The wide open AL East just got a lot more interesting as the perennial division favourites New York Yankees suffered a major loss to their lineup when it was learned Curtis Granderson will miss up to ten weeks with a fractured forearm. This will create a gaping hole for the Yankees and a major power source lost for the foreseeable future.
Archive for February, 2013
Tags: al, american league, boston red sox, designated hitter, dh, john farrell, josh johnson, mike leake, national league, nl, pitcher, pitching, Toronto Blue Jays
I was reading something the other day, and a question recurred. The question isn’t original to me (few things are original to me, actually), and this isn’t the first time I’ve pondered it. It’s also one aspect of an issue that’s been a lively debate for decades. Does it make much difference whether a pitcher faces a DH or another pitcher? Of course, the DH has made baseball purists apoplectic since its introduction in 1973, but I’m not going to examine that particular issue. I’m just going to assume that MLB will keep it in place. What interests me is the difference between facing a pitcher over a designated hitter.
The following table puts the difference on bold display. Rows 2 through 4 represent pitchers rows 5 through 7 are the designated hitters. Further explanations are offered below the table: read them at your leisure.
As you may have already noticed, there are several assumptions made in this table. If you haven’t, here they are:
- 32-35 starts per pitcher;
- 28 G is an approximation of the number of games that a pitcher would face another pitcher in the NL, and takes into account inter-league play and a missed start or two; it also represents the obverse for an AL pitcher, with the same stipulations (inter-league play; missed starts);
- none of the figures are dead-on accurate, but represent generalizations (all numbers are rounded, then the rounded numbers are used in other calculations);
- the 162-game row is for perspective and illustration: those numbers are calculated independent of the 28-game row;
- pinch hitters (the ones who come in after the two PA by the starting pitcher) have been disregarded;
- there is no differentiation between the quality of pitchers in their relative league, i.e. there’s an assumption that NL pitchers and AL pitchers are equally talented;
Who Creates the Most Stress for the Guy on the Mound?
We’ve accumulated and crunched a lot of numbers to confirm something we already know. You’re welcome. It’s pretty shocking, I know, but here’s the longer, non-table version. Based on the 2012 season (which isn’t very different from 2011 except in the obvious manner: it was one year later), pitchers are four times less likely to get a hit and three times less likely to get a walk than a DH. If a pitcher gets a hit, it’ll be an extra-base hit fewer than four times in 1000 plate appearances. When it gets right down to it, a pitcher is about twice as likely to strike out and half as likely to get on base as a DH.
If by some stretch of the imagination the pitcher does get on base, not much happens. First, pitchers (-34.3) tend to be better base runners than DHs (-53.8), but neither group is much good on the basepaths. Because they’re paid handsomely to throw baseballs, pitchers wear jackets on the basepaths and THEY DON’T STEAL BASES. I can’t say it any louder than that. DHs are usually older ballplayers (e.g. David Ortiz) who are paid to hit. Being, um, heavier and older, they don’t steal many bases either. However, even though pitchers will score two times in seven when they get on base and DHs about one time in three, a DH is five times more likely to score a run than a pitcher.
There’s a practical application to all of this number crunching. New Blue Jay pitcher Josh Johnson is a career National Leaguer and will need to change his strategy somewhat. Fans witnessed the transition made by Ryan Dempster last season and he wasn’t very successful, even after the Rangers acquired his ‘personal’ catcher. As Jays’ fans, we can only hope that Dempster’s struggles continue as he plies his trade with the Red Sox (Dang that John Farrell! Dang him straight to heck!). We shouldn’t read too much into Dempster’s struggles, though: others have made the transition from NL to AL with very little difficulty. As good and loyal Jays’ fans we want Josh Johnson to be like them, not like Ryan Dempster.
