Posts tagged Francisco Cordero

Nixing the Narrative: The It’s Not All Cordero’s Fault Edition


Photo Courtesy of Reuters Pictures via Daylife

It was a calm, cool Thursday night in Toronto. The air was crisp, but there was an odd smell of anger and frustration as Francisco Cordero strolled on over to the mound in the top of the 8th inning. At the time the score was Royals 5, Blue Jays 3.

The first batter of the inning, Mike Moustakas, singled on a ground ball up the middle. The anger tweets began. The next batter, Jeff Francouer, followed suit with a second ground ball up the middle. However this time both Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson got to the ball, but in what was almost a nasty collision neither player came up with it. The anger tweets multiplied.

After a few more ground balls as well as a couple line drives the anger tweets were growing at an exponential rate. The inning seemed to have dragged on too long already, but the beast that is Eric Hosmer was just stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately for Mr. Hosmer all he could muster was a ground ball to the right side of the infield, but wait…somehow he is safe at first because Cordero couldn’t get to the bag in time. The anger tweets were at an all time high.

Following the game one could find many a tweet proclaiming something along the lines of DFA CORDERO. It wasn’t the most subtle of approaches, but it sure got the message across. I don’t intend on going all Wilner here, but at this point in the season the Cordero hate is becoming ridiculous. It isn’t all his fault.

Starting with Thursday night’s debacle, most people if asked would likely agree with the statement “Francisco Cordero was the reason the Blue Jays lost that game”. On the surface it certainly seemed like that was the case, but a fan’s reactive tendencies, especially to a player who is already in the doghouse, can cause a lack of recognition of what really went on.

For one thing in the first 4 batters of that inning Francisco Cordero induced 3 ground balls and only 1 line drive. The first ground ball was well hit right up the middle. The second ground ball was mishandled and had KJ and Escobar not both gone for the ball it could have very likely been a double play. The line drive Cordero gave up to the Salvador Perez would then only result in one man on first and the subsequent ground ball induced from Jarrod Dyson would have ended the inning. No runs scored.

In another situation where one assumes that the mishandled ball by KJ and Escobar still happens and you look strictly at the rest of the inning two of the three runs could have easily been prevented. After Hosmer hit the ground ball it is true that if Cordero were possibly hustling a bit more they may have gotten out of the inning, but there was also why Cordero wasn’t at the bag sooner. On that play the Blue Jays were playing the shift and Kelly Johnson was closer to first base than usual. Because of that Edwin did not need to go after the ball and instead could have left it to KJ creating an easy out at first base, inning over. In that situation only 1 run would have scored.

Some may point out that these are all hypothetical situations and while that is true on a batted ball results level Cordero didn’t actually pitch that poorly. Over the course of the 7 batters that Cordero faced he induced 4 ground balls and 1 strikeout. Of course the other 2 batters hit line drives, but a 28 LD% is also not mind-blowingly awful. Cordero was in no way outstanding on the night, but to blame everything on him expresses a lack of observation as to what actually went on.

As for the rest of the season, well it hasn’t exactly been peachy. After Thursday’s night’s proceedings Cordero brought his shutdown to meltdown ratio to an even .500 and in case you didn’t know thats not very good. Another couple of tidbits from this year include that Cordero has brought his walk rate back up after dropping it in 2011, he is tied for the second worst fWAR among relievers, he has the highest home run rate of his career, and last but not least Cordero currently sports a 6.00 ERA accompanied by a 5.68 FIP and 4.65 xFIP.

At first, second, third, and maybe even fourth glance those don’t look like a good set of numbers, but looking at some of the underlying stats it might tell you a slightly different story. First off the statement that many have made this year “Cordero was bit by the BABIP monster” is a statement that holds through over the season. Francisco Cordero’s .376 BABIP on the year ranks as the sixth worst among qualified relievers. That number is 162 points higher than where it was last year and 78 points above Cordero’s career average.

Beyond that this year Cordero sports a ridiculous 17.9% HR/FB, which again ranks near the bottom of the league, but more importantly it is over double Francisco Cordero’s career average. Thus explaining where a fair amount of Cordero’s home run woes have been.

Despite the evidence brought forth a few of you on Twitter wanted to argue that there is no way that Cordero could have been unlucky for 3 whole months. While that is true, Cordero has also only pitched 33 innings this year which means that if he were a starter that would amount to a about a month’s worth of pitching, a small sample size. Inherently that is one of the many volatility problems with relievers in that they don’t pitch a lot so bad luck and bad pitching can be carried along over a longer period of time without making the actual sample size significantly bigger.

