Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's a dick in a bag

I’m sorry Dick; I can’t let you get away with this one. In something I don’t want to make a reoccurring gig, I have to point out a few concerns I have with your latest mailbag. To go through the whole thing would be too time consuming and painful but there are a few things I absolutely have to point out.

My comments in bold.

(sort of)

Picture taken from Drunk Jays Fan.

Q: Given the Jays continuing mediocrity, you are probably right that Gibby will be sacrificed this winter to exculpate J.P. Ricciardi and give season ticket holders a reason to believe next year will be better. I'm interested in who you have on your top-five list as replacements, and why. Thanks.
Donald Bruce Wright, Los Gatos, CA

A: This has never been a call for John Gibbons' head on a Blue Jays platter, but merely a statement of what seems to be the obvious progression of this team.

Hold on a second. That is a bold face lie! You lied Dick, you lied.

For general manager J.P. Ricciardi, you can't fire a whole team, especially when it is handpicked by you. In fact, it seems an exercise in futility to start picking a top-five of potential managers without knowing who will become available from among the current crop of guys still with jobs. Just look at the situation in Houston. I would not hesitate to consider a guy like Phil Garner, with intensity, heart and a track record of success that even includes a World Series appearance.

Phil Garner!!!! Jesus Christ Dick, you could do better than him. His moves have been so puzzling it’s amazing he wasn’t fired years ago. Actually the reason he wasn’t fired years ago was because they play in a shit division and Beltran and Clemens got super hot for two months. In 15 seasons as a manager he has never won a division and has a career .483 winning percentage. If this question was asked in July you would have said Sam Perlozzo, in June, Mike Hargrove.

I was impressed by the job Ernie Whitt did as manager of Team Canada at the World Baseball Classic.

Not to take anything away from Ernie but a four game fucking sample size? Come on.

He deserves a chance to manage in the big leagues, but his profile doesn't seem to fit what Ricciardi would be looking for as a replacement for Gibbons.

Read; Ernie Whitt = Gibbons lite.

My No. 1 choice for the job, if the decision needed to be made today, would be Cito Gaston. The man has won two World Series and has become more and more of a legend in Toronto sports with each passing year. The team that Ricciardi has put together includes the type of veteran players that respond well to Cito's belief that his players are all grown men and deserve the right to be treated as such. Gaston still has a desire to manage, but is too proud and has been burned too often – most recently by the White Sox when they hired Ozzie Guillen – to apply for the post. They would have to ask him and that won't happen as long as J.P. is there. But Gaston would be a good choice.

I’m not going to slack Cito but have some fucking imagination Dick. The guy asks you for 5 potential managers and you give those fucking three names. Did you research that shit. I mean, where in hell did you find these candidates? It’s that kind of not thought out shit that made Buck Martinez manager.

Alex Rios Question from some guy in Chicago deleted because it was a waste of time to read.

Q: Hi Richard,
I'm just wondering who on the Blue Jays roster is a free agent at the end of this year. Who do you think the Jays will re-sign and who should they go after on the free agent market.
Binh Ha, Cornwall, Ont.

(Some shit on Matt Stairs’ price tag deleted)

What the Jays could do, though, is sign a veteran free-agent second baseman like Mark Loretta, a man they tried to get several years ago. Then they could move the versatile Aaron Hill over to shortstop and have a solid double-play combo for the three years of a Loretta deal.

Mark Loretta for three years, hmm. I need to check out a pecota player profile for this one. Let’s see, below average defender at 2B and a 20% chance at being a regular by 09. Sweet!

Q: Hi Richard, love your column!
I'm sure this question has been asked before, but I have never seen the answer here. What is Scott Downs' ritual when he arrives on the mound from the bullpen? It looks like he writes something on the mound with his finger. Any idea what he's doing?
Kevin Smith, Toronto

Okay, Kevin Smith; Genius (to get your question answered by throwing out the complement) or Douche Bag (by loving Dick’s column). Based on the fucking dumb ass deduction that your lame ass question was asked before I must go with Douche Bag.

A: I believe he is paying tribute to his two children by scrawling in the dirt with his left index finger just before he attacks his first hitter. Downs is a man of ritual.

Thanks for the answer Dick. Solid answer. I’m actually surprised you took the time to do a little research and find out the answer. There isn’t a hidden agenda behind you picking this question, is there? Oh, wait. Yup, there it is.

He has taken to not speaking with the media, seemingly as a good luck charm, and has a daily routine at home games where, just prior to the team stretch, he brings a sign in from just down the left field foul line that says, "No media or photographers beyond this point" and places it in on the edge of the warning track in front of the dugout. It seems to be working.

Glad you got that in.

Shitty Frank Thomas question skipped, Dick points out the horrible signing and says no one in their right mind would trade for him.

