Archive for the 'Retrospective' Category

The Best Seasons to (Sort Of) Come Out of (Almost) Nowhere in Jays’ History: Part I

I was doing a little reading over at mlbtraderumors.com when I came across a note that Reed Johnson’s 2014 option is likely to be picked up by Atlanta. I was pleased; I like Reed Johnson. The reasons that I like Reed Johnson are numerous; one of the reasons is that he had such a great season in 2006.

I find myself to be kind of intrigued by outliers, aka career years. Where’d they come from? Why couldn’t they be repeated? Jays’ fans might be surprised to know that erstwhile Jays’ manager Cito Gaston had a career season as an outfielder for the San Diego Padres in 1970. He was 26 years old and had a grand total of 446 MLB plate appearances under his belt. In 1970, he posted 92 R, 64 xbh, a 146 OPS+, and slashed .318/.364/.543. Cito played for another 9 seasons, but he never really approached those numbers again.

A little more than 2 years later, shortstop Davey Johnson (the recently-retired manager of the Nationals) was traded by Baltimore to Atlanta. He terrorized National League pitching for the entire 1973 season, hitting 43 home runs. His previous career high was 18, and he never hit more than 15 after 1973. He was pretty tough on Cito’s Padres, slashing .339/.458/.627 with 7 xbh in 18 G.

Well, enough of that. The Jays have enjoyed their fair share of career years, too, and Reed Johnson made me think of some of them. This isn’t intended to be exhaustive. As a matter of fact, it’s selective: when multiple players at one position enjoyed a career year, I’ve made a choice.

There were a number of factors behind the choices that I made. Sometimes it was team performance, sometimes it was personal performance, sometimes career spectrum factored into the process. Perhaps you remember someone whom I’ve either forgotten or de-selected. Feel free to let me know. At any rate, it’s supposed to be fun. I hope you enjoy it.

The Starters

Year

Player

Position

bWAR

Age

1997

Roger Clemens

SP

12.1

34

1984

Doyle Alexander

SP

6.1

33

1995

Al Leiter

SP

5.7

29

1993

Pat Hentgen

SP

3.4

24

2005

Gustavo Chacin

SP

3.2

24

Roger Clemens

I wrestled with his inclusion but I got over my hesitation: 1997 was both a career year and unexpected for “The Rocket”. He’d been declining for several years but a slight resurgence in effectiveness, if not results, in 1996 didn’t stop Boston from letting him walk after 13 terrific seasons.

His signing as a free agent rejuvenated the hope of a franchise not-far-removed from league dominance. He was all-world for Toronto, winning the pitcher’s Triple Crown. In 264 IP he gave up 9 home runs and his ERA+ was 222. It’s shame that they didn’t have enough talent around him to challenge the Yankees.

Doyle Alexander

The Jays broke the .500 barrier for the first time in 1983 and were expected to improve on their 4th place finish and compete for the AL East in ’84. The Detroit Tigers, led by Sparky Anderson, were a juggernaut in ’84. Their 35-5 start to the season put to rest any serious threats to their dominance. Still, Sports Illustrated called the Jays as the best little 2nd place team in baseball.

Doyle Alexander was somewhat of a journeyman, even for the early days of free agency. He’d only been good once, in 1977 with the Texas Rangers, and Toronto was his 4th team since then, so not much was expected. Coming to the Jays breathed new life into his waning career as the Jays cleared the .500 mark again but no one expected a 6+ WAR season in 1984. Seriously, who expects 260+ IP from a 33-year-old, has-been junk-baller? But that’s exactly what he gave them—and much more—as he and the Jays tried to keep the Tigers in the crosshairs.

Al Leiter

Acquired in a trade with the Yankees for fan favourite Jesse Barfield, Leiter had big shoes to fill. Expectations were tempered, though: Barfield was obviously in decline, and Leiter’s injury issues and failure to live up to the hype in New York suggested this trade may not work out for either team. His World Series heroics did little to deflect criticism for regular season mediocrity, until 1995.

