Archive for Blue Jays

The Hidden Moves of the Offseason

The word “move” is used in the context of an offseason to denote any number of varying transaction types. A trade is a move. A free-agent signing is a move. A player being designated for assignment is a move, or claimed off waivers, or sold to Japan. Players coming and going from rosters are the moves of the winter, and they’re the means by which the public tends to evaluate a team’s offseason.

The calculus for the outlook of the upcoming season is constantly changing throughout the offseason as these myriad moves transpire. When a team signs a star free-agent pitcher, we know that that team is several wins better than they were the day before. When a rebuilding club trades away its slugger in the final year of his contract for prospects, we understand that they’ve dropped a couple wins for the upcoming season.

But there’s another sort of move that happens during the offseason that’s more subtle, and it, too, changes the calculus of the upcoming season, though it often seems to be overlooked. We spend so much time and effort analyzing who “won or lost” the offseason that it’s easy to forget how much change should be expected from a team’s returning players. The Rangers didn’t go out and sign Yu Darvish this offseason, but he is expected to be a valuable addition to this year’s roster, an extra four or so wins added without any kind of traditional offseason move. Without doing anything, the Rangers rotation looks significantly better than it did at the end of last year.

Six years ago, Dave Cameron wrote a short post on this site titled 2009 Is Not a Constant. I recommend you read it, and sub in “2015” for “2009” when applicable, but here’s a relevant passage anyway:

We all know about career years and how you have to expect regression after a player does something way outside the ordinary, but regression doesn’t just serve to bring players back to earth after a big year.

Regression “fixes” a lot of problem spots from the prior year, even if the team doesn’t make a serious effort to change out players. The Royals got a .253 wOBA out of their shortstops a year ago. I don’t care how bad you think Yuniesky Betancourt is, you have to expect that number to be higher this year. They didn’t do anything to improve their shortstop position this winter, but the level of production they got from the position in 2009 is not their expected level of production for 2010.

You cannot just look at a team’s prior year won loss record – or even their pythagorean record – make some adjustments for the off-season transactions, and presume that’s a good enough estimator of true talent for the 2010 team.

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Nationals, Blue Jays Sensibly Swap Storen, Revere

Sometimes, it’s only natural to wonder why it took so long for a trade to come to fruition. In an ideal world, the Nationals would have found a free agent outfielder with whom they could agree upon terms. In an ideal world, the Blue Jays would have found a free agent reliever with whom they could agree upon terms. Our world is less than ideal, though, and neither team found a fit. So a match was made between the two. Drew Storen will pitch high-leverage innings for the Blue Jays, now. As a result, Ben Revere will slap singles, run fast, and play the outfield for the Nationals.

This isn’t a trade that will make a monumental impact, either way. Revere, at his very best, is something like a three-win player who’s actually more like a two-win player, and the Nationals can keep him for another year after this one if they feel he’s deserving of a fourth trip to arbitration. Storen, at his very best, is something a two-win player who’s probably more like a one-win player, and he’s set to be a free agent after this season. Both will earn somewhere between five and ten million dollars this year. Nothing here moves any kind of needle too much. If it did, it wouldn’t make so much sense.

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FG on Fox: Toronto’s Altered Offensive Approach at Home

Going into the 2015 season, we had a pretty good idea that the Toronto Blue Jays were going to hit a lot of home runs. After all, they hit the third-most home runs in baseball during 2014, and then added Josh Donaldson; the pieces were there for a huge offensive season from the entire team. But even with the talented personnel and a hitter-friendly home stadium, 2015 was the kind of season that was probably on the high-end of expectations: the Jays hit 232 home runs, the most by any team since the Yankees hit 245 in 2012.

As Matt Snyder pointed out in late September, the 2015 Blue Jays were only the 14th team in major league history to have three players with 35+ home runs each, and were the first team to have three since the 2006 White Sox. Those players, of course, were Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion. Digging deeper into the stats, the offensive approach shown by those players at the Rogers Centre was a driving force behind the team’s power explosion.

By July, we had a sense that Donaldson was intentionally altering his plate approach at home to hit more homers: he was striking out more, walking less, and pulling the ball far more often when playing at the Rogers Centre than on the road. In short, he was being ultra-aggressive at the plate when at home, and it turned out to be a big part of what would become an MVP season for the third baseman. A quick look at the increase in his pull rate at home in 2015 when compared to 2013 & 2014 tells a big part of the story of his year:

Donaldson_Pull_Compare

Big power seasons often follow short-term increases in pull tendencies, and Donaldson was no different. And, looking further down the lineup, he wasn’t alone in changing his approach to get the most out of playing in Toronto’s hitter-friendly environment during 2015. Donaldson’s main partner in adopting these more aggressive changes was Bautista, who showed a few important tweaks to his Rogers Centre approach between 2014 and 2015. To begin with, he pulled the ball in Toronto more than he ever had before, owning the third-highest change in pull tendency out of all qualified hitters when at home.