Q: Richard,
I wish the Toronto media would lay off of A.J. Burnett a bit. It seems that any time he's mentioned, it's 'he's not performing to his contract.' It seems like all the Jays' problems are being pinned on him. In reality, he pitched six solid innings (vs. Oakland Wednesday, Aug. 22), got into a bit of trouble in the seventh and his defence let him down big time. Everyone suddenly forgets his previous two starts in which he was stellar. Not to mention only having a one-run cushion to work with.
I wonder what the media would say if it were Doc Halladay on the mound. Anyway, I realize that with a contract comes expectations, but it seems that the media is expecting him to fail and making it seem that a lot of the Jays problems will be solved with him being traded. What are your thoughts on this matter?
Rob J., Markham

Right now I am fucking freaking out he is answering this question!

A: A.J. Burnett has little respect for media, fans, or anyone not in uniform. It's hard to offer any back.

This says it all, right here. I know we’ve known it all along but the fucker god damn admits that this shit is personal. Thanks for all the skilled analysis and discussion over the years dickwad. Marty York’s job at the Metro might be available soon, get your application in pronto.

The lack of respect is clear by the way he interrupts the TV networks in their attempt to provide insight to their viewers in post-game interviews with his shaving cream pie-to-the-face of guests. It's also clear by the way that whenever he's injured and on the DL, he brushes off media requests for an update on his situation, saying "Later", then rushing out to shag fly balls in the outfield.

Nobody gives a shit what you say anymore.

And, by the way, he's not performing to his contract. At the end of this season, he will have earned $22 million of Ted Rogers' money. Thus far, with six starts left this season, he has chipped in with 17 total wins.

Actually the contract is slightly back loaded so if he does opt out the Jays have him for 3/30. You got me with the wins though. That’s what separated Storm Davis and Bob Welch from Jimmy Key and Dave Stieb.

Next part of answer is boring and contradicting but the last line is another blatant Zinger.

Besides, trading Burnett would just free up more money for J.P. to make another mistake somewhere else. Better, the overpaid underachiever that you know...

You lost me at Richard Griffin; BASEBALL COLUMNIST.

Q: Should Ted Rogers do a Raptors with the Jays; i.e. hire a proven GM – someone who has consistently kept his team in the playoffs or in the playoff hunt until the last week in September – and make him the President/GM? The Jays need a sound baseball guy with credibility in MLB at the top. I don't think the Godfrey/JP combo is working.
Chirantan Basu, Ottawa

A: Somebody like Dave Dombrowski of the Tigers.
Mr. Rogers had that opportunity to hire a proven GM back in '01 with Dombrowski, but at the time the Jays didn't need a president and they wanted a GM who would cut payroll and make the Jays competitive on a $50 million (U.S.) budget. Dombrowski got his start with the Expos in the late '80s, making them competitive on an even tighter budget than that. He was interviewed by the Jays and was one of their final candidates for the GM job in '01 but the Tigers offer included the role of president and, eventually, GM (after he fired Randy Smith) and gave him the chance to spend more money. It was infinitely more appealing.
Double-D bailed on his final interview with Paul Godfrey and headed to Motown, guiding them to the World Series within five years. Hey, that sounds like a five-year plan. But, yes, at this stage of the Jays' history, a GM of vision and charm would help. It would have to be someone with a track record in baseball and not an unknown like the just-fired Tim Purpura of the Astros.

Hmm, Dick it is funny you say that. Dave Dombrowski, you think the Jays should've hired Dave Dombrowski? I actually remember you wrote an article stating as much around the time JP called Toronto journalist morons (way to prove him wrong) and you took up that personal vendetta. As they say hindsight is 20/20. But wait, after that first article you wrote a follow up article. That’s right, it was an article you wrote for the Star on July 1, 20003. The tittle; “Ricciardi was the right choice for Jays”
I believe the article stated what the title suggests. Here is an excerpt from that article.

“Last night's meeting between the Jays and Tigers was a tale of two cities going in opposite directions. Since the last time the Jays visited Motown, May 31, 2002, the Tigers have had a record of 53-136. The Jays since that date are a solid 107-87.

[Ricciardi] is far in front. The last time the Jays came to drab Comerica Park, it was two months into both GMs' first seasons. The Jays featured a losing manager on the hot seat, Buck Martinez.

The following day, during the Subway Series in New York, it was revealed that [David Dombrowski] was to become president of the Tigers. Nine days after the Tigers announcement, the Jays settled on Ricciardi.”

Unfortunately the story is archived but if you want to pay for the article you can read about Dick’s take on how Dombrowski would have been the wrong choice for the Jays. How he done a shit job with the Tigers who are on their way to 100 losses. How, in retrospect, JP was the better hire. Interesting read.

Skipped Q and A on how the Jays are not the worst, but pretty bad defensively.

Q: Hi Richard,
I love your columns and your mailbag. I read them religiously. My question is, when I read about other teams and their players having Tommy John surgery, I always hear that the recovery time is a minimum of 12 months and from what I've seen, it's typically is closer to 15 months before the pitcher is back to form. Why do the Blue Jays continue with their 10-12 month when they talk about B.J. Ryan?
Thanks much,
Robert Hodges, Bangor, ME

Robert Hodges; Genius or Douche Bag?

A: The Jays insist on going with the old exchange rate, in which 10-12 months Canadian equalled 15 months U.S. (rim-shot).


