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Emilio Bonifacio is Fast: A GIF Compilation

Photo Courtesy of James G via Flickr
Photo Courtesy of james_in_to via Flickr

When the Blue Jays acquired Emilio Bonifacio in the Marlins Trade back in early November, we knew he was fast, but the question was, how fast?

In last night’s 10-8 win over the Cleveland [redacted]s, shortly after Colby Rasmus‘ home run, Emilio Bonifacio intended to show us just how fast he really is. He did a rather remarkable thing on the base paths, he turned what looked like a very routine ground ball up the middle, a single for most any player in baseball, into a double…and he did it without any hesitation.

The GIFs are after the jump.

 

The initial hit looks very routine. Michael Bourn wasn’t slow to field the ball, yet still by the end of the clip you see him hurry up to try and get the throw in to the cutoff man, who doesn’t even attempt to throw out Bonifacio at second base.

 

Bonifacio didn’t hesitate one bit going around first base, he had a double in mind.

Bonifacio’s signature celebration, the Lo Viste sign.

Michael Bourn, one of the fastest base runners in baseball, was in shock after the play.

As you may have guessed, speed in baseball amazes me. While it’s always nice to see Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion hit a long home run, it’s much rarer to see such game changing speed; especially in this day and age. Bonifacio’s double was a speed-related treat, one of many we may see this season from the likes of Bonifacio, Reyes, and Rajai Davis.

Hat tip to @coolhead2010 for pointing out the play.

Lastly, one shameless plug, if you haven’t already seen I’ve been putting up Blue Jays GIFs and other MLB GIFs regularly on my new subdomain gifs.houseofthebluebird.com. Over there you’ll see GIFs ranging from slow motion R.A. Dickey knuckleballs to Jose Reyes dancing with the grounds crew in spring training. All the GIFs I make this season will be chronicled on that site such that funny/amazing/odd moments can be searched, rewatched, and remembered.

Addressing the DH Situation and Pondering What To Do With the Rest of the Roster

Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Keith Allison via Flickr

It’s January 6th and the offseason is just over halfway done, but the Blue Jays have largely accomplished more than anyone could have ever imagined…perhaps including Alex Anthopoulos. Through the Maicer Izturis signing, the blockbuster trade with the Marlins, the Melky Cabrera signing, and the R.A. Dickey trade the Blue Jays have added a total of 21 Wins Above Replacement by 2012 FanGraphs standards. During this process the Jays have filled a majority of the holes that they had prior to the offseason by finding a left fielder, a second baseman, and multiple top of the rotation starters.

Blue Jays Depth Chart Dec 30th

Blue Jays Depth Chart as of January 6th via BlueJays.com

As you can see on the depth chart above, the Blue Jays roster is pretty full. After accounting for starters at every position, a backup catcher, a backup infielder, a 4th outfielder, and a 7 man bullpen it leaves 1 spot left on the 25-man roster. Throughout the offseason, fans have sought to fill that spot with a 1B/DH platoon partner for Adam Lind, looking to such options as the now signed Johnny Gomes and Mark Reynolds as well as acquired and relinquished 1B/DH/OF Russ Canzler. The first two options are now gone and Canzler was simply inadequete compared the the Blue Jays’ in house option, Rajai Davis.

The same can be said for a majority of the rest of the free agent market. Of the FA options left only Mike Napoli, Delmon Young, and Aubrey Huff have higher wRC+’s than Rajai Davis vs. LHP over the past three years and only a few others have come close to Davis’ production versus lefties. The difference between Huff and Davis is marginal and while Mike Napoli and Delmon Young represent upgrades they will either take a large commitment in Napoli’s case or pinhole the Jays into a sole DH platoon.

In theory it would make sense to simply supply a better right handed half of a DH platoon for Adam Lind, but the present versatility on the Blue Jays roster could provide a situation with similar results.

As is, in Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio, the Jays have two players who can collectively play LF, CF, RF, 3B, SS, and 2B while also being more than adequate against LHP for the positions that they play. As well, in terms of position players presently on the Blue Jays projected 25-man roster, there is quite a few players who one might call injury risks…players like Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, and even young gun Brett Lawrie. Using their present versatility the Jays could give each of those players, among others, some games at DH when the Jays are going up against a left handed starter and put one of Davis or Bonifiacio in their place in the field.

The proposed positional breakdown would look something like this.

vs. RHP
C – J.P. Arencibia
1B – Adam Lind
2B – Maicer Izturis
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – Brett Lawrie
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista
DH – Edwin Encarnacion

vs. LHP
C – J.P. Arencibia
1B – Edwin Encarnacion
2B – Maicer Izturis
SS – Jose Reyes/Emilio Bonifacio
3B – Brett Lawrie/Emilio Bonifacio
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista/Rajai Davis
DH – Rajai Davis/Jose Reyes/Brett Lawrie/Jose Bautista

Of course there would still be a number of games where Rajai Davis is pencilled in as the DH and whose to say whether Reyes, Bautista or Lawrie would be ok with being delegated to DH, but when you consider that the other FA options are either costly, not significantly better, or not very good at all the present situation doesn’t seem all that bad.

With that said, it still leaves the question of what to do with the 25th spot on the roster and at this point it seems most likely that it will go to someone currently on the 40 man roster (David Cooper, Ryan Goins, Moises Sierra, Aaron Loup, etc.), but of the available options, none of them is particularly intriguing considering the present roster construction. Instead what would probably be ideal is someone who can play 3B better than Bonifacio and maybe even fill in at 1B vs. LHP from time to time…of course this would ideally be done without breaking the bank and probably in the fashion of a player willing to accept a minor league deal.

