Posts Tagged 'sean nolin'

Riding with the Wind, ’14: Spring Training News

There’s nothing major to report, just a few tidbits here and there as the Blue Jays continue to prepare for the season opener in a few weeks.  RA Dickey will pitch the opener, as the Jays open the season with a 4-game set against the Rays in Tampa.  The Yankees will then come to Toronto for a 3-game set for the Jays home opener.  In an interesting turn of events, Brandon Morrow, who has a $13MM club option for 2015, has been slated as the #5 starter for the Jays this season.  It’s conceivable that the Jays merely want him to pitch in Toronto against the NYY but, given his past success against the Rays, it’s not a pareticularly compelling argument.  So launches what http://www.fangraphs.com has determined is the 3rd most difficult schedule in all of MLB…against the 2 inter-divisional rivals that give them the greatest trouble historically.

According to Bluebird Banter (from a tweet by Gregor Chisolm), the Jays have optioned pitchers Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, and Chad Jenkins to AAA Buffalo.  None of the three had been terribly impressive in Spring Training, though that’s not Jenkins’ modus operandi anyways.  Jenkins is the one pitcher who makes me furrow my eyebrows.  There’s very little notable, or even noticeable, about him but he continues to get hitters out somehow.  That said, the well-documented logjam that the Jays have in terms of MLB-calibre pitching forces their hand somewhat.  These guys all had options left–though Drabek is out of options after 2014–so they were sent to Buffalo.  Because they had options remaining, they would had to have had a brilliant camp to stick with the Jays.

Gregor Chisholm reports that RA Dickey pitched in the Jays’ minor league camp to take the next step of preparation.  He pitched well, but that’s hardly important.  What is important is that RA pitched 7.2 innings and threw 100 pitches.  He continues to feel good as he stretches himself out during Spring Training.  Blue Jays’ fans recall the neck/upper back muscle pain he experienced last season, contributing to a slow start for RA and, consequently, a slow start by the Jays.

One of the players in the spotlight this ST has been Ryan Goins.  I think I speak for most fans when I say we don’t expect him to play like Roberto Alomar, however the starting job is his to lose.  The question is, ‘how has been performing?’  Defensively he’s been solid although there have been a few errors sprinkled here and there.  His range is good, turning the DP is good, etc.  He’s no 2B version of Ozzie Smith but he’s more than merely passable.  Offensively, however, is the major question mark.  Presently he’s put up a .171/.237/.171 slash line in ST, making his detractors say, ‘see, see–he can’t hit!’  Maybe their right, and maybe he won’t.  A couple of caveats apply, though: he’s pressing, adjusting to a new hitting coach, it’s ST, and the SS is small.  How much rope do I give him?  Well, enough to either hog-tie the position or fashion his own noose, I suppose.

So the Jays continue their inexorable march toward the 2014 regular season, with the opener a mere 15 days away from today.  I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about this season after their performance in 2013 and their inactivity in the off season.  There has been a lot of promise and expectations that have gone unfulfilled, and the so-called 3-year window hasn’t been extended.  Mixed messages have been sent ot the fans, notably: (1) we need starting pitching, only to fail in that goal (to this point); and (2) the players attempting to lure Ervin Santana to Toronto, only to fail in their attempt and then turn around and say it wasn’t that important anyways.  I’m in “wait-and-see” mode.

Wes Kepstro

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Mission ’13: The Skinny About Pitcher Ramon Rodrigo Pelfrey-Moyer

It’s been a rough season for the Jays. I don’t know how often I’ve written that, but I’ve thought it an awful lot more than I’ve written it. Lately there have been some bright spots, though. They won a series against the New York Yankees. Ryan Goins has impressed in his recent call-up. Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Buehrle both continue to plug away like the veteran pros that they are. But mostly it’s been a dismal campaign for the Jays.

You probably know that the Jays have used a lot of starters. Injuries and ineffectiveness have been the main reasons for this. I counted 8 pitchers who made ‘unplanned’ starts this year and lately I wondered how well or poorly these guys have fared. Why do I do this? It’s like asking “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?” Because it feels so good when I stop.