But seriously…

(Rest of answer skipped, Dick’s point, don’t rush a BJ. I concur )

To wrap, in this edition of the mailbag Dick stated he has never called out for John Gibbon’s head. That he slag’s AJ Burnett because he doesn’t like him. Cito Gaston (who hasn’t managed in 10 years) should take over. That JP is an idiot and that Dave Dombrowski would have been a better choice even though he wrote that he wasn’t a better choice after he first wrote that he would be better.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Scratch that Litsch

I was caught in that fucking awkward position of kinda cheering against the Jays last night. Not to lose the game, but just for maybe Jeremy Accardo to give up a couple of runs on his way to the save. It’s crunch time in Fantasy Baseball and Accardo’s blip helped my chances. When the game got dicey I was hard on myself for letting it get to that point. Was I a fucking traitor? I didn’t want them to lose but you know, you waste so many valuable hours on Fantasy Sports that a maybe asking for a Jays pitcher to give up a few when the team is comfortably ahead is no big deal. But it was a big deal, and I was doomed. How was I to sleep with this guilt on my head? Thank god I checked my email and found this gem passed along. After watching it a few times and literally laughing out loud my spirits rose and I quickly forgave myself. Instead I focused on what the Jays did right to win this game.

The answer, like it has been all year, is pitching. Jesse Litsch pitched another fucking gem. Litsch’s story is as follows; He is a pitcher in his early 20’s who came out of nowhere, was promoted from AA and has become a pleasant surprise in the rotation this year. In fact, he has been so impressive that gingerfuckwad Jamie Campbell and (“the if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all”) Rance Mulliniks were calling him a main stay in the Jays rotation for years to come. Fucking hell! Remember Gus Chacin? He followed a similar career path as Litsch. He was praised the same way by many of you idiot fans. Now Gus never fooled me, and unfortunately his recent injury will never allow us to know how bad (or good as Dr. K might suggest) he really is. But trust me, he’s shit. Winning games is not a skill. There is no such thing as a winner, there is just lucky (Jack Morris) and unlucky(Dave Steib).
Anyway, to get an idea what to expect from Litsch in the future let’s compare him to Gus’s first (and only) full season.

Litsch/Chacin first year comparison
Player Year W GS IP H R ER HR BB SO
Litsch 2007 5 14 79.3 84 39 30 8 26 33
Chacin 2005 13 34 203.0 213 93 84 20 70 121
Player G/A K/BB BB/9 K/9 BAbip ERA *lgERA *ERA+ WHIP
Litsch 1.63 1.27 2.95 3.74 .293 3.40 4.63 136 1.387
Chacin 0.99 1.73 3.10 5.37 .299 3.72 4.45 119 1.394

They look scarily similar. Despite Litsch being superior in one category, which is the huge edge in GB%, their HR’s look pretty even when averaged out over a full season. Chacin’s weak K/9 is vastly superior to Litsch’s. I would have expected for Litsch to have a better BB/9 but is almost equal. K/BB goes to Chacin by a good margin. You also have to be wary of the 9 unearned runs Litsch has allowed. It is very similar to the 05 Josh Towers year when he allowed 24 unearned runs and scratched more than .5 of a run of his ERA. Remember, not all unearned runs are created equal.
BAbip looks close but there is a bigger discrepancy than it appears. This years league average BAbip is .302, so Litsch is .09 under. (Read marginally fortunate). In 2005 the league average was .293 so Chacin was actually .06 over. (Marginally unfortunate). Overall, I would have to give the edge in “numbers” to Chacin.

So, what happened to Chacin the following year?

Well in Chacin’s 2006 year his stats were almost the same except his high fly ball ratio caught up to him and he allowed 19 HR’s in 17 GS, rising his ERA from a very good 3.72 in 05 to a more reasonable 5.05 in 06. This is the one things that people who were not fooled by Chacin (myself, Canate, BP) were pointing out. Others (Dr. K, JP Ricciardi, maybe John Brattain- it wouldn’t surprise me) chose to ignore it.

So what’s in store for Litsch next year? Unlike Chacin, his high ground ball ratio should ensure there is no dramatic spike in HR’s. He should manage to stick around but his other indicating stats are pretty horrible, making the best-case scenario Litsch becoming a serviceable fifth starter. I think if he could pitch 170+ innings with an ERA between 4.50-.5.00 the Jays would have to be happy with that.

Otherwise it may be smart to “sell high” on him and see if you can get a SS with Litsch as a part of the package.

To finish, I don’t want to be a Dick (Griffin) so I will give you the other side of the coin. Unlike Chacin, who was pegged as the number three starter coming into this season,the Jays are not going to be depending on Litsch to be more than a fifth starter next season. So even if he does stink it up they are not hurting as much as they otherwise would have been (without the emergence of Marcum and McGowan). A Rotation of Halladay, Burnett, McGowan, Marcum and Litsch/other is still very solid.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The list revisited

There is a new member to the list. And no it is not Mickey Brantley. (Don't worry Mickey, your time will come). After this recent blow up Brett Myers has joined the Maldonado Over Everything's official Waste of DNA list. By doing so he has also raised the bar for future inductees.