Beyond that there isn’t too much left for this Toronto team to do. The Jays are set with players at all 8 positions on the diamond and their starting rotation is more than filled out. At this point there could still be value in upgrading certain positions like C, RP, and even CF…depending on how much money the Jays have left to spend. However, as is, with the current team, the Jays likely have their best shot at the playoffs since the glory years in 1992 and 1993.

Evaluating the R.A. Dickey Trade

Photo Courtesy of Cristine Maybourne via Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Cristine Maybourne via Flickr

As Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star wrote on Monday, the Blue Jays reached an extension with R.A. Dickey that is reportedly worth $25 million for 2 years with a team option for $12 million in 2016. The extension was the final piece of the puzzle and it completed the Jays/Mets trade that was reportedly agreed upon in principle days before. In total the Blue Jays traded away Travis d’Arnaud, Noah SyndergaardJohn Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra to the New York Mets for R.A. DickeyJosh Thole, and Mike Nickeas.

Prior to the trade, d’Arnaud and Syndergaard were the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the Blue Jays farm system. In return the Jays are getting R.A. Dickey, the 2012 NL Cy Young winner, but a pitcher without a long track record of elite success. FanGraphs defines elite or ‘All Star level’ as a player with between 4 and 5 wins above replacement in a single season. Solely using fWAR, Dickey would qualify for just one all star level season in his career (2012), but if you look to RA9-Wins as Dave Cameron exclaimed yesterday, it opines that Dickey has had 2 seasons worth 4+ wins above replacement (2010, 2012) coming to a total of 14.8 wins over the last three years. Only six other pitchers in baseball have had higher fWAR totals in that same time period.

The reason for the difference in value is that RA9-Wins uses runs allowed as opposed to FIP for the calculation of WAR. In the calculation of WAR, FIP is adjusted to a normalized BABIP, but runs allowed keeps the BABIP as is. This means that in calculating Dickey’s WAR, the FIP version severely undervalues him because Dickey consistently produces lower BABIPs than what would otherwise be expected.

As Dave Cameron described

You shouldn’t just use RA9-wins for any pitcher who outperforms his FIP, as often times, that’s simply the product of good teammates or some good luck, but you should also know that FIP doesn’t work for every pitcher…Knuckleball pitchers induce weak contact that leads to consistently lower than average rates of hits on balls in play

While this may be a better way of valuing R.A. Dickey, this comparison in a way represents the sense of unknown that we still have with knuckleball pitchers. Perhaps with Dickey, the unknown is even further amplified as last season he did things that only a few knuckleball pitchers ever have and at velocities that no knuckleballers have ever reached.

With all that in mind, going forward R.A. Dickey is an interesting projection case. In his most recent article ($) Dan Szymborski showed off the ZiPS projections for the newest Jay, which valued Dickey as a 4 WAR pitcher in 2013 and a 10.6 WAR pitcher over the next three years.

Is that enough to push the Blue Jays over the top in 2013? Maybe…?

As it stands ZiPS projects the Blue Jays to win 93 games in 2013, which also projects to be the top win total in the American League East.

Even then giving up the two top prospects in any farm system, yet alone one that previously ranked among the top in the league, for a pitcher who still has questions about his value doesn’t always end too favourably. In the aftermath of the trade some have pointed to the fact that the Jays are legitimate contenders for a playoff spot and every additional win is worth more. While that may be true, I’m not a big fan of using it as justification for a single trade because it assumes that there is no other way to achieve additional wins. In this case I find it hard to believe that R.A. Dickey was the only option and that giving up two elite prospects was all that could be done to improve the team. Perhaps I’m wrong…perhaps certain free agents didn’t want to sign in Toronto, perhaps Dickey was the only trade option, perhaps the Jays have maxed out their budget. There is a lot of variables in the trade that as outsiders, we aren’t privy to.

With that said, regardless of my opinion on the trade, R.A. Dickey is one of the most exciting pitchers to watch in the MLB, he makes the team better in 2013, and he’s an all around great person. I’m overjoyed (as any fan should be) to have Dickey on the Jays, but still apprehensive about what the cost ended up being. Nonetheless, Dickey the best.

Should the Blue Jays Extend Josh Johnson and What Might it Cost?

Photo Courtesy of GMO66

At the time this article is being posted, Josh Johnson has officially been a member of the Toronto Blue Jays for a total of 8 days. It seems like ages ago that the mega-trade was announced by the MLB, but up until the last half week the pace of the offseason really hadn’t slowed down. Despite the acquisition’s recent occurrence an extension for Johnson has already become a topic of discussion amongst media in Toronto. As early as last week Johnson’s agent, Matt Sosnick, was on the Jeff Blair show discussing Johnson’s openness to discuss an extension with the Jays and these same sentiments were reiterated in one of Brandon Kennedy’s most recent columns.

For many franchises in the upper echelon of payroll prowess discussing an extension with a recently traded for pitcher is almost commonplace. These teams being described often trade for pitchers of Johnson’s calibre with the idea of extending said player, assuming said player is willing to discuss the topic. Despite their newfound spot among the league’s elite payrolls the Blue Jays are flowing into relatively uncharted waters and because of this some of the norms that come with a bigger payroll haven’t taken effect in Toronto just yet.

With that said despite what became an estimated $30 million dollar addition to the payroll over the past two weeks there hasn’t been any signs that the Jays are going to slow down just yet. Because of this as well as Josh Johnson’s apparent openness to discuss an extension it isn’t necessarily out of the realm of possibility that the Blue Jays could extend him before this offseason is over. However even with Johnson’s openness and the potential of additional money being available, Josh Johnson himself provides a peculiar extension case.