In 1995 Al Leiter was healthy and started to pitch the way everyone thought he could. Career highs in innings pitched and starts led to a 5.7 bWAR, suggesting that Leiter finally cleared some major obstacles. It made his departure (defection?) to Florida via free agency that much more irritating, especially when he became one of the best lefties in MLB. Just ask Gord Ash.

Pat Hentgen

Hentgen was another pitcher who was expected to develop into a good pitcher. How good was anyone’s guess, but the signs were there. Unlike Leiter, Hentgen’s issues were simply issues of time, training, and development.

He got his chance to strut his stuff with the reigning World Series champions on a staff loaded with big names. Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, and Danny Cox all had World Series experience, and fellow youngsters Todd Stottlemyre and Juan Guzman were already more established. An ERA+ of 112 and 216.1 IP from the 24-year old helped propel the Jays into the playoffs once again where they defended their title successfully.

Gustavo Chacin

Gustavo Chacin’s an almost comical selection for this team, given the other 4 starters’ pedigree, but Chacin was unexpectedly good in 2005. Toronto won 5 of his first 6 starts on the way to a 19-15 mark when Chacin took the mound. His wildness (1.394 WHIP) was overlooked as the Jays and their fans looked to rebound from a terrible ’04. His 3.2 bWAR demonstrated that his effectiveness was no illusion.

It went south for Chacin from there as whispers of wildness in ’05 (213 H, 70 BB in 203 IP) turned into clear messages that he wouldn’t be able to outpitch his peripherals for much longer. Twenty home runs and 70 walks are pretty good numbers for a hitter, but they don’t make for effective pitching. Ineffectiveness (19 HR in 87.1 IP in ’06) and injuries pretty much derailed Chacin’s career.

The Rotation

Originally I thought that these outliers weren’t achieved by players around whom you’d try to build a franchise. The more I dug, the more I discovered that I was wrong. Among the franchise-type players was Roger Clemens. The Jays apparently hitched their wagon to a falling star, only to watch him become a supernova in a Jays uniform.

The other 4 starters—Alexander, Hengen, Leiter, and Chacin—weren’t superstars by any stretch but they would round out one heckuva rotation. It would be entertaining if, indeed, we could see them pitch on the same team at the same time.

Wes Kepstro

Next up: Part II, The Bullpen

Mission ’13: Why I Would Choose Eddie Collins over Rogers Hornsby

ALEastbound and Wes Kepstro have started a discussion about some of the great second basemen in MLB history.  I wanted to expand the format so as to include anyone else who has an opinion on the matter.   The opening salvos can be found in the comments section of our Ryan Goins piece.

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most interesting ‘Best Ever’ discussions.  It involves two of the all-time greats who were contemporaries and whose careers spanned the transition from the Dead Ball era to the Live Ball eras of MLB history.  There are also very few, if any, eyewitnesses remaining, meaning we rely almost exclusively on the stats pages for our understanding and subsequent opinions.

This is one of baseball’s versions of the Wilt Chamberlain/Bill Russell debate.  Wilt had the incredible numbers (100 points and 50.4 ppg in 1961-62?!?), played on 2 of the greatest teams ever, and won a couple of rings.  Russell just kept winning MVPs (5) and titles.  Russell won 2 straight NCAA titles, then an Olympic gold medal, then 11 NBA titles in a 16-year career.  I always seem to favour team players over individual accomplishments.  The other significant debate from MLB history that parallels Collins vs. Hornsby is Mickey Mantle vs. Willie Mays, the 2 supernova CFs of the 1950s New York baseball scene.  It’s hard to believe that Duke Snider went relatively unnoticed playing in Flatbush for the Dodgers.

Rajah’s offensive brilliance is undisputed (by me), but it’s overall impact is questionable.  Rajah’s peak was extremely high, perhaps second only to Ruth.  As a result, he did well in the MVP vote, winning 2 and finishing 2nd and 3rd on 2 other occasions but by age 33, his career was pretty much finished.

