Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts from the Weekend, and for the Week Ahead

So if you were following along in the social media spheres, you may have noticed that we made a somewhat impromptu expedition down to Toronto to catch our first live games of the year.

(And yes, we're sorry for not giving you all more advance notice, but it was a bit of a last-minute thing, and we were not expecting to come over for tea and inconvenience you. We really didn't want to put you out.)

Gleaned below are a few thoughts and whims from this weekend past, and for the week ahead.

Flipping for Edwin: We're not trying to be that guy who says he told you so. So we won't. But suffice to say, there is a reason why we're happy he's stuck around. Can you imagine if he were a member of the Oakland A's right now?

Encarnacion's first month (.361 OBP, .644 SLG, seven homers, four-should-be-five steals) builds on at least three strong months in 2011, and gives the indication that maybe he's found a spot where he belongs. Letting him serve as a full-time DH and occasional first baseman and putting him in the middle of the lineup looks good on him.

And if you want a measure of how well Encarnacion is doing, how about the pitch thrown into his ribs with plenty of intent on Sunday afternoon? Maybe he was plunked because the Mariners found his bat flips a bit too pimped out over the weekend, but we'd imagine that the frequency with which he was making the ball leave the park likely enhanced the case for a painful free pass. 

Different Paths to Success: We were pleased to see two outings by the starting rotation that were quite good, even if there is some qualification that prevents them from being regarded as great.

We were especially pleased to see Brandon Morrow "announce his presence with authority" on Saturday, striking out nine again five hits and no walks. We understand the concept of pitching to contact and getting an arm like Morrow's deeper into games, and it would have been nice to see him get through the seventh. But when he's eliciting weak check swings or powering his fastball through swings all day long, we realize just how much we enjoy the version of Morrow that strikes guys out.

(It also makes us wonder if it's possible for Morrow to go 120 pitches on a regular basis, and whether if the pitches beyond his 100th would be of sufficient quality to merit his staying in the game.)

In some ways, Henderson Alvarez seems like Morrow's polar opposite, in that he seems not to have a put away pitch that can get him strikeouts in a tight spot, but the approach seems to work for him. More or less.

For a pitcher who gave up just one run in six innings on six hits, Alvarez seemed to be on the cusp of losing control of his start throughout Sunday afternoon. Four of the six hits were for extra bases, but somehow, the only run that scored was on Chone Figgins' lead-off homer. A homer that he hit, we would add, after Alvarez had his way with him to get the first two strikes of the at bat.

It's possible that Alvarez could be an effective pitcher with a K/9 under 6.00, but we would still like to see him find an approach that allows him to get swings with the stuff he already has in his repertoire.

Adam Lind Hits Fourth: No real item here. Just a reminder, so that you're not caught off guard when the lineups get posted.

As for the rationale, we'll say this: We don't necessarily agree with the notion that lineups need to alternate righty-lefty-righty all the way through. We wouldn't mind see right-handed batters hitting back-to-back (Bautista and Edwin!), but it's probably a good principle to keep your left-handed bats separated, especially if they are vulnerable to being isolated and choked off by a decent left-handed reliever. Though this also raises the question of why a player with such profound platoon splits would be found in the middle of your lineup.

D'oh! Just when we'd reached the "acceptance" stage in the Kübler-Ross model, we skip back all the way to "denial". Expect to see "anger" and "bargaining" at some point in the series versus the Rangers.

Timing is Everything: The 4 pm start on Saturday afternoon was an interesting and pleasant change for us. We're reasonably certain that the last time we attended a late afternoon weekend start, José Canseco was the starting DH for the Jays. On a completely selfish level, the later start allows for some of us from outside the GTA to make our way into town in the early afternoon. But it also lets the game lead into a Saturday evening out, which makes for great atmosphere and good business for the restaurants and bars across the entire downtown.

We heard from some on Twitter who found the timing inconvenient for a whole host of reasons, but considering the crowd of more 30,765 that tuned out, we wonder if the later start on Saturday isn't a better fit for the market.

Infinite Puns for Yu: Of course, Yu Darvish's arrival in Toronto will spur all sorts of discussion about the Jays' rationale for not laying out more and more and more money in order to secure his services. This is why we're relieved that the Jays enter the game on a winning note, and hopeful that they can smack him around for a few innings.

Considering how much swing and miss the Jays have in their bats lately, that might seem like a stretch. But the bats have to bust out at some point, and a dominating start by Darvish will only breathe more life into what we think should be a non-story at this point.


gabriel said...

Two quibbles- firstly, I'm not seeing the whole lot of swing-and-miss that you mention- Rasmus and Johnson maybe over the last week, but in general the Jays seem to be making good contact- the team K-rate is among the best in the game.

Secondly, I'm still not sold on Lind being a bad option in the clean-up hole. In an ideal world, Bautista would be hitting there; but absent a Farrevolution, we are stuck with inferior options. EE is obviously out to a great start, but we should perhaps be even more encouraged by Lind's start to the season. He's been unlucky- a low BABIP and HR/FB rate. But more importantly - especially given the still-small sample sizes of the nascent season - Lind has vastly improved his plate discipline- swinging at fewer pitches overall, far fewer pitches outside the zone, and making better contact on both categories of pitches. As a result, Lind is currently rocking career-best BB% and K% numbers. His batted-ball profile and my own observation doesn't give any indication that he's fated to maintain a substandard BABIP (and his pop-ups are back to a good, low level this season). And, as we've seen the past two seasons, the one thing Lind has always provided is a decent amount of power.

Tao of Stieb said...

Sometimes, people have low BABIP because they don't hit the ball very hard.

A consequence of swinging with flabby arms.

Peter DeMarco said...

Eric Thames = STUD!

Suck it haters :)

Tao of Stieb said...

I didn't mention it in the post, but I'm finding it harder to hate on Thames. Frankly, he's one of the few Jays who hit last week.

Maybe not a long-term solution in LF...but I could see a scenario where he becomes a good full-time DH who can play a passable LF in a pinch.

He's not there yet, I should say. But, it's not inconceivable.

DaveC said...

Good to see Thames hitting better. But he's still a glorified DH, and a horrifically bad outfielder.

Anonymous said...

I agree, not all batters will average the same BABIP or HR:FB ratio.

This is one of the flaws with the new metrics, it assumes that these things will average out for all players over time, which simply isn't true.

Better swings will result in better percentages & ratios; Not all fly balls or balls put in play are created equal. Just ask Ichiro, or look at the weak contact Yunel is making right now, or the under-cutting over-pressing fly balls JoBats is putting in play right now.

The type of swing determines the outcomes, not Luck (as some people call it) & it will not all even out of things over time.

It may be the case sometimes, but not always.

Actually, in reverse, I think one can probably look to these metrics to get a sense of the quality of the contact a batter is making, by taking a closer examination of the #'s.

How long will it take for more finely-tuned metrics to evolve?

The #'s can tell a lot of the story, but only if they are relevant! I don't know if they will ever be able to tell the whole story;

I am a believer in Intangibles: the power of Confidence (i.e. Cito & Dwayne Murphy having faith in Bautista), the strength of the bonds between teammates (& coaches), the expectations of fans & media, the appreciation from fans & media (what is & is not appreciated), the attention, the buzz, the pyschological build of players, the city, the history of the franchise, so many little things. Subtle things can affect performances & can change the dynamics for a player & a team.

On that note, I like what the Jays are doing to make all the minor improvements that add-up to make a big difference, for the most part, though many improvements can still be made.

Anonymous said...

^^ flaws with the INTERPRETATION of thse metrics?

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