With all that said it certainly hasn’t been all luck, Francisco Cordero has been a bad pitcher this year. Though his velocity has remained relatively consistent with where it was last year after having dropped the two years previous he hasn’t been able to harness his pitches the way he was able to last year. More specifically in the 2012 season Cordero has not been able to get players to chase and swing at pitches outside the zone. His O-Swing% this year, a measly 22.6%, ranks 5th last among qualified relievers and is roughly 6% lower than where it was last year as well as Cordero’s career average.

Seeing that Cordero has been unlucky and frankly not the best of pitchers one thing I do question is why the Blue Jays continue to place him in high leverage situations. One would argue that if you are paying a player a significant amount of money to perform to a level that he has performed to in the past then the right course of action is not to DFA such a player when he is pitching poorly. At the very least you could shrink down his impact on the game while he is working things out. Pitch him in mop up duty or even as part of a long relief crew, but don’t pitch him in a 5-3 ball game when the leverage is arguably the highest in the entire game.

At that point it is the manager’s fault for placing Cordero in that situation. Cordero doesn’t get to choose where he pitches and pitching him in close games only exacerbates the problem by bringing it front and centre to both the fans and the media.

To my detriment, you can decree a Cordero DFA all you want, but Cordero can be a better pitcher than what he is now, Anthopoulous knows that, Farrell knows that. Also if you want to DFA Cordero then who do you propose as a replacement? Scott Richmond? Shawn Hill? Joel Carreno? Chad Beck?

The other options may seem good, but there is also a reason those pitchers are in AAA. Us fans may not be able to recognize their true talent level because we haven’t seen them in the majors in a significant capacity. The Blue Jays front office on the other hand has multiple people scouting their players and they are able to have a much better barometer of the players’ respective talent levels.

Ultimately blame Cordero for what he has done and that is pitch poorly, but don’t blame him for the plethora of factors that have contributed to the cornucopia of Cordero hate. Finally regarding specifically Thursday night’s performance there is one last thing I’d like to say…

Special thanks to @SMcEwen_eh and @Mentoch on Twitter for helping to fight the good fight in calming people’s reactions last night as well as providing a couple of ideas for this post. If you’re not already following them then go do so right now.

Thinking Blue: Weekly Recap – April 23rd

Courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures

After a couple of weeks of a few lucky wins, it looks like the Blue Jays are getting back in the swing of things. Edwin is hitting, KJ is hitting, Colby is hitting, and even the so called slumping Bautista is recovering from early season troubles. Furthermore after yesterday’s win against the Royals the Jays sit now atop the AL East tied with the Yankees for first place.

These next couple of weeks look to be pretty crucial in establishing the standings in the early goings. Both the OriLoLes, who haven’t been so LoL worthy thus far, and the Rays are only a half game back of the Jays and Yankees. Of course the Red Sox and all of their beer and chicken issues are sitting firm in last place, and despite their atrocious relief pitching and the pessimistic beliefs of Red Sox fans everywhere they are still a force to be reckoned with in the AL East.

Hutch’s First Big League Start
As I’m sure most of you saw, Drew Hutchison (Yes, that’s H-u-t-c-h-i-s-o-n with one N) made a start for the Blue Jays on Saturday. Yes, the Blue Jays Top 10 prospect (and Top 100 MLB Prospect if you ask Keith Law) took to the mound in a duel against Luis Mendoza. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to catch his entire outing as I missed the beginning, but from what I saw he looked like he held his own.

His line on the night didn’t end up being exactly what you’d like to see. He gave up 5 runs over 5 1/3 innings and two home runs. To go along with that Hutchison walked 3 batters and hit one more. On the surface that doesn’t look so great for a pitcher’s debut, but Hutch is only 21 and most pitchers don’t produce Kyle Drabek like debuts. Besides Hutchison did end up striking out 4 over the 5 1/3 innings and got the win, if thats the sort of thing you care about (I don’t).

The outing wasn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but I also wasn’t disappointed. Again, he’s still only 21 and will be for another 4 months, he was just called up from AA and its his first start in the majors. Not to excuse the performance, but occasionally that kind of pressure can be pretty daunting. Before we make any rash decisions or evaluations on Hutch lets at least see another start of his, an opportunity I hope the Jays give him.

P.S. If you want a more In-Depth Analysis of Hutch’s first start, the kind of thing I have been known to do from time to time, you can check out MjwW’s FanPost over at Bluebird Banter where he excellently broke down the start using Pitch F/X numbers.

Santos to the DL
One week after coming back from the birth of his first child, Sergio Santos is on the 15 day DL for Shoulder Inflammation as reported by @SNBarryDavis. This isn’t exactly the news you want to hear from your favourite team, but it doesn’t project to be a huge pressing issue. If you assume Santos is as good as he was last year over the course of this season, you lose only a little more than 0.1 WAR off the season total, which in the grand scheme of things is a relatively small number.