Newest Addition

Brett Myers (seen here in court after beating his wife)

Back to bunting

Last week ol' Razzer rained down insults upon some poor guy whom he'd never met, who committed the cardinal sin of opining that the Jays should consider bunting more frequently. Turns out that said poor guy is a very decent fellow. Might he also have been, um, correct?

The situation last night: 8th inning, Jays suffering through another TFC-esque night on offence, leading 2-1 (as an aside: if you think the Jays' offence is on your last nerve, try attending game after game down at BMO Field, wearing your stupid fucking scarf despite the temperature being 30 degrees with 100 % humidity, without so much as the satisfaction of one single fucking goal in over a month). Olmedo and Stairs reach base (Olmedo for the third time in three at-bats, the little rascal), so we have first and second with none out and Lyle, Alex, and VW coming up. Would it have been so crazy in this situation for Lyle to drop one down?

I felt at the time that one run would pretty much wrap things up, so I thought the goal should have been ensuring one run rather than playing for the mythical big inning. If I recall correctly, the odds of scoring one run are pretty similar whether you have 1st and 2nd with none out, and 2nd and 3rd with one out - but with the way things have been going this year, I prefer our chances in the situation that contemplates not requiring an actual hit to score a run. So, for probably the first time all season, I was actively pleading for Gibby to call for a bunt. He didn't, Lyle promptly hit into a DP, we didn't score, the A's got one in the bottom of the 8th to tie it, and as far as I know the game is still ongoing.

Now by no means am I on the bunt-all-the-time bandwagon, but for eff's sake, must it be completely taken off the table? (Warning: crappy mock sportswriter analogy/attempt at erudition ahead:) Is the bunt to our offence as nuclear weapons are to the Obama foreign policy?

Thoughts, boys? Should Lyle have laid it down?

The future is no better.

Before the season began Pecota predicted the Jays to finish below .500%. I take the Pecota projections serious, and so does my fat bankroll over at Bet365. For the last three years I have been using the Pecota preseason standings prognostications to win a nice little sum of money betting on baseball season win totals. By only picking teams with a 4+ win/loss discrepancy, I have been just above 80% since I started doing this sort of thing. There were some sweet choices this season including the ChiSox under (line at 89 wins), Yankees under (97.5 wins) and D’backs over (78.5 wins). The one bet I refused to make was on the Jays, who Pecota predicted to go 78-84, which is way off the Vegas line of 87.5. Although I refused to bet against my Jays it appears Pecota is going to be closer to the actual record than Vegas will be. 130 games into the 2007 season, the Blue Jays record stands at .500, with 65 wins and the same number of losses. (Not including tonight’s game vs. the A’s). Of the 32 games left, 17 are against teams above .500, 15 are against teams below. 15 are at Home, 17 on the road. Coming down the stretch, for the Jays to finish at .500 is no guarantee. But I’m going to predict that anyway, an 81-81 finish, which are three games better than the infallible Pecota guesses.

Once taking a closer look at the numbers it is apparent that the process Pecota took to get to their totals was a lot different than how the Jays got there. Pecota predicted the Jays to score 804 runs this year, 74 runs more than the 730 the Jays are on pace to score. What is really surprising is that Pecota pegged the Jays to allow 830 runs this year, which is 146 more than the 684 the Jays are on pace to surrender (despite the loss of BJ Ryan).

Knowing this shit, I want to look at a couple of hypothetical situations. (Because hypothetical is all we got at this point, since BP gives us a 0.3% chance of making the playoffs- and I’m rounding up on that number). Hypothetical number one; What if the Jays performed to Pecota’s projection on offense this year while at the same time accomplished the same numbers defensively they have in actuality. Well, at this point in the year the Jays would have scored 645 runs to go along with the 549 they've allowed for a run differential of +95. You would think that a number like that would put us at the top of the AL and into the playoffs. Well yes and no. We would be at the top of the AL but no closer to the playoffs. At this time the BoSox have a staggering run differential of +183 to lead the AL (which would have been 35 runs less if I wrote this last Thursday). The Yankees sit second in the AL with a +157 differential. The next best team in baseball is the Angels at +75. So, the Jays would slide in right ahead of the Angels if the dream scenario took place. Yet because of the division we play in, it would mean no post season. In fact, according to BP’s Prospectus Hit list, which is some convoluted formula to figure out the best teams in MLB, the Jays finished 6th overall last year, behind the 4 AL playoff teams and the Mets. As recently as last week the Jays were 8th on the list for 2007.

Getting back to run differential, it is important to not be a Dick (Griffin) and to point out both sides of the coin. The team with the second best record in all of baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks, have accumulated their 74-57 record on the backs of a -32 run differential (Yes, the “-“ signifies “negative). As well, the 30 runs Texas scored against Baltimore last week was impressive but it was only one win, although it skewed the +/- differential for the season.

