Gaston “Managing” 21-Man Roster in Toronto

It was a fairly minor note in the MLB transaction wire yesterday, but it irked me.

Toronto Blue Jays released 1B Randy Ruiz

Ruiz has left the Blue Jays to explore an opportunity to play overseas in Japan. And frankly, I don’t blame him. The 32-year-old first baseman – with just 198 career at-bats entering the 2010 season – made the Toronto Blue Jays’ opening day 25-man roster but he accumulated a total of 40 at-bats in the Jays’ first 41 games. Much like Toronto’s other bench players – John McDonald, Mike McCoy, and Jose Molina – Ruiz barely received playing time, even in late-game situations as a defensive replacement or as a pinch hitter. He hit just .150/.150/.275, but you can hardly fault his lack of offense given the number of appearances and at-bats. It was clear every time that he came to the plate that he was pressing and trying to jack the ball out of the park.

Realistically, Ruiz was never going to be anything more than a bench player… or possibly a part of a platoon situation. He posted some solid minor league numbers (winning the Pacific Coast League MVP last season) and hit very well for Toronto in a small opportunity in ’09 (.313/.385/.635 in 130 at-bats). The issue with Ruiz is a symptom of a bigger problem with the club.

In a very small sample size (17 at-bats), Ruiz – despite his struggles with the bat – out-hit regular first baseman Lyle Overbay against southpaws (.414 vs .351 OPS). In other words, giving Ruiz a shot at the platoon would not have been the worse idea in the world. This is supposed to be a rebuilding time in Toronto… as in a time when you give players a shot to see what they have to offer.

And this is not a new trend for the incumbent first baseman, who is in the last year of a multi-year contract. Overbay’s career OPS versus left-handers is .696 and against right-handers it’s .842. During his resurgent 2009 season, the club all but platooned Overbay and his OPS split was .534 vs LHPs, .905 vs RHPs. To be frank, he’s killed his fair share of rallies this season by hitting out of the five hole. At the very least, he should be hitting eighth or ninth in the lineup when manager Cito Gaston insists on having him face left-handers (which is all but inevitable at this point).

Ruiz, though, may have been the smart one. He might actually get a chance to play in Japan.

I worry that the Jays’ regulars will be gassed by the second half of the season with little to no rest. When we look at the other bench players, McDonald has just 40 at-bats himself, and that’s taking into consideration the time that fellow infielders Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion missed while on the disabled list. McDonald has made just three appearances in May, which is inexcusable and a poor use of the roster. McCoy, who can play both the infield and outfield, has 42 at-bats on the year, but he’s made a whopping six appearances in May (five at-bats). He, like McDonald, has value as a defensive replacement, as well as a pinch runner. Molina has had 41 at-bats and could certainly take a little pressure off of No. 1 catcher John Buck, who has appeared in 34 games and has caught the ninth most innings in the Majors. All four players have been on the roster all season long and healthy.

I realize that the Jays have a number of hot hitters, like Vernon Wells, Alex Gonzalez, and Jose Bautista, but the situation is bordering on ridiculous. Cito’s commitment to his regulars is going to come back to bite the club in the butt.

Apparently the manager, who is due to retire at the end of 2010, doesn’t realize that he’s supposed to stop managing on Oct. 3.

He’s clearly gotten an early start on his retirement.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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CSJ
Member
6 years 3 months ago

Geez. More Canadian bias from Fangraphs. Ha ha has any non-hockey site ever been accused of that? Just kidding you guys.

The Bunk
Guest
The Bunk
6 years 3 months ago

I nominate Cito Gaston as one of the poorest in game managers in the majors. I’m convinced he just dozes off.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse
6 years 3 months ago

Jays fans have been saying this all year. I get the idea of giving Loverbay regular AB’s to try and raise his trade value by the all-star break, but putting him in situations where he will absolutely fail (like against LHP) will only hurt that value. I have no idea why Cito can’t see this. In an ideal world, this turns Jose Bautista into our 1B against LHP when Snider comes back. But this is Cito’s world, so don’t expect common sense to be the order of the day.

