Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Myth of the Blue Jays Offense

This off-season whenever the discussion turns to dissecting the Blue Jays greatest needs for improvement, on numerous occasions I've heard comments similar to, 'They don't need to improve their offense as they scored the 6th most runs in baseball', 'Their offense is good enough' or 'Their pitching was horrible and was the biggest reason for their lack of success'.  Whenever I heard comments like this alarm bells went of in my mind as I suspected these assumptions may be based on faulty information.  Therefore today I'd like to delve into the Blue Jays 2011 offensive runs scored and pitching runs allowed, compare them against the rest of the league and see if the common beliefs hold up.

The 2011 Results - Offense

Yes it is absolutely true the Toronto Blue Jays finished finished 6th in baseball in runs scored in 2011, however, with pitchers hitting in the National League you really can't use runs scored as a measure of comparison for teams from the different leagues.  Therefore, to compare apples to apples I will only use American League team totals for the purpose of this article, where the Blue Jays finished 5th out of 14 teams in runs scored.  Refer to Chart 1 for American League runs scored by team.

Chart 1 - American League Runs Scored by Team
Runs Scored
NY Yankees867
Kansas City730
Tampa Bay707
LA Angels667
Chicago White Sox654

The first thing that stands out to me is that although the Jays did finish 5th in the league in runs, they scored 132 less runs than the league leading Boston Red Sox.  Additionally, they only scored 20 more runs than the league average.  Thirdly, these totals ignore home park factors and could be misleading.

To combat any park advantage I decided to equalize each teams at home runs scored by taking their 2011 park factors and adjusting each to an equivalent of 1.00.  Therefore, once removing home park advantages, the Toronto Blue Jays adjusted total runs scored was 692, which was 31 runs below the league average.  Additionally, they now finished 10th out of the 14 teams in adjusted total runs scored.

Therefore, despite the common belief, the above analysis suggests the Blue Jays offense was below average for American League teams in 2011.

The 2011 Results - Pitching

The common belief is that the entire rotation outside of Ricky Romero and 10 starts for Henderson Alvarez, the entire Toronto Blue Jays rotation was a disappointment.  Additionally the bullpen couldn't be counted on as they blew a league leading number of saves and Casey Janssen was the only reliable member that had any kind of success. Overall the pitching staff was a disappointment and needs improvement.  On the surface the numbers support this argument as Toronto Blue Jays pitchers allowed 761 runs which was the 4th highest total in the American League.  Refer to Chart 2 for American League runs allowed by team.

Chart 2 - American League Runs Allowed by Team
Runs Allowed
Kansas City762
Chicago White Sox706
NY Yankees657
LA Angels633
Tampa Bay614

Again, the above totals ignore home park factors and when the number of runs allowed at home are adjusted to equalize any advantage/disadvantage, the totals look very different.  The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays adjusted total runs allowed is now 706, which is good enough for 8th lowest of the 14 American League teams and 11 fewer runs than the league average number given up.  Therefore, since both numbers are now right in the middle of the pack for the American League, you could say that the Jays pitching was league average in 2011.

Therefore, while I believe that both the offense and pitching needs some improvement before we can truly call the Blue Jays a team ready to compete for a playoff spot, the analysis above suggests that it is actually the Blue Jays offense that needs the greatest amount of improvement.
Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Prince Fielder Will Sign With the Blue Jays

Let me start by saying that I have never thought up until today that there was any real chance that Prince Fielder would sign with the Blue Jays.  The team has never given any indication that they would, and I have been the first to tell others that it's not happening.  Sure I would daydream every now and then what it would be like to have both Fielder and Jose Bautista in the middle of the Blue Jays line-up, however I never though it would happen, in spite of any reports to the contrary.  That is until today, and for no other reason that when I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together in my head I realized that Toronto is really Prince Fielder's only option.

What you say???  What about all the other reports about numerous teams being interested in him.  Well, we need to remember he is being represented by Scott Boras who is the king of spinning false interest in his clients and in early December he had even convinced a reporter to break the story that Fielder had narrowed his list of teams down to three, which also happened to included the Blue Jays.  Additionally, when you start looking at the teams that are reportedly interested, all of them have denied any interest.

Let's go through the list:

1. Washington
According to there's a "99 percent" chance that the Nationals will not sign Prince Fielder.  Additional reports suggest that after the Jayson Werth signing last year which is not quite working out the way they expected, they are a bit gun shy to hand out another big contract, and they say the teams situation is settled at first base with Adam LaRoche.

2. Seattle
According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick Seattle's interest in Fielder is "extremely overblown." and an agent reports are that they only have $3 to $4 million left for this years budget

3. Milwaukee
Prince's former team has moved on and signed Aramis Ramirez instead, and with Francisco Rodriguez accepting arbitration there is little money left to bring back Fielder.

4. Texas
According to Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, if Texas signs Yu Darvish, there is reportedly no money left for Fielder

5. Miami
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports a high ranking official in Miami has stated the team "is not and will not" be pursuing Prince Fielder

6. Baltimore
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN that there is "no way" the Orioles will give Fielder the kind of money he wants, and the teams General Manager Dan Duquette says they won't be players for Fielder.

7. Cubs
The Cubs have just acquired their first baseman of the future in Anthony Rizzo.

8. Cardinals
Rather than paying a princely sum, the Cardinals have signed Carlos Beltran instead and Lance Berkman will be the teams 2012 1st baseman

9. Dodgers
The teams general manager Ned Colleti has said the team is likely done spending as "we are at our payroll"

That completes the list of team with reported interest in Prince Fielder, could there be others?  Possibly San Francisco, however they have never been linked to Fielder and John Heyman of CBS sports reports that Fielder does not want to go to the West Coast.  Maybe Arizona, but they've got Paul Goldschmidt at 1st base who is young, inexpensive and controllable for the next 6 years.  I guess you can never count out the Red Sox and Yankees, but their 1st base and DH situations are filled.  This really only leaves one team, the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Also, the Toronto Blue Jays have never denied interest in Prince Fielder, they have just balked at his asking price and contract term demands.  However, if they are the only bidder then Fielder will eventually have to give in to the demands of the Blue Jays and settle for a maximum 5 year deal.  After all, Alex Anthopoulos has a value for all players and if a contact for Fielder meets what they believe is his value, and it makes sense for the team, then he's willing to make such moves.

Update: According to the Washington Post the owners of the Washington Nationals met with agent Scott Boras to discuss Prince Fielder, therefore the "99 per cent" chance that he won't sign with the team comment may have been nothing more than posturing.  Something that a lot of teams may be doing to try to get the price down.

Update 2: According to Jon Paul Morosi the Blue Jays are "not a serious suitor for Prince Fielder" and that "Price/years would need to come way down".  Well the hypothesis of my article is that since apparently no one is interested in Prince Fielder at his current demands, his price/years will have to come way down if he wants to play anywhere next season.

Picture “Photoshopping” courtesy Chris Creamer, baseball card template courtesy Andrew Meyer, via Getting Blanked