The 8 pitchers who have filled in are: Todd Redmond; Esmil Rogers; Chien-ming Wang; Ramon Ortiz; Chad Jenkins; Ricky Romero; Aaron Laffey; and Sean Nolin. Several caveats should be made immediately. Redmond, Rogers and Ortiz were intended to be long relief. Jenkins and Nolin are young guys: we won’t criticize them. Romero is trying to rediscover past success, unsuccessfully thus far. Wang and Laffey were/are no more than emergency filler. Not one of them was intended to fill the role that they have, especially for extended periods of time.

GS

IP

H

R

ER

2B/3B

HR

BB

SO

ERA

fWAR

T. Redmond

9

44.2

42

23

22

16

7

17

53

4.43

0.7

E. Rogers

15

80.0

99

50

47

31

14

24

61

5.29

0.3

C. Jenkins

3

15.0

18

7

6

8

1

4

6

3.60

0.2

C-m. Wang

6

27.0

40

24

23

8

5

9

14

7.67

-0.1

R. Romero

2

4.1

7

6

6

0

1

5

4

12.46

-0.1

A. Laffey

1

2.2

2

2

2

0

0

5

0

6.75

-0.1

S. Nolin

1

1.1

7

6

6

2

1

1

0

40.50

-0.1

R. Ortiz

4

16.1

21

10

10

6

3

8

3

5.51

-0.2

Totals

41

191.1

236

128

122

71

32

73

141

5.74

0.6

You might not be surprised to discover that it isn’t pretty. I wasn’t surprised either, hence the red fill in the “Totals” row. Todd Redmond and Chad (which is short for ”Chadwick”, and it’s his middle name) Jenkins have done pretty well. The other 6 have been terrible. It looked as if Esmil Rogers might be okay, but when I did a little FIP exercise after he pitched “well” against TEX during the win streak, I was disabused of that notion.

What did surprise me is that it adds up to about a full season (191.1 IP) of one low quality starter. Discovering that, I wanted to get a handle on what it meant. Individually, small sample size cautions apply but as a unit they’ve pitched the equivalent of a full season. So I asked myself, “Over the last 10 seasons or so, have any Major League starters had seasons that resembled what the Jays’ fill-ins have done this year?” The answer, I was somewhat dismayed to learn, is “Yes.” I mean, really: do ML teams use bad pitchers on purpose? “Yes.”

I chose 4 pitchers from the past decade whose efforts the Blue Jays’ fillers have resembled. The following is a lazy man’s chart comparing selected stats just to give us an idea of what this looks like historically (the pitchers were chosen on the basis of a few broad similarities):

Season

Team

W/L

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

fWAR

Team W/L

Rodrigo Lopez

2010

ARI

7-16

200.0

5.22

2.52

1.67

5.00

0.6

65-97

Mike Pelphrey

2011

NYM

7-13

193.1

4.89

3.03

0.98

4.70

0.6

77-85

Jamie Moyer

2004

SEA

7-12

199.0

5.65

2.67

1.94

5.20

0.2

63-99

Ramon Ortiz

2006

WAS

11-16

190.2

4.91

3.02

1.46

5.57

-0.1

71-91

The Jays

2013

TOR

7-13

191.1

6.63

3.43

1.51

5.74

0.6

???

I know that Pitcher W/L are less than meaningful but it was just too good to resist, given the similarities. I was also thrilled to discover that a pitcher season that closely resembles this years’ Jays fill-ins belonged to none other than Ramon Ortiz. You can’t make this stuff up.

This chart confirms that teams will indeed employ subpar pitchers for extended periods, not only for full seasons but for multiple seasons. These aren’t the only bad seasons over the last decade—there were many more—but we had to stop the madness somewhere (the principle of selectivity is an under-appreciated grace in our lives). Alas, injuries play a role, as does money, poor management, bad seasons, and a host of other factors.