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Tigers Upgrade Bullpen with Mark Lowe

On July 7th, 2006, a 23-year-old righty made his major league debut against the Tigers. He entered the game in relief and immediately began putting up 99s on the radar gun. It wasn’t enough, however, to prevent Chris Shelton from singling to shortstop and beating out the throw. Brandon Inge also wasn’t afraid of the velocity, as he hit a ground-rule double to center. The young righty was now flustered. He hit Curtis Granderson to load the bases. He paced around the mound, gathered himself, and then rallied to strike out Placido Polanco, get a weak grounder from Ivan Rodriguez, and strike out Magglio Ordonez to end the threat.

On that day, Mark Lowe began a journey that started with the Mariners and continued on to the Rangers (in the Cliff Lee deal), and then the Dodgers, Angels, Nationals, Rays, Indians, Mariners (again), and Blue Jays. And now, almost ten years later, the Tigers have signed him with a two-year deal to be their setup man. It’s been quite a trip for him.

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2016 ZiPS Projections – Toronto Blue Jays

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Toronto Blue Jays. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Atlanta / Kansas City.

Batters
Toronto’s position players recorded the highest collective WAR in the majors this past year. Based on the numbers produced by ZiPS for 2016, the possibility of repeating that feat would appear to be distinct. Adding the rounded WAR figures in the depth chart below — a practice, it needs to be said, that should be reserved for entertainment purposes only — yields a sum of about 28 wins. That total would have been the third-highest in 2015. An encouraging development, that.

The strengths of the team aren’t surprising. Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Troy Tulowitzki have been good in the past and appear capable of continuing that trend. Of some interest is what appears to be the team’s only weakness — namely, second base. Devon Travis exhibited considerable promise as a rookie, but is expected to begin the season on the disabled list. Ryan Goins, meanwhile — despite what appears to be above-average defense — is regarded by Szymborski’s computer as a replacement-level player. Finding even just some value from second would appear to represent an easy means by which the club can improve itself this offseason.

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With Happ, Blue Jays Complete Purely Cromulent Rotation

With the signing of J.A. Happ to a three year, $36 million contract, the Blue Jays seem to have turned the corner on their 2015 ace, David Price. So in that sense, for Blue Jays fans, the Happ signing is not a Happ-y occurrence… Has everybody left? Okay! Time to get down to business. While we are all focused on the big-name free agents, like Price, picking their new and surely happy homes, the almost-AL Champs north of the border have been somewhat quietly going about the business of doing lots of business, and that business has been assembling a rotation that can take advantage of their offense.

Happ is the third starting pitcher the Jays have brought in or back since the season ended. Recall that they re-signed Marco Estrada to a two year deal, and then traded Liam Hendriks to Oakland for Jesse Chavez. Now they bring back Happ, a member of the Jays as recently as 2014. With R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman, that’s five starting pitchers under team control for next season. While Happ represents likely the last and largest free agent outlay by the Blue Jays organization for a starting pitcher this offseason, that doesn’t mean the team is completely done. With Happ, the team has $92 million committed to seven players in 2016 and none of those seven are Josh Donaldson, meaning adding an eighth player will make that figure meaningfully larger. Last season Toronto spent $137 million, their highest payroll ever, and though reports are a bit conflicting, they don’t seem likely to go much beyond that if at all for 2016. Assuming that’s all true, fitting David Price’s salary in would have meant cutting some muscle from the payroll, and doing that likely would have meant cutting muscle from Toronto’s greatest strength, their offense.

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JABO: The Rarity of Josh Donaldson’s Late Ascension

In some seasons, the Most Valuable Player award is a close race between a few worthy position players with a pitcher thrown into the mix if the circumstances align. This year, in the National League, the voting was unanimous for the MVP, and for good reason. In the American League, there were only really two serious candidates for the award, with one fact underlining that point: in MVP voting, each voter ranks players from one to ten, and this year in the AL, every ballot except for one had either Mike Trout or Josh Donaldson in first or second place.

