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.
Over at Beaneball, a fantastic A’s blog, Jason Wojciechowski put up an interesting post this morning in which he went through the major league rosters of all the MLB teams to see which rosters contained a former Athletics player. Because I’m a curious person I would have looked at the same thing for the Blue Jays anyways, but then I thought hey why not make a blog post about it too.
As Jason stipulated, the rules are as follows.
1. The player must have played at least 1 game for the Blue Jays at some point in their career and only the Blue Jays, not any of the Jays’ minor league affiliates.
2. The player must currently be on the 25-Man Roster of a MLB team
With that said I’ll predict that 16 MLB teams have a former Blue Jay currently on their 25-Man Roster (as Jason found the A’s had 19)
So let’s start!
Baltimore Orioles: Kevin Gregg
Boston Red Sox:
New York Yankees: Jayson Nix
Tampa Bay Rays: Ryan Roberts, Jose Molina
Chicago White Sox: Alex Rios, Ray Olmedo, Orlando Hudson
Detroit Tigers: Octavio Dotel
Kansas City Royals:
Minnesota Twins: Darin Mastroianni
Los Angeles Angels: Vernon Wells
Seattle Mariners: Eric Thames
Atlanta Braves: Eric Hinske, Reed Johnson
Miami Marlins: John Buck
New York Mets: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch
Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Halladay
Chicago Cubs: Luis Valbuena, Shawn Camp
Cincinnati Reds: Scott Rolen
Houston Astros: Ben Francisco
Pittsburgh Pirates: Travis Snider, Rod Barajas, A.J. Burnett
St. Louis Cardinals: Marc Rzepczynski
Arizona Diamondbacks: John Macdonald, Aaron Hill
Colorado Rockies: Josh Roenicke
Los Angeles Dodgers: Juan Rivera, Brandon League
San Diego Padres:
San Francisco Giants: Marco Scutaro
So there you have it, 21 teams have a former Blue Jays on their 25 man roster. That’s 5 more than what I predicted and 2 more than the number of teams with former A’s, which frankly is kind of surprising.
- Of the 21 teams that have a former Jay, the Pirates and White Sox have the most and are tied with 3 each
- The division with the most former Jays is the NL Central with 8
- The division with the least former Jays is the AL West with 2
- The NL as a whole has 81% more former Blue Jays than the AL
- Darin Mastroianni and Josh Roenicke still have major league jobs
Overall it was a quick and fun exercise that created some reminiscence on the futility and productivity of the careers of a few former Jays….and it gave me an excuse to use a picture of Roy Halladay, that’s always fun.
Side note: The process in which this was done is in no way perfect, so if I missed someone let me know in the comments below.
Brett Lawrie is many things…a baseball player, a Canadian, a Red Bull connoisseur, and an extreme purveyor of the mindset many call #Want. The Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines want as “to desire to come, go, or be”. However in the baseball sense Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus defines #want as “the manifestation of human desire and physical yield; when the yearning for perfection becomes visible to the naked eye.”
In Brett Lawrie’s specific case he may not always attempt to achieve this pristine state of mind in the most eloquent of ways, but the fact that he is trying (and he is always trying) to achieve #want is what sets him apart from the rest.
Throughout the 2012 season one could have viewed the many examples of Brett Lawrie’s #want. On a nightly basis he puts his body on the line doing whatever he deems necessary to help his team win. Whether it means running over a catcher at home plate or making a diving catch near (or over) the wall Brett Lawrie will do it all.
During Wednesday’s baseball affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Yankees Brett Lawrie’s #want was at its full capacity. This time it was a pop-up off the bat of Mark Texeira. The ball rose up in the air flying above third base and towards the stands. Brett Lawrie, poised to make an attempt to catch the ball, was standing by the fence in position. The ball appeared to fly a bit out of Brett Lawrie’s reach, but Lawrie made an attempt anyway. The following the video is the result of that attempt.
As you may be able to see in the video it looked like Brett was pretty shaken up after the play, yet still he made an attempt to walk off the field on his own. This play became a play of much controversy in the land of Twitter with some arguing that it was a stupid play with a ball that Lawrie should have never gone after, while others argued that the play represented Brett Lawrie’s heart and hustle (see what I did there?) and his willingness to do anything to get that ball.
My personal opinion on the matter strays much closer to the former in that I thought what Brett Lawrie did was pretty stupid. Some argued that he may not have known that their was a pit of doom looming on the other side of that fence, but the larger point is that he should have known and if he did know he shouldn’t have jumped…its not worth it.
To quote a sign seen frequently at the Ski hills (emphasis on hills) in Ontario, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.” Either Brett didn’t follow the eternal law of safety or his #want overrode the part of the brain that strives for safety and survival.
#Want or the manifestation of human desire with the objective of helping your team win is a trait that you want your players to have. However when there is too much #want injury becomes a very realistic possibility as we saw with Mr. Lawrie. Those two paths at one point come to a crossroads one where there is perfect balance as seen below.
As you can see from the very professional graph above there is a single line that represents the split between the amount of probability that a players adds to his team’s chances of winning and the risk of possible injuries that occurs from hustling. The line that runs down the middle of the graph is the #Want equilibrium and as shown Brett Lawrie has strayed further from the equilibrium than you would like.
Of course the graph is used in jest as there is no real calculation to find a player’s place on the graph above. Despite that the message holds true, with the way in which Brett Lawrie approaches the game he puts himself at an extreme chance of injury.
This time Brett got lucky in that he only ended up day to day. As Stephania Bell mentioned on Thursdays’ Fantasy Focus: Baseball podcast, Lawrie was lucky he didn’t walk away with a major back injury after the tumble he took into the camera pit.
With Lawrie’s style of play this kind of occurrence where there is a major injury scare could become a regular thing. Look at Josh Hamilton for example, he plays in a similar fashion to Lawrie with the “put it all on there like you just don’t care” mentality. Throughout the course of Hamilton’s career his games played each year are as follows 90, 156, 89, 133, and 121 games. That is one year with 150+ games and only three with 100+ games.
Despite getting hate for it Kevin Goldstein might be right when he said…
Guys who play 150+ games a year know when to let that ball go.
— Kevin Goldstein (@Kevin_Goldstein) July 18, 2012
Goldstein’s reasoning is the reason many people want Lawrie to tone it down, but the problem is it may not be that easy. In Brett Lawrie’s short career an all out style has been a part of his game, it’s part of what makes him who he has. It is easy for any of us to suggest that someone tells Lawrie to tone it down a little, but that is a part of his game and I highly doubt it hasn’t been tried already.
On the other side of things the fact that Lawrie plays an extremist all out style to the game does not give anyone the right to justify it. That means you don’t need to try to tell me or anyone else that what Lawrie did is a good thing because he did all he could to help his team. If Lawrie makes the play then that’s fantastic he’s moved the team one step closer to one win. Though if he gets hurt, which isn’t an insignificant possibility, then he costs the team wins when they end up playing the Assistant Bench Coach Omar Vizquel instead of one of the better players on their team.
It may sound cliché but Brett Lawrie is who he is, he will be both a hero and a villain, he will be both invigorating and frustrating and I doubt anyone will be able to change that anytime soon. That doesn’t mean you have to hate love him or hate him, just accept him for who he is…it isn’t that hard.