Posts tagged Angels

Thinking Blue: Weekly Recap – April 30th

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Photo Credit: Getty Images via Daylife

Record This Week: 3-3

All is no longer right in this world. Down is up, up is down and the Orioles are at the top of the AL East. Of course I’m kidding as thus far the Jays have only played 23 games, which is only 14% of the the 162 game season.

They sure didn’t build on their success from last weekend in which they swept the Kansas City Royals in a 4 game series, but in a long season every team has slumps. This week the Jays relatively poor play resulted in a finish at 4th place in the AL East, but with one hot week they could be right back at the top.

Granted that week likely won’t be this upcoming week as the Jays have a 3 game series with the Rangers at home and then a grueling 4 game series in Anaheim against the Angels. However the point still holds true. The Jays are only 2 games behind the Orioles in first and a half a game behind the Yankees for the second wild card spot.

Not that it needs to be taken too much into account though, if the Jays go winless in the next week, its not something that you want to see, but so what. Over the course of a full season the true talent level of this team will shine through and I think they’ll be pretty darn good. If you’re patient enough to sit through an entire baseball game you should be patient enough to wait for the outcome of the 162 game MLB season. Winning is nice, but patience is key.

#StillFreeSnider?
If you follow the Blue Jays online community on Twitter (And really why wouldn’t you be), you may or may not have noticed something, the lack of #FreeSnider tweets. That partially has to do that with the fact that Snider left Thursday’s AAA game after jamming his wrist while trying to catch a ball in left field, but it could also be the fact that over the past week Eric Thames has been absolutely mashing. After this week Eric Thames is now the second best hitter on the Jays according to wOBA (that’s excluding Jeff Mathis and his 18 plate appearances) and also is second on the team in OBP.

Of course again this is a very small sample size, but Thames has looked good, well offensively at least. During the series against the Orioles in which the Blue Jays amassed 3 runs in 3 games, Thames seemed to be the sole bright spot. He had two home runs (one off of his glove) and led the Jays in WPA or Win Probability added during that series.

However the one thing I fail to understand in all of this is the sort of anti-Colby-esque mindset that has been put around Eric Thames. When Colby has played well there has been dozens of tweets along the lines of “where the haters at now?” or “Colby don’t look so bad anymore” as statistics based Jays fans make their proclamation to those who doubted Colby last year that Colby is in fact a good player. On the flipside of things when Thames has played well it has been the statistical community who is shut up by his production.

Don’t get me wrong its nice to see Thames hitting well and the Jays getting good production out of left field, but I keep the mindset that as long as Snider is fully healthy (which he isn’t at the present moment) he should be the one in the majors. The reason being that for one despite being the second best hitter on the team according to wOBA, Thames still has a negative WAR. Why? Because he has been terrible defensively, which has resulted in a -5.0 UZR.

I’m not going to go into all of the many details on the matter of who should be up with the Jays and why, as I did that pretty extensively back when Snider was demoted, but I’ll say one thing. That is that the Jays gave Snider a very short leash in 2011 and to be honest, despite Eric Thames’ sudden offensive power surge *cough* .354 BABIP *cough*, I’d hope they do the same with Thames in 2012. When he’s hitting he can stay, but when he should be on the first plane back to AAA. Viva Las Vegas.

Where Oh Where has Bautista Gone
Last year on this day Jose Bautista had 1.312 OPS, a .366 BA and he led the league in practically every offensive category. This year so far he has had a .670 OPS and a .187 BA and has been one of the Jays’ worst hitters.

At first glance that looks really bad and you probably either A. Spazzed out at your computer screen or B. Shrugged it off as just small sample size. Both sides may seem like plausible reactions, but the answer lies in between.

If you look beyond just the raw offensive numbers, Bautista hasn’t really been as bad as he’s seemed. His walk rate is below his gaudy 2011 numbers, but also above the 2010 numbers.  That walk rate is to go along with a career best 11.6% K rate. The encouraging thing about those numbers is that walk and strikeout rates are generally statistics that normalize quickly, meaning they can be taken in to context in smaller sample sizes.

Beyond that most of Bautista’s plate discipline numbers have stayed relatively the same as well, meaning he hasn’t necessarily “seen the ball” any worse than he had last season. However one thing worth noting is that Bautista’s O-Swing% has jumped up 5% showing that despite him making contact with roughly the same amount of pitches and getting roughly the same amount of pitches in the strike zone, Bautista has been swinging more at pitches outside the zone.

Because Bautista is swinging at more pitches outside the zone and therefore making contact with more pitches outside the zone, in some ways it explains why numbers like his slugging percentage or isolated power have been so low.

It is true that he is still making contact with pitches, but the contact isn’t necessarily good contact. Rather than hitting sweet homeruns he is hitting more weak grounders to the shortstop. This is shown through Bautista’s batted ball data, which includes a drop in both LD% and FB% in order to facilitate an increase in GB%. Ground balls often aren’t a good thing and especially not a good thing for a player who is considered a power hitter.

