What’s in a game?

EDIT: Ugh. I wrote this going into the ninth inning. Then the ninth and tenth innings happened. Appropriate, I suppose.

The worst thing about baseball is that no one game makes or breaks it. Hell, no one week or really, no one month.

A team could play horribly for a month and still make the postseason. They could play great for four months and miss October baseball. And yet, when we get to this time of year, it’s tough to decide when it’s over.

With the Jays, they’re not done yet. Realistically, where they’re in after today is only 1/162 difference than they were yesterday. And yet, with each loss at this time of year it feels exponentially worse. But I’m loathe to say they’re done.

Because, maybe tomorrow’s the start of a winning streak. Pull of a 10-1 stretch, which by the way, they’re totally capable of, and suddenly things look great, or at least like we’ve got a shot. Right now, it looks awful.

I’m a pretty level headed guy, didn’t get too high in May when they were streaking, and I don’t get too low when they’re struggling. And it makes me wonder what it’s like for those other guys. You know, the ones for whom every win or loss is a sign of the entire season.

Is it easier? I’m not sure. I think, maybe it is. They can give up or start planning the parade route every night at around 10 p.m. They don’t have to deal with the small incremental changes in mood. Going from they may not make the playoffs to they’re 1/162 less likely to make the playoffs. It’s much easier to go from no chance to World Series favourites and back again.

I haven’t given up on the Jays making the playoffs. Not yet. And that’s because I hadn’t given up when yesterday’s game ended, and really, what’s 1/162 anyway?

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Putting the FUN in Fundamentals

Ah, the Jays are losing again, so that must mean the coaching staff have stopped teaching the fundamentals.

When they were winning they were “doing all the little things right.” When they were losing the “weren’t doing the little things right.”

Now, I know it appears that way. When a team’s struggling you notice the sloppy defensive play or the guy who makes a base running error. It’s natural. 

But for the love of god can we please get past this fundamentals crap?

First off, what the hell are the fundamentals? It’s a term people throw around all the time but I don’t think they actually consider what a fundamentally-sound play, player, team looks like. Things like bunting, defence, moving a runner over, and hitting with runners in scoring position are often mentioned. But bunting’s not as easy as people think nor has the team been atrocious at it like many think, the defence isn’t great but it hasn’t been great all season and the team’s had stretches where they played much better than this, and moving runners over or hitting with runners in scoring position are just bullshit luck things that have nothing to do with a particular skill set.

To even think that a group of Major League ballplayers can’t perform the fundamentals – whatever people deem to be fundamentals – is ludicrous. Do you, random dude who’s worked in the same career for 20 years lack the “fundamentals” of your job? No, because you’ve done them, everyday, for 20 years. And believe me, you haven’t worked as hard at your career as these Major Leaguers have.

The fact of the matter is the Jays just haven’t been playing well. They haven’t been hitting and they haven’t been pitching. It’s just easier to point to a misplayed double play ball and go “aha, that’s the problem. Fundamentals!”

It’s not as easy to look at 30 plate appearance over the course of three hours and realize only two batters reached base, or that the pitcher was routinely missing his spots and couldn’t throw his breaking pitch.

They’re not playing well. This season is quickly going awry. But lets give up on the fundamental crap.

What does this season’s end mean for the Jays?

There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played and a lot that can happen: good, bad or ugly.

But with it now the halfway point of August (note: ugh), you can start to see the finish line. The home squad could take any one of three routes. They could go on another hot streak, win some big games against opponents they’re chasing and possibly even catch Baltimore in the division. They could continue to have spurts here and there, maybe make the second wildcard but likely limp to the finish line and just miss out. Or, they could fall apart, drift further back in the race and leave everyone upset and give the trolls plenty to feast on.

Of course, it could be something in between any of those, but that’s the basic gist of it all.

So what would each scenario mean?

Hot Streak

By far the easiest. If the return of Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind (and possibly others?) can help spur a winning streak the Blue Jays could definitely catch the Orioles. With six games still to play between the two teams, not six against the weak Red Sox, three against the weak Cubs and a handful of games against important rivals, a hot streak could see the Jays move up quickly. 

