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Extra Wild Card in 2012: What it Does and Doesn’t Mean to the Blue Jays

It was recently reported by Ken Rosenthal that an extra wild card team is all but done in being added for the 2012 MLB season. My initial reactions were something along the lines of oh my god and were not unlike the opening of that first present on Christmas morning as a child. You feel a sense of excitement and that rush of new things until you realize you just opened that present from Grandma with only socks inside, thanks Grandma. In this case it seems somewhat similar. On one hand you have the right to be pretty damn excited that your favourite team is one step closer to the playoffs, but on the other hand in the grand scheme of things does it really make that much of a difference.

Of course the adding of an extra wild card spot for 2012 is a fantastic addition to the Blue Jays playoff chances, but it seems like some are still forgetting about the other potentially unsurpassable bumps in the road. For one the Blue Jays play in the always tough AL East, but also in the incredibly difficult American League and are the Blue Jays really ready to take that next step, even with an extra wild card team.

In the East you always have the big three in the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Rays. In the Central you have the now Fielderful Tigers. Last, but not least in the West you have the Rangers and the now playoff ready Angels.

In the old scenario it looked almost impossible for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs in 2012 without significant leaps and bounds taken by multiple players on the team because the Jays would have had to pass two of the beasts of the east.  Now in the new scenario it looks more likely that they will have make the playoffs but what you have to realize is that instead of having to overtake two of the beasts in the east, the Jays will have to overcome one, but also likely one of the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels and they aren’t half bad either.

The Rangers, well they’re the Rangers, not only have they been the American League representative in the World Series for back to back years, but they also got arguably the best pitcher on the market outside of C.C. Sabathia in Yu Darvish. The Angels, usually an afterthought in wild card consideration, got not even arguably but instead thee best hitter on the market in Albert Pujols and then the second best free agent pitcher in C.J. Wilson. As well what many don’t seem to realize the Angels are the same team that finished only 5 games out of a wild card spot.

Looking further into it Replacement Level Yankees who run the CAIRO projection system ran a couple of projected standings using both their system as well as that of Tom Tango who runs the Marcel system. Using the CAIRO projection system they projected the Blue Jays 2012 record to be 78-84 and gave them a 4.1% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a 2.6% increase from the added second wild card spot. In another post using the Marcel projection system they projected the Jays record to be the exact same as 2011 at 81-81 and gave them a 16.7% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a pretty substantial 6.8% jump from the added wild card spot.

These two numbers may seem at the very least somewhat promising, but the two posts also include a couple playoff chance percentages for some of the competitors. CAIRO puts the playoff chances of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays at anywhere from 64.4% for the Rays to a whopping 84.8% for the Yanks and Marcel similarly has the percentages at anywhere from 57.1% for the Rays to 76.0% for the Yankees. At the lowest point the next best team in the AL East, the Rays, still has a 3 times better chance to make the playoffs than your team and mine the Toronto Blue Jays.

To beat the next best team in the CAIRO projected wild card standings the Jays would have to somehow gain another 13 wins beyond CAIRO’s Blue Jays projections, which aren’t too pessimistic. Even to beat the next best team in the Marcel projected standings, which have the Blue Jays being much better in 2012 than the CAIRO system, the Jays would somehow need to muster up another 6 wins.

That number may not seem like a whole lot, but for the Jays to increase their win total by 6 wins that would have to mean something along the lines of Colby Rasmus returning to 2010 form and Travis Snider finally becoming what he could now realistically be. That is a lot to happen and even that’s no guarantee that the Jays would make the playoffs because anything could happen with the other three teams fighting for the two playoff spots.

In the end the reality is with a still improving team and an unbalanced schedule for the 2012 season it doesn’t seem like the added wild card spot will give the Jays the extra push they need. It may make you and I as fans feel better about the Blue Jays and it will surely sell some extra tickets. But unfortunately it isn’t as if the Jays only have to overcome one one great team instead of two, all that seems to have happened is that one less beast of the east has been transferred to having to beat one of the best in the west.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited for the 2012 season because the Jays will still have a very exciting team and a player with 80 grade watchability in Brett Lawrie. If anything it should just make you more excited for what is to come in 2013 and beyond when the Blue Jays sustained success really figures to begin. And if you’re really a believer be excited for 2012 and really think the Jays can make the playoffs don’t let me or any other blogger suppress that, because hey stranger things have happened.