From Johnson’s first full season in the major leagues until now, he’s averaged just 129 IP per season and has pitched over 200 innings just once. His foray into the world of Dr. James Andrews began in 2007 when he first missed significant time due to a neurological injury in his elbow, which ultimately progressed to a need for Tommy John Surgery, which occurred in August of 2007. Following that surgery Johnson was generally healthy in the subsequent years until 2010 and then later 2011 wherein Josh Johnson missed significant time due to shoulder inflammation.

If one were to look solely at that information and then declare Josh Johnson an injury prone pitcher they likely wouldn’t be alone in that declaration, but despite what is an injury prone past there may be optimism for the future. In Stephania Bell’s pre-2012 starting pitcher injury preview she noted that while the fact that Josh Johnson took longer than expected to come back from shoulder inflammation was discouraging, he had also instituted a new offseason training program, which could provide hope for the future. Said training program was described as such.

[During the 2011/2012] offseason…Johnson worked with a physical therapist on very specific strengthening of the musculature that supports his throwing arm. This type of exercise will not make it outwardly appear as if one has spent serious time in the weight room. It will, however, focus on the neuromuscular coordination of the muscles most important to a pitcher, the ones that often go untrained or at least under-trained, when one veers more into heavy lifting

Beyond that in another article by Stephania Bell, there was a quote from Josh Johnson wherein he expressed his clear belief that his shoulder would be stronger going forward. While we can’t determine too much injury-wise over the course of a single season I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t slightly encouraged by the fact that Josh Johnson implemented his new offseason training program and then went on to pitch the entire 2012 season relatively injury free.

With that said on the statistical front Josh Johnson’s 2012 season wasn’t a complete success. Even though he stayed healthy, he still lost a MPH off of his fastball. It should be noted that dropping a single MPH from 94 MPH to 93 MPH certainly isn’t as detrimental as it would be for a pitcher who throws in the high 80s/low 90s, but it is still concerning nonetheless. As well beyond the decreased velocity almost all of Johnson’s peripherals in 2012 were worse than his career norms. His walk rate rose to 8.2%, his strikeout rate dropped to 20.7%, and his home run rate rose to 0.66 home runs per nine innings. But above all the stat that is perhaps the most concerning was Johnson’s Zone% that dropped 5% below his career average and sat at a career worst 44.4% in 2012. This meaning that in 2012 Josh Johnson threw roughly 600 less pitches inside the strike zone, which is likely evidence of a slight loss of command.

If Johnson were another season removed from the shoulder inflammation that plagued him in 2011 it’s not inconceivable that his velocity would return to career norms, but it’s also no sure thing, which is a major factor to consider in a potential extension.

As for the money side of the extension, since MLBTR started tracking extensions in the early 2000s there has been three starting pitchers who were extended with service times between 6.00 and 8.00, Matt CainKyle Lohse, and Johan Santana. Of those three pitchers the one whose career performance most closely matches Josh Johnson’s is Matt Cain.

Over their careers prior to extension Matt Cain and Josh Johnson produced fWARs of 23.6 and 22.3 respectively. As well in the three years prior to extension Cain and Johnson produced fWARs of 11.7 and 11.8 respectively.

For Matt Cain, his production resulted in the signing of a massive 6 year $127.5 million deal earlier this year. Whether you base your evaluation on the all-encompassing value statistic of your choice or any of the many ERA estimators, Josh Johnson would look to be in line for a similar contract assuming no other factors. However because Johnson has a few previously discussed weak points in his case for a larger extension one would expect an extension with substantially less money than the $127.5 million guaranteed to Matt Cain.

The other day when I put it out on Twitter asking people what kind of contract they thought Josh Johnson would get, the answers ranged from 3 years $45 million to 6 years $100 million. As is evidenced by the variance in predictions it becomes a little hard to make an accurate prediction because there really are no players who have recently been given extensions and who were also in a similar position to Josh Johnson.

He relates closely to Cain on an overall level and it isn’t inconceivable that he might get a contract similar to Cain’s on the open market if he pitches another year of injury free baseball, but for Josh Johnson that Cain contract is too ambitious at this current time. Because of that perhaps something closer to the 5 year, $77.5 million contract that C.J. Wilson landed on the free agent market last offseason is a more realistic possibility.

When the Angels signed Wilson to that contract last offseason he had come into it with two consecutive 4.5+ fWAR seasons, but he also carried the caveats that he appeared to be outperforming his skill set and that he had been a reliever for the majority of his career. Josh Johnson doesn’t carry these same caveats, but he too has glaring holes in his case for a larger extension and it could similarly lessen his expectations.

With that said if one were to take C.J. Wilson’s contract and add the 5% inflation that is generally prescribed to contract growth in the MLB it brings us to 5 years and roughly $82 million. If we assume that the average annual value is the yearly salary then the contract and the wins above replacement required would break down something like this.

Year Salary Projected $/WAR WAR Required
2014 $16,400,000 $5,843,000 2.8
2015 $16,400,000 $6,135,000 2.7
2016 $16,400,000 $6,442,000 2.5
2017 $16,400,000 $6,764,000 2.4
2018 $16,400,000 $7,103,000 2.3
Total $82,000,000 12.8

Depending on what you think of Josh Johnson, 12.8 wins above replacement over his ages 30-34 seasons may seem like quite a bit, but it is definitely well within reach. If one were to assume that 2012 Josh Johnson is who he will be going forward then they can probably assume 4 wins above replacement in 2014. Given that number and a 0.5 WAR decline after the age 30 season it would give Josh Johnson a total of 15 wins above replacement over the course of the contract and that assumes no injuries.