Even if they don’t manage to unseat Baltimore, if it came down to that final weekend of the season this season would have to be considered a success. And it would make resigning Melky more realistic, and set things up nicely for next year. In July, I wrote about the young pitching core that’s starting to develop. And that’s only starting to look brighter.Though they’ve both had bumps in the road, Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison have shown a lot. Aaron Sanchez has been great out of the bullpen, and Daniel Norris continues to turn heads.

Throw in some guys in the lower minors – Osuna, Hoffman, Reid-Foley, Tirado, even Smoral (no really!) – who could move quickly next year. The two old fellas will return next year as well, both of whom will likely do what we’ve come to expect, and that’s pretty good.

That just leaves the offence and bullpen. The latter can swing quickly, as we clearly saw this year, and the former, in case you hadn’t noticed, is pretty good. A strong end to the season could convince front office/ownership to pony up the dollars and plug a few holes, leaving the team in really good shape next year.

Middling middlers

To me, this is kind of the scariest. And I saw that because it leaves a lot of room for ownership, who don’t really have a damned clue about how to run a sports team, to decide the future of the team. They could realize how close the team is and give the ok for Anthopolous to fill out the roster as he needs to. They could hold firm with the budget, which would leave AA in a stick, but manageable spot. Or they could cut back. And with the team having experienced, for the most part, good health this year, what can you possibly think of this team if it fuddles its way to an 84-win season? 

Because, even if ownership gives the go-ahead for the front office to spend more money, it won’t be much. It’d probably be enough to resign Melky and get a second baseman. Is that enough, along with any internal improvements, to become a playoff team next year? Especially when the division is expected to be much stronger? It’s a scary proposition that we could have another middling season, which would likely result in fairly major overhauls.

Fall Apart

If the team falls apart during the remaining six weeks, I think it’s pretty clear you’ll see some kind of re-tooling. It’s hard to envision what that means, but there are a lot of really attractive pieces on the big league roster, and if AA could turn those into some near-Big League ready bats he could have a formidable team in a short period of time.

Of course, he could maybe convince ownership that they stayed in it this long, and if he had some reinforcements he could have kept the team in it longer.

Whatever happens it’s going to be an interesting six weeks. 

Here’s hoping.

The future of center field

When Colby Rasmus grounded out to end last night’s game, in a rather ugly at bat, it seemed to signal for some the final nail in the coffin for Rasmus’ future in Toronto.

While I don’t necessarily disagree, there’s certainly the feel that he’s gone at the end of the year, I wonder about some of the reasoning people provide. Namely, that he’s going to cost too much.

I really question exactly what Rasmus will get in free agency. Sure, he plays a premium defensive position, but how well does he play it and will he continue to be able to handle CF going into the future? He’s been pretty bad according to UZR/150 and DRS this year, and has had mixed results over his career, posting a 0.2 UZR/150 and 11 DRS.

The eye test defence seems to be inconclusive as well. He can cover a surprisingly good amount of ground but he seems to often get beat by balls hit over his head. He also has a questionable arm and has missed his fair share of targets.

At the plate, he’s really had only two good, BABIP-fuelled seasons. This year he’s batted to a .322 wOBA and has been exactly league average according to wRC+, which is at 100. Three of the past four years, assuming he doesn’t go on a tear down the stretch (note: please do Colby!) he’s sported an OBP on the wrong side of .300. He continues to sport prodigious power, with a .228 ISO so far this year, after posting a .225 ISO last year.

And his splits seem to demonstrate he’s not an everyday starter, and needs someone to hide him from lefties.

Rasmus has also missed time with injuries the past couple of years.

Then there’s his dad, who once again is spouting stupidity.

What he does have going for him is his age. Rasmus is days away from turning 28, which means he’ll be quite young for a center fielder.

So wrap that all together and what do you get? A young and extremely powerful, extremely strikeout prone center fielder with questionable defence, two of five seasons above average offensively, a certain platoon split issue, and a small, albeit significant injury history.

I certainly don’t see the Ellsbury-esque deal some were thinking it’d take last year. I could see him take a shorter term deal with the hopes of getting another chance to cash in, or possibly sign something longer, but for a fairly low (relatively speaking) AAV.

If it’s the former, which I’d suspect, it could behoove the Jays to consider that. Despite just ragging on him for an entire post, I’ve always liked Cletus. If you could do two or three years plus an option Rasmus could provide a more palatable bridge to prospect Dalton Pompey than some Anthony Gose-Kevin Pillar platoon.