Highly-paid professionals should be good at their job. Sometimes a bad day, the flu, an injury, too little coffee, or some other obstacle can get in the way of optimal performance, but all-in-all, performance norms should be expected. However, when highly-paid professionals are asked to do something for which they’re ill-suited, performance expectations need to be adjusted accordingly. In other words, if I hire a plumber to shingle my roof, I need to ratchet my expectations downward: that plumber ain’t gonna do as good a job up there as a roofer will. Pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit, so expectations are lower when they come to the plate. Designated hitters, on the other hand, still have something to offer offensively. Expectations are correspondingly higher. Personally, I expect as much from Brandon Morrow at the plate as I expect from Mike McCoy on the mound.
My Dad used to talk about baseball back in the good ol’ days, when lots of pitchers were good hitters. Sadly, my Dad’s memory on the matter was pretty selective. Pitchers have always been terrible hitters; very, very few have been decent with the stick. This is why it’s rare that a pitcher’s stress level will rise when the other pitcher comes to the plate.
However, if you’re looking to pick up a good-hitting pitcher for your fantasy team then grab Mike Leake. He socked two of the 24 HR that NL pitchers hit last season and scored eight runs. His .410 babip wasn’t too shabby either. Overall, Leake was a 1.0 WAR hitter for the Reds. Hmm, maybe the Royals should grab him and stick him in right field.
Smile. Opening Day is a few short weeks away…
Tags: AL East, alex anthopoulos, Brandon Morrow, emilio bonifacio, henry blanco, ja happ, jose reyes, josh johnson, josh thole, JP Arencibia, maicer izturis, mark buehrle, mike nickeas, ricky romero, Toronto Blue Jays
There’s been a lot of virtual ink spilled about J.P. Arencibia. He’s the #1 catcher on a team that some favour to win the World Series. Most people are a little more cautious than that, though: they think the Jays are a solid playoff contender. The World Series dreams are just that: dreams. For now. However there’s been a major overhaul of the pitching staff and Jays’ fans are at least modestly aware of J.P’s shortcomings.
Joining the team are starters Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey. Incumbent starters include Brandon Morrow, Rickey Romero, and J.A. Happ. Gone from the 2012 rotation are Henderson Alvarez, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchison (who replaced an ineffective Joel Carreno). The upgrade is intuitively obvious to even the most casual observer. This presents a sticky situation, so we should ask: is J.P. Arencibia the right man for the job?
At the Dish
This is the least important facet of any catcher’s game but, as history shows, talented offensive catchers add dimensions to clubs with playoff aspirations. Names like Gabby Hartnett, Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Ernie Lombardi, Roy Campanella, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Thurman Munson, and Gary Carter are splashed across the pages of baseball playoff history. More recently, fellas like Ivan Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, and Yadier Molina have emerged as game-breakers.
Does J.P. Arencibia add dimensions to the Jays? Well, the bad news is that he’s not as good as any of these guys. The good news is that players like Tim Laudner and Pat Borders have been successful in the playoffs.
So, what is there to commend him offensively? He has pretty good power, as catchers go: in his first two ‘full’ seasons he has 81 xbh (36 doubles, 4 triples, 41 HR; .211 career ISO). Aside from that, the cupboard’s pretty bare. He doesn’t draw many walks—only 56 in 893 career PA’s (6.3% BB rate for his career)— and he doesn’t hit very many singles, meaning he hasn’t been on base very often. Then there are all those strikeouts. For his career, JP strikes out at an alarming rate (28.2%). On the other hand, several projections for the 2013 season have him pegged somewhere between 25.0% and 27.1%, down from his 29.0% rate of 2012. Perhaps they’re right. He likes to swing the bat; hopefully there are fewer misses when he swings.
Behind the Dish
Game-calling, defense, and pitcher handling are a catchers’ bread and butter. The problem is that we have a terrible time trying to quantify this stuff, but I digress. Several catchers over the past few decades have been weak offensively, but have been successful. Jim Sundberg of the Royals in the early-to-mid ’80s comes to mind. He had a reputation as a superb defensive catcher, game caller, and handler of pitchers. Every now and then he would chip in offensively, but it wasn’t his forte.