Collins won 1, and finished top 6 on 6 other occasions.  Some of these came in the days when (1) only 1 award (the Chalmers) was given for both leagues, (2) during the tumultuous days of a rival league (the Federal league), and (3) when players could only win the award once.

Then there are the 3 times he finished top 5 in the AL MVP voting from 1922-1924, when he was 35, 36, and 37.  In 1922, George Sisler hit .422; in 1923, he was sandwiched between Babe Ruth’s 14 bWAR and Harry Heilmann (who hit .403); and in 1924 he was edged out by Walter Johnson, a 7+ bWAR pitcher and maybe the best pitcher ever.  His defense and base running made a significant impression on his contemporaries.

The next argument is post season appearances and success, and the gap is significant.  Hornsby made the postseason twice, winning once.  His performance in the WS was less-than-ordinary (3 xbh in 53 PA; .245/.288/.327).  Collins made the postseason 6 times, winning four times.  In 3 of those WS appearances Collins was brilliant, batting over .400.  In one of those appearances, the Chicago White Sox were probably the best team in baseball but his teammates conspired to throw the WS, so he didn’t have much of a chance.

Offensively, he’s still: 13th in bWAR (10th among position players); 11th in offensive bWAR; 3rd in singles; 12th in triples; 8th in SB; 12th in OBP; 10th in hits; 17th in runs; and 16th in MVP shares.  He had two discernible peaks in his career, during which times observers believed he was one of the top 6 players in the game.  The game included such players as: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, George Sisler, Harry Heilmann, Jimmie Foxx, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Sam Crawford, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Home Run Baker, Smokey Joe Wood, and Big Ed Walsh.

This was his competition for baseball (WS) and individual (MVP) supremacy: Collins acquitted himself extremely well, without the stats that came because of the helium-inflated balls.  Certainly Hornsby’s stats page is a sea of bold black ink, but Collins got on base an awful lot, stole an awful lot of bases, scored a lot of runs, and played good defense in a time when few others did.  This made an impression in the MVP award voting and in the run for the postseason, and Collins ran away from Hornsby in both areas.  I also think that Collins’ skillset translates very well to any era in baseball history.  Collins was a dead ball era superstar, then a live ball era superstar.  In spite of gaudy stats Hornsby didn’t receive a single MVP vote during the dead ball era which, I believe, is significant.

As far as I’m concerned, Eddie ‘Cocky’ Collins did more to help his team win and the other team lose than any 2B in baseball history.  Many similar things can be said about Joe Morgan, too.  This is why I consider them to be the 2 top all-round 2B in MLB history.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: Does it Get Any Worse, or Would You Like Another Helping of Spleen-Venting Outrage?

We’re going to start this piece with a multiple choice question:

  • Which statement best describes Maicer Izturis?
    • (a) he hit the Jays’ first home run in 2013;
    • (b) he once played for the Montreal Expos;
    • (c) he sports a wRC+ of 64;
    • (d) he is the worst all-round 2B in MLB;
    • (e) all of the above.

If you answered (e), you’re right! [cue victory music from ‘The Price is Right’] According to one measure (fWAR), Maicer Izturis is presently the worst 2B in Major League Baseball. What makes this worse is that, over at Fangraphs.com Dave Cameron just did a piece about the Dodgers lesser-known contributors to their amazing run and I noticed that Aaron Hill is the highest-ranked 2B over the last 30 days. It’s sad isn’t it? It’s not Schindler’s List sad, exaggeration rarely gets you where you want to go, but it’s definitely MLB-appropriate sad.

I didn’t think that signing Jeff Keppinger was a good move by the Chicago White Sox. He was a journeyman-turned-utility player coming off a career year. They were going to get what they paid for, I thought. Sure enough, Keppinger’s 47 wRC+ is the lowest among ML 2B. Maicer Izturis, on the other hand, had a good rep and wasn’t coming off his best year. I believed the Jays overpaid a little but protected themselves with a team option. He’s a little older than I would have liked, but he’s no greybeard. And anything would be better than the Kelly Johnson: Strikeout Machine and Below-Average Defender movie we suffered through, wouldn’t it? Well, no. I even wrote a piece saying that re-signing Johnson made sense. Maicer’s a utility player: he was acquired to strengthen the bench, not play full time. Or so I thought.

