Archive for April, 2014

AL East Prospect Report – April 30, 2014

Hitters:

BAL AA Alvarez, Dariel CF 4 0 2 0 .361
BAL AA Walker, Christian 1B 4 0 2 0 .333 SB (1)
BAL LoA Hart, Josh CF 3 0 1 0 .254
BAL LoA Mancini, Trey 1B 4 0 2 0 .244

BOS AA Betts, Mookie 2B 4 2 3 3 .422 HR (4), CS (2)
BOS AA Marrero, Deven SS 4 1 2 1 .306 2B (6)
BOS AA Shaw, Travis DH 4 2 2 2 .269 HR (4)
BOS AA Swihart, Blake C 4 1 1 0 .333 3B (2)
BOS AAA Brentz, Bryce RF 3 1 1 4 .261 HR (4)
BOS AAA Vazquez, Christian C 4 1 2 1 .292
BOS LoA Lin, Tzu-Wei SS 5 1 1 0 .257 2B (5)
BOS LoA Margot, Manuel CF 3 0 2 0 .289 2B (5)
BOS LoA Rijo, Wendell 2B 4 1 2 0 .317 BB (15)
BOS MAJ Bradley, Jackie CF 4 1 2 2 .244 2 2B (8)

NYY AA Refsnyder, Robert 2B 4 1 1 0 .267 BB (9), 2 SB (4)
NYY AA Sanchez, Gary C 5 0 2 0 .316
NYY AA Williams, Mason CF 4 0 1 0 .223 BB (10), CS (1)
NYY AAA Flores, Ramon RF 4 1 2 1 .280 2B (8), HR (1), BB (16)
NYY HiA O’Brien, Peter C 4 1 1 0 .333 3B (1)
NYY LoA Andujar, Miguel 3B 4 2 3 3 .263 2 2B (6)
NYY LoA Judge, Aaron RF 4 2 3 1 .354 HR (2)
NYY LoA Katoh, Gosuke 2B 4 1 1 1 .180 3B (3)

TB HiA Goeddel, Tyler 3B 5 0 1 0 .304 SB (4)
TB HiA O’Conner, Justin C 5 1 2 2 .256 2B (9)
TB HiA Toles, Andrew CF 6 2 2 0 .248 2 SB (8)

TOR AAA Pillar, Kevin LF 4 1 1 0 .256 2B (8)
TOR HiA Smith, Dwight LF 4 1 1 2 .330 3B (1)

Pitchers:

BAL AAA Yoon, Suk-Min 5 2 0 0 3 3 5.24
BAL LoA Harvey, Hunter 5 3 4 4 4 6 2.08 L (1-1)

BOS AAA Ranaudo, Anthony 5 2 0 0 2 7 3.77 W (2-2)
BOS LoA Callahan, Jamie 5 7 3 3 1 5 5.32

NYY AA Banuelos, Manny 3 2 0 0 0 4 0.00
NYY AAA Greene, Shane 3.1 6 3 3 0 3 7.50
NYY MAJ Betances, Dellin 1.2 2 2 2 0 4 2.03

TOR AAA Stroman, Marcus 6 0 0 0 1 10 1.69 W (2-2)
TOR HiA Norris, Daniel 5 3 0 0 1 5 0.75 W (3-0)

 

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AL East Prospect Report – April 26, 2014

Hitters:

BAL AA Alvarez, Dariel CF 6 4 5 1 .350 2 2B (10)
BAL AA Walker, Christian 1B 6 1 3 4 .315 2B (3), HR (4)
BAL HiA Marin, Adrian SS 4 0 1 0 .206

BOS AA Betts, Mookie 2B 6 2 2 0 .431 SB (8)
BOS AA Coyle, Sean DH 3 2 1 1 .306 2B (2), 2 BB (5)
BOS AA Shaw, Travis 3B 4 1 3 1 .254 BB (12)
BOS AAA Brentz, Bryce RF 4 0 1 2 .247 2B (4)
BOS AAA Vazquez, Christian C 4 2 2 1 .279 2 2B (9)
BOS MAJ Bogaerts, Xander SS 5 1 1 0 .277 2B (5)
BOS MAJ Bradley, Jackie CF 4 2 3 1 .239 2 2B (6), 3B (1), BB (11), SB (3)