In the meantime the Jays have thrust “Capital C Closer” Francisco Cordero into the closer role. Cordero isn’t as good as Santos, but having him as your closer isn’t the worst thing in the world. He has a declining skill set, which I have outlined before, but he should be fine in the role for 15 days. However, one thing I fear with Cordero is if he actually performs “well” in his little stint in the 9th inning role, there may be pressure to keep him there.

Santos hasn’t been great so far this season, but it has been an extremely small sample. Nonetheless if Cordero performs well, I could easily see the fans and the media for that matter building the narrative that Cordero needs to be in that closer role citing Santos’ two blown saves in this short season. Of course I don’t care about blown saves, but the Toronto media, well they sure seem to.

Colby Haters Be Gone
Colby Rasmus is always going to be easy pickin’s as an entity that everyone can throw their anger at. He is the inevitable scapegoat, he is athletic and graceful both on the field and at the plate and that has gotten him the J.D. Drew treatment.

Nonetheless Colby has done his very best to silence his naysayers, which seemed to be more than half of the fan base after last year’s debacle. After a terrible showing last season following his transition from NL to AL, St. Louis to Toronto, and La Russa to Freedom, Rasmus definitely wasn’t helping himself in the fan appreciation department.

People called him lazy, people called the trade stupid, but people say a lot of things. Well at least they did.

Nowadays with Colby having hit 3 home runs thus far with an OBP of .321 all good for a 120 wRC+, people aren’t saying a lot. These “people” have seemed to have been silenced by Colby’s admittedly fantastic performance both at the plate and in center field.

He is not hitting to the level that he did in 2010, his wRC+ is 9 points lower, but his defense is being rated better by the always confusing UZR. This has put him on pace for a 5.4 fWAR season. That pace likely won’t continue, but there is a chance that it very well could. Rasmus has the potential for that type of season, it will be interesting to see if he has that in him.

He’s hitting that triple, double, single, that smooth home run, he is fire burning in the outfield and quickly sliding his way right back into Toronto fan’s hearts…for the time being. #Colby2012

Side Note: Does anyone else see the resemblance?

Courtesy of Daylife via AP Photo and Getty Images

The Super Bullpen

What’s that on the field a catcher an outfielder, no it’s the Super Bullpen

Yesterday the Blue Jays signed former closer (not that it matters) Francisco Cordero. Surprsingly to some fans at only 1 year and $4.5 million Cordero’s contract is the largest guaranteed free agent contract that Alex Anthopoulos has signed in his short tenure as Blue Jays General Manager. Now as the offseason is coming to a close Anthopoulos has acquired four top end relievers in Sergio Santos, Jason Frasor, Darren Oliver, and now Cordero. With the Jays having already had Casey Janssen they now have five different guys with late inning experience. To me that doesn’t matter, but to the fans who believe in the flawful (Yes I made that up) save statistic, it carries a lot of weight.

Beyond that on paper the bullpen surely looks good, definitely one of the better bullpens the Jays have had in the past decade, well until we see the production of course. Collectively Sergio Santos, Darren Oliver, Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, Carlos Villaneuva, Litsch had a 3.23 ERA in the 2011 season. That number would rank 6th in the league, which is 15 spots higher than where the Blue Jays 3.88 bullpen ERA ranked this year. Of course that looks good, but rather than hyping up the bullpen as many are, I thought I’d take a conservative approach.

As I said before the bullpen sure looks good on paper and has pretty good depth with Joel Carreno, Chad Beck, and more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will perform. Last offseason the Jays signed Jon Rauch and traded for Frank Francisco expecting a couple of pretty good pitchers. In 2010 the collective ERA and FIP between the two of Rauch and Francisco was 3.44 and 3.03 respectively. Only one year later at the end of the 2011 season their collective ERA and FIP was 4.20 and 4.53. The collective ERA was 0.76 points higher and the FIP was a whole 1.50 points higher. Granted some of the production loss can be attributed to injury, but injuries are just another potential issue with relief pitchers.

Now getting to this year’s potential relief pitchers there is some upside, but there’s also reason to be concerned.

Sergio Santos
Being a converted shortstop, despite being 27 this will only be his third year in the MLB. So far he has been effective with a 3.29 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 31 saves if you care about that stuff. On top of that Santos raised his strike rate and lowered his walk rate in 2011. Though all that is encouraging what also happened last year is Santos’ HR/FB% raised to 11.3% and his BABIP was a concerning .269. Granted these numbers could be statistical anomalies as both were more “average” in 2010. I guess the real problem here is just that there isn’t a lot of data on Santos, but he does have one of the best sliders in the league and doesn’t have a whole lot of innings on the arm.

Darren Oliver
Oliver at 42 is almost twice the age of Brett Lawrie, but like a fine wine has only gotten better with age. The whole thing on Oliver is that he has posted a better ERA every year for the last five years, but what is even more encouraging is the 2.77 FIP that he posted in 2011. One thing to consider is that his strikeout rate dropped last year, but so did his walk rate so it kind of balances it out. The only real knock on Oliver would be his age and how long he can sustain success, but even that is a argument with really no basis.