Maicer has played full time and he’s been awful. There are no adjectives in common use in the English language that can describe adequately how terrible he’s been. Even ‘awful’ and ‘terrible’ are too mild.

Coming into this season the Jays needed a 2B. Kelly Johnson was underwhelming and the Jays were understandably willing to let him go. But the jays didn’t need a warm body at 2B, they needed someone who would excel in at least one aspect of the game: defense, offense, base running. Maicer has given away runs in all 3 aspects. Like the car accident in the other lane, let’s take a look.

When he gets on base (.288 OBP), he’s a station-to-station guy and only Howie Kendrick (LAA) and Jeff Keppinger (CWS) are worse base runners among MLB 2B than Maicer Izturis. He doesn’t steal bases and he’s passive, not taking the extra base when he could. Perhaps it’s a little more revealing than we’d like to admit but here it is: Maicer Izturis (-2.2 BsR) is the Dan Uggla (-2.2 BsR) of American League base running. There, I said it, but all of a sudden I don’t feel well.

Okay, what about his defense? Due to injuries to Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes he’s spent time at 3B and SS, which is exactly what to expect from a utility guy. However, he’s been a full time player and has spent most of his time patrolling 2B, starting 43 G and playing 55 G total there. Baseball-reference tells me that he’s made 5 errors at 2B and 10 errors overall. This isn’t Tommy Thevenow (1930 Phillies) territory, but it isn’t very good.

It also doesn’t tell us the whole story, either. How do we quantify the balls he gets to but makes no play, the balls he doesn’t get to at all, and the plays he doesn’t make that an average ML 2B would make? That’s where his fielding proficiency, or Fld, over at Fangraphs.com gives us an idea what he’s like.

Rickie Weeks of the Brewers has a poor reputation as a 2B. He has a little pop in his bat, but generally he’s a low-quality player. He’s had some seasons when he’s played (slightly) above average in the field, but generally he’s (well) below average on defense. His career worst Fld mark came in 2012 when he was a -16.7 2B, but he’s had other years of -13.1, -10.1, and he was -9.1 this season before he went down for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury. The Brewers can be thankful for small mercies; the Jays have no such reason for gratitude. Maicer Izturis is a -17.3 defender, far and away the worst figure among 2B in baseball. Kelly Johnson was a -6.9 defender last season (2012).

Part of the difficulty from a fans’ perspective is that there’s no way we could see this coming. He’s never been a great fielder, like Adrian Beltre or Ozzie Smith, but 4 seasons ago he was a 6.9 Fld utility player, and has spent the bulk of his career as a plus defender. His worst seasons have been right around average. Not this season, though, when Mr. Murphy’s been laying down his Law all season.

Offensively, he’s difficult to gauge because he’s such a little guy. He’s listed as 5’8” and 170 lbs, but I think he was measured while standing on a concrete floor in his cleats and holding a bat with a couple of donuts on it. And some baseballs in his pockets. But Jose Altuve is a little guy too, so being little is no excuse. Maicer’s wRC+ is 64 and his wOBA is .269; Altuve is 87 and .298. Maicer has 5 HR to Altuve’s 4, but Altuve squeaks out ahead in overall power (.080 ISO to .079 for Izturis). Altuve is a slightly positive player (1.0 fWAR) on the worst team in MLB since the ’03 Tigers. Izturis is a negative player (-2.2 fWAR) on perhaps the most disappointing team in Toronto Blue Jays’ history.

It’s hard to capture how much the Jays have underperformed this season. Recently Alex Anthopoulos admitted that defense wasn’t made as high a priority as it should have been when he made the deals in the off-season. His perspective has changed now. That’s not all that needs to change. Players like Maicer Izturis must never be allowed to play full time again. Every facet of the game—defense, offense, and pitching—suffers too much when he plays too often.