Looking also at the team W/L records, several things seem at least superficially relevant. First, bad teams use bad pitchers. Second, bad teams are bad for a variety of reasons. Third, the 2011 New York Mets are the one team that, like the Jays, coulda/woulda/shoulda been better. It’s my guess that their record, 77-85, will be closest to where the Blue Jays land when the dust settles on the 2013 season.

No one is to blame for the performance of these pitchers. Sure, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson are injury prone, but I doubt that they want to get hurt. This also shouldn’t be laid at the feet of John Gibbons or Alex Anthopoulos: sometimes you find a Bartolo Colon, while other times Ramon Ortiz is exactly what you get. There’s a reason why they’re available, but they have reasonable potential to pitch decent innings over the short haul. The problem is that 191.1 IP isn’t a ‘short haul’: it’s a full seasons worth of innings.

Nolin was an emergency starter who is still very young and full of potential. As such, he’s fundamentally different from the other players on the list. Otherwise, the guys with the best chance of fighting for a job next season are Todd Redmond and Chad Jenkins. They’ve pitched well enough on a regular basis to earn a shot at long relief, and they’ve also shown that they can stretch it out when the Jays need a spot start. That said, they’re not crucial to success. Jenkins is only 25 so he may have more to offer but, realistically, they offer reasonable depth.

When your depth is used as extensively as the Jays’ has been, and when it most closely resembles bad seasons by Rodrigo Lopez, Mike Pelphrey, Jamie Moyer, and Ramon Ortiz, there are problems. Are the problems systemic? Well, on the one hand the Jays decided to use utility players on a full-time basis this season. The results betray how foolish that decision was. There are good reasons why utility players are utility players.

The pitching situation, on the other hand, isn’t like that. The incredible number of games lost to injuries have, at times, forced Alex Anthopoulos and crew to scramble just to have a starting pitcher. Whether that starter was major league calibre or not is almost irrelevant. If the Jays experience positive variation, rather than the negative variation of 2012-2013, I expect that the pitching could improve on that basis alone. Positive variation isn’t enough—more needs to be done—but it’s a start.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 48: Orioles win 10-6

The Toronto Blue Jays have had several starting pitching prospects debut for them over the last few years (Hutchison, Drabek, Alvarez, Jenkins, among others). Tonight is lefthander Sean Nolin’s turn. A number of injuries have brought Nolin up the depth chart, despite an early-season injury of his own.

 Melky’s May Meter

2-5

28 hits

Again Melky led off the Blue Jays’ half of the first with a hit; this time it was a home run. This put the Jays on the board, but they still trailed 3-1. Melky’s well on his way to a 35-hit month.

Sean Nolin looked good, perhaps a little too good. He threw a fastball, curveball and change-up in his very brief outing. The problem was that everything was over the middle of the plate, about belt high. The O’s are a good hitting team, and they took advantage, building a 6-1 lead before the second inning was complete. Nolin lasted 1.1 innings and threw 35 pitches, 22 for strikes, but gave up 7 hits and 6 earned runs.

The Blue Jays didn’t roll over, though. Melky and Brett Lawrie homered to make it 6-2, then Colby Rasmus doubled and Emilio Bonifacio singled to make it 6-3 for the Orioles. Conventional wisdom says that if the Jays’ ‘pen could keep them close, then the Jays could make a game of it.

Unfortunately Ramon Ortiz, who relieved Sean Nolin, gave up two home runs and three runs in his first inning of work. Chris Davis, who possesses easy power much like Josh Hamilton does, and Danny Valencia with a two-run shot, made it 9-3 Orioles in the 3rd inning. The offensive star of the game early on, though, has no homers: lead-off hitter Nick Markakis has two doubles and a single and two runs scored through 3 innings.

Things got a little testy in the bottom of the third as Brett Lawrie objected to how the strike zone was being interpreted a little too stridently for the umpire’s liking. He tossed Lawrie from the game—rightfully so—and when John Gibbons came out to make his opinion known, he was tossed as well. Brett Lawrie’s not good enough to complain as much as he does. His attitude was a major contributor to why Doug Melvin was prepared to trade him from Milwaukee (see article here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/05/nl-central-notes-hart-choo-arroyo-cardinals.html#disqus_thread).

