Posts tagged Rangers

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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A Flawed System?

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Via the National Post

Today it was announced the the Texas Rangers, not the Toronto Blue Jays won the bidding on Yu Darvish for a posting fee of $51.7 million. With many people around the baseball world projecting that the Blue Jays would be the winning team in the posting extravaganza, it got many many Jays fans excited for Darvish in Toronto only to be disappointed by the official reports. This brings up the question do the Jays really need to do this to us the fans? Do their policies need to be such that they hype up players only for hopes to be crushed?

When J.P. Ricciardi passed on the torch to Alex Anthopoulos in 2009 there was a new mindset and a new system put in place. This system has been effective over the past couple of years, but one piece has come to the forefront this offseason. This piece of the system being the Blue Jays front office’s insistence on not commenting on any players on the market.

On one hand this system creates mystery and allows the Jays front office team to operate without the public eye to unhinge any ongoing negotiations. But on the other hand as we have seen this offseason the lack of comments on players just creates rumours of the Jays being linked to practically every player on the market.
By even just a quick look at the Blue Jays feed on MLB Trade Rumors it shows that the Jays were linked to Carlos Beltran, Mat Latos, Dontrelle Willis, Prince Fielder, Darren Oliver, Gio Gonzalez, and those are only in the past week. Some teams are lucky to get linked to that many players in an entire offseason, yet alone in a week.
Some may point to the fact that the Jays have an incredibly large scouting staff as the reasoning, and I’m sure that is some of it, but with the Jays generally being a tight lipped organization it sure seems like some of this is being made up. Especially considering that generally the players that the Jays are linked to don’t end up going to the Jays and the ones that aren’t do.
Take Sergio Santos for example, prior to the deal between the White Sox and Blue Jays there was literally no leak or rumour of him not only going to the Jays, but of him even being a trade candidate at all. The last post on Sergio Santos’ feed on MLBTR before the trade came 2 months prior was talking about the team friendly extension that he signed with the team in September.
So how is this bad you may ask well as we have seen with Yu Darvish this past week and presumably Prince Fielder in the future, the Jays become linked to these big name players by a couple sources, then those sources talk to other sources and soon enough everybody knows. Once that situation comes about we end up with all the Jays blogs (myself included) and radio shows talking up Darvish getting the fans all excited that maybe Rogers is going to open up their checkbooks and sign a big name player. The excitement itself is great, it creates interest in the Jays and brings new fans to the sport.
The problem however is the after, as in what happens after we find out that often the Jays aren’t the ones getting the big name player, they’re the team waiting on the side in rebuilding mode. Granted the rebuilding part is good, it means the Jays are trying to create a contender for years to come, a statement the Blue Jays front office stands by, but if the current process is potentially turning away fans, doesn’t there need to be change?

Via CBC.ca

It is a debatable point as on one side you would think that to win the Jays need to make trades and that often requires privacy. But on the other and to win the Jays also need money and fans and by doing what they’re doing they are turning fans away. We always hear the sentiment that when the Jays start winning the fans will come back to the games, but could the Jays be digging themselves into a hole they can’t get out of?

While listening to Jays Talk with Mike Wilner shortly after the Darvish announcement you start to hear what the casual fans think. As flawed as some of their opinions may be, they still make  up a majority percentage of the fan base and will have a large opinion as such. On the same show another point is brought up about how the Jays never led anyone on during the Darvish process and that is the same thing you can say about any negotiations, because the Jays simply don’t say anything and that is precisely the problem. They don’t even say when they aren’t interested in players because even if they don’t like a player it could possibly taint future negotiations.

In thought that seems like a good idea because the Jays help themselves by not tainting player negotiations and help fans by not leading them on. The problem is that in practice being that by not saying anything rather than not leading fans on, instead the Jays leave it up to a whole bunch of reports from “anonymous sources” to dictate the Blue Jays front office’s views on players. The Jays give their fans really no parameters as to what their interests in players or even types of players are.

With all that said don’t take this as me trashing the Blue Jays front office, I don’t mind the current system and I like the direction the Jays are taking. But something to think about with the current system is the toll that the fan base is taking. Anyways, since the Jays now won’t get the chance to sign Darvish, here’s to hoping they have a great rest of the offseason.