Regardless, whether run differential has any bearing on actual ability or not, one thing is clear. In order for the Jays to make it to the post season they need for one of Boston or New York to be out of it for 162 games (and not 100, like the Yankees were this year). Then they need to be as dominant with their pitching as they have been this year (I fully expect regressions for Marcum and Litsch next year due abnormally positive BABIP) and they need their offensive players to have, in the very, very least, seasons that match their career averages. It is then and –it hurts me to say- only then that the Jays can win a playoff birth. I fully expect this to happen in my lifetime and hope they win the World Series when it does, because getting back to the playoffs repeatedly will be a tough task. That is not to say the Jays are a poorly run team, add 40 million in payroll and they have the All-Star Shortstop, Catcher and SP they need to be on par with the Yanks and Sox. The truth is the deck is stacked against the Jays. It was last year, is this year, and probably always will be.

If that’s not negative enough for you, I will explain hypothetical number two I mentioned 700 words earlier. What if the Jays offense played like it has so far but their pitching played down to Pecota’s projections? Well, to this point, they would have scored 586 runs and given up 666 (oh it’s true, it’s damn you all to hell true) for a run differential of -80. That compares to Florida, Houston and Pittsburgh, which averages 57 wins and 73 losses. It’s 2004 all over again (hopefully with out the payoff being Ricky Romero).

Yes, there is that much of a fine line in baseball. I would think that the Jays are closer to the strong AL team than the bottom feeding team. Although the picture I have painted of the Jays is closer to a Patrick Bateman than a Robert, there is some hope for the future. Here is my weak list called “Why the Future is Bright”.

Why the Future is Bright list:

1. BP’s 3rd order wins this year places the Jays with the same record as the Angels, behind only the BoSox and Yankees in the AL.
2. Ted Rogers might have a little Steinbrenner “win before I die” in him. (Hello A-rod!)
3. Papelbon is shoulder surgery waiting to happen; Rivera’s a Free Agent.
4. 2005 =79 wins. 2006 = 87 wins. 2007 =81 wins??. 2008 = 90 wins? (I’m reaching here)
5. Why the fuck not?

Well that list sucked. But remember, I might be down in August but come December I’ll have you convinced how the recently signed Tad Iguchi is going to bring the Jays to the Promised Land.

I’m too drunk to post links and probably should spell check before I post, but what the fuck, it’s not like anyone reads this blog anyway. (And I’m not calling you a nobody John Brattain- well, maybe I am)

Monday, August 27, 2007

And Then We Came to the End (Pt. II)

The Jays did not hit a double off Escobar yesterday, failing to get a two-bagger for the first time in 33 games. It was an amazing run, not so much for the doubles themselves, as for the fact that we managed to set an offensive record during a stretch (and a season) when the offense was putrid. For the year we've managed to hit almost 100 doubles more than our opponents (284-192). I don't know what to make of this, other than to hope that our offense isn't quite as bad as it's looked, and that some of those gappers leave the park in 2008. If you'd told me before the season that Wells would be on pace to hit 45 doubles, yet put up a .742 OPS, I'd have called you Willie Canate.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's That Damn Pitching

So, another painful defeat in which our offence, which is fast approaching Rumsfeldian levels of incompetence, put up an anemic line of 4H, 2BB, 1R. Yeah, that didn't quite do the trick.

Now that you know that, you won't be at all surprised to hear that Dick Griffin assigned blame for the loss to none other than A.J. Burnett, who put up his own line of 7IP, 4H, 3BB, 9K, 1ER. A.J.'s inability to get five outs in an inning without conceding a run, coupled with his penchant for Three Stoogery, apparently makes him "a microcosm of Jays' season".

Of course, yesterday's game was a microcosm of the Jays' season only in the sense that another outstanding pitching effort went for naught. If the lesson you take away from yesterday's game is that the pitcher let the team down by unravelling in the seventh inning, well, you must really hate A.J. Burnett.

Also note that when it comes to the post-victory pie in the face that has become something of an A.J. trademark: "Not everyone sees the humour. Act like you've won a game before, gentlemen." Oh, and while you're at it, kids, get off my lawn. If I ever become this much of a humourless waste of DNA, somebody please shoot me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

And Then We Came To The End

Last night's game was the first since July 20 where a Jay reliever had to enter before the sixth inning. That's a span of 28 games. And to think that some douches were claiming that J.P. made a mistake by cutting Rosario loose instead of sending Marcum down to start the season (I may have been one of those douches; I can't remember now). Anyway, I haven't been this optimistic about our pitching since Chris Carpenter was lighting it up six years ago. I've gone back on forth on J.P. over the years, but he has a chance this off-season to redeem himself forever.

From me to you, J.P.: we can do this. We have the pitching. Now you need to do something great before spring-training. Trade for Bill Hall, or Orlando Cabrera, or Edgar Renteria, or some other hotshot middle infielder. Do something to make me love you again.

Billy Beane, genius

More evidence of Billy Beane's brilliance.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who reads MSN sports anyway?

For those of you who do not read John Brattain, consider yourself lucky. Here is the best bio of the man who has some how managed to make a career in writing on baseball.

{Bloggers Correction-08/21/07: John seems like a stand-up guy. He just happened to write an article that I took issue with.}

In Fire Joe Morgan style, I am going to give my best shot at deconstructing a silly fucking article that Brattain wrote for MSN sports.

(My comments are in bold.)

How John Gibbons is hurting the Blue Jays
Poor lineup management is costing the team wins.

