Archive for October, 2012
When the Blue Jays traded Eric Thames for relief pitcher Steve Delabar midseason I had little to no knowledge of who he was or what he could do. To me Delabar seemed like any other relief pitcher, but as time wore on I found him to be quite a tantalizing and fascinating player. He is 6 foot 5 and 220 lbs, he’s a relief pitcher, and the inside of his elbow looks like this. The reinforcement of Delabar’s elbow as seen in the picture was the result of multiple elbow injuries from Delabar’s 6 year minor league career that included stints in loA and hiA as well as Independent ball.
Following his last stint with the Brockton Sox of the Can-Am League Delabar called it quits and moved on to pursue other things in life. As Geoff Baker wrote for the Seattle Times back in September Delabar went on to substitute teach and coach at the high school his wife taught at in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. All was well, until one day a friend of Delabar’s who owned an indoor pitching facility brought in a new throwing program that was intended to be used to prevent injuries to the throwing arm, but instead it produced higher throwing velocities in it’s participants. Delabar was among the greatest beneficiaries of this program, according to their site he experienced a 10 MPH increase in velocity.
Shortly thereafter Delabar was scouted by the Mariners, which eventually resulted in him being signed to a minor league contract midway through the 2011 season. In April of that year Delabar was out of baseball and living in Kentucky. In June of that year Delabar was pitching for the High Desert Mavericks in the HiA California League. In September of that year Delabar was striking out major league hitters with 95 MPH fastballs…okay the Royals, but still.
For a pitcher who had a career 4.27 ERA in the minors prior to 2011 that was quite a remarkable turnaround, but that alone is not what makes Delabar so interesting. Beyond his story Delabar has displayed some remarkable skills and has proved to be quite the effective reliever.
The three pitches in Delabar’s repertoire include a mid 90s fastball, a high 80s splitter, and a slider that he throws against right handers every once in a while. He rarely pitches backwards and he’s generally consistent in his approach that sees him set up with the fastball and finish with the splitter.
The incredible thing about Delabar is the location he’s shown with the splitter; he’s able to throw the it down and away with ease to both sides of the plate. A prime example came when Delabar was sent in to pitch the 10th inning against the White Sox and struck out 4 batters, the most strikeouts by any pitcher in a single extra inning. Greg Wisniewski of Infield Fly had a great post breaking down the four at bat sequence in it’s entirety. In order Delabar struck out Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, and Alejandro De Aza all strikeouts coming on the splitter.
In terms of overall results in 66.0 innings in 2012 Delabar had 92 K’s, good for a 32.8 K%, which ranked him 6th among relievers with at least 60 IP. Of those 92 strikeouts, 56 came on Delabar’s splitter a number that ranked second in the league. Aside from his K’s, Delabar has also proven to be a relatively effective reliever through other facets of his game. He’s strikes out tons, he doesn’t walk too many, and he keeps the ball on the ground at an efficient rate.
Generally a reliever who does those three things well is one you’d consider for a full time late innings role, however like others of his kind Delabar has demonstrated vulnerability in both his home run rate and his platoon splits. Delabar, interestingly enough has exhibited reverse platoon splits in his short time in the majors mainly due to a huge jump in his fly ball rate versus right handers.
If you take a look at the chart on the right (via Baseball Prospectus) it shows Delabar’s career fastball frequency vs. right handed hitters in each section of the strike zone. As you may notice it appears that Delabar has a tendency to leave his fastball up in the zone quite a bit more versus right handers, which could be a contributing factor to the increase in home runs and fly ball rate vs. righties.
Of course another factor in the equation is the rate at which Delabar’s fly balls turn into home runs, which as it stands now vs. right handers it’s a lofty 27.5%. One would expect that rate to normalize, meaning there would be a significantly less amount of home runs.
If in any fashion Delabar can find a way to limit his home runs versus right handers it could make him a much more valuable commodity going forward. A commodity that could perhaps pitch in a full time late innings relief role and to think it only cost ole’ Eric “let’s swing at everything” Thames.
Of course we are dealing with small sample sizes throughout all of this data, but it brings an intriguing possibility to the future of Delabar’s career. Even if he doesn’t progress further than where he is now, Delabar is still a valuable reverse LOOGY with raw stuff that is as exciting as any. It’s a theme that is common among many of the Blue Jays’ relievers, they have the stuff and hopefully the stats will come.
It’s official, according to Sean McAdam of the CSN New England via Twitter the Red Sox have signed John Farrell to be their manager and according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com via Twitter the compensation will be infielder Mike Aviles in return for Blue Jays relief pitcher David Carpenter.
Whilst in Boston, Farrell served as the pitching coach and apparently the manager in waiting. After years of the manager in waiting position he left before the spot was opened for him. Following the collapse after the 2011 season, Boston was ready for Farrell, but Farrell was long gone. This resulted in quite a number of rumours regarding Farrell’s status, but it was always curious how the rumours seemed to originate from Boston rather than from Toronto.
As the offseason moved on the rumours subsided and eventually fizzled away. Instead the Red Sox signed Bobby Valentine and most people seemed to be somewhat happy with the move, but as results became reality and the Red Sox produced their worst record since 2001 people became much less than enthused with Valentine. Once again the rumours came a flowin’, but I was still less than convinced that there was any truth to them.
Despite my disbelief the move has now happened, Boston ‘got their man’ and apparently with Farrell the feeling is mutual. As Mike Wilner told us on Twitter during Anthopoulos’ conference call with reporters the earlier rumours of Farrell to Toronto were false as was the idea that Anthopoulos and Farrell were at odds with each other regarding Omar Vizquel. As late as October 3rd Anthopoulos indicated that he was fully expecting Farrell to be the Blue Jays manager in 2013, it was only after Canadian Thanksgiving (October 8th) that AA and Farrell talked and Farrell indicated that if the chance for him to manage in Boston came that he would like to pursue that option.