My Plea for Kyle Drabek

Photo by sillygwailo licensed under Creative Commons

It has come to my attention through the poll on this site and what seems to be the general opinion of Jays fans that of the four troubling players listed Drabek is the least likely to have a comeback season and I ask why? It may seems so long ago, but it has only been one year since Kyle Drabek was the top prospect in the Blue Jays farm system and a shining star in the Blue Jays future plans. At that time Drabek ranked anywhere from No. 13 by Keith Law to No. 29 by Baseball America on their respective top prospect lists.

Heading in to Spring Training in 2011, Drabek was the next big thing, the possible first fruition of the trade that sent former Blue Jays Ace Roy Halladay to the Phillies, and the first tangible major league talent from Alex Anthopoulos’ regime as general manager. He was all but handed a rotation spot after the Jays traded Shaun Marcum to the Brewers and he seemed to be ready to take it.

Obviously we would later learn that Drabek would not turn in the best of seasons in 2011 and I don’t think I need to paint the entire picture of just how bad Drabek really was. All I have to say is that in almost a consensus opinion the simple stats, advanced stats, and Pitch F/X information all agree on one thing, Kyle Drabek sucked.

At this point in the blog post I usually point out what Drabek did wrong and how he can improve and all that, but in this case Drabek’s problem is pretty simple and the fact is that he just couldn’t throw strikes. Drabek was putting pitches galore outside the zone and in fact at the time of his demotion in June Drabek had walked more batters than he had struck out and was the not so proud owner of the league’s worst strikeout to walk ratio.

Proceeding his demotion to AAA Las Vegas in June things just got worse. Being sent to the band box that is Cashman Field and the very definition of a hitter’s league in the PCL obviously didn’t help, but even against a much worse level of competition Drabek did not perform as he was expected to. Because of a lack of AAA Pitch F/X data no one (unless they saw him) can really discern specifically whether he wasn’t throwing strikes there either, but what one does know is that in AAA he held a relatively similar strikeout to walk ratio and that is in no way a good thing.

In spite of all that has happened, Drabek’s failure in the majors and minors is not completely indicative of what he could do in 2012. In general it is true that numbers and statistics from previous years can be used as a predictor for future performance. The difference with Drabek is for one what he has done thus far is a smallish sample size and there is not enough previous data to rely on, for another as is often cited with another Blue Jay, Travis Snider, Drabek is only 23 and going in to his sophomore season in the MLB.

Courtesy of Shi Davidi on Twitter

Yes he may have strugggled in 2011 and yes that is not a good thing to see out of a rookie, but a quick read of Shi Davidi’s story on Drabek at Sportsnet.ca seems to suggest to us that it may have been partially a mechanical issue with Drabek in 2011 and oddly enough I find it plausible to believe.

I may just be drinking the Spring Training story Kool-Aid in which every player is in the best shape of their lives, but looking at some 2011 footage of Drabek he seemed to me to be a little inconsistent in his mechanics and this article seemingly confirms that thought. In no way am I claiming to be a scout here, but if what Shi Davidi tells us is true then it could have been a big reason as to why Drabek looked like Tim Tebow on the mound.

Now with the Jays coaching staff addressing the issue, call me crazy, but maybe instead of being pushed into irrelevance, could Drabek surprise this year? He still seems to have the stuff that in 2010 Keith Law said could make Drabek “a No. 2 or 3 starter”, but is lacking the command and third pitch that Law said he needed to improve on in 2011. The good thing is command can be taught and can be learned and it looks like it may come with further instruction, tweaking in pitch mechanics, and just more major league innings. The bad thing is it may not come this season.

With that said I’m not completely sure why I think Drabek will do well, but I do. He may no longer be the flavour of the month as that position seems to have been overtaken by Henderson Alvarez and Dustin McGowan, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to perform.  As well as I’m sure you already know because its been said 1000 times, but the pitcher that got the Blue Jays Kyle Drabek in the first place, Roy Halladay, similarly had command problems early in his career and look what he became. Not to say that Drabek will become Halladay though, because that simply doesn’t seem feasible, but don’t give up on Drabek just yet.