Given that there were only two serious candidates in the AL, there was a fair amount of discussion about who was the worthier of the two players. We could say this was a battle of statistics versus context: a better statistical season (Trout) versus the offensive lifeblood of a playoff-bound Toronto team (Donaldson). Defensively, Donaldson had a better season, but Trout was clearly superior on the offensive side of the ball. Take a look at their full stats side-by-side (wRC+ uses 100 as league average, while UZR is how many runs better the player was than a league average defender):

2015 AL MVP Race
wRC+ (Offense) UZR/150 (Defense) WAR
Mike Trout 172 0.3 9.0
Josh Donaldson 154 9.8 8.7
SOURCE: FanGraphs

In the end, the context that is often added to the MVP award won out: Donaldson led his Toronto team to the playoffs after the city had endured a 21-year postseason drought, compiling an incredible offensive and defensive campaign in the process. As is so often the case, there was no true right or wrong answer on who should have won the award; it was close enough to where both players could have deserved it, and it was a matter of opinion that separated them. When all is said and done, baseball is about winning games, however, and Donaldson benefitted from being a key piece of a team that won more games than Trout’s Anaheim Angels.

Discussing the worthiness of each player winning the AL MVP has already been covered at length. If you’ve paid attention to this award season, you probably know the arguments for and against both Trout and Donaldson: we’ve even recapped a few of them here. What is well-known is who Donaldson currently is. What is less-known is who he Donaldson was, and where he now stands among historical MVPs. In context, who he was is a huge part of the story, and we’ll see that it’s pretty rare that he turned into who he is.

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Marco Estrada Isn’t Just a One-Year Fluke

Toronto has made the first move toward retooling its starting rotation, reportedly resigning Marco Estrada to a two-year deal worth $26 million.

Estrada is 32 years old and coming off a career-best season, but also had just ~$10 million in combined career earnings before this offseason, and would have entered the market with draft pick compensation tied to him in a rich free agent class for starting pitching.

The move feels like a win for both sides. Estrada takes something of a middle ground between the risk of accepting the qualifying offer in lieu of guaranteed years and testing the market in hopes of cashing in on his 2015 with a long-term deal. In making the decision, Estrada likely considered the recent situations of similar pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Ervin Santana who went unsigned until March after being extended a qualifying offer and ultimately chose to avoid that possibility by staying with a team that should contend for both years of his contract, while getting to throw to Russell Martin, one of the game’s best catchers and one with whom he’s already familiar.

From the Blue Jays’ perspective, they return their most consistent pitcher from 2015 to a mostly depleted rotation, and fill one of potentially three open spots with a short-term deal at a completely reasonable price, leaving room for a higher-profile pitcher to slot above Estrada.

Zooming in just on Estrada, there seems to be a perception among some that, had any team signed him to a multi-year deal, they’d be taking a risk. After all, he’s still just one year removed from a replacement-level season in Milwaukee, and for a 32-year-old, he doesn’t have much of a track record to stand on. To the Estrada naysayers, his 2015 season was a fluke, propped up by a historically low BABIP and a career-low HR/FB% that helped hide his ever-declining strikeout rate.

However, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

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Edinson Volquez at Peak Stuff

After Edinson Volquez last pitched, the Jays batters had a fair amount to say about his stuff. Yes, his velocity boost has been third-best this postseason, but Jose Bautista and Chris Colabello told Jordan Bastian that his movement was different from how they remembered him.

From Bastian’s piece at MLB.com:

“His fastball is playing with a little rise, rather than sink,” Blue Jays first baseman Chris Colabello said. “When he’s lower 90s, I think he has a tendency to sink a little bit more. Right now, it’s more of a lateral movement, or an upshoot.”

“His fastball wasn’t running that much,” Bautista said. “I think he was trying to throw a little harder and it was straighter. I kept hitting the bottom of the ball. I was expecting to see more sink.”

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There’s Something About the Royals, or Something

The Royals put me in a weird position. It’s not because their two consecutive pennants make skeptical and critical analysts look stupid — we went over that a year ago, and previously, we went over the same stuff with the Giants. If anything, that part of this is just funny. No, the Royals put me in a weird position, because they make it tempting to believe in ideas that run contrary to what I’ve been taught. I’m not supposed to believe in a team’s vibe. I’m not supposed to believe in a team’s unkillability. I’m not really supposed to believe in powerful and particular things, because baseball is intensely competitive, and it doesn’t make sense that one team would ever have a secret. I’m not supposed to believe the Royals are more special than any other team. Than, say, the Blue Jays. And I’m not saying I do believe in the Royals’ magic. They’re just pretty good at sucking me in. It’s a baseball team that makes me think twice about assumptions I have about baseball teams.

