Archive for Blue Jays

Aaron Sanchez’s Place in Toronto’s Rotation

Aaron Sanchez wants to be a starter. Most pitchers want to be a starter. Jesse Chavez and Gavin Floyd want to be starters, too, and they all might deserve it, which is the current conundrum in Toronto. Not that having too many qualified starters is a bad thing, per se, but it presents the team with some tough choices, choices that could complicate things down the line.

At the very least, Toronto can feel good about their depth. The top of their rotation might not match the firepower of their contending peers, but they’ll be sending two seemingly competent starters to the bullpen at the end of Spring Training, with Drew Hutchison heading to the minors as perhaps the eighth starter on the depth chart.

As I’m writing this, I’ve come upon a tweet by Jon Heyman who was present in Blue Jays camp the other day and reported that Chavez is set to the head to the bullpen, so in fact it looks like the last rotation spot is down to two. And Chavez to the pen makes sense anyway; he’s had the worst spring of the three, for what it’s worth, but more importantly, he’s done the swingman thing in the past. Each of the last two years, he’s seamlessly shuffled between relieving and starting — not something everyone can do — and so he doesn’t necessarily need to be stretched out right now to be able to contribute to the rotation later down the line. And Chavez will need to contribute to the rotation later down the line. Pitching is fickle.

So we’ve got Gavin Floyd and Aaron Sanchez, and in that same Heyman tweet I linked, he seemed to suggest Floyd has the leg up on the last spot. Sometimes with Twitter, it’s hard to tell what’s being reported and what’s being speculated, but there’s clearly some sort of sense that Floyd could be the leader in the clubhouse.

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Intentional-Walk Immunity, Featuring the Blue Jays

If aliens landed on Earth and, rather than asking about our political systems or scientific accomplishments, inquired about the last 20 years of baseball philosophy, one of the things you would highlight is the growing disdain for the intentional walk. Certainly, there are times when an intentional walk makes sense, but one of the fundamental lessons of the era is that giving the other team a free base runner is typically foolish.

As Ben Lindbergh wrote at FiveThirtyEight, managers are increasingly aware of the downside of the intentional walk, and as a result, they’re are on the decline across the league. Billy Beane didn’t wake up one morning, discover intentional walks were bad, and begin a crusade against them or anything, but intentional walks have clearly fallen out of favor as teams, writers, and fans have gotten on board with a more data-friendly approach to the game.

As such, we’ve trained ourselves to see intentional walks negatively by default and praise teams that don’t issue them. If teams are issuing fewer intentional walks, we normally see that as a positive sign, so forgive me for the investigation I’m about to undertake to explore the opposite.  In 2015, the Blue Jays both (a) possessed an exceptional offense and yet (b) were on the receiving end of a shockingly low number of intentional walks.  What was the rest of the league thinking?

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Previewing the Best and Worst Team Defenses for 2016

Early this morning, the full 2016 ZiPS projections went live on the site. This is probably news to many of you. Surprise! Happy ZiPS day. You can now export the full ZiPS spreadsheet from that link, find individual projections on the player pages, and view our live-updating playoff odds, which are powered by a 50/50 blend of ZiPS and Steamer. This is good news for everyone, including us, the authors, because now we have more information with which to work.

And so here’s a post that I did last year, and one which I was waiting for the full ZiPS rollout to do again: previewing the year’s team defenses. It’s been a few years running now that we’ve marveled over speedy outfielders in blue jerseys zooming about the spacious Kauffman Stadium outfield, and now those speedy outfielders in blue jerseys are all World Series champions. People are thinking and talking about defense more than ever, and you don’t think and talk about defense without thinking and talking about the Kansas City Royals. Defense: it’s so hot right now. Defense.

The methodology here is simple. ZiPS considers past defensive performance and mixes in some scouting report information to give an overall “defensive runs above or below average” projection. Steamer does the same, except rather than searching for keywords from real scouting reports, it regresses towards the data from the Fans Scouting Report project compiled by Tangotiger every year. The final number is an average of these two figures, and can be found in the “Fld” section of the depth charts and player pages. It isn’t exactly Ultimate Zone Rating or Defensive Runs Saved, but it’s the same idea, and the same scale.

Let’s look ahead toward the year in defense.

* * *

The Best

1. Kansas City Royals

This is one of my new favorite fun facts: the Royals outfield defense, just the outfield, is projected for 31 runs saved, which is higher than any other entire team in baseball. And with Alex Rios out of the mix in right field and Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando stepping in full-time, Kansas City’s outfield defense should somehow be even better than it’s been in the past.

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Sorry, Joey Bats: You Aren’t Worth $150 Million

Yesterday, Jose Bautista addressed his contract situation, and he didn’t exactly mince words.

“I did not go to them. They asked me a question, ‘What would it take to get it done?’ and I gave them an answer. It’s not an adamant, drawn lines in the sand or anything. Simply questions were asked, I felt like for this process to go down smoothly there didn’t need to be any time wasted and efforts wasted for either party. If this is going to happen, they should know what it takes, and I told them the number because they asked me,” he told ESPN’s Britt McHenry.

In comments to reporters Monday, Bautista said the Blue Jays came to him with their question two weeks ago. He said he is “not willing to negotiate.”

“I’m not going to sit here and bargain for a couple of dollars,” he said, adding later, “They either meet it or it is what it is.”

So, what is Jose Bautista’s magic number? Well, according to TSN, it’s five years, $150 million.

