Archive for August, 2011

Reminising on Offseason Trade Rumors

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Photo by ElCapitanBSC       Photo by SD Dirk         Photo by Keith Allison
All licensed under Creative Commons
During the 2010/2011 offseason Alex Anthopolous was said to have been extremely active on the offseason trade market. According to rumors the Jays tried to acquire Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, and Zack Greinke among others. All three were prime trade targets with many teams looking to acquire each of of them and in the case of Justin Upton half the league was getting involved. So it is no surprise to hear that Alex Anthopolous was right there with the other GM’s in trying to acquire these “star” players. Although none of the three players were traded to the Blue Jays it is nice to hear that the Jays are getting involved. Alex Anthopolous checked all the possibilities and with that said we can now look back at what may have been.
Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla was the one of these three guys that the Jays were probably closest to acquiring, at least according to the rumors. Some of the big names being thrown around as players to be sent to the Marlins were along the likes of Travis d’Arnaud plus a pitcher such as Brett Cecil or Mark Rzepczynski and then some filler prospects. At the time it seemed like it was a little much for Uggla, but he was coming off the best season of his career, a season in which he produced 5.0 WAR. But nonetheless it takes talent to get talent and in the prior seasons Dan Uggla had been an all-star second basemen with the year in and year out consitency of a 30 home run season, which from second base or even the proposed switch to third base would have been a welcome addition to the Blue Jays.