Arencibia has a good reputation as a teammate and seems eager to learn. Already the story is circulating that he and fellow Nashville resident R.A. Dickey have been doing the MLB equivalent of playing catch since Dickey was acquired and signed. Of course, R.A. Dickey and his knuckleball are key challenges facing J.P. Arencibia this season.
However, his struggles defensively are well known and are the focus of any contribution he can make. Let’s think laterally for a moment. Now that Jarrod Saltalamacchia plays in Boston, he and Arencibia are very comparable on offense. (It should be noted, however, that if JPA played half his games in Fenway he’d likely be good for an extra 10-15 xbh per season, which would put him well ahead of Salty on offense.)
Defensively they have similar struggles: passed balls and wild pitches sort of rule the day for these two. There are several catchers at or near the bottom of MLB in these departments and two of them are Blue Jays (JPA; Thole). Right down there with them is, you guessed it, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. (Of course, wild pitches count against pitchers but the point is the number of balls that get past the catcher.) When we think of J.P. Arencibia, we wouldn’t be crazy to compare him to Salty. If that helps us, great; if not, dump it.
J.P. Arencibia’s RPP (passed pitch runs) is a MLB-worst -11.6 over the past two seasons, meaning he doesn’t block pitches very well. When we combine this with a -8 rSB figure (he costs his team runs runs when opponents steal bases), it gives us a picture of what he’s like as a catcher. Just dividing his game numbers in half, it’s like having about 52 pitches sailing to the backstop each year. Is this the kind of guy in whom pitchers will place their confidence? I’m not so sure. After all, he costs his team about 10 runs per season on defense and his offense isn’t strong enough to counterbalance it.
In his favour, of course, is the trend: he’s getting a little better each year. He’s also willing to learn, and with the veterans that the Jays have acquired to compete for the back-up backstops job (Thole, Nickeas, Blanco), there’ll be plenty of opportunities for him to learn.
To J.P. or not to J.P., that’s the bare bodkin…
Okay, so I’ve mashed William Shakespeare and Mark Twain together to suit this article. Sue me. If J.P. Arencibia was a greater factor in Toronto’s offense, I’d be concerned. Because he isn’t, I’m not. We’re not talking about Mike Piazza or, sadly, Matt Wieters here: it’s J.P. Arencibia. Management has given him the starter’s job and have committed to him in that role. Trading away several catching prospects, including Travis D’Arnaud, is evidence of their commitment.
Offensively, I’d say that if the Jays were more like the Tigers of the late ’80s/early ’90s or the Diamondbacks of several years ago, there could be troubles. Teams that strikeout a lot tend to be one-dimensional and don’t do very well. These Jays won’t strike out as much (sayonara, Kelly Johnson), and are multi-dimensional. They have speed, power, and will get on base. JPA is one of perhaps three Jays that will K more than 100 times (Bautista; Rasmus).
Their offense may also be the key to his poor defense. As the Jays of the early ’90s and the Yankees with Jorge Posada proved, a lot of runs will make up for some pretty poor defense.
These Jays aren’t the Baltimore Orioles of Earl Weaver’s heyday (pitching, defense, 3-run homers; several 100-win seasons). No, they’re more like the Yankees of the last two decades, with their suspect defense at key positions (Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Chuck Knoblauch, and even Derek Jeter), and their terrific offense and ‘pen (Mo). I’m not saying that the Jays are the next dynasty or anything like that. But if they can win a title, all the talk about J.P. Arencibia’s suitability will be water under the bridge. And not the Golden Gate Bridge, either.
Tags: r.a. dickey a blue jays fan favourite?, r.a. dickey blue jays 2013
Wendel Clark, Doug Flutie, Doug Gilmour, Joe Carter, Mats Sundin, Vince Carter – R.A. Dickey?
One of these things is not like the other right? Including R.A. Dickey amongst a who’s who of legendary Toronto sports figures might seem a tad strange at this juncture but the opportunity to become a part of history is there for Mr. Dickey.