By John Brattain

They could’ve been a contender.

An On the Waterfront/Raging Bull reference, this has potential!

Instead they’ve been royally plucked.

Oh, I get it, a pun.

Plucked, rolled in (very) light batter, deep-fried, and served with enough to feed 13 American League teams. It’s a recipe called “Rolled Smoked Jay”, prepared to keep contending teams feeling high… in the standings. As we shall soon see, the master chef of this dish of ornithological delight even prevents runs.

You’re losing me on this one but I think you are trying to say the other 13 AL teams feast on the Jays this year (despite the Jays being over .500 against the AL this season).


Tell me about it

Since the All Star break the Jays are 18-13. The fact that the Jays have had the best pitching in the AL post-break this really shouldn’t be surprising.

They have the best pitching post break! That’s awesome! That John Gibbons sure know how to run a pitching staff.

Of course, they could be much better than that; the Jays are last in the AL East in runs, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging average: Toronto is averaging about 4.5 runs per game—barely over three (runs on the road) since the All Star Game.

Clearly they have dropped offensively in the second half. Their team OPS is at .750 in the second half, all the way down from .752 in the first half.

The bottom line is this: The Jays offence had held Toronto back from contending in 2007.

Significant injuries to the teams closer, set-up man, #1 starter, #2 starter, 5th Starter, Catcher, 1st Basement, 3rd Baseman, and Left Fielder has nothing to do with why their record isn’t better.

However, it should be noted, it’s not just poor situational hitting, it has been a lack of a coherent plan by skipper John Gibbons.

Hmm, so their .219 AVG with two out and RISP is not the reason they’re struggling. Just like the Red Sox’s .817 OPS with 2 out and RISP is not the reason the Sox lead the division.

The Jays limp lumber became obvious to most sentient people save Gibbons. Yes, the line-up has suffered notable injuries this year with Reed Johnson, Lyle Overbay, Gregg Zaun enjoying some quality shelf time with a slow start by Frank Thomas and a non-start by Vernon Wells adding to a bad case of offensive constipation. It’s only very recently that Troy Glaus came out of a horrific slump.


Sadly, it has been the Jays philosophy that has hurt them as much as the poor hitting in clutch situations.

How exactly? Are you going to tell us?

GM J.P. Ricciardi once famously stated: “Give up outs to score runs? We don’t do that here.”

He did say that. I wonder if it’s because a runner at first with no outs scores .783% of the time. Where as a runner at second with one out scores .699% of the time. And a runner at third with two out scores .382% of the time.

This mindset has cost the Blue Jays a good many wins this year.

Now that’s a statement! Please explain.

Often in the National League, runners on first and second—nobody out, or man on second (nobody out) requires a bunt to move base runner(s) over. This is the oft maligned “productive out.”

You are right! In the National league where the #9 hitter (usually the pitcher) has a batting average of .186 this year, they often get him to bunt.

The Jays eschew the productive out for the unproductive out. The Jays had 47 unique opportunities with men in scoring position and nobody out. They break down thusly:

Only 47 "unique" opportunities, that seems low to me.

• Leadoff double: 19 times
• First and second-nobody out: 20 times
• Man on 2B, 3B or 2B and 3B with nobody out: 8 times

In all of these 47 instances Gibbons let the batter swing away. 47 times the Jays came away empty.

That is unique. It's almost unbelievable.

On another 56 different occasions the Jays had runners in scoring position with nobody out and came away with a single run.

What! I thought it was 47, where did these extra 56 opportunities come from? Are there any more you aren’t telling us about?

That’s 103 chances with men on base with at least one in scoring position and nobody out and the Jays scored a grand total of 56 runs—all because ‘They don’t do that (give away outs to score runs) here.’

Wait a second, they do give away outs to score runs. The Jays are second in the AL in sac flies. What they don’t do is give away outs to move someone up a base.

On a club where it is blindingly obvious that they’re struggling to put runs on the board—the Jays have scored three runs or less 51 times, four or fewer 66 times in 116 games—you have to treat every run as precious. Of the Jays 57 losses, 28 of them were by two runs or less.

And out of their 62 wins, 29 of them were by two runs or less.

This is John Gibbons fault.

It actually seems pretty consistent.

His job is to manage the personnel for maximum advantage. Yes, the Jays have been miserable in clutch situations (a batting, on base, slugging average of .226/.325/.356 in runners in scoring position and two out) but Gibbons has refused to face facts and try to manufacture runs.

Manage the personal to “maximum advantage” you say. Well Lyle Overbay, Frank Thomas, Troy Glaus, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Matt Stairs’ “maximum advantage” does not lie with bunting, it’s hitting for extra bases.

The Jays bat .215/.283/.299 with men on first and second (regardless of number of outs) and he still insists of letting hitters hack away rather than moving runners up 90 feet.

Are you suggesting that every single Jay should bunt a runner up regardless of the inning or score.

In the 20 aforementioned at bats where the Jays were first and second nobody out, the Jays grounded into 10 double plays.