As for this season Uggla hasn’t been quite as stellar as in years past. On the whole Uggla has a 106 wRC+ putting him in the category of slightly above average, but prior to July when his hitting streak started Uggla was hitting to a lack-luster 59 wRC+ which is far below average. He was having one of the worst statistical seasons of his career until July when he suddenly started a hitting streak that went on for 33 games before Cubs second basemen Darwin Barney made a diving play to rob Uggla of a hit.
During his hitting streak Dan Uggla was a completely different person than the man who had been hitting to a 59 wRC+. In that 33 game span Uggla brought his batting average up above the mendoza line and hit a whopping 15 homers. After seeing how Uggla performed at the beginning of the season and how he has performed since the beginning of July it is really a tale of two seasons. Though if you look at the numbers that Uggla has put up in the past you have to believe the talent level lies closer to the latter half of the season. Even with Uggla’s disappointing first half he still has a 2.3 lead in the FanGraphs version of WAR over the recently departed Aaron Hill (Uggla 1.8 WAR, Hill -0.5 WAR).
If the trade was to go through with the proposed d’Arnaud, Cecil/Rzep plus filler that would seem to be a little much. Having seen the breakout season from d’Arnaud as well as how Rzep was kind of the main part in the Rasmus trade I’m thinking that it wouldn’t have been a great trade for the Jays. As well had the trade been made then it would block Adeiny Hechavarria who has enjoyed a very nice batting line since joining the 51′s. It is already known that he has major league defense and in AAA it looks like he has made some genuine changes to his swing as to push at the Jays for a promotion. He may not be ready yet, but if he can put it together his combination of stellar defense, good speed, okay hitting and the fact that he would make far less money than Uggla he could turn out to be a much better option. All of this is just pluses to the fall-through of a what was a possible Dan Uggla trade.
Justin Upton
Justin Upton was probably the single most sought after player in the offseason trade market and he never even ended up being traded. Despite that the Jays were always rumored to be one of the top teams in the running for Upton before Kevin Towers decided that no prospect package he had been offered was good enough for the younger Upton. The major rumored trade offer that was heard from the Jays was Travis Snider, Kyle Drabek, Carlos Perez, plus another pitcher in the lower ranks of the farm system (Chad Jenkins, Drew Hutchison) for Justin Upton.
Originally this package looked like a lot to give up for Upton, even if he was a 23 year old phenom. But now looking in hindsight it would have been a steal for the Jays. Three of the proposed trade chips haven’t really impressed this year Snider has been sent up and down, Drabek started the year with the Jays and then got sent down, and Perez looks to have taken major steps back in both his offensive and defensive play. Sure Drabek and Snider can be considered top prospects, but in my eyes Snider at least kind of seems like a lost cause he may only be 23, but he has plenty of major league at bats and he can’t seem to figure it out. He has shown flashes of multiple tools, but all in different seasons, he can’t seem to figure it out and put it all together for one final season. Then with Drabek it seems like a mental issue where he has kind of dominated every level of the minors, but with him skipping AAA it seemed like the majors were a little too much for him.
Looking on Jays forums with the topic of that package for Justin Upton the almost consensus thought was that the Jays shouldn’t give up that package for Upton, who at the time had a 4 WAR and 3 WAR season behind him, with scouts only predicting for him to improve. This year he has definitely done that because with still a month to go Justin Upton leads the league with a 6.2 WAR and is looking like he may become the NL MVP.
Where as you look at the stats of Snider and Drabek in the majors and they are a little lacking. During his two tenures with the Jays this season Travis Snider has a .225/.269/.348 slash line with a 69 wRC+. That 69 wRC+ would rank 11th last in the league if Travis was qualified. Also between his post all-star call-up and his recent demotion Travis Snider took a whopping total of one walk. Walking used to be a skill that Travis had, but now for whatever reason he seems to have forgotten how to utilize it. Because of this lack luster play in the majors the Jays send him down to AAA and there he plays how we expected him to play in the . Granted it is the PCL which is very hitter friendly, but could Travis be that AAAA guy. He’s still young and has time to change things, but as of right now things aren’t looking good. He isn’t getting major league at bats and he has a flurry of outfield prospects looking to pass him in the ranks.
As for Drabek well he definitely hasn’t been much better. When he was in the majors he had an ERA of 5.70 with a FIP that suggests it shouldn’t have been much better. This was due in part to the fact that Drabek wasn’t missing bats (5.94 K/9) and in part because his control was no where to be seen (6.44 B/9). This led him to a last in the league 0.92 K/BB ratio. He was supposed to be some super prospect and he just simply couldn’t do it in the majors. I personally attribute some of that to him skipping AAA. I know that the PCL is extremely hitter friendly and that it can be a nightmare for pitchers, but if he got the experience there and dealt with struggles at AAA it may have prepared him better for struggles in the majors.
With Carlos Perez there isn’t much to say. He was a highly attributed catching prospect for the Jays despite him playing in the lower ranks of the farm system. This year he has definitely regressed at both his defense and offense as he was known for being an contact hitter and his average has regressed more than 30 points down to .269. As for his defense well his CS% has dropped from 49% in 2009 to 36% in 2010 to %30 in 2011, thats not a great trend there.
Finally with the add on prospect which was speculated to be a pitcher it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Even if it were a higher end prospect such as Chad Jenkins or Drew Hutchison it wouldn’t have been a big deal because the Jays just have so much pitching talent in even the rookie leagues now. Players such as Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Arodis Cardona, and Justin Nicolino are all poised to take any spot that would have been opened with the Justin Upton trade.
On the whole unlike with the first trade rumor it is looking like the Jays should have jumped on this. Even if both Snider and Drabek turn out to be serviceable major leaguers, they still aren’t worth a guy who is an MVP candidate at 24 and one who is signed through until 2015 at a now team friendly contract. Despite this I can understand how at the time AA wouldn’t have made this trade. Prior to this season Snider looked like he still had plenty of potential and Drabek looked like he may become a #2 starter in the long run. Who knows maybe in a year or two Justin Upton will wear out his welcome in Arizona and the Silent Assassin will come in for the kill.
Zack Greinke
Last but certainly not least was Zack Greinke. Greinke was kind of a difficult trade candidate because he was the AL Cy Young winner in 2009, but then in 2010 it appeared as if he appeared to have completely tanked as he put up a 4.17 ERA and produced a 10-14 win loss record. Despite the basic numbers his peripherals still looked pretty good as he had a 3.34 FIP and a 3.60 xFIP for the year. The only thing that was a little concerning was the dip in Greinke’s strikeout rate which went from a career high 9.5 K/9 in 2009 to a 7.4 K/9 in 2010. Greinke would have seemed like a classic buy low AA pickup.
The reported asking price for what at the time seemed like the only Top 25 pitcher on the trade market  was apparently Travis Snider and Kyle Drabek, which seemed like an absurd overvalue. They were asking for two players who were going to be the centerpieces for a deal for a 23 year old signed to a team friendly contract for 5 years to be the centerpieces to a 27 year old coming off a bad season signed to a less team friendly contract for two years . I think that right there was the problem and once the Royals reportedly wanted that and nothing less the trade talks with the Jays seemed to dwindle.
When you look at the surface stats by Zack Greinke this year with his 4.22 ERA and 12-5 win loss record it looks like the Jays were right in keeping their young, but recently disappointing prospects. Though when you look further you see that Zack Greinke actually has been much better than his 4.21 ERA indicates as he holds a 3.01 FIP as well as a 2.42 xFIP. Much of the difference between the ERA and these advanced stats can be attributed to the absolutely horrid defense that the Brewers have put out on the field this year, but what can also be held somewhat accountable is his career low 64.3 LOB%. As well as having better peripheral ERA stats Greinke also has a 10.90 K/9 and a 5.17 K/BB, two numbers that rank as the highest in the young hurlers career and among the leagues elite.
All of this sums up to a trade that may have worked and may not have. On one hand Greinke has been doing great this year (although the basic numbers don’t show it) where as Snider and Drabek have been lacking, but on the other hand Greinke is only signed until 2012 and there is no guarantee that he would sign with us past that mark. The real time when the Blue Jays would need a guy like Greinke is when they know that they are competeing, kind of like the Brewers this season. The Jays very well may compete next season if there is the added wildcard spot, but it is still not a sure thing. I would say that if Greinke was signed until 2013 a year when the Jays are definitley more likely to compete for a playoff spot then maybe the trade makes sense, but it is still a little iffy due to the still very apparent potential of Drabek and Snider. But with where the Jays are and where they will be next year, it seems like it was a good decision to let the deal fall through.
Final Thoughts
This past offseason was definitely filled with many Blue Jays trade rumors, much of which can be attributed to the man who never sleeps Alex Anthopolous. These rumors showed that the Jays aren’t afraid to agressively pursue three fairly high profile players, even if in the end they don’t acquire any of them. But nonetheless they tried and in this set of rumors there was a trade that they didn’t make and shouldn’t have made, a trade that they should have made, but couldn’t have made and a trade that could be considered a toss up. Of course all of these opinions are with hindsight so its always nice to say the Blue Jays should have done this or they should have done that, but in the end the Jays acquired none of the three high profile players and they may just be better because of it in the future. That is the thing with these kind of high profile trades you just never know until years down the road.