Even if Josh Johnson is injured at some point during those five seasons as long as the injury isn’t career threatening then he should still be more than able to fulfill the aforementioned extension.

As well when you consider that the price of a win may be going up at a faster rate in coming years due to an influx of revenue through new MLB wide and local market television contracts an extension of this nature for a player who has been injury prone could be a risk, but a well calculated risk.

Depending on how Josh Johnson views his own injury risk he may be inclined to sacrifice some money later for a little bit of assurance now, but if something similar to this is all he is offered he may also be inclined to forgo an extension of this size with the hopes of a larger one after a healthy 2013 season. Of course any action by the Blue Jays on this front is also highly dependent on how the rest of the offseason shakes out. It’s nice to know that Josh Johnson is open to an extension, but with 4 months left until the 2013 season begins there is plenty of room for change still left on the Blue Jays roster and it certainly doesn’t seem like Alex Anthopoulos is done just yet.

A Guide to Steve Delabar and The Steve Delabar Story

When the Blue Jays traded Eric Thames for relief pitcher Steve Delabar midseason I had little to no knowledge of who he was or what he could do. To me Delabar seemed like any other relief pitcher, but as time wore on I found him to be quite a tantalizing and fascinating player. He is 6 foot 5 and 220 lbs, he’s a relief pitcher, and the inside of his elbow looks like this. The reinforcement of Delabar’s elbow as seen in the picture was the result of multiple elbow injuries from Delabar’s 6 year minor league career that included stints in loA and hiA as well as Independent ball.

Following his last stint with the Brockton Sox of the Can-Am League Delabar called it quits and moved on to pursue other things in life. As Geoff Baker wrote for the Seattle Times back in September Delabar went on to substitute teach and coach at the high school his wife taught at in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. All was well, until one day a friend of Delabar’s who owned an indoor pitching facility brought in a new throwing program that was intended to be used to prevent injuries to the throwing arm, but instead it produced higher throwing velocities in it’s participants. Delabar was among the greatest beneficiaries of this program, according to their site he experienced a 10 MPH increase in velocity.

Shortly thereafter Delabar was scouted by the Mariners, which eventually resulted in him being signed to a minor league contract midway through the 2011 season. In April of that year Delabar was out of baseball and living in Kentucky. In June of that year Delabar was pitching for the High Desert Mavericks in the HiA California League. In September of that year Delabar was striking out major league hitters with 95 MPH fastballs…okay the Royals, but still.

For a pitcher who had a career 4.27 ERA in the minors prior to 2011 that was quite a remarkable turnaround, but that alone is not what makes Delabar so interesting. Beyond his story Delabar has displayed some remarkable skills and has proved to be quite the effective reliever.

The three pitches in Delabar’s repertoire include a mid 90s fastball, a high 80s splitter, and a slider that he throws against right handers every once in a while. He rarely pitches backwards and he’s generally consistent in his approach that sees him set up with the fastball and finish with the splitter.

The incredible thing about Delabar is the location he’s shown with the splitter; he’s able to throw the it down and away with ease to both sides of the plate. A prime example came when Delabar was sent in to pitch the 10th inning against the White Sox and struck out 4 batters, the most strikeouts by any pitcher in a single extra inning. Greg Wisniewski of Infield Fly had a great post breaking down the four at bat sequence in it’s entirety. In order Delabar struck out Dayan ViciedoTyler FlowersGordon Beckham, and Alejandro De Aza all strikeouts coming on the splitter.

In terms of overall results in 66.0 innings in 2012 Delabar had 92 K’s, good for a 32.8 K%, which ranked him 6th among relievers with at least 60 IP. Of those 92 strikeouts, 56 came on Delabar’s splitter a number that ranked second in the league. Aside from his K’s, Delabar has also proven to be a relatively effective reliever through other facets of his game. He’s strikes out tons, he doesn’t walk too many, and he keeps the ball on the ground at an efficient rate.

Generally a reliever who does those three things well is one you’d consider for a full time late innings role, however like others of his kind Delabar has demonstrated vulnerability in both his home run rate and his platoon splits. Delabar, interestingly enough has exhibited reverse platoon splits in his short time in the majors mainly due to a huge jump in his fly ball rate versus right handers.

If you take a look at the chart on the right (via Baseball Prospectus) it shows Delabar’s career fastball frequency vs. right handed hitters in each section of the strike zone. As you may notice it appears that Delabar has a tendency to leave his fastball up in the zone quite a bit more versus right handers, which could be a contributing factor to the increase in home runs and fly ball rate vs. righties.

Of course another factor in the equation is the rate at which Delabar’s fly balls turn into home runs, which as it stands now vs. right handers it’s a lofty 27.5%. One would expect that rate to normalize, meaning there would be a significantly less amount of home runs.

If in any fashion Delabar can find a way to limit his home runs versus right handers it could make him a much more valuable commodity going forward. A commodity that could perhaps pitch in a full time late innings relief role and to think it only cost ole’ Eric “let’s swing at everything” Thames.

Of course we are dealing with small sample sizes throughout all of this data, but it brings an intriguing possibility to the future of Delabar’s career. Even if he doesn’t progress further than where he is now, Delabar is still a valuable reverse LOOGY with raw stuff that is as exciting as any. It’s a theme that is common among many of the Blue Jays’ relievers, they have the stuff and hopefully the stats will come.