There are no metrics to show how much poor play affects the pitching staff (confidence, frustration, pitch selection and location, etc.), so I’ve developed my own way to make sense of it. I watched Dave Stieb pitch for the Jays for a lot of years and was always impressed by two things: his talent and his competitive fire. Sometimes he went overboard and let a teammate see and hear his displeasure (occasionally bordering on outrage) when a play that should have been made wasn’t made. If, by some handful of beans or other magic potion, Dave Stieb could be teleported from his prime years to the 2013 Jays, his competitive fire would have been a raging inferno. No amount of cajoling or commanding could have prevented Dave Stieb from venting his spleen at the horrific defense that has been played by the Toronto Blue Jays this season. And Maicer Izturis would have been on the receiving end of Dave Stieb’s displeasure far too often for his own comfort.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13: One of The Worst-Kept Secrets

We’re back to our Mission ’13 tag since, like Major Tom’s mission so many decades ago, this mission is also going to end poorly. Our focus now is to wring every ounce of value out of this season and prepare for 2014.

As usual, some of our stories will not be on the Jays. Today’s piece is about Alex Rodriguez and some of baseball’s other cheaters. The worst-kept secret in sports is that some athletes cheat by taking substances that are designed to enhance performance. Major League Baseball’s had its share of these athletes.

If “C” is for “cookie”, then “D” is for …

The second-worst-kept secret is that today was D-Day for the cheaters in Major League Baseball. If you remember Sesame Street, “D” is for discipline. Well, it’s actually hard to imagine anyone but Oscar the Grouch coming up with that D-word, but you get the point…

Ryan Braun was suspended last week, and will miss the rest of the 2013 season (65 games). His story is one of the more irritating, as he failed a test but the chain-of-possession of his test samples was broken and his test was ruled inadmissible. Good for MLB, right? After all, the man just named NL MVP wasn’t technically a cheater. Right.

Alex Rodriguez, Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, and Jhonny Peralta joined Braun in a statement made by MLB today. Others will follow but these are the highest-profile players that have been disciplined in today’s ruling.

Alex Rodriguez (ARod) will be suspended for the balance of this season plus all of 2014, meaning that if he accepts the ruling, his suspension will be for 211 games. Apparently he has no intention of accepting the ruling; he plans to appeal the decision. The risk of this choice is huge: Commissioner Bud Selig has stated definitively that if ARod appeals, MLB will ban him for life. He will join the likes of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and the rest of the ‘Black Sox’ and Pete Rose as being ineligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The other players will receive a 50-game suspension, as first-time offenders under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Several players, among whom are Bartolo Colon of the Oakland As, Melky Cabrera of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, were implicated in the Biogenesis scandal, but have already been punished by MLB for their ‘crimes.’ They won’t be punished further by MLB. A drug-free Melky Cabrera with gimpy gams is a shadow of the player he was in San Francisco. Conversely, Bartolo Colon is enjoying somewhat of revival in Oakland this season. The 2005 AL Cy Young winner is again one of the top pitchers in his league.

Conclusion

I think MLB really dragged its feet on this one. As was suggested in our piece about peds in MLB, they decided to ride the crest of the ped-wave through the mid-to-late 1990s, as records were challenged and gaudy stats were the norm rather than the exception. Baseball’s image is worse now than it was if they’d acted quickly and decisively to clean up the game. They didn’t, and now they’ll pay for their decision, whether it was intentional or unintentional.

That said, I doubt very much that the effect will be either as dramatic or as widespread as the reaction to the labour disputes that cost MLB and its fans the ’94 World Series. The repercussions from that scandal are still being felt in the game today.

Bud Selig and his crew have consistently represented MLB’s stance on drugs in the game as among the most advanced in sports. I disagree. I’m Canadian, and I was shocked by the Ben Johnson Olympic scandal. That was 1988. I think Bud’s a wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed compromiser. I feel let down by those who cheated and by those who should have disciplined them long ago.