The Problem with MLB Managers

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Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons

Why is it that 90% of MLB Managers feel that they need to bat rookies so low in the lineup. Do they feel like there is too much pressure, like the rookies won’t be able to handle more “responsibility” or are they just plain old-fashioned.

So then what is it about rookies that just “makes” managers bat them in the 7th, 8th, or 9th spot, it doesn’t make any sense. Just because he hasn’t seen MLB pitching that doesn’t mean that he isn’t any good, many of the top prospects being called up can make immediate impacts as sometimes one of the better hitters on a team. Take Dustin Ackley for example, when Ackley was called up in his first game Eric Wedge batted him 7th. Just think about this scenario for a second, you are in a pennant race, you are half a game back out of first place in the AL West and you bat your best hitter 7th; say what. Yes, you’ve got it 7th, not 6th, not 5th, not 4th, and not 3rd, you bat your best hitter 7th. Thats not even the worst part, the player they batted 5th Chris Pegauro at that point in the season he had a .214 average and a horrid .713 OPS, nuff said.

Now looking to a more Jays relevant example Brett Lawrie. He’s a player who has absolutely killed PCL pitching, the Jays hyped him up so much and then you go and bat him 9th, why? It makes absolutely no sense, he is probably the most hyped prospect in Blue Jays history and you stuff him in the bottom of the lineup where he doesn’t belong. Ok the Jays do have a good lineup and it is his first game so maybe John Farrell can get a gimme for that one. How bout the second game, let’s see where is Brett batting oh wait of course it is 9th. And this time its even worse he batted 9th when our backup catcher Jose Molina batted ahead of him. Sure you can point to his .300+ average, but that is in very limited plate appearances, there is absolutely no way that Brett is a worse hitter than Jose Molina, even in his second MLB game.