I know that usually the arguments on this blog are fairly statistically based, but for whatever reason with Drabek I feel different. I feel like he has the potential to be what the scouting reports say rather than the major league statistics, I feel like he can overcome the two pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart. Nonetheless if you don’t have the same feelings as I towards the great Drabek, then at least realize that Drabek has barely pitched for a season and we’ve already lost confidence in him? It isn’t like he got significantly injured or lost a lot of fastball velocity, the stuff seems to be there he just needs to harness it.

In the end there isn’t nearly enough statistical evidence to back up any opinion suggesting that Drabek’s potential is completely gone, so why not wait and see. To my dismay it seems like Drabek won’t get the call come Opening Day, but as happens with pitchers they get injured or pitch poorly and Drabek looks like he could be first on the list to replace, in other words the pitching version of Mike McCoy (Hopefully Drabek doesn’t acquire quite as many Air Miles). Finally if you refuse to believe in anything I’ve said at least remember this, last season you didn’t see any major prospect sites suggesting Drabek was a worse prospect than current Blue Jays Canadian phenom Brett Lawrie, just saying.

An In-Depth Look at Extending Brandon Morrow

Photo Courtesy of Mirosport.net

With the Blue Jays offseason in a bit of a slump and the Darren Oliver signing being the most exciting thing at the moment, I found myself having to write about something different. Rather than speculating on Garza rumours or a possible (I use that term loosely) Prince Fielder signing, I have come to the realization that other than the occasional non-consequential signing the Jays likely won’t do much in terms of roster changes this offseason. Instead they will likely stick to their plan of building from within and then keeping the talent in the organization. Up to this point the latter half of the plan has only needed to be addressed to a small extent, but now with young talented players like Brett LawrieColby Rasmus, and the centre of this writing piece Brandon Morrowall possibly needing extensions, Alex Anthopoulos definitely has his work cut out for him.

Morrow as most of you probably know was traded to the Blue Jays from the Mariners in December 2009 for right handed reliever Brandon League. Seattle had drafted Morrow in the 2006 draft with presumably the intention of making him their closer. At the time this seemed fine as Morrow had the velocity and plus pitch that you traditionally look for in a closer, but as time went on the Seattle front office and coaching staff created some kinks in Morrow’s development. These kinks being that towards the end of the 2008 season, the Mariners decided that they would begin to move Morrow to the starting rotation and out of a relief role, utilizing the ole Earl Weaver strategy.

Long story short Morrow’s stints as a starter didn’t turn out as expected and it resulted in the Mariners demotion of him to AAA as well as the multiple changes between roles in the starting rotation and the bullpen. Due to this Morrow began to become a “change of scenary” for Seattle in the sense that he didn’t need to be traded, but would likely have trouble succeeding in Seattle organization through the development process they had created. Ultimately all of this hoopla turned out well, for the Jays at least, as it led to the trade that landed them Morrow in 2009. Reports initially coming from the Blue Jays organization subsequent to the trade suggested that they intended on using Morrow exclusively in the starting rotation, giving Morrow a clean slate to work on.

Now what does all this mean and why is it at all important to a possible contract extension. Well if you simply look at Brandon Morrow’s service time and age you would see that he is heading in to his second year of arbitration and is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. But if you take into account the time that Morrow spent with the Mariners and how he was never really used as a full time starter there, then Morrow is in some sense of the word a third year player.

In terms of the actual contract extension this means that rather than the negotiations acting as if Morrow is a guy with 4 years of service time, Anthopoulos could make the argument that Morrow is really just a third year player coming off his sophmore season. I’m sure Morrow’s agent would have something to say about that, but it would be a good argument for Anthopoulos to make. If that is the route that Anthopoulos takes I’m sure guys like Jon LesterYovani GallardoRicky Romero, and Jaime Garcia would come up in terms of comparable contracts, all of which signed for around 5 years and $30 million.

Now obviously it is quite unreasonable to expect Morrow to take that type of contract when MLBTR already projects him to make $4.2 million in arbitration this year. Instead I’m sure Morrow’s agent will come back comparing Brandon Morrow to the recently extended John Danks and rightfully so. Danks signed an extension for 5 years and $65 million with the Chicago White Sox this offseason. Had he not signed the extension, Danks would have been eligible for free agency after the 2012 season one year before Brandon Morrow.

