Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Bullpen Situation

With Scott Downs, Brian Tallet and Kevin Gregg all leaving the Blue Jays this off season many were worried that the Jays bullpen would be a concern, while in fact some others believed that a quality bullpen existed among returning bullpen pitchers who were successful last season and the overflow of quality young starting pitchers without rotation spots.

Then Jason Frasor accepted arbitration and the Jays picked up another two bullpen pitchers through trades and signed two as free agents, so what now, is their too many? Let's take a look at the candidates:

1. Frank Francisco - The Jays management is going to play it out as if Dotel, Rauch and possibly even Fraser have a shot at the closers job. In reality Francisco will be the closer. This is a pitcher that is drastically underrated due to pitching in the hitting friendly Texas ballpark for years. In addition to career average of more than 10 K's per 9 innings, Francisco's home road splits over the last two years are as follows:


As Drunk Jays fan already pointed out, Jonah Keri said, "Frank Francisco xFIP 2008-2010: 3.34, 3.53, 3.31. Not some generic RP we're talking about. Not sure I wouldn't rather have him than Papelbon."

2. Jon Rauch - This will most likely be the Jays 8th inning set up man. He doesn't have overpowering stuff but has shown consistent great command. An ERA of 3.87 and WHIP of 1.35 since being traded from Washington in 2008 does concern me a bit though.

3. Octavio Dotel - Another guy with a nasty K/inning ratio over his career with one fault, he can't get lefties out. This makes him the right handed specialist in the 7th and 8th innings.

4. Jason Frasor - It seems everyone is convince that his time as a Blue Jay is short lived and he may even be released by the team. That's not going to happen, and while he might be traded (which would be a mistake in selling low) I believe he is the second best reliever on this team. As I mentioned in The BlueJay Hunter blog something was up with Frasor at the beginning of last year that made him suck and blow at the same time, but his second half numbers are almost exactly the same as 2009 (the year in which he added a third pitch):

2009: 2.50 ERA/1.02 WHIP
2nd half 2010: 2.48 ERA/1.10 WHIP

By the way, it is an absolute must that you watch the Journey video in the Blue Jay Hunter blog link above.

5. Shawn Camp - had a very good season last year, the ball dances out of his hands and he continues to get unappreciated. That being said, my money is on him to flop this year.

6. David Purcey - Most likely the sole lefty out of the bullpen to start the year, he also put up some decent numbers last year. Many think he could eventually be the teams closer and that wouldn't at all surprise me.

7. Casey Janssen - Many forget that Janssen was very good as a reliever in 2007 with an ERA of 2.35. Then he missed all of 2008 due to injuries and the Jays tried to make him a starter in 2009, albeit a very short stint. Last year back as a full time reliever he was merely okay, but I still think it is in him to be very good again.

8. Carlos Villanueva - this guy is a bit of an enigma, after a dominant 2008 season with a 2.12 ERA as a reliever, I was convinced that he should take over as the Brewers closer. Since then he's been an all or nothing pitcher with mediocre overall results. He may get the short end of the stick as I can't see the Jays carrying 8 bullpen pitchers.

The Others

9. The loser of the fifth spot in the rotation - We're hoping Marc Rzepczynski walks away with the 5th spot in the rotation, which most likely means back to the minors for Zach Stewart, Jesse Litsch, Robert Ray, Dustin McGowan, Brad Mills, Scott Richmond, etc.

10. Jesse Carlson - he'll be the back up lefty in the minors should it become apparent that the Jays really need more than one lefty reliever on the big league squad.

11. Josh Roenicke - Roenicke apparently has electric stuff, however nothing I have seen from him has impressed me, and something tells me the Jays feel the same way.

12. Rommie Lewis - this is just a guy, minor league filler/depth if you will.

13. Jo-Jo Reyes - see Rommie Lewis. In fact it amazes me that this guy and Scott Richmond for that matter are still on the Jays 40 man roster.

Looking at the Jays options, there definitely are too many cooks in the kitchen and I do expect someone to get moved before the season starts. All signs were pointing to Frasor, but him recently signing a one year deal with an option makes it appear less likely. Therefore, it now looks like Villanueva is the guy without a chair.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kevin Kouzmanoff Coming to Toronto?

According to Buster Olney the Blue Jays may be involved in a three way trade that will send Chone Figgins to Oakland, Kevin Kouzmanoff to Toronto and unknown to Seattle. So this begs the question, why would Toronto be interested in picking up a mediocre hitting 3rd baseman with a career line of .258/.302/.425 who is scheduled to make $4.75 million in 2011? It can't be about draft picks again can it?

