses)? We'd pretty much put him in the corner. (And pause for you all to shout out the obvious Dirty Dancing punchline here.)

Looking at the more interesting numbers from last year, it stands to reason that Cecil would come into the year as the number three starter. His FIP of 4.03 ranked him behind Morrow (3.16) and RickRo (3.64), and puts him in a neighbourhood of pitchers such as Jonathan Sanchez, Tim Hudson and Carl Pavano. Which isn't bad, but wouldn't be your ace-type pitcher if you played in a real man's division of professional baseball.

Meanwhile, Cecil's K/9 of 6.10 was too low for us to start thinking about his impending world domination, though his low walk rate (2.81 per nine) outshone Romero's (3.51) and Morrow's (4.06), and keeping free runners of the basepaths is no small measure of future success. Cecil also did a decent job last year of keeping the ball on the ground (44.2% groundballs) while having the lowest percentage of line drives hit off him of those three returning starters (17.6%).

We're droning on here, and we can sense your eyes glazing over like Ban roll-on dispensers. But to sum up quickly, our point is that Brett Cecil will probably end up as the third-best pitcher in the rotation after all is said and done this year, but that's not a bad spot to end up. Cecil is still just 24 years old, and the youngest amongst the top three returning starters. He's also younger, than Rzep, Jesse Litsch, Brad Mills, Bobby Ray and Jo-Jo Reyes for that matter, and just a year and five months older than Drabek. So there's still plenty of upside to anticipate from him, and every possibility that he emerges into a top of the rotation arm within the next two seasons.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's just about that time

With pitchers and catchers not ready to report for another few, it feels like this post is weeks early. But given the alternatives - I just don't have another "who makes up the bullpen" or "is there another move on the horizon" post in me - maybe now is the right time.

I miss the game.

There's something about baseball that keeps me completely engrossed for the 8 months of preseason through playoffs and leaves me itching for more during 4 months of offseason.

Normally, this is the point where I'd joke with you all about what a sad existence I must be leading that a 30-something year old dude is pining for the return of a game. A game. But the truth of the matter is, I lead a charmed life with no complaints a reasonable person could defend. So why is it that in both times of stress and those of relaxation, I find myself thinking about the upcoming season and the myriad of possibilities that could unfold?

It's certainly nothing I'd claim to be proud of, but it's not exactly, um....uncommon, let's say, that I may miss a question posed to me by the better half because I'm lost in thought about how Aaron Hill's statline might look by season's end.

Do I think he should have given her a rose? How in the fuck should I know, I'm trying to figure out if Rajai Davis' projected (in my mind) 53 stolen bases will be enough to compensate for his below-average OBP in the leadoff spot. Am I right?

And there's just something about this franchise today - the way decisions are being made, how one transaction can seemingly never be viewed on a standalone basis, or graded in the immediate aftermath - that screams the word "inspired". For me, anyway.

The hiring of John Farrell to run the on-field product was an inspired move. We (using the royal "we" me) all cried foul when names like Don Baylor or Bobby Valentine were run through the mill as potential candidates. Not prepared for the same old, same old, how could those guys even be considered? Well, speaking plainly, they probably never were.

Trading presumptive opening-day starter Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie was inspired. Some will tell you inspired by cost savings, still others will say it was a blatant effort to lose. But I'll argue it was inspired by a desire to win it all - eventually - versus a record 5 games better in 2011.

Trading Vernon Wells' contract was inspired.... by common sense. With an assist from west-coast lunacy.

And here we are. Two weeks away from the start of one of the most intriguing seasons in recent memory. Maybe since '93.

And I can't wait.