Francisco Cordero
Cordero on the surface looked to have a pretty good year in 2011 with a 2.45 ERA and 37 saves (Whoopee!), but just a quick look at his FanGraphs page has quite a few reasons why he wasn’t very good in 2011. For starters Cordero’s FIP was at 4.02 and 1.57 points higher than his ERA, which is never a good thing. Beyond that it looks like he was pretty lucky in 2011 with an unsustainably low BABIP at .214, 80 points lower than his career average and a LOB% at 82.3%, 5.4% above his career average. Finally the stuff seems to be declining as according to Pitch/FX (via FanGraphs) he lost 1.5 MPH on the Fastball velocity. All of this sums up to an interesting 2012 for Cordero, if he doesn’t get lucky again, we could be looking at a long season.

Casey Janssen
Janssen had a very good 2011 and was arguably Toronto’s best relief pitcher. Beyond that there isn’t much need be said. The peripherals match up with the ERA, the velocity was consistent. The only real knock I see on Janssen is that from year to year he has been a bit inconsistent, but this year and previously in his career he has shown he can be a great relief pitcher. The question really is will we see that great pitcher in 2012?

Jason Frasor
Frasor was a piece of the Colby Rasmus trade at the 2011 trade deadline and now its seems the Jays only payed pennies on the dollar to re-aquire Frasor. Besides that, over his career Frasor has been as consistent as a relief pitcher not named Marian Rivera can be. He has only posted an ERA above 4.50 once and and posted the third best numbers of his career last year. I’d really like to point out something wrong with Jason Frasor, but to my knowledge there just isn’t anything.

Carlos Villaneuva
Last season Villaneuva was the swingman of sorts for the Blue Jays. He filled in when the Jays needed a starter and he wasn’t as bad as Jo-Jo, but that sure isn’t saying much. This year with a bevy of options for the rotation Villaneuva will almost surely be in the bullpen, where he belongs. Though despite that what is concerning about Villaneuva, last year he almost cut his K% in half, which is never a good thing. Maybe it was the extra innings that caused a lack of Ks, but I’m not so sold. Villaneuva had similar production to the rest of his career, but if he doesn’t start striking guys out it could be difficult to sustain success and he could add another half a point on his ERA to match his xFIP.

Jesse Litsch
I remember the days when Jesse Litsch was pitching way above his head to a sub 4.00 ERA as a starter and how the peripheral stats suggested he would regress. Now he has reached that point and stats like xFIP and SIERA suggest that he will get better and sometimes I just don’t get it. If he pitches to his peripherals again he could put out some very good production and if he doesn’t well then he just won’t be a very good pitcher, kind of like last year.

Final Thoughts
On paper the Jays bullpen looks scary good and maybe the best they’ve had since the early 90s. But as we baseball fans should know bullpens are volatile and things don’t always turn out the way they were “supposed” to. Notwithstanding the great bullpen that Anthopoulos built, I don’t really see the value in all the money on the bullpen, when for example you could have let Joel Carreno pitch instead of Francisco Cordero and he could not have possibly been much worse. Some say that Anthopoulos is stockpiling arms for the trade deadline, but once we get to the deadline I’m sure we’ll realize teams are willing to pay as much as they used to.

The reason being that in past years when a good, but not great relief pitcher went to free agency he’d likely end up being a Type B free agent, meaning the Jays could have gotten a supplemental first round pick out of him. That means that in negotiations at the deadline Alex could have always said that whatever you’re offering, it better be worth more than a supplemental first round pick.

Now with the new CBA nixing the Type A and Type B free agent systems all of these good, not great relief pitchers will be worth nothing come the offseason. So rather than having the leverage of the possible pick that Anthopoulos could obtain, if he really wants something out of them, he’ll have to take whatever he can get. More often than not I’m guessing the “prospect” will not be better than a supplemental first round pick, nor will it be worth half of the salary that is paid out to the reliever. If Alex Anthopoulos truly wanted a good bullpen thats fine he built one, but to suggest he’s stockpiling arms seems a bit naive.

Of course we haven’t seen how the market will react to the new CBA, so come July 31st I could be the one looking like the idiot. Because we all have to remember that last year Anthopoulos did trade some relief pitchers for one of the better young outfielders in the game at last year’s trade deadline. At the very least this “Super Bullpen” should shush up the FAN 590 Jays Talk callers, and for both our sanity as well as Mike Wilner’s I sure hope that happens.

As a side note I know the last couple posts have been kind of crapping on people’s expectations, but in the next post their will be something quite a bit more optimistic so you can stay tuned for that.

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