Posts tagged Jose Bautista
It feels like baseball has been back for quite a while now, yet in actuality it has only been a few weeks. This feeling comes as a result of the many twists and turns of this 2013 Blue Jays season. If you were to ask some JaysTalk callers they’d likely tell you that the Jays have gone from the worst team in the league to a World Series contender in mere days. Of course I say that in jest, but with the way this fan base has reacted to each and every win and loss it surely feels like that previous sentence is true. It’s been an odd season to say the least. It’s had everything from dominant pitching performances to blowout losses to everything in between. It hasn’t all been good, but it hasn’t all been bad either. If one thing is for sure it has certainly had it’s fair share of storylines to follow.
Replacing Jose Reyes
The acquisition of Jose Reyes was likely the most unexpected, but lauded acquisition of the offseason and for good reason. After a season of watching groundout after groundout after groundout from the now departed Yunel Escobar both the offence and general excitement surrounding Jose Reyes was sure to be a plus, and it had been…until Reyes injured himself last week.
Shortly after the injury we’d heard that Anthopoulos was looking for potential Jose Reyes replacements. Obviously a player of Reyes’ stature isn’t replaced so easily, but someone needed to fill that roster spot.
That someone became the GIF-able Munenori Kawasaki. As much I like and had liked Kawasaki I hardly thought he’d be a longterm replacement, but here we are. Of course Kawaski has hit to a 185 wRC+, which is unexpected, but not unprecedented for a 16 PA sample. There’s quite a bit of room for regression, but even then any offensive inadequacy that he holds is counter-acted in part by his general likeableness, so who really knows how long he’ll stay.
One interesting thing to note about Kawasaki is that while he isn’t the best of hitters he does go into a lot of deep counts and frequently makes the pitcher work to get him out. I asked Japanese baseball fan and Kawasaki connoisseur @yakyunightowl about this tendency and he had this to say.
I’ve observed that he has pretty good plate discipline & pitch recognition. Most Japanese players aren’t free swingers, but defend the zone.
So that’s encouraging.
Unexpectedly Expected Defensive Woes
Following the many acquisitions of the offseason, the defensive side of the game became one of the lesser talked about aspects of this 2013 Blue Jays team, but as I mentioned in the season preview…
Neither PECOTA nor ZiPS projects a Blue Jays regular not named Brett Lawrie to put up above average defensive numbers. There is no one Blue Jays fielder that is particularly awful, but there’s also not many with the potential for anything higher than average defence.
Having not had Brett Lawrie for the first 13 games of the season further amplified any previous expectation of defensive woes. If it wasn’t Mark DeRosa missing a preventable ground ball down the 3rd base line then it was Maicer Izturis making viewers cringe every time he’d picked up the ball. As a further result of that we saw the rather defensively limited Emilio Bonifacio regularly fielding at 2B. While it is nice to have an above average third baseman back at 3B, the defence is far from perfect…or really even adequate for that matter.
This problem is furthered by the fact that very few people recognize that this is not a good defensive ball club. When I put it out on Twitter a week ago that I was surprised that people were surprised this defence ranked so low in projections I was met with a lot of cynicism, but ultimately a few people changed their viewpoint.
As fans of this team we are continually told of the ‘great plays’ made by Jose Bautista and subsequently told of how great a guy like Jose Bautista is in RF. That’s just one example, but there is many others like it. As a baseball fan, unless one specifically watches for good routes in the outfield or something of that nature we fall into the trap of thinking that players who make highlight reel plays are good defenders, which simply isn’t always true.
The Waiver Wire Carousel
As MLBTR’s Steve Adams noted, Alex Anthopoulos has been the most active General Manager on the waiver wire since the start of the offseason late last October and by a rather large margin too. The same has been true this season. Of the 13 total waiver claims that have been made in major league baseball, Alex Anthopoulos has made three of those claims. The first such claim was Edgar Gonzalez who would go on pitch 3.1 innings as the last man in the bullpen before being subsequently DFA and being placed in AAA. The same was true for Mauro Gomez who was an interesting 1B/DH depth piece, but a depth piece nonetheless.