The Problem with Brett Lawrie

Brett Lawrie is many things…a baseball player, a Canadian, a Red Bull connoisseur, and an extreme purveyor of the mindset many call #Want. The Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines want as “to desire to come, go, or be”. However in the baseball sense Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus defines #want as “the manifestation of human desire and physical yield; when the yearning for perfection becomes visible to the naked eye.”

In Brett Lawrie’s specific case he may not always attempt to achieve this pristine state of mind in the most eloquent of ways, but the fact that he is trying (and he is always trying) to achieve #want is what sets him apart from the rest.

Throughout the 2012 season one could have viewed the many examples of Brett Lawrie’s #want. On a nightly basis he puts his body on the line doing whatever he deems necessary to help his team win. Whether it means running over a catcher at home plate or making a diving catch near (or over) the wall Brett Lawrie will do it all.

During Wednesday’s baseball affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees Brett Lawrie’s #want was at its full capacity. This time it was a pop-up off the bat of Mark Texeira. The ball rose up in the air flying above third base and towards the stands. Brett Lawrie, poised to make an attempt to catch the ball, was standing by the fence in position. The ball appeared to fly a bit out of Brett Lawrie’s reach, but Lawrie made an attempt anyway. The following the video is the result of that attempt.

As you may be able to see in the video it looked like Brett was pretty shaken up after the play, yet still he made an attempt to walk off the field on his own. This play became a play of much controversy in the land of Twitter with some arguing that it was a stupid play with a ball that Lawrie should have never gone after, while others argued that the play represented Brett Lawrie’s heart and hustle (see what I did there?) and his willingness to do anything to get that ball.

My personal opinion on the matter strays much closer to the former in that I thought what Brett Lawrie did was pretty stupid. Some argued that he may not have known that their was a pit of doom looming on the other side of that fence, but the larger point is that he should have known and if he did know he shouldn’t have jumped…its not worth it.

To quote a sign seen frequently at the Ski hills (emphasis on hills) in Ontario, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Either Brett didn’t follow the eternal law of safety or his #want overrode the part of the brain that strives for safety and survival.

#Want or the manifestation of human desire with the objective of helping your team win is a trait that you want your players to have. However when there is too much #want injury becomes a very realistic possibility as we saw with Mr. Lawrie. Those two paths at one point come to a crossroads one where there is perfect balance as seen below.

As you can see from the very professional graph above there is a single line that represents the split between the amount of probability that a players adds to his team’s chances of winning and the risk of possible injuries that occurs from hustling. The line that runs down the middle of the graph is the #Want equilibrium and as shown Brett Lawrie has strayed further from the equilibrium than you would like.

Of course the graph is used in jest as there is no real calculation to find a player’s place on the graph above. Despite that the message holds true, with the way in which Brett Lawrie approaches the game he puts himself at an extreme chance of injury.

This time Brett got lucky in that he only ended up day to day. As Stephania Bell mentioned on Thursdays’ Fantasy Focus: Baseball podcast, Lawrie was lucky he didn’t walk away with a major back injury after the tumble he took into the camera pit.

With Lawrie’s style of play this kind of occurrence where there is a major injury scare could become a regular thing. Look at Josh Hamilton for example, he plays in a similar fashion to Lawrie with the “put it all on there like you just don’t care” mentality. Throughout the course of Hamilton’s career his games played each year are as follows 90, 156, 89, 133, and 121 games. That is one year with 150+ games and only three with 100+ games.

Despite getting hate for it Kevin Goldstein might be right when he said…

Goldstein’s reasoning is the reason many people want Lawrie to tone it down, but the problem is it may not be that easy. In Brett Lawrie’s short career an all out style has been a part of his game, it’s part of what makes him who he has. It is easy for any of us to suggest that someone tells Lawrie to tone it down a little, but that is a part of his game and I highly doubt it hasn’t been tried already.

On the other side of things the fact that Lawrie plays an extremist all out style to the game does not give anyone the right to justify it. That means you don’t need to try to tell me or anyone else that what Lawrie did is a good thing because he did all he could to help his team. If Lawrie makes the play then that’s fantastic he’s moved the team one step closer to one win. Though if he gets hurt, which isn’t an insignificant possibility, then he costs the team wins when they end up playing the Assistant Bench Coach Omar Vizquel instead of one of the better players on their team.

It may sound cliché but Brett Lawrie is who he is, he will be both a hero and a villain, he will be both invigorating and frustrating and I doubt anyone will be able to change that anytime soon. That doesn’t mean you have to hate love him or hate him, just accept him for who he is…it isn’t that hard.

Hindsight is 20/20: The Scott Rolen Trade

Official Transaction:
Three years ago today, July 31st 2009, the Blue Jays sent Scott Rolen and $4 million to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin EncarnacionJosh Roenicke, and Zach Stewart.

The Situation:
At the time of the trade Scott Rolen was 34 years old and in the midst of a typical Rolenesque season. He had a 121 wRC+ and was playing his usual top notch defence at the hot corner. At the time the Blue Jays owed Rolen ~$4 million for the rest of the 2009 season and then $11 million in 2010. Following the trade it was reported that Rolen had asked to be traded for personal reasons.

WAR Since Trade:
Scott Rolen 7.3 fWAR

Edwin Encarnacion 6.9 fWAR
Josh Roenicke 0.0 fWAR
Zach Stewart 0.2 fWAR

Discussion:
At the time of the trade there seemed to be a very mixed reaction to the transaction in its entirety. On one hand the Blue Jays gave up a player in Scott Rolen who was having a nice little season, but on the other hand the Blue Jays were 11.5 games out of a playoff spot and it looked like it was maybe time to sell.