The Danks comp likely to be brought up would be interesting as Danks and Morrow are very similar but different at the same time. They are similar in the sense that both players are in their fifth year in the MLB and close to free agency, but due to time spent in the minors Morrow has one less year of service time and 3 less years of full time starting experience. Other than that one similarity they are pretty different in their execution, but both have been good starters over the last three years. Danks has the higher fWAR in the last three seasons, due in large part to a higher innings count. He also holds a lead in the traditional stats like ERA and Wins, which often increase arbitration and sometimes free agency earnings. Though on the other side Morrow holds a firm lead in his K% as well as the more sabrmetric and predictive stats such as FIP, xFIP, and SIERA. (Customized FanGraphs stats table here)

What this all boils down to is that in the end Morrow will likely get a lot less guaranteed money than John Danks, but also significantly more than Ricky Romero. Danks’ contract is worth about $65 million and Romero’s is worth $30.1 million, it seems like such a simple-minded way to do it, but if you take the average of those two contracts it is about $47.5 million over 5 years. If there is to be a $47.5 million dollar extension proposed, I’m thinking it will probably work out something like this…

If you look at the layout of the proposed contract, depending on how good they think Brandon Morrow really is, the contract seems to work out for both sides. Morrow gets some added financial security and the Blue Jays get 3 years of Brandon Morrow’s free agency at a reasonable price with a chance at quite a bit of upside. Using the current assumption of approximately $5 million = 1 WAR we can figure that for Morrow to be worth the contract extension he only needs to produce 1.9 WAR per year. If we use FanGraphs version of WAR we see that over his past two years as a starter Brandon Morrow has averaged 3.5 WAR per season, far and above the value he would need to provide in order to fulfill the proposed contract extension.

Even if we use the less optimistic Baseball Reference version of WAR we can see that over the past two years Morrow has averaged 1.5 WAR. Then using Sky Kalkman’s WAR Spreadsheet, we can figure out how much Morrow has to improve to fulfill his contract. As expressed in the first table over the course of his contract Morrow has to be worth an average of 1.9 WAR per year. In the past two years Morrow hasn’t been at that mark, but if you take his average ERA from the past two years and then assume a steady innings increase you get a total of 11.0 WAR, which is still 1.5 WAR in surplus value. Even if you assume that he misses some time to injury, Morrow would still have to miss roughly 140 innings over the course of the contract, which isn’t unprecedented, just to be worth the 0.1 WAR less than the value of the contract.

Finally if you at all believe that Brandon Morrow will reach his “potential” that predictive stats such as his 3.51 xFIP or 3.31 SIERA over the past two years indicate, then that is all just added value. If you believe that over the course of his contract that Morrow will match his xFIP (top half of the table below) with the same innings counts as in the above table then he will be worth approximately 24.8 WAR, which is 15.3 wins of added value. Then if you are a real dreamer and believe that Morrow can match his SIERA (bottom half of the table below) he will be worth about 27.6 WAR, which is 18.1 wins in surplus value.
Of course almost all of this is speculative research and depends quite a bit on Morrow accepting a contract similar to the 5 year $47.5 million dollar contract proposed earlier, but the contract at least in my opinion seems pretty fair and through this has a very good chance of providing surplus value. Though as I stated there is always the chance that Morrow would turn down that contract as he has been known to follow some sabrmetric stats or as he calls them “nerd” stats. He may feel like he has more potential to outperform this contract, but financial security is always nice too, especially for a pitcher. Then there is also the off chance that the Blue Jays organization feels like he isn’t even worth the proposed amount. Whatever it is we as fans can only hope that at some point Brandon Morrow reaches his “potential” and doesn’t just become one of those players with the great peripheral stats, who never lives up to them.

The Anthopoulos regime has been good with extensions thus far after handing them out to players such as Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, and Yunel Escobar, we can only hope that the Jays front office continues the trend going forward. With Brandon Morrow and whatever other young cost controllable player the Blue Jays acquire.

Jays Bolster Bullpen by Bringing Back Frasor

Frasor closing for the Jays

On New Years Day the Jays traded minor league right handers Daniel Webb and Myles Jaye for relief pitcher Jason Frasor from the White Sox. On the surface the trade truly brings back a semi-true Blue Jay in the sense that Frasor has been a Jay almost his entire career save for the half a season he spent in south side Chicago. As you delve further you see how the trade helps the Jays as well as the effect that is has on Frasor.