The ALCS isn’t going to have a Game 7. Would’ve been fun, but this was a plenty good way to wrap up. The ALDS between the Rangers and the Blue Jays came to an unforgettable conclusion, a very wild and unpredictable conclusion, but aside from the tie-breaking home run, that memorable inning turned on a series of defensive mistakes. Just before the homer, the whole inning was sloppy. That might’ve been baseball around its most entertaining. What we just saw in Game 6 was baseball in the vicinity of its best. The Royals and Blue Jays competed in a classic, and, of course, the Royals won. They’re the Royals, after all. I don’t know exactly how we got here, but I can tell where we are on the map.

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JABO: The ALCS Isn’t Some Crazy Bullpen Mismatch

Allow me to argue something that isn’t going to matter in a day or two. That’s the thing about writing about playoff series — no matter what, the relevance is fleeting. It all seems so important in the moment; it’s all over in just a few blinks of the eye. This argument probably isn’t going to mean very much, and it would’ve been better made before the ALCS began, but think about series keys. A full series is almost entirely unpredictable, only a little less unpredictable than one or two games, so think of this as a general series note, being made with the series in progress.

What it is, I think, is a matter of team identities. When people think about the Kansas City Royals, they think about defense, clutch hitting, and the bullpen. Holy crap, the bullpen, that’s been so valuable for them in the past. It seems like they got past the loss of Greg Holland without even missing a beat. The Toronto Blue Jays? When people think about the Blue Jays, they think about home runs, and David Price, and Marcus Stroman, and home runs. They’re the could-be and should-be and have-already-been offensive juggernaut put together to blast its way to the Series. The Blue Jays are supposed to have the obvious strength. The Royals are supposed to do more of the little things.

One of those being, get the late outs. And even the middle outs, depending on things. The Royals bullpen has a reputation, now, and it’s been fairly earned. The Royals bullpen is thought of as shortening ballgames, a group of arms the opponent doesn’t want to see because it means a total offensive shutdown. The way the pen gets talked about sometimes, it’s like it’s almost invincible. It is, without question, very good. Even without Holland. But an easy thing to miss is the Blue Jays aren’t much worse. Even without Brett Cecil. I don’t know to what extent the bullpens will matter over what’s left of this series, but it doesn’t look like a terrible mismatch.

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Edinson Volquez and the Postseason Velocity Bump

Twitter was apoplectic. Drug tests were demanded. Old suspensions were being brought up. Hands were wrung. Edinson Volquez? Throwing 96s and 97s deep into his start? Where is this velocity coming from? This can’t possibly be right.

Turns out, Volquez hasn’t even added the most velocity this postseason. He’s fourth or fifth among starters, depending on your definition, and he’s not too far from the the norm that we should be bugging out. The postseason, like the debut, comes with adrenaline, and that adrenaline leads to a bump in velocity. Baseball is that simple sometimes.

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Marco Estrada Has Maybe the Changiest Changeup

It’s right there in the name. Change-up.

It’s right there in all the names, really. The best fastballs, usually, go the fastest. The best curveballs, usually, curve the most. The best changeups, then, would change the most. That property — change — isn’t quite as intuitive as the first two, but really, in a good changeup, you just want difference. You want separation from the primary pitch.

As my colleague Eno Sarris wisely pointed out on Twitter last night, measuring the characteristics of a changeup, on its own, is a mostly useless endeavor. If the main purpose of a changeup is to give hitters a different look off the fastball, don’t you also need the characteristics of that fastball to give context to the change?

On the surface, Marco Estrada‘s repertoire might not be eye-popping. He doesn’t throw hard. He doesn’t have great movement. But what he does have, is this:

Largest Velocity Gaps, Fastball vs. Changeup
Player FB Velocity CH Velocity Velocity gap
Marco Estrada 89.9 79.1 -10.7
Erasmo Ramirez 92.1 81.8 -10.3
Chase Anderson 92.6 82.4 -10.2
Jeremy Hellickson 91.2 81.2 -10.0
Rick Porcello 92.7 82.9 -9.8
Jacob deGrom 95.8 86.2 -9.6
Andrew Cashner 96.2 86.7 -9.5
Max Scherzer 94.8 85.4 -9.4
Chris Archer 96.2 86.8 -9.3
Johnny Cueto 93.3 84.0 -9.3
Yordano Ventura 97.1 88.0 -9.1
SOURCE: baseballprospectus.com
*Right-handed starters
*Minimum: 500 four-seam fastballs (83)
*Minimum: 200 changeups (60)

On average, Estrada drops nearly 11 mph off his four-seam fastball with every changeup, giving him the largest difference of any right-handed starter in baseball. But we can take this a step further! There can be more to getting separation than just speed. There’s movement, too.