Bud Selig has been a popular commissioner among owners because he’s been instrumental in reviving fan interest and helping the game grow. That’s why they pay him somewhere in the neighbourhood of $20 million per season. He’s earned an awful lot of money while baseballs’ reputation has been tarnished even further. I don’t think I can dredge up a lot of respect for him knowing that.

Personally, though, I’m probably not going anywhere. I’m a resilient fan who’s lived through several scandals and I’m more-than-just-a-little familiar with the history of several others. That means I’ll take the long view on this particular scandal. I’ll be cheering for the Jays (and Giants) long after Bud Selig and this generation of baseball players are gone.

The ones for whom I have the greatest feelings are the clean players, the ones who competed at the top of their ability but were relegated to the back seats by the cheaters. I have a great deal of respect for them. The temptation to join the cheaters must have been almost intolerable, but they didn’t yield. It’s on their shoulders that the game will rest in 30 years time.

Think about these guys when you think about baseball:

Jim Thome, Carlos Delgado, Ken Griffey, Jr., Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Derek Jeter, Omar Vizquel, Jeff Kent, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Larry Walker, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Bagwell, and hundreds of others. There isn’t even a hint of this scandal associated with them. They played the game with honour and integrity.

Wes Kepstro

Looking Back: Blue Jays Should Have Kept Marco Scutaro

Hindsight is always a beautiful thing.  Here is a piece I wrote in September of 2009 on one of my favourite unsung Blue Jays.  Looking back  I wish we would have just kept the crafty Marco Scutaro.

Enjoy.

* * *

Marco Scutaro has been the most valuable Blue Jays position players this season, combining a solid glove at SS with his improved bat to post a 4.3 WAR. Aaron Hill is a close second with a 3.9 WAR and while Adam Lind has been the best overall hitter, his relatively poor defence and work as a DH/LF hurts his overall WAR value (3.1).

Scutaro has a career high in nearly every major category (as well as a .354 wOBA – impressive for a SS) as he has been given a chance to play every day for the Blue Jays this season (eclipsing his former high in plate appearances of 592 in 2008 with 680 this season).  The biggest reason for Scutaro’s improved slash line (282/379/409) is his increased patience at the plate, posting a career best 13.6 BB% and career low o-swing% of 12.4 (career mark of 14.5%).

In fact, Scutaro is barely swinging at anything this season, showing a Brian Giles like approach to batting with an overall swing % of just 34.7 (career 40.3% mark) while making contact with over 93% of pitches he swings at – a deadly combination that has thrust Marco Scutaro into the national spotlight for the first time in his career and just in time for a crucial contract year for Marco.

Sample size means everything.  Scutaro last season had an impressive 7.6 UZR rating in 56 games at SS but it appears this year the extra games and innings have given a more true reflection of Scutaro’s defensive prowess as his UZR sits at 0.5 for 2009 in 143 games (career UZR at SS is -8.8) .  That is still a very solid defensive season but also shows he is not quite as valuable as he looked after about 80 games this season when his UZR was markedly higher.  I think it’s fair to say Scutaro is a solid defender at SS – with less range than average but a very “heady” fielder who makes up for any lack of range with the tendency to make very few errors.

Scutaro has been worth 4.3 wins above replacement (WAR) and has been worth nearly 20 million in “value” to the Blue Jays this season with his great work with the bat and solid work with the glove.  For the season, he currently ranks #5 among all qualified SS in WAR, just behind Rays SS Jason Bartlett (4.8) and just above the much publicized Braves SS Yunel Escobar (3.8).  Although WAR information was not available when this former Jays legendary SS played, I would think Scutaro’s season is right in line with any of Tony Fernandez’sbest seasons – albeit only for one year.