Another plus in the trade is that the Jays only had to give away a couple lower level talents in Webb and Jaye. Webb is a 22 year old playing in A ball (so a little old for the league) and only pitched to a 5.59 ERA and 4.40 FIP. Granted the rate stats such as the 2.13 K/BB ratio are somewhat encouraging, but either way this definitely isn’t a prospect that you’d see on any Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects list and likely not on any top 30 lists either.

As for Jaye, he has a little more polish and potential. He was the Blue Jays’ 17th round pick in the 2010 draft, but was signed for $250,000 which is well above slot. As a deadline signee Jaye didn’t play in short season ball in 2010 but in 2011 with the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appy league he posted a 3.00 ERA and fantastic peripheral stats. Jaye may be better than Webb, but like Webb he won’t be popping up on any Keith Law or Kevin Goldstein lists any time soon, well at least on the Jays side.

To go along with the very little that the Jays gave up because it was part salary relief, in Jason Frasor the Jays bring back a solid bullpen arm and a guy who has been among the most consistent relievers in the MLB over the past decade having only posted an ERA above 4.50 once in his career. As well with Frasor comes some veteran leadership that casual fans just eat up and a well known face because of all the time spent with the Jays.

In the bullpen, the role that Frasor likely fits in to is a share of the right handed setup man role with Casey Jannsen. He figures to add yet another piece to the surprisingly quick built bullpen in Toronto as so far this offseason Anthopoulos has added Sergio SantosDarren Oliver, maybe Aaron Laffey and now Frasor to a bullpen that was in the bottom half of the league in most conventional and sabrmetric statistics.

Frasor in his brief stint with the White Sox

AA took ahold of the Andrew Friedman method and quietly built a strong bullpen much like the Tamba Bay Rays last offseason and in their pennant winning 2008 season. The Rays are often cited as an example of why you don’t need to spend big bucks on the bullpen and how bullpens can be built in a year. From the looks of it Anthopoulos has taken note from a division rival and hopefully like it did for the Rays it works for the Jays.

Overall there really doesn’t seem like any downside to this trade for the Jays and almost limitless upside. The prospects really don’t figure to turn in to too much as they don’t seem to have large amounts of promise. In the endwhat the trade boils down to is just a feel good trade for the Jays, something the Jays desperately needed after the Yu Darvish fiasco and the Prince Fielder drama. Because no one can complain about bringing back the Johnny Mac of the bullpen, Jason Frasor.

A Flawed System?

Today it was announced the the Texas Rangers, not the Toronto Blue Jays won the bidding on Yu Darvish for a posting fee of $51.7 million. With many people around the baseball world projecting that the Blue Jays would be the winning team in the posting extravaganza, it got many many Jays fans excited for Darvish in Toronto only to be disappointed by the official reports. This brings up the question do the Jays really need to do this to us the fans? Do their policies need to be such that they hype up players only for hopes to be crushed?

When J.P. Ricciardi passed on the torch to Alex Anthopoulos in 2009 there was a new mindset and a new system put in place. This system has been effective over the past couple of years, but one piece has come to the forefront this offseason. This piece of the system being the Blue Jays front office’s insistence on not commenting on any players on the market.

On one hand this system creates mystery and allows the Jays front office team to operate without the public eye to unhinge any ongoing negotiations. But on the other hand as we have seen this offseason the lack of comments on players just creates rumours of the Jays being linked to practically every player on the market.
By even just a quick look at the Blue Jays feed on MLB Trade Rumors it shows that the Jays were linked to Carlos Beltran, Mat Latos, Dontrelle Willis, Prince Fielder, Darren Oliver, Gio Gonzalez, and those are only in the past week. Some teams are lucky to get linked to that many players in an entire offseason, yet alone in a week.
Some may point to the fact that the Jays have an incredibly large scouting staff as the reasoning, and I’m sure that is some of it, but with the Jays generally being a tight lipped organization it sure seems like some of this is being made up. Especially considering that generally the players that the Jays are linked to don’t end up going to the Jays and the ones that aren’t do.
Take Sergio Santos for example, prior to the deal between the White Sox and Blue Jays there was literally no leak or rumour of him not only going to the Jays, but of him even being a trade candidate at all. The last post on Sergio Santos’ feed on MLBTR before the trade came 2 months prior was talking about the team friendly extension that he signed with the team in September.
So how is this bad you may ask well as we have seen with Yu Darvish this past week and presumably Prince Fielder in the future, the Jays become linked to these big name players by a couple sources, then those sources talk to other sources and soon enough everybody knows. Once that situation comes about we end up with all the Jays blogs (myself included) and radio shows talking up Darvish getting the fans all excited that maybe Rogers is going to open up their checkbooks and sign a big name player. The excitement itself is great, it creates interest in the Jays and brings new fans to the sport.