NYY AA Refsnyder, Robert DH 5 1 1 0 .254
NYY AA Williams, Mason CF 5 1 2 2 .230 BB (8)
NYY HiA Jagielo, Eric DH 3 2 1 0 .250 BB (9)
NYY HiA O’Brien, Peter C 3 2 2 3 .347 2B (7), HR (8), BB (4)
NYY MAJ Murphy, J.R. PH-C 2 0 1 0 .200

TB AA Brett, Ryan 2B 6 1 1 0 .284 SB (4)
TB AA Hager, Jake SS 5 1 2 1 .323 2B (6)
TB AA Shaffer, Richie 3B 5 0 1 1 .239 3B (3)
TB AAA Kiermaier, Kevin CF 3 0 1 0 .304 BB (6), SB (7)
TB HiA Goeddel, Tyler 3B 4 0 2 0 .348
TB HiA Toles, Andrew CF 4 1 2 0 .247 SB (6)

TOR AA Jimenez, A.J. C 4 1 1 1 .412
TOR HiA Pompey, Dalton CF 3 2 2 0 .358 2 BB (10), SB (12)
TOR HiA Smith, Dwight LF 3 2 1 0 .329 BB (10), SB (3)
TOR LoA Lugo, Dawel SS 4 0 2 0 .203
TOR LoA Nay, Mitch 3B 3 0 1 0 .307 2B (6), BB (6)

Pitchers:

BAL HiA Bridwell, Parker 6 8 5 5 2 5 7.56 L (0-3)

BOS AAA Barnes, Matt 5 6 2 1 2 2 1.80 W (1-0)
BOS AAA Britton, Drake 2 0 0 0 2 3 0.73
BOS HiA Johnson, Brian 6 4 0 0 1 8 3.86 W (3-1)

TB AA Floro, Dylan 7 8 4 4 0 3 6.41 W (2-1)
TB AAA Riefenhauser, C.J. 1 0 0 0 0 0 1.04
TB AAA Romero, Enny 6 3 3 3 2 5 4.44 L (2-3)

TOR LoA Robson, Tom 4 8 6 3 2 2 9.53 L (0-3)

Break From Baseball – Fragile

I am sure this hits home in terms of meaning.  Blue Jays going through a very tough patch.  Here is some morning inspiration.

AL East Prospect Report – April 22, 2014

Hitters:

BAL AA Alvarez, Dariel CF 5 1 1 1 .300 HR (2)
BAL AA Walker, Christian 1B 5 0 2 0 .306
BAL AAA Urrutia, Henry RF 5 0 3 0 .238
BAL LoA Sisco, Chance C 5 2 4 1 .286

BOS AA Shaw, Travis 1B 4 2 2 1 .229 HR (2)
BOS AA Betts, Mookie 2B 5 1 2 0 .448 2B (7), SB (5)
BOS AA Swihart, Blake C 4 2 2 1 .362 2B (3)
BOS AAA Brentz, Bryce LF 3 2 2 0 .227 2B (3), BB (10)
BOS AAA Cecchini, Garin DH 4 1 2 1 .317
BOS LoA Rijo, Wendell 2B 3 1 1 1 .308 HR (2), BB (10)
BOS LoA Margot, Manuel CF 4 0 2 2 .255 2 SB (6), CS (2)
BOS MAJ Bradley, Jackie CF 4 1 1 1 .222 2B (4)

NYY AA Austin, Tyler 3B 4 1 2 1 .261 3B (2)
NYY HiA Cave, Jake CF 4 0 2 0 .288 2B (6)
NYY LoA Judge, Aaron DH 2 1 2 0 .321 3B (1), 2 BB (14)
NYY LoA Avelino, Abiatal SS 5 0 2 0 .293 2B (3), CS (3)

TOR AA Wilson, Kenny CF 7 1 2 0 .210 2B (1), SB (2)
TOR HiA Pompey, Dalton CF 5 1 3 1 .349 BB (7), SB (9)
TOR HiA Smith, Dwight LF 5 2 2 0 .343 BB (5)
TOR LoA Dean, Matt 1B 4 2 2 0 .317 2B (6), 3B (1)
TOR LoA Nay, Mitch 3B 3 1 2 3 .333 2B (5)
TOR LoA Nessy, Santiago C 4 0 2 2 .241 2B (2)

Pitchers:

BAL HiA Givens, Mychal 2 1 0 0 0 1 1.00 Sv (2)