Well the truth of the matter is that this deal would actually make a lot of sense for Toronto for the following reasons:


Currently Toronto is loaded with questionable defenders and Kouzmanoff who has a combined 1.2 defensive WAR over the past two years has a reputation as a good defensive 3b. Therefore this would improve the infield defense, allow Jose Bautista to move back to RF (the stated position he prefers to play) and removes the temptation to put Edwin Encarnacion at 3B. Additionally it will take a little presure off of Adam Lind at 1B, someone who is essentially learning the position.

Getting Rid of Junk for Slightly Better Junk

The following reason only makes sense if the player the Jays would be sending to Seattle is Juan Rivera. In reality the Jays never wanted Juan Rivera, he was the guy that they had to take on in order to unload the Vernon Wells contract and they have no intentions of offering him arbitration at the end of the year. Therefore Rivera will not bring the team back a draft pick when he leaves at the end of the year and if they can trade him now for a player similarly unwanted by another team, but plays a position of need for the Blue Jays, they'll make the deal. Thus if they can deal Rivera for Kouzmanoff it will make Bautista happy and improve the defense without a significant change to the payroll or overall offense.

I say make it so...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ramifications of Wells Trade

It still boggles my mind that another team was willing to trade for Vernon Wells and take on all of the money owed to him in his contract.  After all it is his contract that was preventing the Jays from being a serious competitor in the AL East, or so we wanted to believe, and now that it's gone what happens?  Truth be told, for this year the Jays will probably be a little worse without him as we know the team isn't going to run out and spend the savings immediately.  The Jays will continue to add pieces for the future as they come up and before we know it they will be a damn good team, or so we hope.  So again, what does the Wells trade mean for this year?  Well let's take a step by step look at each position that will be directly impacted by Fridays deal:


This is the most obviously impacted position as this was Vernon Well's spot for the past decade or so, and also it has the most obvious solution.  Centerfield will be manned by Rajai Davis this year as he is really the only in house option at this point, which makes you wonder if Anthopoulos new about the likelihood of a Wells deal before he traded for Davis?  The Jays won't lose much defensively if anything at all with Davis, his defensive metrics are vary greatly over the past two seasons but most observers feel Davis that is a top defender.

The New Guys

Coming back from Los Angeles are Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, and where they will play is where it starts to get a bit confusing.  I think the most likely answer is that Juan Rivera will take over in the corner outfield spot that isn't being manned by Travis Snider, and since they want to continue to develop Snider, I'd bet that he stays in Right Field.

As for Mike Napoli he will see time behind the plate, as a DH and at First Base, with the majority of his time being spent as a catcher.  Sorry J.P. Arencibia, looks like if you want regular major league playing time you'll have to step up and take it from Napoli. 

Designated Hitter

The incumbent Designated Hitter slash back up 1st basemen prior to the trade was Edwin Encarnacion, and now that the deal is done, you can take away that back-up 1st basemen role and give it to Napoli, who will also be the back-up designated hitter.  I believe that Encarnacion will put together a decent season in 2011 and keep the designated hitter role all year.  However, the pressure is on him for a quick start because if Arencibia thrives, then Napoli spends more time at DH.  If Adam Lind really isn't a 1B, then he spends more time at DH.  Also there is no natural platoon situation at catcher or DH among Encarnacion, Napoli and Arencibia as they are all right handed hitters.  Why do I get this funny feeling that Encarnacion will see more time at 3B than anyone is comfortable with?  Additionally, no matter how you slice it, this team has way to many designated hitters playing fielding positions.

First Base

Adam Lind remains the front runner to play first base this season, and he will most likely get a long look at that spot as the team will give him every opportunity to learn the position in a year where the emphasis is on development. He will have to be pretty awful defender for the team to give up on him at first base, which is not out of the realm of possibility.


This was supposed to be J.P. Arencibia's year, his chance to finally shine or fall flat on his face.  Now it appears that opportunity has be taken away from him as Mike Napoli will be given the majority of starts behind the plate, with Jose Molina staying on as the back up.  What does this mean for Arencibia?  He will start the season in Vegas just long enough for the Jays to ensure they have his rights for an extra year.  At that point, if one of Lind, Encarnacion, Napoli, or Molina is hurt or struggling, then Arencibia will get the call.