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Edinson Volquez Threw a Perfect Pitch

The consolation you hope for is that these uncertainties don’t end up making a difference. That way, you can talk about them, and you can investigate them, but you don’t have to worry about the results hinging on a decision one way or the other. It worked a little like that with the Rangers’ weird go-ahead run in Game 5 of the ALDS — as strange as that was, the Blue Jays still won, so it didn’t really matter in the end. Of course, that wasn’t true uncertainty, because the rules weren’t ambiguous. It was an unfamiliar play, but a legitimate run. With Edinson Volquez‘s last full-count pitch to Jose Bautista in Wednesday’s sixth inning, there’s no getting to that point. You can see in the pitch whatever you want.

And you can say, all right, but the Blue Jays won by six. You can say, even as the pitch was being delivered, the Jays were heavy in-game favorites. You can try to claim the call didn’t end up too significant. But the call, in the moment, was huge. It was the difference between bases loaded and nobody out, and two on with one out. The score, you’ll recall, was 1-0. If the Royals get the call their way, maybe the inning is completely different. Maybe the Jays score, but not too much, and they have to turn to David Price out of the bullpen. The game and series didn’t turn because of one pitch, but that one pitch did some of the pushing. That one pitch was also the very definition of borderline. The only thing we know is Volquez’s breaking ball was perfect. What happened? Unfortunately, it’s a mess, in a very baseball way.

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Cliff Pennington Might Have a Career On the Mound

Cliff Pennington is known to possess many things. First, his name, a mix of post-war American automobile repair man and British countryside retreat; second, a yearly salary of no small consequence which allows him a large home and garage outfitted with fine automobiles, if he so chooses; and third, a slightly above replacement-level bat and glove that have afforded him between 200 and 300 plate appearances for each of the past three seasons.

After yesterday’s ALCS Game Four, Pennington is now known to possess a few other things, chief among them a 91 mph fastball and a 79 mph curveball. We know this, of course, because Pennington was the first-ever position player to pitch in the playoffs, the direct result of a 14-2 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays by the Kansas City Royals. It was certainly not the hope of Blue Jays manager John Gibbons to call upon Pennington as a pitcher when laying out his bullpen for the semifinals of baseball’s biggest tournament, but here we are, and the results of the forced experiment were, at the very least, interesting and entertaining for the neutral fan.

Allow us to begin with Pennington’s first pitch:

Surprising? Surprising. 91 with sinking action from a position player will do that, and it caused quite a reaction from a section of Jays players who were paying attention to the game:

Jays_Bench_Guys

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Roberto Osuna and the Aging Curve for Young Relievers

Way back in April, the Blue Jays turned some heads when they filled out their bullpen with a couple of 20-year-old A-Ballers: Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna. Few doubted that these young arms had closer-type stuff, but they also lacked any experience against big league hitting. There wasn’t much of precedent for pitchers making that type of jump, making it darn near impossible to know what to expect.

The two arms went in polar opposite directions. Castro had a brief run as the Jays’ closer, but was sent back to the minors in May after a rough start. Toronto later flipped him to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki deal, and he remained in the minors until September.

Osuna, on the other hand, pitched brilliantly from the get-go. He took hold of the closer’s job in June after a strong start, and he never looked back. He finished the year with a 63 ERA- and 73 FIP-, both of which marks ranked in the top 35 among qualified relievers. He struck out 28% of opposing batters while only walking 6%.

The season I just described would be impressive for any reliever. But Osuna’s campaign is especially notable given his age: 20 years old. Twenty-year-old big leaguers are a rarity in modern baseball. Some of the very best prospects don’t debut until they’re 22 or 23. Kris Bryant and Noah Syndergaard are a couple of super-recent examples. Osuna was the youngest player to appear in the majors this year, and is currently the only player born in 1995 (Gosh, I feel old) to appear in a big league game.