I don’t think R.A. Dickey fully understands the ramifications of what he is about to embark on. The American stereotypical view that the Toronto baseball market is apathetic, aloof or just plain doesn’t care is about to get turned upside down.
R.A. Dickey has the chance to join only a handful of others that have been completely revered and worshiped by the city of Toronto – and still are in many respects. There is a buzz surrounding the beginning of this coming baseball season that is palpable. The city is starved for a winner, a contender, a championship.
Doug Gilmour is still considered a legend in Toronto though his time in Toronto was relatively short and brought only back-to-back Conference final appearances. Wendel Clark had a few stints with the Maple Leafs and fans will always have a soft spot for one of the fiercest competitors the team has ever seen.
Doug Flutie came and went like a hurricane but the city of Toronto will definitely never forget the diminutive quarter back that brought the CFL’s Argonauts Grey Cup glory. People in Toronto still hold a grudge against Wade Phillips and Rob Johnson with his girly headband.
It’s more complicated with Mats Sundin, it always was. He is the opposite of Doug Gilmour in some ways but his greatness can never be questioned. The longevity, the production and the professionalism was a marvel to behold even if everyone in the city wasn’t entirely sold on him. He is the greatest Maple Leaf of all-time in my opinion.
Love him or hate him Toronto sports fans will never forget Vincent Lamond Carter. We loved him as much as we have loved any player and were heartbroken with how it all ended. The hatred is started to slowly wear off and I firmly believe he will be given a warm reception if he ever returns to the city when his playing career comes to an end.
Joe Carter hit the homerun. Enough said.
This leaves R.A. Dickey.
So why R.A. Dickey? Why not Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson or Melky Cabrera?
All of them are great players in their own right however none have the back story of Mr. Dickey. None were basically written off and thrown away by the cold, hard world of sports like Mr. Dickey. Jose Bautista is a productive and popular player but no one has quite the allure and intrigue of an R.A. Dickey.
No one has such a cool name either.
If Toronto sports fans have proven one thing they tend to embrace the hard working journeyman, the lunch bucket guy, the blue collar workhorse. I think they will especially come to love a guy who relies on something seemingly impossible to rely on – the knuckleball.
Think Matt Bonner, Reggie Evans, Tie Domi and of course the strangest obsession of all, John McDonald. Now add the back story, the name and the mainstream media attention that will almost certainly be bestowed upon him and now perhaps you can see the writing on the wall.
R.A. Dickey has the chance to one-up all of these beloved characters in the Toronto sports sub-culture. He has a chance to dominate and help a city starving for a winner reach the Promised Land. R.A. Dickey not only has the grit, character and back story Torontonians love but he also brings with him an undeniable talent.
R.A. Dickey dominated National League hitters last season en route to an improbable Cy Young award. He isn’t just a defensive replacement in the ninth inning or a role player coming off the bench to hustle and pick up a few loose rebounds. He could be one of the best pitchers in the division and a real game changer. Read here about his past three seasons.
Unbeknownst to him he has a chance to become one of the most popular athletes of all time. Yes this might sound like hyperbole but tell me I’m wrong. Tell me that if R.A. Dickey, with his nuclear pitch, blue collar attitude and rags to riches story helps lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a World Series title (or two) that his legend won’t be firmly cemented?
While hardly making him a legend he was already named the opening day starter.
Yes his stats back up that selection by John Gibbons given he did just win the Cy Young. But I think the selection was more of an anointment that this is our guy. This is a passing of the torch so to speak, a changing of the guard. Nobody embodies the tireless pursuit of greatness and perhaps the ability to change the perception of an entire franchise like him.
The hired gun known as Robert Allen Dickey is probably one of the unlikeliest candidates to ever become the face of the Toronto Blue Jays. But if he fully embraces this role and meets the lofty standards already in place for not only himself but this team than we can always remember that the legend of R.A. Dickey began here.
Don’t deny it you are just as intrigued as I am.
Dave Cameron released his annual top ten transactions from the MLB offseason and the Blue Jays made the list three times (well four actually).