Neither of those two waiver claims were particularly interesting, but the third such claim was Casper Wells whom many could envision with a roster spot for the foreseeable future. This notion stemmed from Wells’ splits vs. LHP; in his career Casper Wells has hit lefties well above average (132 wRC+) in part due to his large uptick in walks. I hadn’t written a post about it at the time, but it wasn’t too hard to visualize a scenario wherein Casper Wells could move into a full time platoon with Colby Rasmus in CF, but clearly that didn’t happen.
Granted, it may have been slightly foolish to gesture that the Jays would platoon Rasmus, a player they had valued so highly, when a similar player, Adam Lind, took so long to even be considered in a platoon.
Even then Casper Wells could have been a valuable piece, if not in an outfield platoon then in a platoon with Adam Lind at DH. He’s a better hitting, better fielding, but less speedy Rajai Davis if you will. Perhaps there is something Anthopoulos sees that we do not, but it seemed odd that a player with Casper Wells’ skillset was even put on waivers for the first time, yet alone a second time.
The Potential Relevancy of Adam Lind
Speaking of Adam Lind, well he’s still a Toronto Blue Jay and a disappointing one at that…based on the result statistics at least. Through 15 games Lind has just a 66 wRC+, but as they most always do small sample size caveats do apply. In fact looking at the more raw data Adam Lind has been better than one might expect. In the 13 games he has gotten into Lind has posted a 9.8 BB% to go along with a very encouraging 7.3 K%. Furthermore he’s produced plate discipline numbers similar to those that were so encouraging before his demotion last season. It is just 13 games, which is a minuscule sample in the grand scheme of things, but walk rates, strikeout rates, and plate discipline statistics are among those that normalize more quickly.
On top of that, thus far this season, Adam Lind has yet to face a left-handed pitcher, starter or otherwise. In part this has been masked by the fact that the Blue Jays as a whole have only faced three left-handed starters. That meaning that this usage trend could easily be coincidence, but considering that John Gibbons is the manager my bet would be that this is purposeful usage.
What exactly does all this mean going forward? Well, assuming Lind is continually utilized as he has been so far we could very well see him excel in this lesser role. As many others have noted, Lind has been having better at-bats and has been getting unlucky on balls in play, but we still frequently see the remnants of the Lind that was (or still is?) in the continual at bats where we see him hit a first pitch ground ball. Perhaps those lesser ABs are reflective of some confirmation bias from myself, as I am one who has become rather frustrated with Lind after having started to believe in him last season. Or perhaps Lind still has much to learn. It’s probably a bit of both.
With all that said anything that has happened up to this point in the season can and will change very easily in the coming months. While it may feel like baseball has been back for a while now we have to continue to remind ourselves that it’s just 15 games. There’s still 5 months and 147 games left. What has happened so far could be irrelevant come May, but that’s just the way that baseball is.
It’s January 6th and the offseason is just over halfway done, but the Blue Jays have largely accomplished more than anyone could have ever imagined…perhaps including Alex Anthopoulos. Through the Maicer Izturis signing, the blockbuster trade with the Marlins, the Melky Cabrera signing, and the R.A. Dickey trade the Blue Jays have added a total of 21 Wins Above Replacement by 2012 FanGraphs standards. During this process the Jays have filled a majority of the holes that they had prior to the offseason by finding a left fielder, a second baseman, and multiple top of the rotation starters.
As you can see on the depth chart above, the Blue Jays roster is pretty full. After accounting for starters at every position, a backup catcher, a backup infielder, a 4th outfielder, and a 7 man bullpen it leaves 1 spot left on the 25-man roster. Throughout the offseason, fans have sought to fill that spot with a 1B/DH platoon partner for Adam Lind, looking to such options as the now signed Johnny Gomes and Mark Reynolds as well as acquired and relinquished 1B/DH/OF Russ Canzler. The first two options are now gone and Canzler was simply inadequete compared the the Blue Jays’ in house option, Rajai Davis.