Orioles’ starter Pat Tillman wasn’t very sharp, either. The Jays hit him hard and scored but weren’t able to keep up with the Orioles’ offensive explosion. He typically doesn’t pitch very well against the Jays, and tonight was no exception. Through four innings, the Jays scored 3 runs on 8 hits, 4 of which were extra base hits (2 doubles, 2 home runs).

The bottom end of the Jays’ ‘pen has made it easier for the Orioles. Ramon Ortiz pitched 2.2 innings and gave up 3 runs. He was relieved by Brad Lincoln, who’s up to his old tricks. He loaded the bases with 2 hits and a walk before inducing a fly ball for the third out. He didn’t give up any runs until a 6th inning solo HR by Adam Jones, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Lincoln demonstrated such good control in his half season with the Pirates (59.1 IP, 51 H, 14 BB, 60 SO) prior to the Snider-for-Lincoln deal, that his inability to get hitters out regularly is surprising. He’s walked at least one batter in each appearance before the 12-6 win over BAL, when he didn’t walk anybody. Is this another case of the difference between NL Central-AL East parks and batters?

Watching JP Arencibia strike out for the 3rd time in the game afforded me an opportunity to research something that I suspected about him, but had no evidence to support or dismantle my theory. He has terrific power which, of course, would be even better if he was a better hitter, but it seemed to me that the overwhelming majority of his HR came very early in the count. Taking a peek at his HR log at www.baseball-reference.com confirmed the suspicion. 32 of his 54 careers homers (59.25%) have been hit on or before he sees the 3rd pitch of the at bat, while he’s hit 8 on the 4th pitch. That leaves 14 home runs after the 4th pitch of an at bat. The deeper he goes in the count, the less power he displays. I’m sorry to leave it without context, but I don’t know how common this is for hitters. JP Arencibia’s all-or-nothing tendencies at the plate certainly exaggerate this discovery. Another interesting tidbit is that in 371 PA when the pitcher is ahead in the count (0-1, 0-2, 1-2), JPA has NEVER walked. Not once.

20-year old Baltimore 3B Manny Machado recorded his 5th straight road game with 3 or more hits. He plays an exceptional 3B for someone who: is 20 years old, and played 2 games at 3B prior to his ML debut. There is at least a whisper that the O’s would like to move him back to SS when JJ Hardy vacates the position. It’s a nice problem for the O’s: Machado is well above grade at both positions on the left side of the infield, and his offensive ability (presently .337/.367/.529) stacks up well against a couple of budding ML stars named Trout and Harper. There were two young, highly-regarded 3B in the game tonight. I know which one I believe is going to be a difference maker in his ML career.

I haven’t been very complimentary about the bottom of the Jays’ ‘pen this season, Brett Cecil excepted, but Esmil Rogers pitched well enough to let his team continue to chip away at the Orioles lead. Even after putting runners on 2nd and 3rd in the top of the 8th inning, he induced two pop-ups and a routine fly ball to end the inning with no damage done.

The Jays didn’t rally, falling to the Orioles in the second game. RA Dickey gets the nod in game 3 for the Jays. They don’t need to take 3 of 4 from the O’s, but it sure would be nice if they did.

Wes Kepstro

Mission ’13, Game 47: Jays win 12-6

It’s kids night at the Rog with Machado at 3B, Gausman on the mound, Nolin called up to start tomorrow, and Gose on the bench waiting for his turn. SP Kevin Gausman was drafted in the 1st round in 2012 and has only pitched 12 ball games before getting the call and replacing struggling Jake Arrieta on the big club. Toronto counters with Brandon Morrow, as the Jays look to continue their improved play.

Melky’s May Meter

1-3

26 hits

Melky didn’t take long to boost his May hit total, as he singled in the bottom of the first. He was stranded at first, but it’s good to see him continuing to get on base. He has a ways to go to reach the 51 hits he raked last May with the Giants. 3 hits in each of their remaining 8 games this month wouldn’t do it. Seriously though, the 35 hits I hoped for is within reach.