In the eyes of some this has made Farrell seem like an evil, conniving figure in that it would appear that he wanted to be in Boston all along, but as John Lott said, “[It seemed that] once Farrell said he wanted to go to Boston, [the] Jays were not going to stop him.” To their credit the Blue Jays got a decent player in return in Mike Aviles, while he may not have been exactly what some fans were expecting he is a decent middle infielder that would work fine as a utility player or even a platoon player at 2B. Speculation may have brought up such names as Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa, but Mike Aviles is likely above the going rate that saw former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein traded for two non-Top 20 prospects from the Chicago Cubs before the 2012 season.
Whether or not you conclude that Boston ‘stole’ Farrell from the Blue Jays there’s always the possibility that the next manager might be better. I certainly won’t miss some of Farrell’s small ball tendencies or his mismanagement of the bullpen, even if he was proactive in things like shifting. Farrell was a fine manager, he seemed to be liked by the players and his tactical management wasn’t egregious when compared to the rest of the league, but the Blue Jays can do better. However now that he’s gone it leaves some uncertainty as to the state of the Blue Jays managerial position going forward, it could be better or it could be worse.
Some of the various names that have been discussed by the media include Brian Butterfield, Sandy Alomar Jr., Tim Wallach, Sal Fasano, and even Manny Acta. Of that list only Acta has significant enough major league managerial experience that one could base an outside assessment on, while we only have as much information about the other guys as we are told. That there will be an important distinction going forward as we on the outside don’t really have a clue as to how good any of these guys will be. Personally, I’d want Acta based on the information that is available, but even with that information we as an analytical baseball community haven’t completely been able to quantify a manager’s value due to the inability to measure some of the on field antics as well as the off field intangibles.
In the end no matter what happens the one cliché that states that a manager is only as good as his team should hold true. While we like to criticize any manager for the shortcomings of his team he generally doesn’t hold a huge stake in the overall outcome of the season. A bad manager may be able to ruin a team, but a good manager creates less stress for those of us watching, while also not hurting the chances of the team he has. The trade was necessary, the return was justified, and we are only able to wait and see what the future holds.
Within the past little while this blog became a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA), which is a group of over 350 blogs and bloggers from across the league. Every season the BBA conducts a vote of it’s own on each of the major awards (Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Rolaids Relief Man Award, Cy Young, and the MVP) and the results of our vote will be announced over a five day span from October 15th-19th.
With that said I present you my personal ballot with a couple things to remember. One, this is not a prediction of what I think will happen, but instead it is who I would vote for if I had the vote. Two, being that this this blog is an for an AL Team, the Blue Jays, this is only an AL Ballot, not for the entire league.
Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
1. Joe Maddon
2. Bob Melvin
3. Buck Showalter
While the choice to put Madden on top may seem suspect as conventionally this award is given to the manager who did the best job at “coaching up his team” to me it just makes sense. Often we talk about how a manager has intangibles that we just can’t quantify and this year those intangibles were supposedly evident in Bob Melvin and Buck Showalter. While that may be true as well as the fact that both Melvin and Showalter are good tactical managers themselves, Joe Maddon manages differently. He thinks outside the box and innovates as a manager, which puts him tops in the league for now and the foreseeable future.
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
1. Mike Trout
2. Yu Darvish
3. Yoenis Cespedes
Gif via Bleacher Report
Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
1. Fernando Rodney
2. Joe Nathan
3. David Robertson
Choosing the top AL reliever this year evidently wasn’t very difficult. It’s hard not to choose a guy who not only led the American League in fWAR, but also set the single season ERA record with a ridiculous 0.60 ERA. Beyond that Rodney posted the 16th highest K%, the 8th lowest BB%, the 2nd lowest HR/9, and the 5th highest ground ball rate. He didn’t get by on smoke and mirrors, Rodney produced one of the better seasons by a reliever in the last five years and this was after 2011 when he posted the 19th highest walk rate in the last 30 years.
Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)
1. Justin Verlander
2. David Price
3. Felix Hernandez
4. Yu Darvish
5. Chris Sale
For the Walter Johnson Award, I really wanted to make a case for David Price and all his awesomeness. Despite his being a Ray he is legitimately my favourite pitcher to watch in the entire league. Alas I was not successful in the case for Price because while he did post a similar ERA, strikeout rate and walk rate he also threw almost 30 less innings than Verlander. Verlander pitched 13% more innings than Price while maintaing similar and perhaps even better stats as well as posting nearly identical stats to those that won him the Cy Young Award last year.
Stan Musial Award (Top Overall Player)
1. Mike Trout
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Robinson Cano
4. Justin Verlander
5. Adrian Beltre
6. Austin Jackson
7. Adam Jones
8. Alex Gordon
9. Joe Mauer
10. Edwin Encarnacion
In what is probably the most controversial choice (though I’m not sure why) my MVP is Mike Trout. Mike Trout is amazing, not only did he become the first rookie ever with 30 home runs and 40 stolen bases, but he posted the exact same wRC+ as Miguel Cabrera. By that measure alone he should be in the conversation for MVP, but that doesn’t factor in that Mike Trout not only hits like that while playing one of the hardest positions in baseball, but also that he plays his position as good as anyone in the major leagues today. As good a hitter at a harder position, I’m not sure you could ask for much more in an MVP.