Ok fine you can point to the fact that you don’t want to embarass the veteran (stupid unwritten rules), but even then how do you bat Brett Lawrie behind Eric frickin Thames. In the last 7 days Eric Thames has registered 1 hit in 21 at bats and that warrants batting him in the number two spot. So if that is all you have to achieve to bat in the number 2 spot then how is it that Brett and his .459 wOBA (in AAA) warrants the ninth spot. It makes absolutely no sense. If anything you should be batting Colby Rasmus second (not Eric Thames) and put Lawrie in the 6th spot right behind Lind and EE. There he is absolutely without a doubt more valuable player to the team. He is lucky that in his first couple games there has been runners on base for him, but if he continues to bat behind Aaron Hill, Jose Molina etc. that won’t be the case.

The problem is this Brett Lawrie nonsense isn’t even the end of it. Since the beggining of the season JP Arencibia has had to put through with hitting in the bottom half of the lineup. Where he has hit 18 homers tied for the league lead by catchers. But guess how many of those were solo bombs not 5, not 10, 13. Thats 72% of his home runs that were hit when no one was on base. Do you know why no one was on base because the two guys who have most often hit in front of him are Juan Rivera and Aaron Hill. Two guys whose combined OBP’s average out to .293 and whose combined home run totals is 11. Granted JP’s OBP is actually worse than that .293 mark, but at least there would be runners on base when he hits his homers, it isn’t like Aaron Hill is taking advantage of that spot in the lineup so why not change it up.

The consensus conclusion should be that for whatever reason despite being SABR savvy and whatever else it seems as if the managers of baseball still stick to their old ways when we are obviously moving to a new generation and if they don’t move with us then soon enough they will get left behind. Maybe there is some underlying thing that no one outside of baseball knows about, but from the sidelines it seems pretty obvious that these decisions that are being made are bad ones. I don’t care if someone is a veteran or not, if he is good he gets a high spot in the lineup if he isn’t, well then bump him down . The only manager who I can honestly say that I look at on a regular basis and say “hey he’s doing a good job” is Joe Maddon manager of the Tampa Bay Rays. He is consistently using statistics to help his team and he is always playing the percentages (and walking Damon to face Longoria is not playing the percentages John). So kudos to you Joe because you are one in a million and you definitely stand out from the rest, I hope that we as a baseball society can progress from the current mediocrity of MLB managing.

Mr. Mustache vs. Senor Sideburns

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At the beginning of the 2011 season Travis Snider was one of many sleeper picks in fantasy leagues and was predicted by many Jays fans to finally have a break out season, he was always a top prospect he just hadn’t put it all together. The prior year in 2010 Travis Snider showed many improving skills such as his expected but unseen power, but his play was limited due to an injury which kept him out for a major part of the season. Despite his injury he still managed to be a slightly above average player with a 105 wRC+ in the 82 games that he played.
At the beginning of the 2011 season Eric Thames was a 24 year old who had just had a great season at AA New Hampshire. In 2010 he hit 27 home runs and had a .370 OBP, which was good for a .896 OPS a number that marked third in the Eastern League and ahead of such prospects as Anthony Rizzo, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Danny Espinosa. In that year he had good power, he hit for good average, but his defense still wasn’t great and he wasn’t thought to be a very toolsy player shown by his 7th round draft choice.These two guys are obviously two very different players, but can also be considered one in the same. Both are young outfielders and both were candidates to be sent down to Vegas so that the Blue Jays could bring up Brett Lawrie. In the end the decision was to send Travis Snider down.

Analyzing the Demotion
To an uneducated Blue Jays fan it may have seemed like an obvious choice to send down Travis Snider since his 2011 slash line of .225/.269/.348 is far inferior to that of Eric Thames at .270/.313/.455. But Travis Snider is still the top prospect and the Jays have stated that they want him to be there everyday left fielder and many others believe the same. So for Alex Anthopolous it couldn’t have been an easy decision to make.

If they wanted they could have benched Edwin Encarnacion and just put Thames at DH (where he really should be), but Edwin is on the verge of Type B status and we all know how much AA values those draft picks. If he’s going to buy one then he will definitely send down Snider for one. Another possibility I could have seen would have been buying out Mark Teahen and then having both Snider and Thames share at bats in left field with both playing when EE gets the day off. It would seem to be a good option, but I guess Rogers didn’t want to fully break the bank and buyout the 5.5 million that Mark Teahen still has on that horrid contract.