Final Thought

Just as the Vernon Wells trade sent ripple throughout the Jays starting lineup, I have a feeling Alex Anthoupolos has a few more tricks up his sleeve and we may see a few more changes before the season begins

Friday, January 21, 2011

All's Well That Ends Wells

Alex Anthopoulos has done what many of us considered impossible, trade Vernon Wells and get the other team to pay his entire salary.  Not only that, the Blue Jays get a few somewhat useful pieces in return in Mike Napoli and to a lesser extent Juan Rivera.  This will probably take me a few days to digest the ramifications of what this will mean, but for now let's reflect on the career of Vernon Wells as a Blue Jay.

Truth be told Vernon Wells was one of the all time greatest Blue Jays and over his time with the team he has established many franchise records.  It wasn't his fault that the team decided to give him the $126 million contract, which ironically in the end turned out to be a 3 year $40 million dollar deal for the Jays, a quite reasonable contract with all things considered.  So am I sad to see him go?  Of course not, but I am appreciative of what he has done for the team, so on behalf of all Jays fans I'd like to leave you with this:

Thank you Vernon for everything you have given us, it was quite the roller coaster ride and as fans we should have treated you better.  We wish you nothing but the best and hope you enjoy your time in Anaheim, and oh...don't let the door hit you on the way out!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blue Jays Prospect Links

Need your Jays prospect porn fix? Here are the latest Jays prospect rankings, overall prospect ranking lists and other sites that do a much better job covering the minor leagues than I can:

► Hardball Times 2011 top 10 Jays Prospects List

► Baseball America's 2011 top 10 Jays Prospects list

► John Sickels of Minor League Ball's top 20 Jays 2011 Prospect list

► Baseball Prospectus' 2011 Top 20 Jays prospects list

► This Week in Prospects (TWIP) Toronto Blue Jays 2011 minor league system overview and by position

► Baseball-Intellect's 2011 top 15 Jays prospects list

►'s 2010 Minor league review and players to watch in 2011

► FanGraphs, their Jays prospect list for 2011 isn't out yet, but their site is worth checking out on a regular basis

► 1 Blue Jays Way takes prospect porn to a whole new level

► Dobber's 2011 top 250 overall prospect list

► Scouting's top 461 over prospects for 2011 list

► Deep Leagues 2011 Top 100 Prospects list

► From the you've got to be kidding me department, MILB Prospects Top 2000 prospects for the 2011 season list

► Jays Journal is currently working their way down the list of top 50 Jays prospects.

► Bleacher Report's top 10 Jays prospects for 2011 list

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Expanded Playoffs

If you are a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays or say the Baltimore Orioles, you know all too well the struggles of trying to compete in the American League East. Well that may all change with discussion of expansion of the playoff format for major league baseball…or will it?

Major league baseball is considering expansion of the playoff format which could be implemented as soon as 2012. One of the more popularly discussed formats would see the addition of another wild card team in each league. The additional team would then face off against the other wild card winner in a short playoff, most likely a best of three series. The winner of this series would then go on to face one of the division winners in a playoff format similar to the one currently constructed.

So the question is, will this new expanded playoff format give the Toronto Blue Jays a much better shot at the playoffs? Or is it just a way to guarantee that both the Yankees and Red Sox are in the playoffs every year? Well, I’m going to suggest that it is the latter.

If we look back since the year 2000 and implemented this new playoff structure, the following additional teams would have made the playoffs with this extra spot in the American League:

2010 - Boston
2009 - Texas
2008 - NY Yankees
2007 - Detroit/Seattle
2006 - Chicago WS
2005 - Cleveland
2004 - Oakland
2003 - Seattle
2002 - Boston
2001 - Minnesota
2000 – Cleveland

Only in 2001 and 2006 would have both the Yankees and Red Sox not made the playoffs, as Boston would have fallen a few wins short in both of these years. The Yankees would have made the playoffs every year, and if fact you would have to go back to 1992 under this format for the last time the Yankees wouldn’t have made the playoffs; a year in which Danny Tartabull was the Yankees highest paid player at $5.3 million, and also a year in which a certain team north of the border was pretty good.

So what is preventing the Jays and Orioles from making the playoffs under this expanded format? Well, my belief is that it is due to the lack of a balanced schedule. NY and Boston will continue to outspend everyone else in baseball and regularly finish first or second in the AL East. The Blue Jays and Orioles will both have to play these two teams 38 times reducing their overall win total. This factor really makes a big difference in the overall standings, for example, let’s compare the Twins who are considered the shining example of how to build an organization against the Toronto Blue Jays over the last three years:

  Blue Jays and Twins Win Loss Records since 2008

Overall Record
Winning %
Record vs. AL East
Winning %
Blue Jays

If the Twins were in the AL East, do you think they would have fared any better than the Blue Jays? Over this three year period the Twins have made the playoffs twice and just missed once and the Blue Jays haven’t even played a meaningful regular season game despite arguably having the better team.

