Friday, May 27, 2011

Blue Jays go with Bullpen by Committee

- looses hold in first outing - Jays lose as defensive implosion at third and first base in the ninth muddies waters

The Jays collapse in the ninth inning - again.

Image of Box Score from the Blogger Baseball Scorecard - Chicago White Sox at Toronto Blues Jays - Thursday May 26th

Two days after I criticized the way John Farrell is managing the Blue Jays bullpen in my 1/3 the way through the season Over-view, and two days after a monsterous melt down against New York --- word from Jerry Howarth on the radio broadcast during the game Thursday that Manager John Farreell called a bullpen pitchers meeting before the game where he announced that he has designated 3 pitchers as closers and 3 as set-up pitchers - what order they were in with-in the group was up to them to prove.

Why he felt he had to identify six of eight of his relief pitchers as closer and set-up material - and the other two... losers? ... I can only guess. Perhaps he felt the bullpen team needed structure - from which pitchers could find their identity with-in the relief team - and a peer group perhaps with-in which they could compete towards greater greatness.

Which ever way one wishes to say it, the Blue Jays have a Bullpen by Committee.

In the past when a manager goes to Bullpen by Committee the only reason is because the bullpen isn't working. But I wonder why all the special attention on the bullpen, when it's several injuries to the starting staff - and the fact that none of them seem to be able to go deep into games on a consistent basis - that is at the root of the wear and tear on the relief staff --- and the reason the batting order is sputtering, putting too much pressure on themselves (leaving out the fact that Adam Lind - with his god-like batting in May - is out indefinitely - and that Jose Bautista is in a slump right now and no-ones giving him any pitches to hit anymore, now that, 1/3 of the way into this season he's proven he's the same batting champion as last year).

Tonight Farrell used Jason Frasor, Marc Rzepczynski, then Jon Rauch in the 8th and 9th in a tie game - so that's the 'Closer' Committee (at home, he was playing to win with last at bats - trying also to right the ship after a numbing dismissal by the Yankees that capped a turn around from a winning team - May 22, 8-2 in their last 10 - tied for 2nd place - to a last place team in the AL East - losers of 6 of 10).

So knowing who's on the Closer Committee, I broke out the 5 starters from the roster, then extracted the Closer Committee, and that left me to guess the Set-up Committee, which was easy if you score the games - they are the three guys left out of five that Farrell uses in close games.

Below is the result.

John Farrell's Bullpen Meritocracy
(all pitchers listed in alphabetical order with-in their respective Committee)


(not the subject of this article)

Kyle Drabek
Brandon Morrow
Jo-Jo Reyes
Ricky Romero
Carlos Villanueva

Relief Staff

Set-up Committee
Dotel       15  0 1 1  1  1  12.1  11  8  3 11 17  12.41 1.78  5.84
Francisco   15  0 1 2  5  0  13.0  12  9  4  8 15  10.38 1.54  6.23
Janssen     20  0 1 0  0  4  20.1  15  4  0  5 15   6.64 0.98  1.77

Closer Committee
Frasor      21  0 1 1  0  4  19.2  14  4  2  7 20  9.15  1.07  1.83
Rauch       20  0 2 2  5  1  19.1  15  9  3  7 12  5.59  1.14  4.19
Rzepczynski 23  0 2 0  0  7  21.0  16  7  1  5 18  7.71  1.00  3.00

Mop-up Crew
Camp        21  0 0 1  0  3  23.2  22  5  1  5 12  4.56  1.14  1.90
Perez        5  0 0 0  0  0   7.2   9  5  2  3  6  7.04  1.57  5.87

(above stats from ESPN --- on May 26, 2011 - 11:30 PM)

So one could view the order of this list as the way John Farrell judges the quality of the pitchers on his roster.

The starters are starters, they are starters because they pitch great and can go long - everyone else is a major league pitcher who, in the eyes of the organization, for one reason or another, are better short.

So the Closer Committee, the Set-up Committee and the Mop-up Committee are the order of quality from best to less best in the eyes of the Manager.

I don't know if this way of breaking the Relief Staff into catagories is helpful to the team or not - I guess it all depends whether or not these guys believe they are a team.

To me, from way out here in Leslieville, it seems like classifying everyone so much like this could lead to resentment of one group of another. Wouldn't it be better to leave the door wide open to any pitcher on the staff to achieve these roles? Wouldn't that be a better way light a fire? Or was that the point?

Perhaps the point is, 'thank you guys I really appreciate all the innings you've put in - Oh, and by the way, this is the order in which you suck.' The more I think about it, that's what it seems to say to me - even though it is doubtful that was the managers intent.