It is an interesting read, here are some of the highlights:
The Blue Jays last big move gets the last spot on this list, mainly because the cost to acquire Dickey was pretty substantial. Having to surrender two highly regarded prospects to get Dickey from the Mets makes this less of a steal and more of an aggressive upgrade, but it’s an aggressive upgrade that has a real chance to pay off. Dickey makes the Blue Jays a top notch AL East contender, and because they were able to sign him to a below market extension, it’s not simply a one year rental. Much is going to be made of his age and the fact that he only has had one elite season, but the idea of Dickey as a one year wonder is a total myth, and even the 2010-2011 version of Dickey would be a nice acquisition for the Blue Jays. Toss in the chance that he might have another ace like season left in his belt, and the acquisition of Dickey may have been the biggest upgrade any team made all winter.
As I said above, I like this deal for Toronto, and I think there was a case to be made for the Mets keeping Dickey signing him to an extension themselves. But, in D’Arnaud and Syndergaard, they were able to get a couple of pieces in return that could have much more long term value to the Mets, and D’Arnaud is close enough to the Majors that they could start seeing a return on the move this season. Because Dickey was willing to take a discount on an extension, the Mets were able to pry a premium return from Toronto, and having these two guys around is probably better for their future than having Dickey under contract through his age 40 season. This wasn’t the Mets only option, but when you see what they were able to command in exchange for the reigning Cy Young winner, it makes the decision to trade him more understandable.
While most of the attention surrounding this trade was scorn aimed at the Marlins for blowing up their team again, kudos to Alex Anthopolous and his crew for having the stones to make such a big trade. The four players Toronto acquired in this deal could easily add +10 WAR to the Blue Jays just by themselves, and this is the kind of monstrous step forward that the Jays needed to make in order to put themselves in position to make a big run this year. They took on a decent amount of money and gave up some real prospects to make the trade happen, but this was a game-changing trade for a franchise that needed to stop treading water. The Jays saw an opportunity to take the AL East and reenergize their fan base, and they took advantage of the best chance they had to make 2013 a winning season. Good for them.
2. The Blue Jays sign Melky Cabrera for 2/$16M.
It’s easy to draw a firm connection between Cabrera’s monster 2012 season and the fact that he failed a drug test, admitting that he used PEDs during the season. It’s easy to assume that a drug free Cabrera won’t be anything close to the player he was in San Francisco. But at $8 million a year, the Blue Jays aren’t paying Cabrera to be anything close to the player he was last year. They’re paying him to be a roughly average outfielder, and anything he does above that is gravy. This is a guy who was a +4 win player without failing a drug test in 2011. A guy who got to the Major Leagues as a 20-year-old, and was an average player for the Yankees at age 21. A guy headed into his age-28 season. You have to believe that PEDs are the sole reason that Cabrera has been an effective hitter the last two seasons to think that he can’t be an average player for the Blue Jays the next two seasons, and if he any of his improvement wasn’t PED related, then the Jays are going to get a massive bargain.
For those too lazy to click the link Dave Cameron felt the best offseason move was a bit of a surprise to me but definitely a quality move.
1. The Nationals acquire Denard Span from Minnesota.
Denard Span is a +3 win player, maybe even a bit better than that if you put more weight on his offensive resurgence after recovering from concussion-related issues. He’s under team control for his age 29-31 seasons for a grand total of $21 million. And, yet, the Nationals were still able to acquire him for the cost of one A-Ball pitching prospect who may or may not be able to stick in the rotation long term. When you look at what other +3 win outfielders were signing for this winter, or what other above average players with multiple years of team control were commanding in trades, Span looks like an outright theft by the Nationals.
Tags: brandon morrow 2013, brandon morrow projections 2013, josh johnson blue jays projections 2013, mark buehrle projections 2013, r.a. dickey blue jays 2013, r.a. dickey blue jays 2013 projections, r.a. dickey projections 2013, will r.a. dickey be good for blue jays 2013?, will ricky romero bounce back 2013?