A Whole New World

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Vernon Wells
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons
What if…
What if the sky were orange, what if water were red, what if there was world peace, what if the Yankees moved to Timbuktoo.
These are all obviously examples of “what ifs”, they describe a scenario in which is seemingly impossible to imagine ever happening. Just last season a “what if” in Jays nation, was what if the Blue Jays could trade away Vernon Wells? Well last offseason that “what if” was fulfilled as the Angels foolishly took Vernon Wells away from the Jays and now this offseason that “what if” that was fulfilled has led me to another what if. What if Vernon Wells had never been traded?
It seems like an odd proposition to think about as it will never be undone, but what is interesting about this trade is how much it effected not only the Blue Jays but the entire goings  of the entire 2011 season.
If Vernon Wells had never been traded, where would the Jays be. Would us fans be thinking about the possibility of signing a big name free agent? Would the Jays even be half as far in their rebuild process? The answer to both of these questions is probably no and the reasoning being that as some forget Vernon Wells was owed 86 million dollars between 2011-2014. Currently the payroll obligations for 2011 will be just over $50 million after arbitration. With Wells tacked on that number jumps up, closer to $75 million. Then the question becomes, can the Blue Jays front office realistically sell it to the fans and to Rogers that they need to go out and spend $20-$25 million on a guy and put the payroll up to and probably over $100 million for the 2012 season after the Blue Jays just finished 81-81. I’m not even sure Anthopolous could sell that idea to himself and he is the king of negotiation.
Along with the lack of interest in big name free agent that would have come with Vernon Wells still on the roster, the Jays whole rebuilding process would have been set back at least a couple years. First off with Wells still on the roster the Jays would then have four left fielders and an even bigger logjam in the outfield. Second despite the fact that Anthopolous was long a proprietor of Rasmus prior to the mid season trade between the Jays and the Cardinals, it is hard to imagine Anthopolous acquiring Rasmus and adding what would be a 6th outfielder, even if he had the option to stuff Thames and Snider in the minors. To go along with that would have been the whole feel that the Jays would not have been on the upturn of their rebuild. It is a pretty fair statement as it is hard to imagine a team to be thought of on the upturn of a rebuild, when they are paying a guy $23 million dollars to be worth 3 wins above replacement at the most.
It probably would not changed Alex Anthopolous’ philosophy or approach as he would go about his business the same whether the Jays had no albatross’ versus if they had 5. What it does change is the outlook for fans and for others across the league. As Kevin Goldstein describes in one of his recent Up and In podcasts, the Blue Jays are now the flavour of the month, which is hard to see them being if they had an albatross contract dampening the outlook of the team.
Take the Angels themselves for example, they have a bolstering farm system and if the not the best then the second best prospect in baseball in Mike Trout. Despite that you still hear that they are paying Vernon Wells $20+ million and Torii Hunter $17+ million rather than the positives with the team because in many cases it makes for a good story.

Getting back to the rest of the league had Vernon Wells not been traded? Would we have the same two teams in the World Series? Would those two teams even be in the World Series. It is an unusual thing, but the Blue Jays had a big influence on this years World Series matchup. There is 6 ex-Blue Jays (7 if you count Patterson) on the two World Series teams, most of which would not have been on the teams had Vernon Wells not been traded.

Starting with the Rangers, the Rangers currently have two ex-Blue Jays on their roster in Mike Napoli and Michael Young. Had Wells not been traded Michael Young still would have been there, but Napoli would not. With that said, Mike Napoli hasn’t been stellar in the postseason, but he’s been good and at times the difference maker. As well going off fWAR, had the Rangers not had Napoli furing the regular season, it’s possible they would not have made the playoffs. This season Mike Napoli had a 5.6 fWAR, which means he contributed ≈ 5 wins to the Rangers. What it also means is that he took ≈ 5 wins away from the Angels. The final standing in the AL West had the Angels 10 wins out of 1st. So had the Angels kept Napoli, who knows, maybe its them in the World Series and not the Rangers.

Then with the Cardinals, they currently have four ex-Blue Jays on their playoff roster roster in Chris Carpenter, Edwin Jackson, Mark Rzepczynski, and Octavio Dotel. Like the Rangers had Wells not been traded the Cards would have had Carpenter, but likely not Jackson, Scrabble, or Dotel, and all three of these guys were key contributors to the Cards in their race to get to the playoffs and the run that they’ve had at the World Series. During their regular season Cards tenures the three players acquired in the Colby Rasmus trade produced a total of 2 fWAR (Jackson 0.7 fWAR, Scrabble 0.4 fWAR, Dotel 0.9 fWAR). Those two added wins were all the Cards needed to make the playoffs  as they beat out Atlanta by only a game. Now in the playoffs the key ROOGY performances by Dotel, the bullpen solidification by Rzepcznyski, and key starts by Jackson have all been vital in the playoff success of this team.

Its amazing that when you look back at a single trade or single move that it seems like it only effects the two teams involved, but in truth it can effect so much more. That one single move between the Angels and the Blue Jays has just snowballed into something much bigger as it indirectly created this world series matchup. As well the snowballing will continue for the Blue Jays as they improve from dividends paid in the Vernon Wells trade. That one single moment has become for the Blue Jays an extra draft pick, a centerfielder of the future, and hope that things will get better for the Bluebirds. Three invaluable assets to the Blue Jays organization.

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