In the end I think that they made the wrong decision in sending down one of the two outfielders as they both deserved major league at bats. But if they had to choose one of the two it should have been Eric Thames Yes, Thames may be hitting better this season, but it isn’t like the Blue Jays are contending this season and need the hot hitter. They are looking for 2012 and beyond and despite his hot hitting in both the minors and the majors Eric Thames doesn’t seem to be the option. Who knows Travis Snider could very well become the next Corey Patterson, but then he could also become a superstar, he has the potential and Eric Thames just does not.

The only reasoning I could possibly see for sending down Thames over Snider is the possible backlash from Jays fans. Because the reasoning that they gave to “tweak” his swing just isn’t enough. The first time Snider was sent down this year it was exactly the same thing and how did that work, well he actually hit worse with a .670 OPS prior to his demotion and a .522 after the call up. So if it wasn’t working the first time then what would lead them to believe it would work this time. The answer is it probably won’t, so then why not keep Snider on the big league team where he can work with Dwayne Murphy and the other coaches. The Jays have stated that they want him to be part of their future so why not take steps to do so, give the guy some major league at bats and have him for the future don’t stuff him in the minors where he has shown he can’t improve.

Looking into the Future
Obviously I would love to see both Thames and Snider do very well in their careers, but as we know not everyone works out. Thames in a sense has the advantage because he has a lot less expected of him from both the organization and knowledgeable Jays fans because he is some 7th round miracle, where as Travis is the 1st round top prospect who has yet to pan out.

I would like to see the Jays keep the both of them past this season and get Eric Thames some at bats for next season at DH with Snider presumably in left. But if you want to capitaliza on Thames’ good play then why not sell high. Thames may appear to be hitting well, but he is swinging at way too many pitches and not taking enough walks, so it would appear as if his average will surely drop play. He may very well be an everyday big leaguer some day, but right now he projects to be a good 4th outfielder something the Jays will have a lot of.

More Production at the Plate
This season both Snider and Thames have had more than adequete time to show off their stuff, but neither has yet to show us anything too special. With the likes of Darin Mastroianni, Moises Sierra, Adam Loewen, Jake Marisnick, Marcus Knecht, and of course Anthony Gose all pushing to get to the big leagues Thames and Snider are going to have to step it up.

Snider will keep getting the chances because he is the top prospect, but in order for him to secure a spot he’s going to have to bring back his power and start walking again since this year Travis’ ISO has dropped a whopping 85 points and he hasn’t registered a walk since before his initial demotion. As well despite having played in twice as many games this season over his initial call up in 2008, Travis has actually produced less WAR. There is still the encouraging numbers from last season when Snider hit 14 homers and had a .331 wOBA over 82 games, but the numbers are still nothing compared to what was initially projected for the young phenom.

As for Eric Thames he better heat back up again if he wants to stay on the major league roster because despite his encouraging numbers over the 2011 season in the past 15 days he has hit to a lack luster .173 batting average with 11 K’s, which includes a couple Golden Sombreros. Also unlike Snider, Eric Thames doesn’t have his defense to lean back on shown by his -5.4 UZR/150 this year and Eric is just generally regarded as someone who can’t really play the field. If Eric wants to stay on the MLB roster he is going to have to heat up again and hit like he did towards the end of June.

Either way despite both guys having their positives, they will not be able to rely on them for much longer due to the fact that their is just so many guys pushing for that last spot. If they want to stay in the MLB both Snider and Thames are going to have to take major steps to improve.

Final Thoughts
Overall it has been nice to see the “competition” between these two young players as they fight for the now what seems to be one remaining outfield spot after the trade for Colby Rasmus and the call up of Brett Lawrie. It has been nice to see them both get the playing time they have deserved and it will be even better once rosters are expanded in September at which time Travis Snider would be presumably called up and take some major league at bats.

As for after the season I gave my thoughts before stating that I would rather see Snider long term as he has shown more potential and apparently the Blue Jays agree because they have stated that they want Snider long term. Though what hasn’t been said is whether he will play in the outfield or at DH (if he ever learns to hit in the big leagues) because he looks to have some competition within a couple years at the “one” remaining outfield position.

Any Opinions, Arguments, or Criticisms? Let me know in the comments below.

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