Bill@TDS
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

That was actually Cito’s MO back in the day, too. During Jays games (national broadcasts and the opposing team’s) in the early-mid nineties, you’d frequently see graphics like “fewest pinch-hitters used,” “fewest different lineups used,” etc. with the Jays on top. If you go to the BBREF batting orders pages from those years, you’ll see a LOT of long, unbroken streaks of white or gray, many more than with your average team. If Cito made a change at all, it likely indicates an injury or a trade.
So, it’s not true that he’s given up early. He’s “managing” just the same way he’s always “managed.”

Bill
Guest
Bill
6 years 3 months ago

Didn’t this same article get written last year?

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
6 years 3 months ago

The real reason FanGraphs is great and free: Recycled content?

lol,

Impossibles
Guest
Impossibles
6 years 3 months ago

Flipside:

Anthopolous is trying to change the culture in Toronto to become a team where players want to sign because they treat their players right. Ruiz asked out and they accomdodated him. They are giving Overbay a chance to increase his value and not throwing him under the bus in the name of 2 or 3 wins on a non-playoff team. You could argue these examples of ‘bad management’ could pay dividends down the road with players signing in TO for cheap to have bounceback years.

The Jays did Ruiz a favor in letting him sign in Japan for (reportedly) about 4x MLB minimum salary.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 3 months ago

I don’t mind releasing Ruiz and letting him go after a bigger payday; however, I don’t think letting Overbay feebly flail away against lefties helps him OR the team. An abysmal .351 OPS against them this year is neither building his trade value nor helping the Jays in the win column.

Llewdor
Guest
Llewdor
6 years 3 months ago

This isn’t new for Cito, though. During the 1992-93 World Series seasons he repeatedly told the press that he didn’t like to use the “extra guys”. In his words, “That’s why they’re called ‘extra guys’.”

Cito Gaston has never seen the bench as a necessary tool. Those players aren’t an important part of the team. They’re just ‘extra’.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

Ruiz must really have a lot of value considering exactly ZERO other MLB teams came knocking to take him off our hands for NOTHING. Come on, this guy is a 4A guy, nothing more nothing less.

This is the guy you use to knock Cito Gaston? How many WS rings does he need to bring to a city for some r-e-s-p-e-c-t?

Cover another team.

Bill@TDS
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

This misses the point by a good 40, 50 miles.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

Really? The whole point was Ruiz deserved a chance, apparantly NO MLB team was willing to do that, free of charge essentially. Is the whole of MLB missing the point Bill? Pff

Kris
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

What’s that in kilometers?

Bill@TDS
Guest
6 years 3 months ago

No, the whole point was that Cito Gaston seriously underutilizes his bench (and undermanages in general), as he always has. Ruiz is just one example.

I’m not sure what other teams’ interest in trading for Ruiz, or lack thereof, has to do with how the team that already has him on their 25-man roster should use him. But my thought is “nothing at all.”

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 3 months ago

If you’re going to quote Aretha, I’ll quote Janet right back: “What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

Both those songs are ancient, from another era. Just like Cito’s rings.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

Ha @Joser…

Seriously though how many games have we “managed”.

So all the success (relative) this year is chalked up to SSS, luck and good fortune BUT when the tide turns it is going to be squarely on Cito?

joser
Guest
joser
6 years 3 months ago

If, as this article suggests, the Jays fall back to earth later in the season because of over-reliance (and subsequent fatigue) of key players (and the corresponding under-use of the bench) — what then?

Ari
Guest
Ari
6 years 3 months ago

People like JD disappeared from following the Blue Jays and commenting on things like Cito once August rolled around last year, and we heard all the same arguments when the team was in first place in May with their 27-14 record. The players deserve the majority of the credit when the team wins and the same when they team loses. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Cito Gaston is one of the (if not THE) poorest tacticians in the game, and pointing to success 17 years ago while ignoring the lack of it since then always astounds me.

tdotsports1
Member
6 years 3 months ago

Well not to defend JD, but the landscape of the AL East has also changed dramatically in 15+ years.