We already looked at the Toronto Blue Jays offensive ZIPS projections and see a lineup that is very deep with an improved bench. Today let’s look at one of the most improved pitching staffs in baseball and how they project for 2013.
The starting rotation has been improved by leaps and bounds there is no way around that. However it is definitely not without some question marks. First and foremost health is going to be a major factor for this pitching staff. It is nice we have increased depth with JA Happ and Brett Cecil both capable of logging innings if needed.
If either Happ or Cecil make any more than a few starts each this season I think it’s fair to say the season probably isn’t going as planned.
ZIPS does see some regression from R.A. Dickey in 2013 from his Cy Young award winning 2012 form. I think his projections are definitely at the lower range of expectations for him. As a knuckleballer he should be more than capable of logging major innings again barring a fluke injury. I would also expect his strikeout numbers to be above 7.5 K/9 though I can see him having a mid 3.00 ERA in his first full season in the AL East.
Another thing that struck me was “Oh yeah, we forgot Brandon Morrow is pretty good”. If he can stay healthy (a huge if) he has all the potential in the world and is possibly our best starting pitcher. ZIPS isn’t confident in his ability to stay healthy all season.
Mark Buehrle is a big name and a lot of people are probably expecting an ace however his stat set just doesn’t support that notion. He is an innings eater and a guy who will give up his fair share of hits but he should provide solid depth and a mid 4.00 ERA if everything goes well.
If Ricky Romero can return to his past form this has the potential to be a dominant rotation. ZIPS doesn’t project the lofty levels he attained in 2011 but thankfully doesn’t see another 2012 either. If he meets those rather pedestrian projections I think Blue Jays fans will be happy.
Last but certainly not least is another newcomer big Josh Johnson. Again I think fans will be surprised to see such an average strikeout rate but unfortunately Johnson has seen his overall numbers fall over the past couple seasons while dealing with injuries. If healthy he is another Blue Jay hurler that could be a top ten arm in the American League.
Overall these projections are solid and ZIPS is always the least optimistic of the various systems but it does make you take pause. The rotation has a lot of injury possibilities (if not probabilities) with Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow having a history of problems. Ricky Romero is coming off a terrible 2012 campaign as well as offseason surgery.
Mark Buehrle is steady but very unspectacular and if the Jays defense doesn’t give him help to suppress his BABIP could give up a ton of base-hits. Finally the Jays opening day starting pitcher is a 37-year old knuckleball pitcher coming into the lions den known as the AL East.
For the Blue Jays to put it all together this season and make a run at the postseason they are going to need a good amount of luck just like any other team with hopes of contention. This is an improved team, especially on the mound, but this isn’t one of the most dominant rotations ever assembled.
All in all the rotation is definitely solid, with the potential to be very good with a little good fortune and health.
Tags: blue jays hitters projections 2013, blue jays zips 2013, blue jays zips projections 2013, edwin encarnacion projection 2013, how will blue jays offense perform 2013?, jose bautista 2013 projection, jose reyes projection 2013, melky cabrera projection 2013, toronto blue jays zips 2013
The 2013 ZIPS projections were released for the Toronto Blue Jays a couple weeks back. Let’s have a look today at the hitters with what projects to be our opening day lineup (if completely healthy).
We have to remind ourselves that these are only projections based on the past three years of data but on the surface if the Blue Jays did get this type of production down the line the team is going to be an offensive force.
We are going to strikeout and we will have a few batting average laggards but we are also going to hit with a ton of power almost all the way through the lineup. The additions of Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera at the top of the order will be huge as they are both guys that do not strike out a lot and put the ball in play.
Let’s take a look at another huge upgrade from last season, our bench. I included a few extras as well as there will undoubtedly be injuries.
Ok so no world beaters in that group but a lot of versatility, speed and professionals. Just the very fact Omar Vizquel won’t have to take any meaningful at-bats in 2013 means it is light years ahead!
Up next we will look at the vastly improved starting rotation and see how ZIPS feels our new mound additions RA Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buerhle should perform.