BOS AA Owens, Henry 6 4 3 2 4 3 2.28 W (3-0)
BOS AAA Workman, Brandon 5 4 3 3 0 8 6.48
BOS AAA Wilson, Alex 1.1 0 0 0 0 1 0.00 Sv (1)
BOS HiA Mercedes, Simon 3 0 0 0 0 3 4.26 Sv (1)
BOS LoA Kukuk, Cody 5 5 1 1 1 7 2.50 W (2-0)

NYY LoA Severino, Luis 5.2 3 0 0 0 8 1.93

TOR AAA Stroman, Marcus 5.1 10 4 3 0 5 2.18 L (1-2)
TOR LoA Tirado, Alberto 3 4 2 1 3 2 3.27
TOR LoA Labourt, Jairo 0.1 2 4 2 2 0 9.31

Obligatory & Early Edwin Encarnacion Is Struggling Piece

So it has been quite a slow start for the Blue Jays best overall hitter Edwin Encarnacion.  He has looked a little off to start the year and I wanted to see if there was anything that stood out in his stat set that might explain why?  April can be a difficult month to write about baseball given the small sample sizes that abound in the early going.

Thus far our beloved EE has amassed 83 plate appearances over the first 19 games so there is at least a reasonable level of data to analyze.  The first stat that obviously sticks out is the big donut in the homerun column.  Encarnacion has been one of the best power hitters in baseball over the last two seasons hitting 42 and 36 dingers respectively.

So far this season Encarnacion is slashing a pretty dismal 230/313/324 and considering he is returning from the occasional power sapping wrist surgery Blue Jays fans have the right to be a tad concerned.  Let’s compare some stats from the early going to his last two complete seasons to see some of the trends.

First some basic and counting stats:

EE AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ wOBA ISO
2012 .280 .384 .557 13.0% 14.6% 151 .396 .277
2013 .272 .370 .534 13.2% 10.0% 145 .388 .262
2014 .230 .313 .324 10.8% 22.9% 81 .291 .095

It doesn’t take a strong grasp of advanced statistics to see that Encarnacion is off to a rotten start.  His 2014 line looks more like Munenori Kawasaki than that of one of the most dangerous sluggers in the game.  Perhaps most concerning is that Encarnacion is striking out well above his career rate of 15.9% and over twice as much as his 2013 10.0% mark.

Let’s take a closer look at some batted ball data:

EE LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB BABIP
2012 17.6% 33.0% 49.5% 12.0% 18.7% .266
2013 21.6% 35.1% 43.3% 9.3% 17.6% .247
2014 18.2% 38.2% 43.6% 4.2% 0.0% .309

Overall there is nothing that stands out besides the unsustainably low homerun to fly-ball percentage.  I really expected to see his infield fly-ball percentage to be high-ish but clearly Edwin’s two biggest problems thus far are the fly-balls he is hitting currently aren’t leaving the yard and overall contact issues.

Let’s visit the latter claim to see if it holds true:

EE O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% Z-Contact% Contact% F-Strike% SwStrk%
2012 21.8% 59.8% 41.0% 87.0% 82.1% 55.4% 7.2%
2013 24.4% 60.5% 41.3% 89.4% 84.3% 59.9% 6.3%
2014 27.8% 60.0% 42.7% 87.8% 79.0% 67.5% 9.0%

So far this season Encarnacion is fishing a little more outside of the strike-zone according to Fangraphs pitch f/x data.  He is also making a career low overall contact rate and a near career worst swinging strike percentage.  Simply put he is swinging through a lot more pitches that in the past he has been able to ‘barrel’.

Based on the ‘eye test’ of watching his at-bats it isn’t hard to tell that he is definitely out of sync.  He appears less balanced, more easily frustrated and a touch late on pitches he can hit.  Hitters will always go through prolonged slumps and given the track record of success for Edwin Encarnacion one need not ring the alarm bells quite yet.

Riding with the Wind, ’14: An Apology

Usually we use the word “apology” to say “I’m sorry”. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m using the word apology as the transliterated form of the Greek word ‘apologia’, meaning ‘defense’. In other words I’m going to defend something or someone. In this case I’m going to defend something AND someone, because the something can’t be separated from the someone. They are linked inextricably.

On Friday April 11, 2014 Dustin McGowan was credited with his first win as a starting pitcher since 2008. It was one of those feel-good moments that have been too few and too far between for the Jays over the last several seasons. Not only did he get the win, but he threw 6.1 IP of shutout ball against the Orioles at Camden Yards. It was heady stuff.