Steve
Guest
Steve
6 years 3 months ago

I can’t agree with you on this one Marc. Did Ruiz hit .150 because Cito misused him or because that is simply the type of hitter he is (and why he spent all his career prior to last September bouncing around the minors)? If he was in a platoon situation over the course of the season, he probably would have contributed 10 to 12 HRs and little else. Overbay has struggled, but he has also contributed solid defence and a few big hits. Also, if you stick with a capable veteran long enough, he will come through eventually. Ruiz was a great “feel good” story last year and I wish hime the best, but honestly, he didn’t belong on a major league roster and that is why Cito didn’t use him. The thing that makes Cito a great player’s manager (and what gets him the most criticism) is that players know their roles and he’ll never stray off course, no matter how tempting. Also, I agree with Impossible. He makes a very good point.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

Exactly, for a site that preaches sample size and players will eventually get there numbers back to career levels, this seems like an out of place piece.

Considering Overybay HAS struggled, common sense would say the rest of the way should be a fair improvement. PLUS defense.

Especially considering we have no major league pedigree for Ruiz and any future success or accurate projections.

baty
Guest
baty
6 years 3 months ago

There isn’t a single player in the Toronto lineup that has established a reasonably consistent MLB pedigree… Too many one year wonders, to many base cloggers, too many poor splits which is a lineup that screams, “we absolutely need a bench to compete”…

They have a weak bench because several of their regulars are platoon/reserve players at best on a good team. Buck, Overbay, Encarnacion, Gonzalez, Bautista, and Lewis… There’s the bench… That’s what the law of averages would say…

A fair improvement for Overbay would still make him one of the worst first basemen in the majors.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 3 months ago

“Base cloggers”? When did Dusty Baker start posting here?

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi
6 years 3 months ago

I am shocked – SHOCKED – that a Fangraphs commenter seriously used the term “base clogger.”

The end is nigh.

Matt
Guest
Matt
6 years 3 months ago

Before the season, Marc, you said that the “‘’10 club clearly cannot compete with the likes of Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay.” Right now they are one game back of New York and are three and a half games in front of a Boston team that looks pretty bad.

Sure, “it’s early,” but maybe Cito knows what he’s doing: he’s managing a team that is winning and looking good doing it. There’s more to baseball then numbers and the team is playing well; maybe his decisions have less to do with individual at bats and more to do with building th team’s confidence that it can succeed.

Nick
Guest
Nick
6 years 3 months ago

Or not, Matt. If the players are at the MLB level, they like have some confidence. Maybe you don’t understand “numbers.”

Larry
Guest
Larry
6 years 3 months ago

Ruiz was a career minor leaguer living on borrowed MLB time.

The chances of him surviving a roster cut with his slow start was slim.

If the team is playing well, then why not run out a lineup on a day-to-day instead of needlessly tinkering with players, just so you can say guys ’22, 23, 24 and 25′ got their share of token at-bats.

Not David
Guest
Not David
6 years 3 months ago

Well that just flew right over your head.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse
6 years 3 months ago

I can’t believe what I’m reading here. I’ve never thought that highly of Ruiz, but what’s the point of starting Loverbay against LHP? The guy is a .696 OPS, .304 wOBA hitter against them in nearly 1000 career PA’s (is that a big enough sample size for you?), so who actually thinks he’ll turn into even a below-average hitter against them at this point in his career?? Surely Ruiz could have put up average numbers if he got regular AB’s against lefties.

Again, I understand letting Loverbay fight through his slump. I’ve always been a supporter of his, and we can’t trade him until he starts performing. But he will not perform against LHP. We know this. The sample size confirms it.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
6 years 3 months ago

Amen. You and Marc are spot-on. Regardless of who they have on the bench to fill in for Overbay, whether its Ruiz or otherwise, they could hardly do worse against southpaws. And it’s not just this season, although this season he has been particularly and embarrasingly inept against lefties. His whole career confirms that he should be facing righties only.

Baracus
Guest
Baracus
6 years 3 months ago

The point of this article is that Cito underutilizes his bench to REST his regulars. Sure, they are hot right now and winning games but what about when they hit July or August and cant lift their bats. The MLB season is six months long not six weeks and guys like Cito live off their past accomplishments forever and never change their style. The guy is a dinosaur.