The Orioles, for their part, have struggled lately. Their recent 8-game homestand against San Diego, Tampa Bay, and the Yankees produced a lot of grief (2-6). Early in the game, though, the young guns performed. Manny Machado had a pair of doubles and Gausman was sharp.

Several days ago I wrote apiece openly wondering when we’re going to see the real Brandon Morrow. Is it time to accept that the inconsistent Brandon Morrow IS the real Brandon Morrow? This is his second start since missing 13 days, and he’s struggling. Machado doubled twice and Chris Davis homered as Morrow spotted the Orioles a 3-0 lead.

Morrow’s right around he plate, as the 5 hits, 5 Ks and only one walk attest, but he’s eminently hittable. That’s been the rub this season for Morrow: too few Ks (6.95 K/9), too many BBs (3.38 BB/9), too many hits (9.79 H/9), too many HRs (1.59 HR/9). Morrow’s fastball velocity (93.5) is not only very much in line with his Toronto career (93.47), but is at or near the top of the AL this season. His fastball ain’t the problem; location is.

The Jays saw enough of Kevin Gausman by the second time through the order to figure him out a little. Doubles by Lind and Arencibia scored a run, then a bunt base hit by Lawrie and a walk to Colby Rasmus loaded the bases. Bonifacio hit a sac fly to deep right center, Munenori botched a suicide squeeze—popping out to Wieters, but Lawrie scrambled back to 3B—before Melky laced a liner to left center that hung up just enough for Adam Jones to tack it down for the third out. The mini rally puts the Jays in the game, trailing the O’s 3-2.

Morrow followed the Jays’ outburst with a quick inning, yielding only another Machado double (his third in 5 innings [!], pushing his league-leading total to 21). The Jays’ hitters responded with a couple of runs in the bottom of the inning. Adam Lind singled sharply into LF with two out and was followed by a 2-run HR by JP Arencibia, putting the Jays in front 4-3.

Morrow set down the O’s in order in the top of the 6th inning, making it the second time this game that the Jays have scored and Morrow has done his job quickly. The hitters responded again with two outs, as Kawasaki and Melky walked to bring Jose Bautista to the plate. (In case you missed it, Jose had a pretty decent effort in the deciding game against the Rays: his wRC+ for the game was 774. Baseball-Reference had his RE24 at 4.05.) Bautista walked to load the bases for Edwin Encarnacion, who lined a grand slam off the net in LF. I love me my chicken wings, yes I do. The Jays pushed their lead to 8-3.

**Early in the inning, Nate McClouth fell into the stands fielding a fly ball. The umpire gave the out sign but clearly was unable to see what transpired. Every fan in the vicinity and Jamie Campbell from his position immediately above the play agreed: McClouth dropped the ball and, knowing that he couldn’t be seen by the umpire, picked it up and showed the umpire that he’d made the catch. Colby Rasmus was called out on the play. Some idiot with a good line of sight but terrible judgment threw a beverage on the field at McClouth. Not only was it ill-advised, it was unnecessary: EE took care of business.

The O’s took back one of those runs in the 7th inning on a sac fly by Alexi Casilla, then two more in the 8th on home runs by Nick Markakis and Adam Jones to make the score 8-6. Immediately following the home run, Pat Tabler’s first comment was “Morrow’s still under 100 pitches.” After Jones’s home run, Tabler said “he’s still in line for the W.” Incredible. If that doesn’t illustrate old school thinking about pitcher wins and losses, I don’t know what does. Morrow’s line for the game was 7+ IP, 10 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO. In other words he pitched marginally better than the O’s pitchers, who pitched very poorly. The O’s had 7 extra base hits in the game. Morrow wasn’t fooling anybody except, perhaps, Matt Wieters.