The priority, of course, should be left fielder Melky Cabrera first. 

Either way, methinks either Gose or Rasmus is gone by the time 2015 gets underway. It makes no sense to have to left-handed center fielders on the roster. To me, it’s a question of how much Rasmus costs vs. how much they could get for Gose, who has had a decentish season in the bigs.

Projecting Next Year’s Team

Baseballpositions2015

Oh, they’re still in it you say? Not the best time to look towards next year? Maybe focus on the race for the playoffs the Jays are currently in?

Screw it, I’m already looking to 2015.

That’s not to say I’m giving up on this season after a couple of losses to the ‘Stros. Not at all. I apparently just like to plan out the future of my favourite baseball team.

It’s strange, in essentially every other aspect of my life there’s very minuscule amounts of planning. Going on a trip? We’ll figure out where we’re staying when we get there. Have a massive project at work? Meh, it’ll get done. Hey, it’s a Tuesday, wanna go get drunk? Sure, I’ll recover tomorrow.

But with the Jays, I’m always considering what to expect next year and the year after that.

So, what does 2015 have in store for Toronto? I have no idea.

The Jays have a lot of key players already locked up for 2015. The big bats, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will be back, as will Adam Lind whose 2015 option I imagine will be picked up. Jose Reyes will get $22 million to play the middle infield and Canadian Jesus will be around, playing second or third one presumes.

Behind the plate, Dioner Navarro will be into his second year of a two year deal he signed with the club.

That essentially leaves two outfield spots, 2B and a left handed DH platoon with Lind.

The two outfield spots are the most interesting, I think. Cabrera’s having a fantastic year, sporting a 132 wRC+ playing left field. He’s been arguably the most consistent force in the lineup. He’s seemingly recovered from the tumour that ruined his 2013 season, and is now two years removed from the PED scandal.

Then there’s Cletus. Colby Rasmus has not had a great year, though surprisingly not as bad as one might think. His .319 wOBA and 98 wRC+ are both a far cry from last year, but they’re not as atrocious as it seems like he’s been. His ability to get on base has taken a substantial hit, even though his power has essentially remained. With a BABIP more in line with career norms, is this the real Rasmus?

With both free agents in the offseason, I’d say it’s a must that they resign one of them. While I’ve always been a Rasmus fan, it appears the smart money would be on resigning the Melk-Man.

And it may be smart for multiple reasons. The Jays have Dalton Pompey in AA New Hampshire right now. The Canadian outfielder has taken huge steps this year, and after stumbling early on in AA he’s been acquitting himself quite nicely. Signing Rasmus to a long term deal could put them in a tough spot in a year or two, if Pompey is the real deal.

Despite showing essentially no power, Anthony Gose has been able to get on base at a decent clip this year. I’m thinking the Jays may go the route of a platoon with Gose. While it hasn’t been the case this year, Chris Young has pretty decent splits against lefties in his career (.357 wOBA, 117 wRC+). Maybe sign him for a year or two, and see if he and Gose can handle CF?

That leaves the one open spot in the infield. It’s a tough one for the Jays. There aren’t many sexy options out there, unless Ham-Ram makes it to free agency. Even if he does, I can’t imagine the Jays being able to lock him up. So, I’m guessing it’s going to be some kind of a rotation between second and third or Lawrie-Francisco-Valencia-Tolleson-Kawasaki, which really, isn’t bad.

The rotation already looks somewhat set. Dickey, Buehrle, Stroman and Hutch would likely make up the top four. J.A. Happ has an option for 2015, which I imagine they’ll pick up. Brandon Morrow’s likely done as a Jay and Aaron Sanchez has looked pretty ok in the bullpen.

My guess is Happ gets the inside track, with Sanchez either in the pen or AAA to start the season, allowing the team to control his innings.

The bullpen is anyone’s guess. Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil will be back, as I imagine will be Dustin McGowan. Casey Janssen’s a free agent and I don’t feel comfortable giving him big time closer’s money. Todd Redmond’s done nothing to keep him from having a job next year.

So where does that leave us?