Grant
Guest
Grant
6 years 3 months ago

Playing your best players is a recipe for winning and Cito wins. There’s no reason why everyone on the roster should not be able to play 150+ games. If they can’t, they are not in shape and should not be on a major league field. PERIOD.

DR
Guest
DR
6 years 3 months ago

Is there any analysis on whether players actually need off days? Do less rested players perform worse late in the season? If not, then we don’t know if Gaston is wrong on this, although he is a horrible manager anyways for many other reasons.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

Good point, I was thinking the same thing. We are throwing him under a bus with nothing to back it up, as always for Hulet.

When I look at the leaderboards at seasons end, I see most of the top players playing well over 150 games. I know most of them are freaks and the Jays don’t have 20-21 ‘top’ players, but as a major leaguer, you should be in pretty decent shape.

pft
Guest
pft
6 years 3 months ago

I think Cito recognizes his team is playing over it’s head against a pretty easy schedule in the 1st quarter, and has decided to run it for all it’s worth, and get some W’s in the bank.

Also, based on all the empty seats I saw in Toronto during the Red Sox series, he may very well have some pressure from the top to keep winning or else.

He may try to keep it going, but Toronto may not even finish at 500, they are not as good as their record indicates. Against the Red Sox I saw a comedy of errors, baserunning mistakes, pitchers with horrible command. Look at who they have played. Only 12 games in the East and 6 of those were against a struggling Red Sox team and another 3 against the hapless Orioles.

GSand
Guest
GSand
6 years 3 months ago

“Molina has had 41 at-bats and could certainly take a little pressure off of No. 1 catcher John Buck, who has appeared in 34 games and has caught the ninth most innings in the Majors”

Is this relevant? Buck has caught the 9th most innings… is that too many or not enough? One might observe, for example, a relationship between a .930 OPS and getting more playing time than the backup (although still less than 25% of starting C).

The problem with McDonald is not under-use, it is that he has a roster spot at all given what a liability he is with the bat. I don’t think Gaston should be blamed for sitting out one of the worst hitters in baseball.

mike
Guest
mike
6 years 3 months ago

I don’t think Cito is a particularly good manager but he isn’t bad either and frankly, I like the idea of your main 8 being out there most every day.

I can tell you that LaRussa’s myriad lineups manage to raise my blood pressure over the years, despite me being certain he IS a great manager.I just doubt he is great because he gives so many ABs to lesser players. My main argument is the way he has left Ludwick on the bench over the years.

Now Overbay ought to be platooned and Cito is wrong to keep running him out there but Ludwick ought not be routinely replaced and I am sure Cito would leave him in, which would be a good thing IMO.

JD
Guest
JD
6 years 3 months ago

and really, what is the difference? This team isn’t going to the playoffs… I am not gonna shed a tear that a career minor leaguer (Ruiz) is gone or that our starting 8 are tiring.

Jesse
Guest
Jesse
6 years 3 months ago

Guys, this isn’t about Ruiz, the point of this article is that Cito isn’t utilizing advantages that his bench provides him. Ruiz could have hit LHP better than Loverbay has been if he was getting consistent AB’s against them. Not only would this help us get wins, but it would also limit the failures of someone that we’re trying to get rid of by the all-star brea, so there is literally no point in giving Lyle AB’s against LHP.

Baron Samedi
Member
Baron Samedi
6 years 3 months ago

I am shocked – SHOCKED – that a Fangraphs commenter seriously used the term “base clogger.”

The end is nigh.

Matt
Guest
Matt
6 years 2 months ago

ah ha, I was just saying someone needed to explore Gaston’s ineptitude.

Take a look at what he did with his bullpen in tonight’s game (6/1).

For the 4th time in 5 days, Kevin Gregg is given the ball. Despite clearly not having it/being gassed from the workload, Gaston lets him throw 41 pitches. The bullpen had already been emptied. The only way to get out of the game was to get tossed, which Gregg opted for.

What an embarrassment Gaston is.

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