Which brings us to the real issue, is this season a fluke?  Scutaro who turns 34 in October has never shown this ability to get on-base before (previous high in OBP was .350) but has not been getting helped by the luck department (BABIP – .308, HR/FB 5.5% – both right around career marks) although he has hit a lot less groundballs than in years past.  His .354 wOBA is well above his career mark of .320 but has Scutaro found a winning recipe with his new more patient approach, and what can we expect from him going forward?

Scutaro was worth 20 million dollars to the Jays in 2009 when we consider his WAR at a premium SS position and what the average teams pays for each win of WAR on the FA market.  Of course Scutaro will never in a million years receive a contract for 20 million I think he can easily expect a contract offer of 3 years and around 24 million (8 million/year).  If he continues to play at his current rate offensively and shows he can at the very least maintain his defensive prowess at SS he would probably make a team very happy at that price.

But, if he regresses back to his old ways with the bat (career .320 wOBA, .265/.337/.384) he might not be worth the 3-year investment (likely over 20 million) that will probably be needed to secure his services.  Scutaro has earned a total of $40.9 million in value (again based on WAR) for his career and 20 million of that was earned in 2009 – so buyer beware.  A team could be wise to sign a more defensively minded shortstop in hopes the market will be less for a defence-first guy like Jack Wilson than a guy coming off a career year like Marco Scutaro.

If the Jays can get him on the books for 5-6 million per year I think they would have to make that move as there doesn’t appear to be any in-house replacements on the horizon who would give you what even a less than 2009 version of Marco Scutaro could.  With apologies to all of the John McDonald supporters but his career .262 wOBA is just not playable by any standards or salary.

In closing, I love watching Marco Scutaro play and if there was a way to clone his intangibles and spread them to the other Blue Jays – I’d pay for it.  He seems to make one play every game that makes you say “wow” and he is certainly the type of ballplayer the Blue Jays should be adding to their roster year in and year out, but at 34 I think a little caution must be in order before the Blue Jays (or any other team) make a decision to offer big bucks in his direction.

Looking Back: Theo Epstein Offered What?

Today we take a look back at the Roy Halladay situation when J.P. Ricciardi was still in charge and possibly trying to deal Roy Halladay.  Imagine if this were a) true and b) actually transpired?

This was written on September 13, 2009.

Enjoy.

* * *

I have to say that Bob Elliot is one of my favourite baseball writers in Toronto.  You can tell he has an absolute passion for the game and for the Toronto Blue Jays but after reading this article about the general state of the Blue Jays and some of its higher ranked officials I have to say the offer that he posted in his article is beyond fabrication, it is borderline ridiculous.  I know the Toronto media has a serious hate-fest going on for Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi but this is just throwing the man under a bus.  According to one of his sources, the Toronto Blue Jays were reportedly offered Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, Michael Bowden, Felix Doubrant and Nick Hagadone.

You only have to read my recent blog on Roy Halladay to know that my man crush on the Jays starter borders on obsession.  I honestly believe he is the best starting pitcher in the game and Blue Jays were correct in stating that they “wanted the world for him” as they could not afford to botch a deal involving arguably the greatest player in the history of the Blue Jays relatively storied history.  But, if that offer were true, Clay Buchholz and company would already be well situated with the great city of Toronto, I mean come on.

As the old adage goes Theo Epstein might’ve been born at night, but he wasn’t born last night.  You don’t build a championship team in the time it took Epstein to do so and not be considered a very sharp baseball mind.  I’d rank him and the Red Sox front office among the top 5 in baseball and with every fibre of my being I do not believe that Theo Epstein and the Boston Red Sox would even consider making this offer, even for Roy Halladay.  Unless I missed the memo that the Red Sox are running some sort of a charity now catering to the small market teams?

Let’s start with Clay Buchholz, widely considered the crown jewel of the Red Sox farm system and a pitcher most teams would love to get their hands on.  The 25 year old right hander hasn’t had the immediate success at the major league level (besides the no-hitter of course) that one would hope for from its top prospect but patience looks to be finally paying off for the Red Sox.  A lot has already been written about him but Buchholz has been lights out in AAA Pawtucket posting an impressive 3.23 FIP, 3.0 K/BB, .194 BAA and 0.64 HR/9 in 99 IPs.  He has looked equally impressive for the Red Sox at the major league level in 6 of his past 7 starts and he is a scout’s wet dream with his advanced control and velocity on his fastball, as well as his impressive array of secondary offerings including a wicked change-up.