C – Navarro

1B- EE

2B – Lawrie/Tolleson

3B – Lawrie/Francisco/Valencia

SS – Reyes

LF – Cabrera

CF – Gose/Young

RF – Bautista

DH – Lind/Tolleson/Valencia/Young

Bench – Tolleson, Valencia, Thole, Young

SP – Dickey, Buehrle, Stroman, Hutchison, Happ

RP – McGowan, Loup, Cecil, Sanchez, Redmond, ??, ??

Actually, not bad. And certainly should be doable from a financial standpoint.

Jon Lester takes out full-page ad to thank Red Sox fans

Interesting. Certainly seems like he’s simply gonna go for the money this winter. As a Jays fan, I’d like to see him not return to the AL East, he always seems to dominate Toronto.

HardballTalk

After nine years, 110 wins and two world championships with the Red Sox, Jon Lester was traded to Oakland prior to Thursday’s trade deadline. On Sunday, he took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank Red Sox Nation for the memories.

source:

It doesn’t really seem like the action of a pitcher who is set to re-sign with a club in free agency, though Lester was quoted in the Globe, saying he hasn’t ruled that out.

“Anything is possible,” Lester stated. “Obviously that’s still my family. I still got a lot of guys over there that I consider my family. I think when it comes down to it, if they [Red Sox front office] are competitive and we feel like it’s right, then absolutely, the relationship could continue.”

Lester notched a win in his A’s debut Saturday after allowing three runs in 6 2/3 innings against the…

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Stand Pathopolous

Drinkin Thinkin3

For Jays fans, the trade deadline came and went with nary a whimper.
It wasn’t all that surprising, the lead up to Thursday’s deadline made it seem like there wouldn’t be much action at 1 Blue Jays Way. And I’m kind of surprised, but the reaction hasn’t been all that bad.
I’ve been listening to the Fan 590 lately, just to see what the unwashed masses are thinking. And with the deadline it appeared the majority was fine with a lack of action.
And I am too.
Sure, some help in the bullpen would have been nice, or perhaps another starter to help out. But meh, whatever.
The only thing that was kind of upsetting was seeing the Yankees improve, without giving up much. There was a general feeling, both from myself and, I think, from most fans that New York was running on fumes. With so many injuries, underperformance and other issues, it felt like they’d be fading down the stretch, leaving the Jays to go up against Baltimore for the division.
Now, I’m not so sure. With Drew, Prado, Headley in the mix, along with McCarthy in the rotation, they might just have enough the Yankee themselves into the conversation. They’re not that far back – and shit, the Rays aren’t far behind either – that it’s something we have to keep our eyes on.
I did see something on MLBTR today that piqued my curiosity.

The White Sox didn’t make any noise on deadline day but things could’ve been much different had a proposed three-team trade been finalized, GM Rick Hahn told reporters (including ESPN Chicago’s Sahadev Sharma). The deal “would’ve wound up netting us such a [future] piece, a guy who’d been a target for a while,” Hahn said, though talks fizzled about two hours before the 3pm CT deadline.

Per http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/08/quick-hits-hahn-royals-luhnow-cotts.html

Basing it off absolutely nothing but pure speculation, but maybe it was the Jays? The two teams have a history of trading. Chicago’s in a rebuild. Chris Sale, come on down!
It’d be a great fit. The apparently tight-fisted ownership in Toronto could surely accept his contract – he’s owed the pro-rated amount of $3.5M this year, $6M next year, $9M in 2016 and $12M in 2017, along with a couple of options – and Anthopolous might just have the pieces to pull it off.
Sure, it’d be a lot, multiple top prospects one would assume. But with many of the young guys taking substantial steps forward, maybe? I read on Twitter, I think, that Robert Osuna has been looking good so far in his return from Tommy John. Daniel Norris has received much fanfare this year. Another pitcher, Miguel Castro, just got promoted from Vancouver to Lansing after throwing 50 great innings in the NW League.
Perhaps there’s enough there to get something done without depleting the farm system. I think AA likes to operate without a looming deadline, so if an opportunity arises in August without the spotlight glaring, maybe he makes a big move?
Even if that doesn’t happen, I’m not really against seeing what the team does down the stretch and maybe revisiting a big move like that in the offseason. They’re going to have some tough decisions in the winter, two thirds of the outfield needs to be addressed and the bullpen might need a revamp, but maybe there’s a chance the Jays finally do get that ace.