And while I'm at it, what's going on with "The Mop-up Man" as I've begun to call Shawn Camp (because Farrell's using him only in low leverage situations). Last year he mowed down every batter he faced with that wicked slider - pitching one inning only - and only in 'high leverage' situations. And this year he's that same pitcher, only he's never used in high leverage situations. What am I missing? He got the 3rd best ERA on the relief staff! He and they are a full 2 runs per nine innings better than the next best echelon.

But Shawn Camp's a veteran, and a pro; he'll keep doing what he's doing --- knowing that a Major League Baseball team is a meritocracy, a professional organization - the cream will rise. A 1.90 ERA over 23.2 innings should have him in one of those 'committees' soon.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Toronto Blue Jays: 47 played - 115 to go

Many people feel you shouldn't judge a baseball team's performance until about the 1/3 mark of the season. Well we're just about there - the Jays have won 24 and lost 23 for a total of 47 games. 162 divided by 3 is 54 - so with a week to go to the 1/3 mark I'd say it's time for a over-view.

I'm a fan of Sabermetrics - I think more information is good. Some of the new stats, especially the defensive calculations are long over-due. But to this point I haven't jumped into Baseball-reference and learned how to manipulate all the cool tools for parsing the numbers - I will soon.

This overview is my impression of the Jays first third of the 2011 season. But trust me - I've scored 35 of the 47 games the Jays have played thus far - that means I have noted every play, every substitution, and in about a 1/4 of the games I have scored, I even noted every pitch ... . Plus I have a mind like a steel trap --- So Trust Me :)  --- my opinion is worth something, even if I don't back up all these ideas with statistics - maybe next time I will.


In a nut shell, this team's line up - with all the starters playing together for an extended time - is as good as any team's in the American League East - but injuries to the 'A-team' have been regular and persistent so far - and the Blue Jays have zero depth. If one player goes down the team runs per-game average drops to that of a second division team.

The Running Game

I am an enthusiastic supporter of the little ball strategy that the Blue Jays tried to go with this year, unfortunately once again, depth is a problem, with one or two key, quick and fast base runners out of the equation, the Jays don't have the parts to play that game. Not only that but the Blue Jay farm system has always developed players based on Earl Weaver's maxim for building American League teams: 'Pitching, defence and the three-run homer' - as such you can't just bring up your quick, fast prospects that have been learning the old metric for 5 years and expect them to now learn little ball at the major league level - the inside game has to be taught through-out the organization and over time the big league team will begin to reflect that style of play.


The new catcher is making great improvements to his rceiving game so says Buck Martinez, and who am I to argue?

The experiment at 1st base has been a great success in my mind. Adam Lind is a better than average receiver at 1st base, and an good defensive player at that position. The experiment at third hasn't turned out so well. Edwin Encarnacion has brain farts over there at least twice a week - it's too much - perhaps DH is where he's headed.

Up the middle, John McDonald fills in without a missed beat for the oft injured Hill. The middle infield is above average.

The outfield has below average speed and average arms. Their routes to balls are nothing to write home about, but they get the job done. With Snider down to AAA Las Vegas 'to work on his swing mechanics' - so say the Jays - the outfield defence is much improved. Snider reminds me of Jose Canseco in left. The Bautista in right field is OK, his arm is above average and he's made a few scintillating assists that make opposing teams change how they run the bases - but he gets fooled on balls off the bat sometimes and doesn't get to those long runs-to-an-out plays you see the Tampa Bay Rays RF tandem (Joyce and Zobrist) make out there all the time; but he rarely lets a ball get past him - and I've rarely seen him take a bad path to a ball - he's a competent right fielder. Patterson is great in left, not so much in centre, and Davis is above average on getting to balls, but has a below average arm for a centre fielder.

The bench for the most part this year - isn't. Defensive replacements, pinch hitters or pinch runners were not available to John Farrell for the majority of first 47 games. The 'bench' was either down in AAA to make room for extra arms in the beleaguered bullpen, or injured (as in Adam Lind who sat on the bench for almost a week before being designated).

The Starting Staff

Right out of spring training key people in the starting rotation were absent - and this has become a theme. The people who have started for the Jays so far this year for the most part have not been able to go deep into games. But they are a better than average starting staff - they keep the Jays in almost every game. I can count two, maybe three early blow-ups so far. But this inability to go deep in games has put a lot of pressure on the relief staff - and on the line-up.

The Relief Staff

John Farrell I believe is still leaning who is who on this relief staff. I have the benefit of having watched Manager Cito Gaston and Pitching Coach Bruce Walton develop a very good Relief Pitching Team last year - so I get the benefit of the long view. I can see Farrell's influence as he and Walton try different combinations, this person in that role, that person in this role... . In my opinion, they have yet to find the magic function that lands everyone in a role that allows them the best opportunity to succeed. That being said, the innings these guys have had to shoulder for the team because of the short starts cannot be understated - on a good day this is still a 1st division relief staff.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Jose Bautista is better than Bonds, Ruth - Baseball

Toronto's Jose Bautista has been tearing up the league this month. His At-Bats per Home Run ratio (7.44) is better than Babe Ruth's 1927 mark (9.00).