Perhaps you recall the immediate variables that helped to make this a story:

  • a good fielding team had to make 2 errors to help a scuffling offense;
  • hard-hit balls had to be caught by the Jays’ defense, an Achilles heel in 2013;
  • Dusty had to shut down a potent offense that typically feasts on Jays’ pitching;
  • good coaching decisions and timing needed to play a role, since Dusty’s still just getting his feet wet in MLB again.

I suppose a host of other unseen and unthought-of factors played roles, too, but this is good enough for a good story.  These don’t even scratch the surface of all the years of agony and disappointment for McGowan, the Jays, and their fans.

The Something

The bullpen for the Toronto Blue Jays is the Something. A lot of effort and energy has gone into this facet of the team. It has been somewhat frustrating and more than a little bewildering to watch the Jays focus so intently on this as the something. Why not the rotation? Why not the defense? Why not the offense? Why spend so much time on the bullpen, for crying out loud?

Since 2010, its several incarnations have appeared as follows. The players listed are the most oft-used bullpen pitchers:

  • 2010: Gregg, Camp, Janssen, Frasor, Downs;
  • 2011: Francisco, Janssen, Camp, Rauch, Frasor, Rzepczynski;
  • 2012: Janssen, Villanueva, Oliver, Frasor, Cordero, Perez;
  • 2013: Janssen, Loup, Cecil, Delabar, Oliver.

The first couple of seasons, 2010-2011, were years of ‘try, try again.’ Not many cried when Gregg wasn’t re-signed; I almost did when Downs wasn’t. Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch still give some Jays’ fans recurring nightmares, partly because Frankie F cost the Jays Mike Napoli. That’s another story for another time, though. Rzep was a quality LOOGY+ and young, too, but he was part of the price for a young CF.

It began to come together in 2012, experimenting with Janssen as the Closer and bringing quality LHP Darren Oliver on board. Cordero was a bust. Frasor was reliable and had a rubber arm. The starting rotation fell apart in mid-June, though. JA Happ and others were acquired near the deadline to shore up the ‘pen and the rotation, but the season was lost anyways. Shipping Travis Snider to PIT for Brad Lincoln was a little painful, too.

It was supposed to gel in 2013. Big off season trades, combined with a stronger ‘pen, were key parts of a seemingly well-rounded team. Steve Delabar showed he was for real, Brett Cecil was looking sharp early and if they could ever get Sergio Santos to stay healthy, his fastball and slider were deadly. But nothing gelled, nothing at all. It all fizzled amid great-but-frustratingly-unmet expectations. Well, check that: the bullpen gelled. They were solid all season.

Fast forward to 2014 after an off season of virtual non-activity, and the Jays’ ‘pen is even more of a shut down ‘pen than they were previously. The offense has sputtered, but the defense, starting pitching, and bullpen have been good.

At present, the ‘pen consists of:

  • Casey Janssen (CL; DL); Sergio Santos (CL); Steve Delabar; Brett Cecil; Aaron Loup; Neil Wagner; Todd Redmond; and Esmil Rogers.

They have two closers, and two other guys (Delabar; Cecil) capable of closing. They have two high quality LHP capable of going 1+ IP, striking out plenty, inducing ground balls, but also can be used as LOOGYs. Career minor leaguer Neil Wagner throws hard (95+ mph), has good control, and he’s their sixth/seventh inning guy. Rogers and Redmond are both long men who can start in a pinch and give them quality innings. Then there’s JA Happ, the LHP on the DL, who’s at least the equal, talent-wise, to Rogers and Redmond.

The Someone

This of course is Alex Anthopoulos, the much-maligned GM of the Toronto Blue Jays. A quick perusal of the transactions page at baseball-reference.com (here) will show that the majority of deals made by Anthopoulos have involved at least one reliever going in one direction. Several deals have been larger, involving a number of relievers. This focus on the bullpen was frustrating, since the on-field product was poor and getting worse. After all, why waste time on something that exerts so little influence on the game’s outcome? Because it’s the AL East, that’s why.

There are currently two bullpens dominating the American League. They have everything they need to succeed. They stand head and shoulders above the rest of the AL, and actually could get (much) better as the season wears on. Rather than reproducing the table, I’ll just include the link so you can see for yourselves. (We don’t want to use up virtual paper unnecessarily here at AL Eastbound.) Keep in mind that the sample sizes are miniscule (9-12 games; fewer than 50 IP; etc.). Also bear in mind that Toronto’s ‘pen did this last year, too, for the most part.