Those 20 at bats you mentioned earlier are taken from a pool of 329 PA were the Jays have had runners on first and second. In other news in 760 at bats in Barry Bond’s career he has hit 760 home runs.

So instead of giving up a productive out and having runners and second and third with one out (and a team that hits .267/.337/.414 in that situation), instead Gibbons gives the opposition two unproductive outs at no cost. The Jays end up with a man on third/two out—a situation where the Jays bat a “Royce-tastic” .226/.325/.356.

If John Gibbons had Alex Rios bunt with runners on first and second when the Jays are down by 4 runs he should be fired.

This is on Gibbons.

Should Vernon Wells bunt in the first while facing Kei Igawa?

His managing the line up has cost the Jays runs, and in turn, games.

What about big Frank laying down a bunt in the third when they are leading 8-0?

This information is freely available to Gibbons (heck, I found it and I’m just a sportswriter) and he either ignores it, or simply hasn’t bothered to check it.

Troy Glaus bunts with one down, runner at second, and Jays trailing 4-2 in the sixth.

His lack of understanding what is going on with his team’s offence and refusing to rectify it has turned a potential playoff team into (barring a miracle) an also-ran.

It’s hard to see if he doesn’t understand because you haven’t given any specific situations where it would have been wise to bunt

Had the Jays managed to manufacture a couple of extra runs in five of the 28 games where they were beaten by two or fewer runs they’d be tied with Cleveland…1.5 games back of the wild card lead.

And if the Jays had missed out on home runs because they were bunting in just 5 of the 29 games they won by 2 or less runs this year, they could be tied with Baltimore, 12.5 games behind the Yankees for the wild card.

That’s how costly the Gibbons-Ricciardi approach has been in 2007.

Or the Earl Weaver approach, or the Joe Torre approach, or the Terry Francona approach, or the any manager in the AL not named Ozzie Guillen and Buddy Bell approach.

If the manager won’t change a losing approach, then it’s time to change the manager. If the general manager refuses to tell his manager that his in-game tactics are losing games, then it’s time to lose the general manager.

Can you clarify how many games over .500 a team needs to be for you to consider them a loser. Because if the Jays are a losing team at 3 games over .500, last years Cardinals had to be a losing team at 5 games over .500. Oh wait, they won the World Series.

The talent and personnel are clearly there.

But they have suffered serious injuries, right? That’s what is missing?

What is missing is someone who can utilize the talent on hand for maximum production.

“Talent on hand”- good choice of words to prove your point. Run Frank run! Drag that bunt Troy! Lyle, make sure you get it past the pitcher! Vernon, we’re not paying you 18 million to hit home runs! Alex, one of the 5 tools is speed, use it god damn it!

That’s the job description of any manager in any industry – including major league baseball.

Punchy ending. You almost won me over with that one.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What a Waste

Jesse Barfield was in the broadcast booth for half an inning this past flashback Friday. Although Jesse had a lot to say and was very interesting to listen to, one comment stuck out beyond others. By watching one Vernon Wells at bat, Jesse concluded that Vernon’s front elbow was coming out, thus disrupting his whole swing and limiting the power in his swing. It took one at bat for Jesse to notice this. One at bat. Vernon Wells has not hit a homerun in 22 games!

Earlier in the season, Lyle Overbay pointed out to Vernon that his front foot was coming down closed when he swung the bat. Vernon made the proper adjustment and then proceeded to play one of the better stretches of ball he had all year. A teammate noticed this. A teammate.

This begs the question, and although “begs the question” is cliché, this really begs the question, “what the fuck is Mickey Brantley doing?” Seriously, he is fucking useless. A tit on a bull has more use. An ashtray on a motorcycle has more use. Air conditioning in the arctic has more use. You get the point. Mickey Brantley is useless, so useless that he is close to making a very special list. Mickey is days away joining the likes of Shea Hillenbrand, Erik Hanson, Richard Griffin, Steve Simmons and Joey Hamilton on the Maldonado Over Everything’s official “Waste of DNA” list. Watch out Mick, you have about forty games to change our minds. And it doesn’t look good.








Friday, August 17, 2007

Gibbons should be here to stay

Not too long ago a friend and I were discussing the days of yesterJay. He welcomed a return to the days of ignorance. A time when Joe Carter's career .770 OPS was disguised by that fact he "had a knack for driving in runs." A time when Jack Morris' 102 ERA+ in 1992 wasn't average because he won 21 games, something the Dave Stieb had never done. My friend was pissed those days had passed. It had made being a baseball fan so much fucking easier. I argued that those days haven’t passed. I logged on to the daily newspaper and pointed out a douche bag columnists weekly mailbag in the Toronto Star, reading aloud the venomous diatribes directed at our team. Things had not changed. People are as ignorant and obstinate as ever. But something is different, as much as there is a broader knowledge amongst a certain fan base (lets call them hardcore) there is also a sense of entitled disillusionment by the majority of spectators.

After going back and forth for some time we realized one thing. Joe Carter and Jack Morris were viewed with rose tinted glasses because the Jays were winning. We agreed a team is easy to evaluate when they are winning. However, this brought forth a new argument. When a team is losing, how do you evaluate them? We are both satisfied with the use of statistics to evaluate player performance for offense. Although defense is a little trickier, the naked eye and BP’s Rate2 will suffice for now. When it comes to managers however, a problem ensued. How do you successfully rate the potential of a manager?