Therefore since the AL Central and West are weaker divisions, the records of the better teams within these divisions will be inflated resulting in one of the non division winners most likely having a better record than both the Blue Jays and Orioles. Therefore if you count the number of teams that will make the playoffs in an expanded format, this leaves you with the following teams going to the post season every year:

1. AL East division winner
2. AL Central division winner
3. AL West division winner
4. One of the Boston Red Sox/NY Yankees (whichever is not the AL East winner)
5. The team with the best record among the remaining group from the AL Central and AL West that does not win their division

Missing from this list is the Toronto Blue Jays and it will remain this way until either they spend on par will the Boston Red Sox or there is an implementation of a balanced schedule. What about what the Tampa Bay Devil Rays have done recently you say? Well, I guess the Jays could catch lightning in a bottle and have everything go right at the right time, but is that what I really want to hope for?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Around the League

1. The Kansas City Royals sign pitcher Jeff Francis to a 1 year $2 million contract. Is this possible? A good Kansas City signing?

2. Jays avoided arbitration with Carlos Villanueva by signing him to a 1 year $1.415 million deal. Not a bad price given what relievers are getting in the free agent market.

3. Pedro Martinez is weighing whether or not he will come back this year. Um, at this point I think the question is more about whether any team wants him, and definitely no one will pay him what he will want to come back.

4. Yankees sign the best player left on the market Rafael Soriano to a 3 year $35 million contract. The Yankees chose to sign Soriano because they struck out on all the players they really wanted and needed a bone to throw their fans.

5. Catcher Gregg Zaun is near a deal with the San Diego Padres. I guess Zaunabie Nation will have to wait another year at least before they can watch Zaun taking his act full time to Rogers Sportsnet.

6. The Yankees would consider trading pitcher Joba Chamberlain for a viable starter. In other breaking news the Pirates would consider signing Albert Pujols next year if he's interested in taking a similar contract to that of Lyle Overbay's this season.

7. Hardball Times ranks the top 100 fantasy starting pitchers and Roy Halladay ranks #1 (a single tear runs slowly down my cheek)

8. The Cardinals and Albert Pujols continue to talk contract extension. This may be the story of the summer if they can't get a deal done before the season.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

BABIP and the Blue Jays

For those who are scared off or don't really understand the new fangled so called important statistics, BAPIP, or Batting Average on Balls In Play is actually a straight forward fairly simple idea.  In layman's terms BAPIP is a players batting average when they hit the ball and it stays inside the park, thus strike outs and home runs don't count, but sacrifice flies do.  The idea behind BABIP is to understand how lucky or unlucky a player has been, because generally the percentage of balls that drop for hits should remain fairly consistant.  There are aspects that can influence the range of BABIP from player to play, such as speed and line drive rates etc. but whenever a players BABIP varies from his career norms it is mainly a result of luck.

So now that you have a complete understanding of BABIP, let's take a look at how this applies to the Jays players and who among this years team was lucky or unlucky last year.  Simply put, those in the chart below that have a BABIP below their career average (or negative variance) are unlucky and vice versa.

Toronto Blue Jays BABIP Ranked from Most Unluck to Luckiest
2010 BAPIP
Career BAPIP
J. P. Arencibia
Jose Molina
Mike McCoy

J.P. Arencibia had a small number of at bats which sometimes results in wonky results as shown, and I used his career minor league BABIP since 2010 was his only major league season.

For those that did not know, Aaron Hill's BABIP was historically low and what does this all mean at the end of the day? Most likely Hill and others with low BABIP's should rebound to their career norms next year. That if they had hit to their career BABIP averages this past year and all those balls that didn't get through at their normal rate actually went for singles, their 2010 stats should have looked as follows:

Ranked in Order of Highest to Lowest Adjusted OPS
2010 Actual
2010 Adjusted
Edwin Encarnacion
Aaron Hill
*Travis Snider
*Adam Lind
John McDonald
J. P. Arencibia
Yunel Escobar
Rajai Davis
Jose Molina
*Corey Patterson
Mike McCoy

If we remove the luck, all of a sudden Aaron Hill's season doesn't look so bad and maybe Edwin Encarnacion at DH isn't the worst idea in the world.  As well, Corey Patterson still shouldn't be on a major league roster for his hitting abilities.