Against Baltimore, Dustin McGowan gave up some rockets. It’s not surprising: he’s still just getting his feet wet again, and those Orioles have some rocket launchers. His 6.1 IP of shutout ball was pretty impressive, as was the 2.2 IP by Brett Cecil and Sergio Santos. Cecil and Santos struck out 5 of the 8 batters they faced. No hits, no walks, no blips or glitches, just shut down ball. It was a nice period at the end of that particular sentence. Dustin McGowan, good start, blah, blah, blah, bullpen. Lights out. Well done, Alex Anthopoulos, well done.

Wes Kepstro

AL East Prospect Report – April 9, 2014

DJ Davis goes yard for his first HR of the season and Aaron Sanchez goes 5 strong innings.

Hitters:

BAL AA Alvarez, Dariel CF 3 0 2 0 .360
BAL AAA Urrutia, Henry RF 5 1 2 0 .211
BAL HiA Davis, Glynn CF 4 0 1 0 .429 3B (1)
BAL LoA Mancini, Trey 1B 3 0 1 0 .304
BAL LoA Sisco, Chance C 2 0 1 1 .308 2B (3), BB (2)
BAL MAJ Schoop, Jonathan 3B 5 1 2 1 .192 2B (2)

 
BOS AA Marrero, Deven SS 4 0 1 0 .313
BOS AA Swihart, Blake C 4 0 2 1 .467
BOS AAA Brentz, Bryce LF 4 0 1 2 .143 2B (1)
BOS AAA Butler, Dan DH 4 1 1 0 .250 2B (3)
BOS LoA Margot, Manuel CF 4 0 1 0 .188
BOS MAJ Bradley, Jackie RF 4 1 2 2 .400 2B (2)

NYY AA Refsnyder, Robert 2B 4 2 2 2 .125 2B (1), HR (1)
NYY AA Sanchez, Gary C 4 1 3 3 .333 2B (3), BB (4)
NYY AA Williams, Mason CF 5 2 2 0 .300 2 2B (3)
NYY HiA Cave, Jake CF 5 0 1 0 .182
NYY HiA Gumbs, Angelo 2B 4 1 3 1 .263 CS (1)
NYY HiA Jagielo, Eric 3B 5 2 2 3 .150 HR (2)
NYY HiA O’Brien, Peter C 4 1 3 1 .368 HR (2)
NYY LoA Avelino, Abiatal SS 4 0 1 0 .313

TOR AA Burns, Andy 3B 4 0 1 0 .190
TOR AA Wilson, Kenny CF 4 1 1 3 .238 HR (1)
TOR LoA Davis, D.J. CF 4 1 2 1 .294 HR (1), CS (1)
TOR LoA Dean, Matt 1B 4 1 3 1 .368
TOR LoA Lugo, Dawel SS 4 1 2 0 .214 2B (1)
TOR LoA Nessy, Santiago C 2 0 1 2 .143 2 BB (3)

Pitchers:

BAL AA Drake, Oliver 2 1 0 0 1 2 2.25 W (1-0)
BAL AA Gurka, Jason 2 1 0 0 1 3 2.25
BAL AAA Yoon, Suk-Min 2.1 11 9 9 1 0 34.71 L (0-1)
BAL HiA Kline, Branden 6 3 2 2 2 8 2.45 L (1-1)
BAL MAJ Stinson, Josh 2.1 1 0 0 1 3 1.50
BOS AAA Britton, Drake 1 2 1 1 2 0 2.08
BOS AAA Webster, Allen 6 3 0 0 2 3 2.79 W (1-1)
BOS HiA Johnson, Brian 4.2 8 5 5 1 8 5.59
BOS MAJ Workman, Brandon 4 2 1 1 0 3 1.42

NYY HiA Banuelos, Manny 3 4 0 0 0 2 0.00
NYY MAJ Betances, Dellin 1.2 1 0 0 0 3 0.00
NYY MAJ Nuno, Vidal 3.1 8 7 7 2 2 14.54

TB AAA Karns, Nate 4.2 8 6 6 3 9 13.50 L (0-1)
TB LoA Snell, Blake 4.1 2 2 2 3 7 4.15 L (0-1)

TOR AA Sanchez, Aaron 5 5 2 2 2 3 1.80
TOR AAA Nolin, Sean 5.2 4 2 1 1 7 1.59 W (1-0)
TOR LoA Robson, Tom 2.2 3 2 2 4 2 6.75


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