The problem however is the after, as in what happens after we find out that often the Jays aren’t the ones getting the big name player, they’re the team waiting on the side in rebuilding mode. Granted the rebuilding part is good, it means the Jays are trying to create a contender for years to come, a statement the Blue Jays front office stands by, but if the current process is potentially turning away fans, doesn’t there need to be change?

Via CBC.ca

It is a debatable point as on one side you would think that to win the Jays need to make trades and that often requires privacy. But on the other and to win the Jays also need money and fans and by doing what they’re doing they are turning fans away. We always hear the sentiment that when the Jays start winning the fans will come back to the games, but could the Jays be digging themselves into a hole they can’t get out of?

While listening to Jays Talk with Mike Wilner shortly after the Darvish announcement you start to hear what the casual fans think. As flawed as some of their opinions may be, they still make  up a majority percentage of the fan base and will have a large opinion as such. On the same show another point is brought up about how the Jays never led anyone on during the Darvish process and that is the same thing you can say about any negotiations, because the Jays simply don’t say anything and that is precisely the problem. They don’t even say when they aren’t interested in players because even if they don’t like a player it could possibly taint future negotiations.

In thought that seems like a good idea because the Jays help themselves by not tainting player negotiations and help fans by not leading them on. The problem is that in practice being that by not saying anything rather than not leading fans on, instead the Jays leave it up to a whole bunch of reports from “anonymous sources” to dictate the Blue Jays front office’s views on players. The Jays give their fans really no parameters as to what their interests in players or even types of players are.

With all that said don’t take this as me trashing the Blue Jays front office, I don’t mind the current system and I like the direction the Jays are taking. But something to think about with the current system is the toll that the fan base is taking. Anyways, since the Jays now won’t get the chance to sign Darvish, here’s to hoping they have a great rest of the offseason.

K-Rod for Closer

With news coming out yestertoday that all current Type A free agent relievers will now likely not require the signing team give up a first round pick, it has brought a whole new potential market for the Blue Jays to further explore. Even though the Jays were linked to free agent closers Jonathan Papelbon (before he was signed), Ryan Madson, and Heath Bell it was fairly clear they weren’t going to sign anyone of them if it meant giving up a first round pick. Because of this we saw them look at lesser options like Huston Street of the Rockies who would have been on a shorter term and probably would not have cost much in prospects due to the Rockies likely looking for some salary relief. Though now with the first round draft pick compensation likely being taken away for Type A free agent relievers with the signing of the new CBA it allows the Jays to look at options like Francisco RodriguezMatt Capps, and Francisco Cordero, who likely without this change in the CBA would get little to no serious consideration.

Of this group the one who looks to make the most sense is Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod started the season as the Mets closer in the last year of a 3 year $37 million contract and finished as the unhappy setup man for Canadian John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite his lowest save total since becoming a full time closer in 2005 for Los Angeles Angels, K-Rod’s peripheral stats were still very good in 2012. Rodriguez had a 2.64 ERA, 2.72 FIP, and 3.02 xFIP, which produced a 1.4  fWAR. All these numbers were put up despite a .321 BABIP, which is 46 points above his career average.
To go along with all those stats in 2011 K-Rod put up a career low walk rate at 3.27 BB/9 and a career high GB% at 51.8%. That relatively high GB% came along with a career low 31.5% FB%, which is a bit of a change of pace from the 49.7% that de facto closer Jon Rauch put up in 2011. Granted an infield that includes Brett Lawrie may have some issues, but if and when Blue Jays defensive wizard Adeiny Hechavarria makes it to the big leagues, it could be a big help. It seems like the only real concerns with Francisco Rodriguez and his 2011 season that have been cited are his close to career low 9.92 K/9 and his dipping velocity. From 2008-2010 K-Rod’s average fastball velocity was 92.0 mph, in 2010 it got down to 91.2 and in 2011 it went to 90.2.