Justin Masterson has looked very solid and durable in his short pro career and was a key part of the Red Sox offer to the Cleveland Indians that saw the Red Sox land C/1B Victor Martinez for their playoff run.  Masterson, only 24 years old would have looked equally as good in a Blue Jays uniform going forward.  In 112 innings this season, he has a tidy 3.97 FIP, 7.7 K/9 and has shown a propensity to induce his fair share of ground balls (career 54% ground ball rate).

Daniel Bard is the one player I feel most certain the Red Sox wouldn’t have included in this offer, not this season.  The flame throwing Bard (fastball average 97.1), also just 24 years old is playing a huge role for the Red Sox in their bullpen this year and for that reason alone the Red Sox would be crazy to include him unless the Jays were also offering a solid relief pitcher in this trade (which was not reported in the article).  He has a ridiculous 12.2 K/9 in 43 innings as well as a solid 3.01 FIP.  He was a starting pitcher in the minor leagues in 2007 before being shifted to the bullpen (and seeing increased results) but either way (relief or starting) he would’ve been an extremely smart addition for the Blue Jays.

Michael Bowden, only 23 years old hasn’t been untouchable in the minors by any stretch (6.2 K/9) but has shown the ability to get hitters out at the AAA level (4.08 FIP) and while not a deal breaker still a solid depth player to add in any trade.  At the very least, he could come in and replace Scott Richmond or Brian Tallet fulltime.  Felix Doubrant, a 22 year old lefty has shown some promise early and is still very young.  Nick Hagadone is 23 years old and was also included in the Victor Martinez trade, so they must have seen something in this kid as well.

Never mind the fact they [Red Sox] would have essentially kissed their trade for Victor Martinez goodbye but factor in that they would have been trading 5 young, cheap and talented pitchers for a year and half rental of Roy Halladay and it just makes very little sense.  If the Jays had landed Buchholz, Bard, Masterson, Bowden and company JP Ricciardi would be deserving of a statue in front of the Rogers Centre.

Looking Back: An Old Post On J.P. Ricciardi

Wow, I bet you have not heard that name in a while and certainly weren’t expecting to see it at this blog!  I just ran across this old piece I wrote on October 6, 2009 at my old blog (Jays in Seven!) titled “In ‘Defense’ Of J.P.” and I thought it would be fun to revisit some of my old articles over the next few weeks.  Perhaps it will at least give us all something to actually talk about given the depressing state of the 2013 team.

Here it is, enjoy.

* * *

If you believe Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball) JP Ricciardi wasn’t exactly the Blue Jays first choice for General Manager when the team decided to part with former GM Gord Ash.  The team, and more specifically Paul Godfrey had eyes for Billy Beane’s right hand man Paul DePodesta but unfortunately for the team DePodesta would only leave for the ideal situation – aka not a non-traditional baseball market like Toronto.  The next logical choice for a team looking to compete on a budget turned out to be JP Ricciardi, a man who was supposed to have a real nose for talent and all in all a well respected baseball mind in the Oakland front office.

Ricciardi sold Paul Godfrey and the Blue Jays with the notion that less is more, especially when it comes to competing with less money than the big guys – New York and Boston.  Ricciardi’s tenure started with a bang as he roped in Erik Hinske who won the AL ROY and looked to have a bright future going forward, at this point the city and fans were hooked and though none of us will admit it – “In JP we trust” was a common phrase.  Anybody who says otherwise is flat out lying, Ricciardi was an exciting prospect for Blue Jays fans, and a slick tawking Bostonite who actually chose to come to Toronto, things were too good to be true.  So where did things go wrong?

Continue reading ‘Looking Back: An Old Post On J.P. Ricciardi’


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