There are a lot of people calling for the head of John Gibbons. Is this justified? Is he a bad manager, a good manager, or something in between? What makes a good manager? It’s easy to point out success as a standard for quality, and futility as a standard for ineptness. But even that simple conclusion has flaws. Joe Torre won a division exactly once in his first 12 years as a manager. The next 11 years saw him win 10 division titles. Of course this streak coincided with his arrival to the powerhouse Yankees. Bobby Cox’s record reads similar. It took him 8 years to win his first division; he then went on to win 14 in a row. They are now considered two of the greatest managers of our time, if not all time. Could Bobby Cox or Joe Torre lead this Blue Jay team to a better record? Who knows? What are they doing different than John Gibbons? It is a comparison that is impossible to answer. What needs to be asked is what has John Gibbons done to be deemed a poor manager?

People point to the Shea Hillenbrand incident from a year ago as reason for his dismissal. If it was any other player than Shea Hillenbrand it might have gotten Gibby canned. But Shea is a fuckwad who has been DFA'd again this year. He called Theo Epstein a “fag” to force his way out of Boston. Complained about playing time in Arizona prior to becoming a Jay. I have to believe the players were behind Gibby on that one.

The Ted Lilly fiasco is a little different. Although both have seemed to put it behind them, it is still a strike against the manager, and the biggest one.

As for this year, Gibby has been criticized for player performance (which he has no control over) but not praised for pitcher performance (which he has no control over) He runs a clubhouse with tremendous player camaraderie. The team record has definitely been hurt by injuries but he does not use that as an excuse. Besides, the team ranks third in the AL in third order wins. Regardless, articles like this one by douche bag extraordinaire Richard Griffin insist he should be gone, even though Griffin writes that Gibbons performance so far “has not really been a bad stint as skipper”.

It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly Gibbons should be fired. His managerial record is slightly above 500, while playing in the hardest division in baseball. He handles the bullpen extremely well. He keeps his bench players fresh and is willing to ride the hot bat. You can argue that the batting order is poorly constructed this year, although that was never an issue in the past. I think that issue has more to do with the offensive struggles of the club this season. There are countless batting order permutations that fans can offer up and argue for or against, but in reality there is no one solution that he is obviously missing.

Even though these faux fans dedicate a blog to firing the man, it is really hard to find a solid criticism of Gibby.
One criticism, that in my opinion is both asinine and egregious, is that Gibbons doesn't do anything special to win games. First off, in the last 10 years give me 20 “special” things any or all managers have done to win games. Baseball is not a sport with a playbook. You don’t come up with a new scheme or ploy. It is not like football, basketball and hockey, from a managing perspective. The things being done today, like the defensive shift, the double switch, and the stolen base, have been happening for years.

Another argument is that Gibbons doesn’t do the “little things” to win a game. No he doesn’t sacrifice bunt. And as this study shows, it’s not outrageous to value outs over bases. He doesn’t steal bases (see argument against bunting). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t do the little things to win. Because last night Gibbons did a “little thing” that went unnoticed in the print media and from the inept ginger fuckface announcer Jaime Campbell. (Credit for term goes to Jays blog Drunk Jays Fans) I’m sure it was also missed by all you assholes calling for Gibby’s head.

In last nights game Gibbons brought in Matt Stairs to pinch hit for light hitting Ray Olmedo in the 8th inning. Stairs promptly got himself out. So too did the next batter Reed Johnson. Instead of sending Johnny Mac out to replace Stairs in the line-up, Gibbons pulled off a double switch (something unheard of in the AL). He replaced Reed Johnson with Johnny Mac and then had the inferior defender Stairs play left field in the top of the 9th. Trailing 4-1, Scott Downs managed to retire the side in order and the Jays started the bottom of the 9th down three runs. After scoring 2 runs and advancing runners to 1st and 3rd it was time for the ninth spot in the order to bat. Instead of having light hitting, right handed Johnny Mac up to face the right-handed K-Rod, the left-handed, superior bat of Matt Stairs was up. Although Stairs flew out to center to end the game, Gibbons managing foresight gave them the best chance to win the game.

Besides John Gibbons being a personable and capable manager, he also has two particular coaches that are invaluable to the team. Their infield/3rd base coach Brian Butterfield is arguably the best in the game and the highly successful pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who’s “pound down” pitching philosophy is centered around inducing groundballs and limiting walks, has worked wonders for the staff. Admittedly Mickey Brantley has not done anything to improve the hitting and most likely will be let go at season’s end. It is important to remember that if the Jays were to fire Gibbons they could not replace him with another rookie manager. The Jays would have to bring in a retread that in turn would bring in an entirely new coaching staff. The way the Jays are playing, the abilities of their coaches and the prospect of the exact same team returning next year is reason enough to stick with Gibbons. Because if he somehow makes the turn in his career that Cox and Torre have made, hopefully, unlike the two greats, Gibbons won’t have to go to another team to do it.