Toronto Baseball Guys
Sunday, August 29, 2010
  What's Left?
Okay, so after the obligatory drubbing by the Red Sox, failing to sweep the Yankees, and splitting a series with the toothless Tigers, I think I’m finally ready to throw in the towel on the Jays making the post season.*

So with the playoffs no longer within reach I want to focus on some attainable goals for the remainder of the season:
Home Run Crown: Jose Bautista’s having just about the best season you can as a Blue Jay without his butt actually being purple. I’d like to see this season leave an imprint on league records by having him end up as the home run king. I know what you’re thinking McGriff, he’s already surpassed 36 dingers, shouldn’t that be enough? Well not this year, so let’s hope that Miguel Cabrera tries to win the MVP through fielding and small ball tactics, while Jose swings for the fences on every pitch in every at bat for the remainder of the season. Cito repeat after me…"I will not sit Jose so that a veteran who will not be back with the team next year can get his at bats"
While on the topic of Jose Bautista, I make no apologies if I end up referring to him as Tony Batista. I am a Jays fan and these things start to muddle together after a while. I’ve memorized the numbers ’77,‘85, ‘92, ’93, I can distinguish Tony Fernandez from Eddie Zosky and I know that not even David Wells could sweat through his hat faster than Duane Ward. Please don’t ask me to explain trivial details like the difference between Tom Candiotti and Bud Black’s too little too late tenures here, and which of JP Ricciardi’s comments to the media was the most self indulgent.

No Whammies: The pitching staff has been consistently sturdy both in the quality of the performances, and in the virtual complete lack of DL time. Please pitchers don’t do something stupid over the next month. We need you back in spring training to properly initiate Kyle Drabek with noogies, pattiwacks and a Jays-style change up of his very own. Shutting down Morrow is a good move, do it to everybody, save arms, I don’t care if Jose Canseco needs to throw a few innings, keep the starters healthy for next year.
While on the topic of the starting staff, allow me to ask and answer the following question:
Q.) Would you rather have a rotation that consists of the best pitcher in baseball followed by four guys from triple A, or four major league calibre arms and minds?
Uh I’ll take the latter every time! Every day I tune in to channel three hundred and whatever to see the Jays play on Rogers’ new -super special, this one’s really in the best interest of sports fans- station, I know that there’s a good chance the Jays will win. That’s a heck of a lot better than the four out of every five day hiatus my hopes and dreams needed to take over the last few seasons.
Yes I am aware that trading Roy Halladay in no way precluded the Jays from fielding a rotation that included Marcum, Romero, Cecil and Morrow, but I’m just expressing how much I’ve enjoyed this season and look forward to the fact that there’s no reason why each of these guys can’t improve in 2011.

The Real DH: Adam Lind has been swinging a better bat of late, and is slowly pushing his numbers toward respectability. Hopefully this will give him the confidence he needs going into next year.

Let Snider Play, Let Snider Play: With the recent DL’ing of Edwin Encarnacion the Jays’ seven…er…two player rotation of Snider and Lewis can now play everyday with Bautista moving to third. It’s the perfect scenario, well get to watch the players we're interested in seeing, Bautista will get some time at third –a position he might start at next season- and we don’t have to worry about hurting Lyle Overbay’s feelings. There’s no way we can mess this up!

Other Notes:
Let’s get off Cito’s back: Bobby Cox ditched us for the Atlanta Braves, Jimy Williams gave us September of 1987, Tim Johnson gave us stories about war and how he, Neil and Buzz, couldn’t believe how light they felt on the moon, Buck tried to give a bunch of power hitters the green light on the basepaths and John Gibbons fought with more Jays than Alex Rodriguez, so can we please take it easy on Cito. The guy reminds us of a time when the Jays were good, has made great strides with the batting of Lind, Buck and Bautista, to name a few, and has nurtured the Jays’ young starters with the perfect blend of caution and tough love. Throughout the season, we’ve seen Cito approach the mound to speak to a young starter who’s running out of gas and pitched into some trouble. Each time, he asks the hurler if they want the next batter and they say yes. It doesn’t matter if they’re successful or not, he’s preparing them to deal with the ups and downs of being a major league pitcher, which will pay huge dividends in future years. Yes, it’s easy to question why Travis Snider is batting leadoff, or ninth but where Snider bats in the order in 2010 has no impact on the moon shots we all hope he’ll be launching in 2011.

Let me also provide some thoughts on the seemingly mind-boggling playing time awarded to Overbay and Encarnacion at the expense of Travis Snider. Overbay has potential trade value due to his solid defense and improved hitting and will continue to do so until the end of August. The Jays might as well shop him around until then. Once September starts up, perhaps Lyle can snag a couple more days off or at least play some DH so Lind can get some reps in. Encarnacion is young -27- and has a lot of power, the Jays really want to take a look at him to see if he’s worth signing in the off season. I get that his fielding is poor, but I can’t say that Fred Lewis is challenging for a gold glove here either.

I was reading an article on Drunk Jays Fans in which a chat with Keith Law is covered questioning the value of the RBI as a statistic. The chat and accompanying article suggested that RBI is partially an indication of players getting on base in front of a batter rather than just the batter’s actual ability to drive in runs. The discussion also explained that OPS is a much better indicator of the player’s run producing value since it is based on what the player alone has done. The article wen on to comment on how Joe Carter had some comparatively bad 100 RBI seasons.
I take exception to all of this after watching Vernon Wells’ miserable failures leading up to Wednesday’s single-handed dismantling of the Yankees. Verno’s consistent inability to produce a single run with a man on third, and fewer than two outs is mind-boggling. If Vernon can hit the ball on the ground to the right side, or moderately deep in the air anywhere, then the run will score. If these end up being ground outs or sac flies then his OPS will go down due to a drop in OBP but he's been productive. Instead, Wells opts for the casual strike out, and ever trendy pop up to second base. These are just recorded as outs, and show up the same way -as his ground out to the right side- in his BA, OBP and SLG. Shouldn’t a failure to drive in a run in that situation be reflected somewhere in a players stats? Obviously you can’t make it count as two outs or negative bases, but consistently missing opportunities to drive in these runs are a reflection of a player’s inability to do what’s best for his team in a specific situation. I’m not denying the value of knowing that a player can get on base, or can accumulate many bases, but knowing that a player has the tools -both physical and psychological- to cash in runs when the opportunity presents itself is pretty valuable too. You can make fun of Joe Carter for his wild swings and misses, his hair do while in Cleveland and his time as a broadcaster, but you have to admit that this guy knew what it took to push runners across the plate. It’s suggested by his RBI totals, which included four years of 98 or more while playing in Cleveland, who –If you don’t count the Major League Movies- didn’t have a whole lot of success in the eighties.

I’d like to propose a stat called RBI %. This stat would be calculated as follows:
RBI% = (number of runners driven in with runner on third and fewer than two outs)/(number of PA with runner on third and fewer than 2 outs) * 100%
We already know that OPS suggests the likliehood that a player can generate offense, and we know that BA with runners in scoring position is an indication of how many hits a player gets in pressure situations but RBI% would give us an idea of how effective a player is at cashing in these golden opportunities that teams like the Jays seem to fail in far too often. This JP, would lead us to some real "RBI Freaks".
*Not really, but I’m just sandbagging here so the powers that be think that I’ve given up hope so they can prove me wrong as thay tend to like doing.
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