Toronto Baseball Guys
Sunday, April 21, 2013
  7-11... Not Very Convenient
Alright, so the resurgence of the Blue Jays has not exactly come to fruition:

$100 million shortstop broken? Check
Everyone hitting .200 or worse? Check
Old teammates killing us? Check

It's still just April, and there's still 90% of the season to go. That said, "It's early" can only placate a fanbase for so long. The win column has to start filling up at some point. Until then, here's a couple of fans' clever take on the Jays' early struggles.


Sunday, April 14, 2013
  Looking Back on 2013
Now that the 2013 baseball season is behind us, we can reflect on what a tremendous year it was. The Mets surpised everyone, boasting both league MVP John Buck (.317, 6 HR, 19 RBI) and Cy Young winner Matt Harvey (3-0, 0.86), earning them a tie-breaker playoff with the Nationals to see who will face off against the Giants in the Wild Card play-in game.

The Braves cruised to the division title, joining St. Louis in the Central and the surprising Diamondbacks in the West.

Over in the American League, the Red Sox (6-4) rebounded from a hideous 2012 to capture the American League East - all the more remarkable as they were without David Ortiz for the entire season.

The Tigers and Royals will meet in a 1-game playoff to decide the Central, just holding off the resurgent Indians and Cy Young winner Justin Masterson (3-0, 0.41). Meanwhile, Texas and Baltimore, led by MVP Chris Davis (.405, 6 HR, 19 RBI) meet in a rematch of last year's Wild Card play-in. Davis narrowly missed out on the triple crown, dropping the batting title to teammate Adam Jones.

All of these teams will be hard pressed to challenge the A's (9-3) and their .750 winning percentage.

Pundits were spot-on about the Yankees, who proved too old and broken down to make playoffs, while the revamped Blue Jays were a terrible disappointment, but not nearly as awful as the LA Angels, who played just .200 baseball and immediately fired everyone in their front office (out of a cannon). Rookie phenom Mike Trout struggled terribly his second time around the league, hitting a paltry .227.

Thankfully, the baseball season isn't just 10 games long. So everyone should take a step back from the ledge, turn off the bath water, unplug the toaster and just take a breath.

And yes, the Reyes injury sucks. A lot.


Sunday, March 31, 2013
  Brett Lawrie and the Bench
It was disappointing to hear that Brett Lawrie will start the season on the disabled list. After all, this is the shiniest new Jays lineup in quite a while, and it's a shame that it won't be at its shiniest right out of the gate. The growing body of Lawrie injuries start to make one wonder if he's headed for a Cam Neely/Wendel Clark career path: excellent when healthy, but hard-pressed to stay healthy.

As Bill James has observed, staying healthy is a skill, and while it's too early to proclaim that Lawrie doesn't have that skill at just 23, his list of injuries and the fact that he attacks the game like a B.A.S.E. jumper without a chute leave some room for concern.

The heartening fact to take away from this news, is that the Jays will have a competent major leaguer in Lawrie's stead in Macier Izturis.

For the last couple few years, the Jays had John McDonald and Omar Vizquel as backup infielders. Great stories, wonderful individuals, terrific defenders and essentially useless with the bat.

This year, Alex Anthopoulos has provided his team with a serviceable bench. Here are all of the Blue Jays to come off the bench for at least 150 plate appearances over the past two seasons, along with their On-Base-Percentage Plus Slugging, adjusted for the league and park. 100 is average.

                       PA    OPS+
Mathis   '12          227     71
Gose     '12          189     70
Sierra   '12          157     74
Vizquel  '12          163     49
Rivera   '11          275     80
Snider   '11          202     65
McCoy    '11          228     53
Molina   '11          191    104
McDonald '11          182     70
Nix      '11          151     49

Aside from Jose Molina's career year, there's not a lot there. Here's what the Jays will have coming off the bench this season, with their adjusted OPS over the past 4 years.
Derosa     87
Davis      89
Blanco     84
Bonifacio  83
Izturis    99

Some caveats apply.

McDonald and Vizquel were fun to watch, but so are mascots. They don't necessarily help the ball club win. With a viable set of reserves backing up a revamped roster, the Jays are better equipped to handle injury than they've been in many years.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013
  Ricky Ro Gotta Go
The decision to send Ricky Romero to A ball to work out his issues is the right call for this team at this time. The team spent the off season building a winner, so allowing Romero to toy with his mechanics at the major league level sends the wrong message to a fan base that has been starved for a winner for 20 years. You are saying that we are only interested in trying to win 80% or our games.

Many other pitchers have had to do this, Roy Halladay and Mike Timlin come immediately to mind, so it is not the end of the world. Let's hope we get back Ricky circa 2011 and we have one of 5 or 6 best starting pitchers in baseball.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013
  Gibbons Not THAT Surprising a Hire
There were quite a few eyebrows raised when the Blue Jays chose John Gibbons to manage their revamped lineup. Retread managers, rehired by the club that fired them, are rare - particularly when they didn't win in their first go around.

Historically, only Bobby Cox, rehired by the Atlanta Braves after leading the Blue Jays to the 1985 AL East title, has been brought back to a team that fired him without winning a championship for that team. If Gibbons can repeat the success Cox had with the Braves in his second stint... well, that would do.