In terms of the return it may not have been exactly what was expected for a player who was performing to Rolen’s level. In Encarnacion the Blue Jays got a “third baseman” who was touted as a player who at 26 had not yet reached his potential. As for the other players in the trade Roenicke and Stewart were two Reds minor leaguers who ranked uniformly on the border of the Reds Top 10 Prospects. Following the trade Roenicke was praised as the closer of the future, but as we now know that didn’t really happen.

As for Stewart he finished the 2009 season in fine fashion and ended up at and I kid you not #1 on the Blue Jays’ 2010 Baseball America Top 10 Prospect List. However that list doesn’t include any of the players from the Halladay deal who would be traded for a couple of weeks after that prospect list was posted. Furthermore despite his #1 ranking Stewart found no spot  on the Baseball America 2010 Top 100 Prospects List.

As time moved on Josh Roenicke became somewhat of an afterthought in that trade and he has gone on to become a fringy MLB player. As well despite what fans were told of Encarnacion’s potential it sure didn’t show up in game action between 2010 and 2011. If anything it seemed all of the players that came back in the Rolen trade would never really pan out as expected.

Of course some of that feeling was mitigated when at the 2011 Non-Waiver Trade Deadline the Blue Jays included one of the Rolen pieces, Zach Stewart, in a trade for Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson would later be traded for everyone’s favourite Georgian Colby Rasmus.

Verdict:
At the time of the trade it seemed like the Blue Jays were kind of caught in a corner. Rolen wanted to be traded and as is in the world of professional sports when a guy wants to go somewhere else you at least need to look around. Because they “had to” trade him they likely got less than they could have for him.

By FanGraphs WAR measures before the 2012 season the Blue Jays were down a total of 4 wins in that trade. However now that Edwin Encarnacion has become what people projected him to become the trade suddenly looks different.

Not until 2012 has it looked like the trade brought back the Blue Jays players of any particular use. Zach Stewart was a nice prospect who never really panned out…but was useful in the Rasmus trade. Josh Roenicke was a nice prospect, but was an older prospect and it may not have been crazy to expect what has become the outcome of his career.

As for Edwin, in 2012 he has produced at a level far higher than anything he has produced to in his career and it doesn’t seem unsustainable for the future. Not only that, but the 163 wRC+ that Edwin has thus far in 2012 is higher than any weighted runs created plus that Rolen has produced in his entire career.

Now that the Blue Jays have signed Encarnacion for the next three years they will hold him for his age 30 to potentially 33 seasons and an average annual price of $9.7 million. On the other side of things the reds are paying Rolen $6.5 million dollars for 2012, the last year of a two year contract, but are getting Jamey Carroll like hitting production. As of now the Reds have got more production on their side of the trade, but at a higher cost. Going forward the Blue Jays have found a player in EE that will become a mainstay in the lineup with the potential for more.

Quick Thoughts on Cliff Lee and August Waivers

That pitcher in the above photo is Cliff Lee. You may have heard of him…he is a starting pitcher for the Phillies and oh yeah since 2008 he is second only to Roy Halladay in cumulative Wins Above Replacement.

Thursday morning, Jeff Passan of Yahoo! tweeted out that the Philadeplhia Phillies have placed the very same Cliff Lee on waivers.

In Blue Jays Twitterdom this small move has created quite the reaction and I’d like to explain a couple of reasons why not to be so excited or adamant about the Blue Jays acquiring Cliff Lee or any player that is placed on waivers in the month of August for that matter.

First off in the month of August the type of waivers that all players are placed on are revocable trade waivers. What does this mean exactly? Well if Team A puts a player on revocable trade waivers and Team B claims that player, Team A then has 3 options.

Option No. 1, Team A can allow Team B to claim the player, in which case it would be no different than any other waiver claim at any other point in the season. Option No. 2, Team A can essentially take the player off of waivers as if nothing had ever had happened. Option No. 3, Team A can take the player off of waivers and then try to trade that player, but the catch is that they can only trade that player to the team who claimed him. If multiple claims were made on the same player then the team with the worst record in the same league (AL/NL) as the team who placed the player on waivers is the only team that the player can be traded to. For more info you can check out Jayson Stark’s article on the August waiver rules here.

So this presents a few potential obstacles in the Blue Jays path to acquiring Cliff Lee.

For one thing Cliff Lee is currently 33 years old and is owed a boat load of money going forward. For the rest of the 2012 MLB season Lee is owed ~$8 million. Between 2013 and 2015 Cliff Lee will make $25 million per year and his contract includes a $27.5 million vesting option for 2016. That all comes to a potential total of $110.5 million and that is for Cliff Lee’s ages 34-37 seasons.

Let’s take a closer look at that…

Year Cliff Lee’s Salary WAR Needed
2013 $25 million 5
2014 $25 million 4.8
2015 $25 million 4.5
Total $75 million 14.3
2016 $27.5 million 4.8
Total $102.5 million 19.1

That 19.1 WAR that Cliff Lee would need to justify the money he would be given is through his age 34-37 seasons. In the history of baseball only 7 pitchers have ever achieved above a 19.1 WAR through their age 34-37 seasons.

If you take Cliff Lee’s WAR and prorate it over Cliff Lee’s usual 230 innings it is ~5 WAR. Then if you assume the usual 0.5 WAR per season decrease after a player’s age 30 season then it gets you to a total of 13.5 WAR after 3 seasons, which is 0.8 WAR away from what is needed in order to achieve proper value. However if the option vests then it becomes a total of 17 WAR after 4 seasons, which is 2.1 WAR away from what is needed in order to achieve proper value.