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What Jay Bruce Is Missing

Well, a new team, for starters. What Jay Bruce is missing is a new team. Rather, a new team is missing Jay Bruce. Twice now, the Reds have reportedly been on the verge of trading Bruce. First, to the Mets at last year’s trade deadline, more recently to the Blue Jays, just last night. Twice, Bruce has reportedly been on the verge of being dealt, and twice, the deal has fallen apart.

Maybe that tells you something about Jay Bruce. Or maybe it tells you something about the other players in the deal, as both deals collapsed due to medical hangups concerning the players whom the Reds were attempting to acquire. In July, it was the Reds who backed out of the proposed deal that could have netted them Zack Wheeler, in the midst of his recovery from Tommy John Surgery. Last night, it wasn’t even Michael Saunders‘ bum knee that gave the Reds pause.

Neither proposal fell apart because of Bruce, specifically, but that doesn’t mean the failed deals don’t tell us something about Bruce, because they do. What they tell us about Bruce is this: thus far, teams have only appeared willing to give up already-injured players for him.

Which is shocking, given where Bruce’s career was just two years ago. Just two years ago, he was a 26-year-old Gold Glove-caliber right fielder who doubled as one of the game’s most prolific home run hitters. Now, the Reds are struggling to rid themselves of his salary for anything more than damaged goods.

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The Blue Jays and Phillies Try the One-Man Outfield

While it’s technically true that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies are Major League Baseball teams, their 2015 seasons were different in a number of non-superficial ways. Yes, they both employed Ben Revere last season, but it’s difficult to find other substantive similarities between the 93-69 AL East champion Blue Jays and the 63-99 cellar-dwelling Phillies.

The Blue Jays had a 117 wRC+, while the Phillies registered a meager 86. The Blue Jays had an average, or slightly better, pitching staff (93 ERA-, 100 FIP-) and the Phillies were among the worst (120 ERA-, 111 FIP-) in the league. On defense, the Blue Jays sported a +15 DRS and +1 UZR while the Phillies delivered a -92 DRS and -31.1 UZR. The Blue Jays were good and the Phillies were not. That comes as a surprise to no one, even as we pause to note that the Phillies took steps to put their franchise on the right track during the same period.

These two very dissimilar clubs, however, did have one pretty interesting similarity during the 2015 season. They both flanked excellent center fielders with horrible defenders in the corners.

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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Lorenzo Cain and A.J. Pollock Sign Atypical Contracts

In yet another sign that baseball season is coming ever closer, the arbitration process this year is coming to a close. Many players signed one-year deals before the teams and players exchanged numbers last month, while others exchanged numbers and struck one-year deals. A few players have actually gone to arbitration. Four players — Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez, and A.J. Pollock — agreed to two-year deals with their teams, buying out no free-agent seasons, but ensuring both parties that arbitration would not be necessary next year. These two-year deals are common and typically come with a discount for the team. For the four players who signed this season, however, there was no discount.

The arbitration process is set up to provide a discount to teams in the years just before free agency. The players get their first taste of actual millions while the team retains control of the player at a price much less than what the market would yield — all without having to mark a multi-year commitment. Some players sign extensions which takie them through free agency while others are non-tendered and set free by clubs who think that even the small, arbitration-produced salaries are too much compared to the expected production.

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Let’s Craft an Extension for Jose Bautista

Last night, the Jays avoided arbitration with Josh Donaldson, agreeing to a two year deal that gives him nearly $29 million in guaranteed income, and helps the team avoid a second huge raise next year if Donaldson has another great year. The team had publicly stated their desire to get Donaldson locked up long-term, but as a Super Two coming off an MVP season, Donaldson had plenty of leverage to get paid while still retaining his ability to hit free agency after the 2018 season. The team can still revisit a longer deal with Donaldson if they wish, but most likely, this two year deal signifies that he’s not looking to sell any of his free agent years at prices the Blue Jays are currently willing to pay.

So, now, with that piece of business out of the way, the Blue Jays focus can turn towards a more pressing contract issue: what to do with star outfielder Jose Bautista. The face of the franchise, Bautista is in the final year of his contract, and will likely be the best hitter on the market next winter if the Blue Jays can’t sign him to an extension this spring. Both sides have publicly stated an interest in getting a deal done, though with the Jays bringing in Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins from Cleveland to run their baseball operations department, there’s some expectation that the club will operate a bit more conservatively, and that could limit their willingness to pay Bautista the kind of money that would convince him to forego free agency.

On the other hand, there’s clearly a lot of sentiment towards just giving Joey Bats whatever he wants, and the team will face significant negative backlash if they let Bautista leave, at least in the short-term. So even with some expected belt-tightening, let’s see if we can construct an extension that both sides would be happy with.

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The End of the Terrible Number-Two Hitter

If you’ve recently spent time with other humans, it’s likely that you noticed that they tend to be overconfident about how well they understand the world around them. Think of all of the people you know who have tried to weasel their way out of admitting they were wrong even when presented with strong evidence that they had misinterpreted a situation. Humans are bold and unapologetic in their declarations and do not like it when you point out that they’ve made a serious error.

It’s hard to criticize people for that when it seems to be a pretty fundamental aspect of the species. It’s not good or bad, it simply is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy little moments when someone makes a compelling argument and then the world totally destroys their hard work by changing around them.

For example, two political scientists once wrote a book called Congress’ Permanent Minority? Republicans in the U.S. House which was the first major scholarly account of how a minority party operates when it expects to be in the minority for the foreseeable future. It’s a well-researched book and was well reviewed when it came out. Unfortunately for the authors, it came out in January of 1994, just 11 months before the Republicans would win control of the House for the first time in 40 years. It was a perfectly fine analysis, it was just totally detached from the reality of American politics almost immediately.

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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:


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.

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

“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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