The bottom of the 8th was interesting. Anthony Gose singled on a 3-2 pitch from lefty TJ McFarland. Bautista hit a sharp grounder to sure-handed JJ Hardy at SS, who bobbled it. Then Wieters misplayed a pitch to Edwin for a passed ball, allowing the runners to advance. On the throw to 2nd, Gose ran home and Casilla’s throw was high, allowing Gose to slide under/around Wieters’ tag. Bautista advanced to third. DeRosa pinch hit for Lind and walked. JP Arencibia’s sac fly was the first out of the inning. Lawrie singled, scoring a run. Colby’s sac fly was the second out. Casilla almost made a brilliant play on Bonifacio’s humpback liner into shallow center but it scored a run, too. Munenori Kawasaki then grounded out to Chris Davis at first to end the inning. If I watched this game, having just returned from a three-year stint at the end of the world, I would have thought that the O’s were the same team that they were since 1998. They haven’t played this poorly in ages.

Brad Lincoln came in for mop-up duty and for the first time this year, he didn’t walk anyone. Brandon Morrow’s poor start was accommodated by an orgy of offense, as the Jays tied their season high for runs. Importantly, the Jays beat a team in their division that is, (1) ahead of them, and (2) struggling lately. The Jays are capitalizing on situations in the game, as well as the larger situations in the AL East. This was yet another good win.

Wes Kepstro

Sean Nolin – Come On Down

Sean Nolin is expected to get the start tomorrow night in game two of a four game series versus Baltimore.  The 23-year old started the season on the disabled list before making three starts in 2013.  His results have been outstanding over 15.1 innings as he has a posted a stellar 2.29 FIP with a 9.39 K/9.

Marc Hulet of Fangraphs ranked him as the #9 Blue Jays prospect (prior to the exodus of all of our top names) and wrote the following:

One of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season was the emergence of Nolin. As one front office person stated, “I haven’t seen him on any top prospect lists yet, but he should be.” The southpaw missed some time due to injury but he blew through high-A ball with a 2.19 ERA and 90 strikeouts in 86.1 innings. Nolin, 22, also made three starts in double-A. He has a big, strong pitcher’s frame and could develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter depending on the development of his secondary stuff. He’s very aggressive with his fastball that sits in the low 90s and it can touch 93-94 mph. His curveball has a shot at developing into a plus pitch but his changeup was referred to by the evaluator as “a work in progress.” It was also suggested that, if the repertoire cannot be improved upon, Nolin could be a successful “power lefty coming out of the ‘pen.” He should return to the starting rotation at the double-A level in 2013 and, if he can stay healthy, he could reach the majors by the end of the year.

He also scouted his second start of the 2013 season and had the following observations

Nolin, 23, face the New York Yankees Double-A affiliate, which featured some talented but inexperienced young prospects. He looked a little rusty early on, which was not a surprise considering his season didn’t start until May 7. His full windup lacked fluidity in the first inning but got better as the game went on.

Early on, the left-handed pitcher struggled with his fastball command and the opposing hitters were having some really good hacks on his offerings. He was also not throwing his curveball for strikes on a consistent basis. The good news is that those issues should be correctable. At least part of the issue was due to Nolin’s mechanics. His body was drifting forward, causing his arm to drag behind him and messing with his release. It improved as the game progressed and once he stopped rushing through his delivery, although he’s a naturally-quick worker.

Nolin doesn’t do himself any favors with his delivery because he ends his follow-through in a very poor fielding position and I watched two catchable bouncers get past him. By landing in a more favorable position, he could potentially snag or knock down a lot more ground balls.

In general, his delivery suggests to me that he’ll never have better than average command. I would give his low-90s fastball a potential 50 grade and his curveball a 55-60. He didn’t use his changeup much at all in this game and I would have a tough time putting a fair grade on the offering. Based on what I saw (keeping in mind this was just his third start on the year), I would have to rate Nolin as a future No. 4 starter. He doesn’t look ready for the majors but another 10-15 minor league starts could make a world of difference.

While his minor league pedigree has been fairly impressive needless to say expectations need to be tempered.  He is being called up because “who else”?  The Blue Jays are fighting tooth and nail to keep this season from becoming a complete waste and are hopeful Nolin can fill in with a spot start (or two).


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