In totality, when regular decline is assumed the back end of the Cliff Lee contract, like most other back ends of contracts, looks to provide the team with less value then they are paying for.

Of course it isn’t a terrible loss in value and it could be argued that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, but once you factor in other variables such as the possibility for injury of an older pitcher it doesn’t seem like it is worth it.

Another potential obstacle is that as of August 2nd the Blue Jays would be the 20th team in the waiver order for Cliff Lee. That means that there is 19 other teams that could and would (Dodgers?) make a claim on the Cliff Lee.

One final obstacle is that even if the Blue Jays were awarded the waiver claim on Cliff Lee, the Phillies could simply take him off waivers and then attempt to trade Cliff Lee. Beyond that, before the trade deadline it didn’t seem like the Phillies were at all considering taking on any of Lee’s salary, yet they were still looking for big name prospects in return. Not a combination AA would likely embark on.

One last thing, which isn’t really an obstacle, but more of a point is that many knowledgeable people don’t expect anyone to claim Cliff Lee. In his initial tweet Jeff Passan didn’t expect anyone to claim Cliff Lee and in his report on MLBTR Ben Nicholson-Smith didn’t expect anyone to claim Cliff Lee. Mainly because whoever would make a claim is taking on a big contract in return.

Beyond that, the fact that the Phillies placed Cliff Lee on trade waivers isn’t at all significant. In fact last year Alex Anthopoulos told the media that it was club policy to place every player on waivers at the beginning of August. It isn’t an uncommon practice among other teams either…lots of teams do it. It is a good way to gauge potential trade interest and if the player makes it through waivers then they can be traded in August if needed. If the player doesn’t make it through waivers then the team can be taken off waivers…no harm, no foul.

Teams with Former Jays on their Rosters

Over at Beaneball, a fantastic A’s blog, Jason Wojciechowski put up an interesting post this morning in which he went through the major league rosters of all the MLB teams to see which rosters contained a former Athletics player. Because I’m a curious person I would have looked at the same thing for the Blue Jays anyways, but then I thought hey why not make a blog post about it too.

As Jason stipulated, the rules are as follows.

1. The player must have played at least 1 game for the Blue Jays at some point in their career and only the Blue Jays, not any of the Jays’ minor league affiliates.

2. The player must currently be on the 25-Man Roster of a MLB team

With that said I’ll predict that 16 MLB teams have a former Blue Jay currently on their 25-Man Roster (as Jason found the A’s had 19)

So let’s start!

AL East
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg
Boston Red Sox:
New York Yankees: Jayson Nix
Tampa Bay Rays: Ryan Roberts, Jose Molina

AL Central
Chicago White Sox: Alex Rios, Ray Olmedo, Orlando Hudson
Cleveland Indians:
Detroit Tigers: Octavio Dotel
Kansas City Royals:
Minnesota Twins: Darin Mastroianni

AL West
Los Angeles Angels: Vernon Wells
Oakland Athletics:
Seattle Mariners: Eric Thames
Texas Rangers:

NL East
Atlanta Braves: Eric Hinske, Reed Johnson
Miami Marlins: John Buck
New York Mets: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch
Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay
Washington Nationals:

NL Central
Chicago Cubs: Luis Valbuena, Shawn Camp
Cincinnati Reds: Scott Rolen
Houston Astros: Ben Francisco
Milwaukee Brewers:
Pittsburgh Pirates: Travis Snider, Rod Barajas, A.J. Burnett
St. Louis Cardinals: Marc Rzepczynski

NL West
Arizona Diamondbacks: John Macdonald, Aaron Hill
Colorado Rockies: Josh Roenicke
Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Rivera, Brandon League
San Diego Padres:
San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro

So there you have it, 21 teams have a former Blue Jays on their 25 man roster. That’s 5 more than what I predicted and 2 more than the number of teams with former A’s, which frankly is kind of surprising.

Trivia Facts:

  • Of the 21 teams that have a former Jay, the Pirates and White Sox have the most and are tied with 3 each
  • The division with the most former Jays is the NL Central with 8
  • The division with the least former Jays is the AL West with 2
  • The NL as a whole has 81% more former Blue Jays than the AL
  • Darin Mastroianni and Josh Roenicke still have major league jobs

Overall it was a quick and fun exercise that created some reminiscence on the futility and productivity of the careers of a few former Jays….and it gave me an excuse to use a picture of Roy Halladay, that’s always fun.

Side note: The process in which this was done is in no way perfect, so if I missed someone let me know in the comments below.

Nixing the Narrative: The It’s Not All Cordero’s Fault Edition

Photo Courtesy of Reuters Pictures via Daylife

It was a calm, cool Thursday night in Toronto. The air was crisp, but there was a odd smell of anger and frustration as Francisco Cordero strolled on over to the mound in the top of the 8th inning. At the time the score was Royals 5, Blue Jays 3.

The first batter of the inning, Mike Moustakas, singled on a ground ball up the middle. The anger tweets began. The next batter, Jeff Francouer, followed suit with a second ground ball up the middle. However this time both Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnsongot to the ball, but in what was almost a nasty collision neither player came up with it. The anger tweets multiplied.

After a few more ground balls as well as a couple line drives the anger tweets were growing at an exponential rate. The inning seemed to have dragged on too long already, but the beast that is Eric Hosmer was just stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately for Mr. Hosmer all he could muster was a ground ball to the right side of the infield, but wait…somehow he is safe at first because Cordero couldn’t get to the bag in time. The anger tweets were at an all time high.