The same can be said for a majority of the rest of the free agent market. Of the FA options left only Mike Napoli, Delmon Young, and Aubrey Huff have higher wRC+’s than Rajai Davis vs. LHP over the past three years and only a few others have come close to Davis’ production versus lefties. The difference between Huff and Davis is marginal and while Mike Napoli and Delmon Young represent upgrades they will either take a large commitment in Napoli’s case or pinhole the Jays into a sole DH platoon.
In theory it would make sense to simply supply a better right handed half of a DH platoon for Adam Lind, but the present versatility on the Blue Jays roster could provide a situation with similar results.
As is, in Rajai Davis and Emilio Bonifacio, the Jays have two players who can collectively play LF, CF, RF, 3B, SS, and 2B while also being more than adequate against LHP for the positions that they play. As well, in terms of position players presently on the Blue Jays projected 25-man roster, there is quite a few players who one might call injury risks…players like Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, and even young gun Brett Lawrie. Using their present versatility the Jays could give each of those players, among others, some games at DH when the Jays are going up against a left handed starter and put one of Davis or Bonifiacio in their place in the field.
The proposed positional breakdown would look something like this.
C – J.P. Arencibia
1B – Adam Lind
2B – Maicer Izturis
SS – Jose Reyes
3B – Brett Lawrie
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista
DH – Edwin Encarnacion
C – J.P. Arencibia
1B – Edwin Encarnacion
2B – Maicer Izturis
SS – Jose Reyes/Emilio Bonifacio
3B – Brett Lawrie/Emilio Bonifacio
LF – Melky Cabrera
CF – Colby Rasmus
RF – Jose Bautista/Rajai Davis
DH – Rajai Davis/Jose Reyes/Brett Lawrie/Jose Bautista
Of course there would still be a number of games where Rajai Davis is pencilled in as the DH and whose to say whether Reyes, Bautista or Lawrie would be ok with being delegated to DH, but when you consider that the other FA options are either costly, not significantly better, or not very good at all the present situation doesn’t seem all that bad.
With that said, it still leaves the question of what to do with the 25th spot on the roster and at this point it seems most likely that it will go to someone currently on the 40 man roster (David Cooper, Ryan Goins, Moises Sierra, Aaron Loup, etc.), but of the available options, none of them is particularly intriguing considering the present roster construction. Instead what would probably be ideal is someone who can play 3B better than Bonifacio and maybe even fill in at 1B vs. LHP from time to time…of course this would ideally be done without breaking the bank and probably in the fashion of a player willing to accept a minor league deal.
Beyond that there isn’t too much left for this Toronto team to do. The Jays are set with players at all 8 positions on the diamond and their starting rotation is more than filled out. At this point there could still be value in upgrading certain positions like C, RP, and even CF…depending on how much money the Jays have left to spend. However, as is, with the current team, the Jays likely have their best shot at the playoffs since the glory years in 1992 and 1993.
So thats it…the season is done, the playoffs have already started, but once again without the Jays. 2012 marks the 19th straight season without a Blue Jays playoff berth and their .451 winning percentage is the worst it has been since 2004. Instead of a Blue Jays playoff berth the baseball world is enthralled with the season of the Dustin Parkes dubbed Baltimore #YOLOrioles who have not only secured a playoff spot, but are marching their way right on to the World Series, or at least so it seems. That’s because this year among other things the Orioles found the ever so coveted luck dragon, they found some way to win despite the limitations of what would seem like a relatively crappy team. Quite a few people have tried to quantify what exactly we saw this season, but it seems like the best answer is still shit happens.
In Toronto, the narrative has been similar as fans watched this season and saw a bevy of players go down with injuries, while simultaneously ruining any hope of a Blue Jays playoff berth, shit happens. The list of injuries is a long one and includes such key players as Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Jose Bautista among others.