Though as with all that has happened so far in this season it still is small sample size and it shouldn’t be taken as the end all be all luck stat, but Jose Bautista has had a ridiculous .179 BABIP. That number being almost .100 points below his career average.

So then Bautista may not be performing to the level he did last year, but it would be very hard to expect that from him. His approach seems to have changed slightly at the plate, but he also gotten extremely unlucky. He is regressing and he is getting older, there’s no way he is this bad, give it time, have patience.

Bonus: The Home Run off of Thames’ Glove[mlbvideo id="20881909" width="400" height="224" /]

Extra Wild Card in 2012: What it Does and Doesn’t Mean to the Blue Jays

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It was recently reported by Ken Rosenthal that an extra wild card team is all but done in being added for the 2012 MLB season. My initial reactions were something along the lines of oh my god and were not unlike the opening of that first present on Christmas morning as a child. You feel a sense of excitement and that rush of new things until you realize you just opened that present from Grandma with only socks inside, thanks Grandma. In this case it seems somewhat similar. On one hand you have the right to be pretty damn excited that your favourite team is one step closer to the playoffs, but on the other hand in the grand scheme of things does it really make that much of a difference.

Of course the adding of an extra wild card spot for 2012 is a fantastic addition to the Blue Jays playoff chances, but it seems like some are still forgetting about the other potentially unsurpassable bumps in the road. For one the Blue Jays play in the always tough AL East, but also in the incredibly difficult American League and are the Blue Jays really ready to take that next step, even with an extra wild card team.

In the East you always have the big three in the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Rays. In the Central you have the now Fielderful Tigers. Last, but not least in the West you have the Rangers and the now playoff ready Angels.

In the old scenario it looked almost impossible for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs in 2012 without significant leaps and bounds taken by multiple players on the team because the Jays would have had to pass two of the beasts of the east.  Now in the new scenario it looks more likely that they will have make the playoffs but what you have to realize is that instead of having to overtake two of the beasts in the east, the Jays will have to overcome one, but also likely one of the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels and they aren’t half bad either.

The Rangers, well they’re the Rangers, not only have they been the American League representative in the World Series for back to back years, but they also got arguably the best pitcher on the market outside of C.C. Sabathia in Yu Darvish. The Angels, usually an afterthought in wild card consideration, got not even arguably but instead thee best hitter on the market in Albert Pujols and then the second best free agent pitcher in C.J. Wilson. As well what many don’t seem to realize the Angels are the same team that finished only 5 games out of a wild card spot.

Looking further into it Replacement Level Yankees who run the CAIRO projection system ran a couple of projected standings using both their system as well as that of Tom Tango who runs the Marcel system. Using the CAIRO projection system they projected the Blue Jays 2012 record to be 78-84 and gave them a 4.1% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a 2.6% increase from the added second wild card spot. In another post using the Marcel projection system they projected the Jays record to be the exact same as 2011 at 81-81 and gave them a 16.7% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a pretty substantial 6.8% jump from the added wild card spot.

These two numbers may seem at the very least somewhat promising, but the two posts also include a couple playoff chance percentages for some of the competitors. CAIRO puts the playoff chances of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays at anywhere from 64.4% for the Rays to a whopping 84.8% for the Yanks and Marcel similarly has the percentages at anywhere from 57.1% for the Rays to 76.0% for the Yankees. At the lowest point the next best team in the AL East, the Rays, still has a 3 times better chance to make the playoffs than your team and mine the Toronto Blue Jays.

To beat the next best team in the CAIRO projected wild card standings the Jays would have to somehow gain another 13 wins beyond CAIRO’s Blue Jays projections, which aren’t too pessimistic. Even to beat the next best team in the Marcel projected standings, which have the Blue Jays being much better in 2012 than the CAIRO system, the Jays would somehow need to muster up another 6 wins.

That number may not seem like a whole lot, but for the Jays to increase their win total by 6 wins that would have to mean something along the lines of Colby Rasmus returning to 2010 form and Travis Snider finally becoming what he could now realistically be. That is a lot to happen and even that’s no guarantee that the Jays would make the playoffs because anything could happen with the other three teams fighting for the two playoff spots.

In the end the reality is with a still improving team and an unbalanced schedule for the 2012 season it doesn’t seem like the added wild card spot will give the Jays the extra push they need. It may make you and I as fans feel better about the Blue Jays and it will surely sell some extra tickets. But unfortunately it isn’t as if the Jays only have to overcome one one great team instead of two, all that seems to have happened is that one less beast of the east has been transferred to having to beat one of the best in the west.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited for the 2012 season because the Jays will still have a very exciting team and a player with 80 grade watchability in Brett Lawrie. If anything it should just make you more excited for what is to come in 2013 and beyond when the Blue Jays sustained success really figures to begin. And if you’re really a believer be excited for 2012 and really think the Jays can make the playoffs don’t let me or any other blogger suppress that, because hey stranger things have happened.

Sources: Baseball Reference, Replacement Level Yankees, FOX Sports

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