Following the game one could find many a tweet proclaiming something along the lines of DFA CORDERO. It wasn’t the most subtle of approaches, but it sure got the message across. I don’t intend on going all Wilner here, but at this point in the season the Cordero hate is becoming ridiculous. It isn’t all his fault.

Starting with Thursday night’s debacle, most people if asked would likely agree with the statement “Francisco Cordero was the reason the Blue Jays lost that game”. On the surface it certainly seemed like that was the case, but a fan’s reactive tendencies, especially to a player who is already in the doghouse, can cause a lack of recognition of what really went on.

For one thing in the first 4 batters of that inning Francisco Cordero induced 3 ground balls and only 1 line drive. The first ground ball was well hit right up the middle. The second ground ball was mishandled and had KJ and Escobar not both gone for the ball it could have very likely been a double play. The line drive Cordero gave up to the Salvador Perez would then only result in one man on first and the subsequent ground ball induced from Jarrod Dyson would have ended the inning. No runs scored.

In another situation where one assumes that the mishandled ball by KJ and Escobar still happens and you look strictly at the rest of the inning two of the three runs could have easily been prevented. After Hosmer hit the ground ball it is true that if Cordero were possibly hustling a bit more they may have gotten out of the inning, but there was also why Cordero wasn’t at the bag sooner. On that play the Blue Jays were playing the shift and Kelly Johnson was closer to first base than usual. Because of that Edwin did not need to go after the ball and instead could have left it to KJ creating an easy out at first base, inning over. In that situation only 1 run would have scored.

Some may point out that these are all hypothetical situations and while that is true on a batted ball results level Cordero didn’t actually pitch that poorly. Over the course of the 7 batters that Cordero faced he induced 4 ground balls and 1 strikeout. Of course the other 2 batters hit line drives, but a 28 LD% is also not mind-blowingly awful. Cordero was in no way outstanding on the night, but to blame everything on him expresses a lack of observation as to what actually went on.

As for the rest of the season, well it hasn’t exactly been peachy. After Thursday’s night’s proceedings Cordero brought his shutdown to meltdown ratio to an even .500 and in case you didn’t know thats not very good. Another couple tidbits from this year include that Cordero has brought his walk rate back up after dropping it in 2011, he is tied for the second worst fWAR among relievers, he has the highest home run rate of his career, and last but not least Cordero currently sports a 6.00 ERA accompanied by a 5.68 FIP and 4.65 xFIP.

At first, second, third, and maybe even fourth glance those don’t look like a good set of numbers, but looking at some of the underlying stats it might tell you a slightly different story. First off the statement that many have made this year “Cordero was bit by the BABIP monster” is a statement that holds through over the season. Francisco Cordero’s .376 BABIP on the year ranks as the sixth worst among qualified relievers. That number is 162 points higher than where it was last year and 78 points above Cordero’s career average.

Beyond that this year Cordero sports a ridiculous 17.9% HR/FB, which again ranks near the bottom of the league, but more importantly it is over double Francisco Cordero’s career average. Thus explaining where a fair amount of Cordero’s home run woes have been.

Despite the evidence brought forth a few of you on Twitter wanted to argue that there is no way that Cordero could have been unlucky for 3 whole months. While that is partially true, Cordero has also only pitched 33 innings this year which means that if he were a starter that would amount to a about a month’s worth of pitching, a small sample size. Inherently that is one of the many volatility problems with relievers in that they don’t pitch a lot so bad luck and bad pitching can be carried along over a longer period of time without making the actual sample size significantly bigger.

With all that said it certainly hasn’t been all luck, Francisco Cordero has been a bad pitcher this year. Though his velocity has remained relatively consistent with where it was last year after having dropped the two years previous he hasn’t been able to harness his pitches the way he was able to last year. More specifically in the 2012 season Cordero has not been able to get players to chase and swing at pitches outside the zone. His O-Swing% this year, a measly 22.6%, ranks 5th last among qualified relievers and is roughly 6% lower than where it was last year as well as Cordero’s career average.

Seeing that Cordero has been unlucky and frankly not the best of pitchers one thing I do question is why the Blue Jays continue to place him in high leverage situations. One would argue that if you are paying a player a significant amount of money to perform to a level that he has performed to in the past then the right course of action is not to DFA such a player when he is pitching poorly. At the very least you could shrink down his impact on the game while he is working things out. Pitch him in mop up duty or even as part of a long relief crew, but don’t pitch him in a 5-3 ball game when the leverage is arguably the highest in the entire game.

At that point it is the manager’s fault for placing Cordero in that situation. Cordero doesn’t get to choose where he pitches and pitching him in close games only exacerbates the problem by bringing it front and centre to both the fans and the media.

To my detriment, you can decree a Cordero DFA all you want, but Cordero can be a better pitcher than what he is now, Anthopoulous knows that, Farrell knows that. Also if you want to DFA Cordero then who do you propose as a replacement? Scott RichmondShawn HillJoel CarrenoChad Beck?

The other options may seem good, but there is also a reason those pitchers are in AAA. Us fans may not be able to recognize their true talent level because we haven’t seen them in the majors in a significant capacity. The Blue Jays front office on the other hand has multiple people scouting their players and they are able to have a much better barometer of the players’ respective talent levels.

Ultimately blame Cordero for what he has done and that is pitch poorly, but don’t blame him for the plethora of factors that have contributed to the cornucopia of Cordero hate. Finally regarding specifically Thursday night’s performance there is one last thing I’d like to say…

Special thanks to @SMcEwen_eh and @Mentoch on Twitter for helping to fight the good fight in calming people’s reactions last night as well as providing a couple of ideas for this post. If you’re not already following them then go do so right now.

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