Gibbons was decent enough in his first go with the Jays, posting a 305-305 record, with some well-known bumps in the road, but hey, who HASN'T wanted to throttle Ted Lilly at some point? He's a braver choice than retreads like Jim Tracy or Jim Riggleman, and a known commodity for Alex Anthopoulos.

It shouldn't be a huge shock that the Jays would bring someone back. After all, over the years, they have brought back or reacquired:

This is Team Prodigal Son, right down to Gregg Zaun and Jack Morris returning as analysts after finishing their careers elsewhere. There's a culture of "Once a Blue Jay, Always a Blue Jay" in the organization, with Gibbons as merely the latest beneficiary.

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Monday, March 18, 2013
  Jays Win!... The Off-Season
Anytime a team goes from an also-ran 4th place finish to the odds-on World Series favourites in Las Vegas in the space of two months, the front office has clearly done something right. So it was with the Toronto Blue Jays this past winter.

Nobody hangs a banner for winning the off-season.

The undisputed winners of the off-season heading into 2011 were the Boston Red Sox, famously proclaimed as the "Best Team Ever." That didn't go so well.

Last year, The L.A. Angels "won" the off-season, signing the best available free agent hitter and pitcher. They later "won" the trade deadline, picking up Zack Greinke, and with Mike Trout's historic rookie season, they "won" just about everything except enough games to keep up with the minimum-wage Oakland A's.

So, cautious optimism for Blue Jays fans is probably in order. Granted, a lot MORE optimism than when the projected 2013 rotation was:

1. Ricky Romero (come on, he can't be this bad again, can he?)
2. Brandon Morrow
3. J.A. Happ
4. Hutchinson's coming back at some point, right?
5. Um.... Anybody have a health update on Jesse Litsch?

The most encouraging things about the flurry of offseason moves has less to do with the specific players involved and more to do with the principals behind them:

The Cupboard is Not Bare
Alex Anthopoulos cashed in a bunch of prospects to make these deals happen - but the Jays still have prospects. Anthony Gose and Aaron Sanchez are still here, as are a number of young arms, and the club will have a high draft pick (10th) this summer.

Albatross Free Zone
Sure, Jose Reyes looks pricey at $96 million for the 5 years left on his contract, but that's nothing compared to a Prince Fielder or Pujolian deal. The Jays have maintained a lot of flexibility with their deals, and won't be regretting any ugly contracts in 2018.

Rogers Flexes Muscles
After years of hearing that "the money would be there" and simultaneously looking at our cell phone bills, Jays fans had to be glad to see ownership dip into its deep pockets. Rogers can spend with anyone in baseball, and while that shouldn't be an invitation to dole out any more Vernon Wells deals, willingness to spend certainly shouldn't hold the team back.

Not a One Year Wonder
This doesn't seem to be a one-year desperation push to contend. Rather, this seems like the beginning of a movement to collect the best players in baseball, much as the organization did in the late 80s and early 90s. With deep pockets, a reasonably young core and a vibrant player development system, this is a team that looks like it's about to enter a cycle of perpetual contention.

There may not be any trophies handed out for off-seasons, but that shouldn't prevent Jays fans rom getting very excited.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012
  Quite the Week
Now that Bud Selig has finally approved the largest trade in Blue Jays history, it's safe to reflect on the franchise makeover. There was never any real danger that MLB would void the trade, but taking a week to ruminate over it gave Selig the chance to "Tut, tut" the Marlins and throw Miami fans a bone that the commissioner is keeping a watchful eye on the team's fire-selling way (It also activated the latent Canadian paranoia in every Jays fan: "This never happens to the Yankees!!!")

So with that out of the way, time for some cogent analysis: Woohoo!

Yes, the Jays gave up some excellent prospects. Yes, the players coming back could be considered to have had "down" years - though none had bad years. Johnson's velocity might be down a tad. Buehrle really likes his dogs...

Fair enough. But the trade instantly rebuilds the starting rotation. A looking-to-rebound Ricky Romero can now slot into the #4 spot in the rotation instead of the #2 spot. Jose Reyes is the most multi-faceted offensive player the team has fielded since Roberto Alomar. And Emilio Bonifacio gives the team an actual bench. While John McDonald and Omar Vizquel were fun to have around, they were more mascot than actual value.

While the Jays parted with some value, they gave up players who might turn into the players they acquired if everything breaks right. Henderson Alvarez might one day be as effective as Josh Johnson. Adeiny Hechavarria might approach the .780 OPS that Reyes posted in 2012. In this deal, the Jays collect the finish products, at the cost of Rogers finally flexing their financial might.

It's nice to be in on the ground floor of a fire sale for once. This is the type of infuriating thing the Yankees usually pull off.

Oh, and as a bonus they offloaded this guy:

To fill the void of "Latin-born player who will be widely booed in opposing parks" left by Escobar, the Jays picked up Melky Cabrera for two years and $16 million. That's about $50 million less than he would have made had he not been popped for steroids. Don't expect him to reach the batting title heights of 2012, but he'll be a welcome improvement over Rajai Davis as the everyday left fielder.

A week ago, the Blue Jays rotation was spotty at best and the lineup had some glaring holes. They now sport a solid starting 4 and a balanced, potent attack. It might be time to get excited.


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