I’m not going to go around and tell you that he’s a proven closer, so he can overcome that, and I acknowledge it is concerning that there has been a dip of 2 mph, but he did deal with it in 2011 and could very well do the same in the future. Granted if the velocity dips anymore it could become a problem, but it is likely not to be too much of a problem as long as the deal he is signed to isn’t a long term one. As well the dip in velocity could simply be a product of the thumb ligament injury that K-Rod incurred in the odd altercation that happened between him and the father of his girlfriend at the time as the injury happened with the thumb in his pitching hand.

Even after weighing out the pros and the cons of signing Francisco Rodriguez the eventual determiner of a K-Rod signing will be the dollars and the years. Obviously K-Rod is looking for a multi-year deal, but with the market what it is that may not be what happens. In their “Free Agent Stock Watch” series MLBTR suggested that K-Rod should get a deal around the ball park of like 1 year $9 million. Their reasoning for that estimation was essentially as a midway point between the average annual salaries that closers turned setup men Bobby Jenks and Rafael Soriano got in their respective deals last offseason. Though that deal seems pretty fair, there is a couple factors that could pull the average annual value down.

Firstly K-Rod might lower the average annual value in return for a second year, and in Anthopoulos’ case probably an option for a third year, or a one year deal with an option for a second year. Secondly as evidenced by his comments in December he obviously wasn’t happy being a set up man and will likely be looking for a job where he is the de facto and set in stone closer. Just as it did to Rasael Soriano, who eventually changed his mind, it decreases his options on the marketplace. Thirdly the free agent class that Rodriguez is in is fairly saturated and still includes options like Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, and Jonathan Broxton, even after the signing of Jonathan Papelbon. Finally considering that at times Francisco Rodriguez can be considered to have “makeup issues” such as when he allegedly punched his girlfriend’s father, as well when he makes comments like, “I’m not fine, they told me I’d have the oppurtunity to close some games, and we’ve had 20-some save oppurtunities since then and I haven’t even had one.”

Suffice to say all of these things are not positives and just express the many reasons why the Blue Jays may be able to take a shot at him. Taking into account the fact that according to FanGraph’s dollars stat that describes the amount of money that the player should make on the free agent market has his value at $6.4 million in 2011, I’m thinking if I was AA I would offer K-Rod 2 year $7 million with an option for a second year and maybe guarantee the second year. He would be cemented as our closer, and he would at least be have an option for a second year. The fact that there really hasn’t been much buzz with Francisco Rodriguez makes me think that this could be a possibility. Besides would you rather give $6 million to a 37 year old Joe Nathan or an oft-injured Jonathan Broxton, or would you spring the extra million or two to go after a guy who has been a consistently good reliever for his whole career.

New Logo?

Did the worst kept secret in Toronto sports just get even worse? Earlier today the Blue Jays updated their home page in preparation for the “big announcement” that is happening today at 12:00 PM. With this update came two things, one the possible new logo as well as what looks like a player’s arm with the possible new colours of the.
 The logo (which is pictured to the
right) on the home page looks eerily similar to the logo that was leaked by the guys over at Getting Blanked in September with the surrounding insignia of the Blue Jays logo between 1977 and 1996. If this is the new logo it would be a nice blast to the past, with still a new look. I would approve, but that is just one man’s opinion, we will surely hear the accounts of many after the unveiling.

As well the taped arm that is pictured above includes the same royal blue colour that was used in the teaser video. This has led many to believe that it will be the Blue Jays new colour rather than the powder blue used in the past. All of this should be confirmed during the “special event” at 12:00 PM as well as the event that is to occur at the Jays Shop at Eaton Centre at 5:00 PM.