For comparison, Bonds was getting intentionally walked right, left and centre as the play-offs approached in 2001 - but still Bautista's on base percentage beats the 2001 spectacle man. And the batting average - holy-Toledo Bat Man!

Player         Year                  BA     OBP    SLG%
Jose Bautista  2011 (to May 18)     .370   .516   .849
Barry Bonds*   2001 (73 HR season)  .328   .515   .863
Mark McGwire*  1998 (70 HR season)  .299   .470   .752
Roger Maris    1961 (61 HR season)  .269   .372   .620
Babe Ruth      1927 (60 HR season)  .356   .486   .772
(*Steroid and Juiced Ball era)

People who don't live in Toronto are starting to notice...

This piece was published in SB Nation on May 16, 2011

The Tragic Evolution Of Jose Bautista

By Jeff Sullivan - Editor SB Nation

It started in September of 2009. So gradually, few noticed.

Sick of being average and under-productive, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista woke up on September 7, 2009 and committed to making a change. Believing anything is possible if you just do the work, Bautista dedicated himself to the pursuit of becoming the greatest hitter the world has ever seen.

Bautista's efforts paid off almost immediately. That day, he launched a two-run homer to left off Twins starter Jeff Manship. Over the rest of the season, Bautista would bat 111 times over 26 games and blast ten home runs. Bautista finished the year pleased with his progress. He still wasn't where he wanted to be. But he was getting getting closer.

In 2010, Jose Bautista started drawing widespread attention. It's rare for a player in Toronto to capture America's focus, but Bautista couldn't be ignored, especially given his history. After a slow April, he hit 12 home runs in May. He hit 11 home runs in July. He hit 12 home runs in August, and 11 home runs in September, and he finished the year with 54 home runs, 12 ahead of second-place Albert Pujols. In what many were calling the Year of the Pitcher, Jose Bautista bucked the trend and became one of the game's most fearsome sluggers.

But Bautista wasn't satisfied. For all of his work, he was almost a dead-pull hitter. Hit Tracker Online shows that only one of his 54 home runs went the opposite way, to right field.

Aware of this hole in his game, Bautista kept on training. He worked on pulling pitches he could pull, and going the other way with pitches he couldn't. It wasn't long into 2011 before his work started showing up in the results. A key point came on May 15, again against the Twins. Already having homered twice to left field, Bautista stood in against Kevin Slowey in the top of the sixth and ripped a fastball out to right-center. It was the second opposite-field home run Bautista had hit in a month and a half, doubling his previous year's total.

At that point, it would've been enough. Bautista had 16 home runs in 32 games. His average stood at .368, and his OPS stood at 1.388. Gone were any notions that Bautista's 2010 season had been a fluke. Bautista wasn't just a power hitter - he had become a premier power hitter, capable of hitting the ball out to all fields. There was little doubt that Jose Bautista had turned into the greatest hitter in baseball.

But what nobody realized was that Bautista would only get better still. Bautista had gotten a taste of what he wanted to be, and he decided he wanted the whole dish. His first four-homer game came on May 22, against the Astros. His first five-homer game - and the first five-homer game in Major League history - followed a few days later, on May 26 against the White Sox. Two of the home runs went to left. One of the home runs went to center. Two of the home runs went to right, with one of them measured at 576 feet.

Before long, Jose Bautista was hitting a home run every single time he came to the plate. ...
Read the rest...

Thanks to:

Old Time Family Baseball - May 16, 2011 -
Missing BJ - May 15, 2011 -
Baseball-Reference -
SB Nation - May 16 2011 -


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scorecard of Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander's no-hitter against Toronto

Justin Verlander had the perfect game going with one out in the eighth. In a very strange at-bat by J.P. Arencibia, in what I thought was a considered, planned attempt to break up the no-hitter with a contact hitters approach - where he fouled off everything near the plate, starting with the first pitch - Arencibia drew a walk on 8 foul balls and a ball four that looked like it might be called a strike. At that moment this observer felt that if Arencibia hadn't taken that ball he very likely would have broken up the no hitter. As it was the next batter grounded into a double play to end the inning.

After what seemed like an eternally long top of the ninth - that saw the Tigers' solicitous starter pacing in and out of the clubhouse tunnel, up and down the causeway steps, pulling at his fingers, until finally just sitting on them, as the Detroit batters plated 2 more for the appropriate forfeit score of 9-0 - Justin Verlander put down the 25th, 26th and 27th Jay's hitters in the bottom of the inning on 10 pitches.

Toronto facing Justin Verlander May 7th 2011

(All images 'Rebigulate' on click)
See the whole game scorecard at The Blogger Baseball Scorecard, "Scorecard: May 7, 2011 Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays - Game 2 of 4".