If you take a quick glance at that list you’d probably assume it to be the reasoning behind the Blue Jays’ mediocrity and 99 times out of 100 you’d probably be right, but in this case it doesn’t tell the entire story. On top of being one of the most injured teams in baseball the Blue Jays experienced some worse than expected performances from a majority of their starting lineup.
This is the list of Blue Jays’ hitters who outperformed their wOBA as projected by ZiPs, one of the most trusted projection systems available: Edwin Encarnacion, Rajai Davis, and David Cooper.
As you can see that list includes one, maybe two everyday players. Not only is that slightly depressing, but it’s a major factor behind the Blue Jays’ lack of a playoff berth.
Beyond the obvious demoralization of a terrible season there was one other sad point this year and that’s how inquisitive it has left us. Coming in to the year, 2012 was supposed to be a year that answered questions, but it seems like it has left us with more questions than it answered.
Sure there was the breakout seasons from Encarnacion and Morrow, and sure Bautista reaffirmed himself as one of the leagues best hitters, and sure maybe even the bullpen looks pretty damn good going forward, but what’s one to make of the rest of the team?
Yunel stepped back this year both on a hitting level and a likability level for most of the fan base, this coming after one of the better years in his career. Lawrie was praised as a super prospect after his unpredictably amazing finish to the 2011 season with the Blue Jays, but this year he hasn’t progressed to the level that was expected and has instead shown the ere of his injury ridden ways. Last, but…well maybe least, Colby Rasmus wasn’t all he was cracked up to be, if you take out his promising production from the month of June he ends up with a 69 wRC+, which would rank 2nd last among qualified hitters. While the last of those statistics is rather arbitrarily conceived, it still goes to show the general ineptitude that Rasmus showed during the majority of the 2012 season.
As for pitchers, Ricky Romero wasn’t exactly the staff ace that some expected him to be…in fact he wasn’t even the slightly above league average pitcher that I expected him to be. Instead he posted the 3rd worst qualified ERA in Blue Jays history and the 5th worst qualified FIP all to go along with his now record 13 straight losses for whatever that’s worth (Hint for the latter half, not much). Then there’s Henderson Alvarez, who despite posting a similar ERA and higher FIP than Romero as well as the lowest K% among starters in the MLB, probably isn’t getting enough flack. Sure he’s 22 years old and has fire coming out of his arm, but he still halved his K% and doubled his BB% from 2011, not a great trend.
Not to mention that the above list of players doesn’t include the lost seasons of Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison due to Tommy John Surgery.
With all that said it doesn’t really leave the Jays with much certainty for 2013, which was basically what was said going in to 2012.
Beyond the supposed mainstays in the lineup and rotation there is a glut of players like Moises Sierra, Anthony Gose, David Cooper, and Hechavarria who showed some promise, but don’t really have an affirmed spot for 2013. This probably isn’t exactly what Alex Anthopoulos imagined his roster would look like for what is going to be his 4th full season as Blue Jays General Manager, which makes the 2013 offseason particularly interesting.
Anthopoulos has already said that he’s likely going to increase payroll, but to what level is unknown. As well whereas after 2011 AA was the Silent Assassin, the Amazing Alex Anthopoulos, and the Jedi among other endearing names, this year he has undergone more criticism from the both regular and hardcore fans alike. If he doesn’t do anything big in the offseason and fails to win in the regular season it would be reasonable to assume that his job could be on the line.
Don’t get me wrong I’m a big fan of Anthopoulos’ processes but a situation has been created in which he has a lot of players who haven’t panned out as expected and if the ownership doesn’t have absolute confidence in Anthopoulos whose to say that he won’t be gone come 2014 or even sooner. If that is the case then there is the potential that AA rushes the process and while it isn’t a likely occurrence it could be a defining factor for the Jays going forward. Only time will tell.
Photo Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Side Note: Posts on the blog were pretty sparse towards the end of the season as I was quietly enjoying some of the performances from Morrow, Gose, Sierra, and Hechavarria, but as we move into the off season you can expect more posts including a few in depth breakdowns with what went for some of the players mentioned in this post.