The New Mr. Unnapreciated

Brian Jeroloman
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons

During the 2011 season in a article that was never ended up getting finished I outlined Mike McCoy as Mr. Unappreciated. The scrappy utility man played 2B, SS, 3B, CF, RF, and even pitched for the Jays this season. He played above average defense at 3 of the 5 positions according to UZR/150 (Beware the SSS) and hit at an almost parallel to the beloved John Mcdonald (McCoy .267 wOBA, Johhny Mac .269 wOBA). Yet, still Mikey Mick as the guys at Getting Blanked dubbed him, was always the odd man out. Granted he had the options and was easy to move, but still wasn’t really appreciated for the versatility that he brought the Blue Jays. His journey from Minors to Majors and back again and again is nicely illustrated in the graphic below.

A Graphic by Minor Leaguer of Bluebird Banter

But enough of Mike McCoy and on to the man who is the New Mr. Unappreciated. This man is the man who nobody thinks of when the question comes up on who the Jays backup catcher will be in 2012. Not Jose Molina, not Ryan Doumit, not Jason Varitek, not even Travis d’Arnaud, but instead the man who should be the backing up J.P. the sophomore is the only member of the Blue Jays during the 2011 season who didn’t play in a singlegame. Yes, ladies and gentlemen when asked who should back up Arencibia, I respond, Why not Brian Jeroloman.

It may not seem like the obvious first choice as Jeroloman isn’t exactly a coveted catcher, nor is he a proven veteran (not that it matters), but the Jays believed in him enough to call him up to the majors in 2011 for a cup of coffee, if you can really call it that. Jeroloman surely won’t produce in a major offensive way as evidenced by his sub .300 wOBA is the extremely hitter friendly PCL. There was the sentiment by some that he could become a fine offensive contributor after putting up a .429 OBP and .392 wOBA for the Fisher Cats in 2010, but at that point he was a little old for the league (24 at the time) and hasn’t really shown he can cut it and what is often regarded as a easier level to pad the stats.

Still despite his offensive shortcomings it doesn’t seem like he gets enough appreciation for what the guy who was “just a placeholder” on the roster could mean going forward. Brian is 25 will only make the MLB minimum salary in 2012 and provides absolutely stellar defense behind the plate. In fact as he progressed through the Blue Jays farm system there was always the sentiment that he had the defense to be a backup, if that is the direction the Jays wanted to take, but was always questionable on the hitting aspect (Unless you ask Ricciardi who called Jeroloman the catcher of the future). After over 2000 plate appearances in the minors it has become increasingly clear that the hitting just isn’t there. Fortunately for Jeroloman the sparkling defense as described in scouting reports should get him to the big leagues.

I could go on and show off the dazzling scouting reports, but this quote from Jays Journal’s Top 50 Jays Prospects List  pretty much sums it up, He has above average receiving skills, a good ability to block balls in the dirt , and he really enjoys developing a positive rapport with his pitchers, who like throwing to him. He also has a good arm behind the plate, and might not hit for a high average but getting on base through taking pitches has always been his strength.”

With the Jays pretty obviously looking for a defensively minded catcher to handle their young pitching staff the question becomes why not Jeroloman. Sure he isn’t really going to hit much at all for the Jays, but with d’Arnaud maybe pushing for a spot at some point in 2012 and the other options really only being guys like Ramon Castro, Dionner Navarro, and Jason Varitek among others, why not give Jeroloman a chance. The Jays said they viewed him as a potential backup catcher for the future when they called him up after the Kelly Johnson trade in August and I’d bet that same opinion would still hold true. Sure, there was the ongoing joke about whether or not Jeroloman would be placed in a game as the 2011 season came to a close and the final verdict gave Jeroloman a thumbs down in that category. But he did get an interesting nickname as “Moonlight Graham” named after the 1905 New York Giants outfielder by the same name. Moonlight Graham only ever played in one game in his career and so far has done Jeroloman one better, but hopefully Brian will be able to overcome his nickname in 2012. 

In 2012 even if it means putting up with a likely well below average offensive production, the defense Jeroloman provides behind the plate, his game calling abilities, and the fact that he will make the league minimum in 2012 are all the pros towards making Jeroloman the backup. The only situation that I would want to see Brian not taking that spot in 2012 would be on the very off chance that the Blue Jays re-sign Jose Molina. That very likely won’t happen unless the new CBA firmly changes draft pick compensation for the 2011-2012 offseason. So next time someone asks you who the backup will be, Why not Brian Jeroloman?

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