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Chris Young Against the Core

You can detect the nervousness. The Royals stormed out to take a commanding series lead, but then Johnny Cueto‘s own arm abandoned him, wrecking not only Game 3 but also a potential Game 7 as well. So there’s some discomfort there, some uncertainty, and now in a short while the Royals are going to throw Chris Young at the best offense in the league in the center of a homer-happy ballpark. If Young were a bad pitcher, he wouldn’t be in this position in the first place, but I don’t think he’s perceived as a trustworthy pitcher. So the thought is the Blue Jays are in a good place to go and tie this series up.

I don’t think we can help the way we feel about Young. He’s unusual and by no means overpowering, and everything we’ve learned about pitchers gives us reason to be skeptical. He puts the ball in the air. He doesn’t pound the zone. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats. Young’s whole game is suppressing quality contact, and being skeptical of that is like Sabermetrics 101. Yet Young, for his career, has posted a better-than-average ERA. The same has held true of late, following his career revival. Young has a real chance this afternoon, our own doubts aside. As always, it’s just going to take precision.

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Troy Tulowitzki Provides a Clue

Every year, up until this one when he retired, Carlos Quentin was my guy. You know the one. “This is it, guys! This is the year Carlos Quentin stays healthy for a full season and hits 40 bombs!” I’d say in March. That never happened, of course, because Carlos Quentin never stopped getting hit by pitches and injuring himself in other ways, but Quentin was one of the classic “when/if” players. “When he plays a full season… If he could just stay healthy…” Quentin was always productive on the field, it’s just he was never actually on the field.

To some extent, Troy Tulowitzki has had a similar career. Tulowitzki’s injury history isn’t quite as extensive as Quentin’s, but his on-field production, when healthy, has always lent itself to a similar “when/if” discussion each offseason. Point is, with Tulowitzki comes some manner of certainty, due to his obvious talent, but also seemingly endless untapped potential.

This year, though, for the first time since his age-23 season, Tulowitzki’s season-end numbers were just average, as indicated by his season-end wRC+ of exactly 100. Add in the shoulder injury that Tulowitzki’s currently playing through, and the Blue Jays have been left playing the “when/if” game that’s typically reserved for the offseason.

So right now, with Tulowitzki, you’re looking for clues. Clues that the perennial preseason when/if MVP candidate is still in there, lurking underneath the cracked shoulder blade and the underwhelmingly average season. It’s a never-ending upside game with Tulowitzki, and clues are the currency for upside. As long as the Blue Jays have a couple clues, they know that, while the consistency may not be there, Tulowitzki still owns the potential to be a game-changer on any given trip to the plate. Last night, the Blue Jays received a clue:
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R.A. Dickey’s Unique Stuff and Conventional Problems

There are things that are different about R.A. Dickey, of course. No one pitch was thrown as often as the 2,840 regular season knuckleballs that Dickey threw this year. No other qualified pitcher threw any knuckle balls this year by PITCHf/x. The starter who threw the fewest fastballs other than Dickey threw three times as many. No pitch gets equal swinging strike results in and out of the zone like the knuckleball. Dickey can throw with injuries that would fell other pitchers, mostly because he throws at about 75% effort. He has no Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

And yet, despite the fact that Dickey is a one-pitch pitcher who throws a unique pitch that people seemingly can’t figure out no matter where he throws it, there are also conventional aspects to his craft. And to a certain extent, they’ve come to the fore this year.

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Were Johnny Cueto’s Results Johnny Cueto’s Fault?

So here’s something weird. I’ve noticed on Twitter that when Blue Jays fans refer to last night’s ALCS Game Three, they seem to give the credit to the Jays. They say things like, “The Jays were crushing the ball.” But when Royals fans talk about the game, they do it in a Royals-centric context, taking credit away from the Royals, as in, “Cueto sucked.” This isn’t to knock on either fan base. We all do this. I sure do. The truth though, as is often the case, lies in the middle somewhere. The Royals, Cueto especially, pitched badly. The Blue Jays, Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Goins especially, hit well. But, when parcelling out the blame and/or credit, one can’t be binary about it. Unlike pooping the bed, it’s not an all or nothing thing.

Cueto ended up with a final line of two innings pitched and eight runs allowed. To my eye he struggled, and I doubt your eye would say much different, but based solely on his stuff I wouldn’t have guessed he was eight-runs-in-two-innings bad. Partially because that’s reeeeeeally bad (that’s an ERA of 36.00!), but partially because he just didn’t appear all that awful. So maybe more of the credit/blame for the outcome should fall on the Blue Jays. But then again, I’m not a scout, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.* I was curious to see if I could figure out who should get the credit and how much.

*Maybe?

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