Out Of Respect

Posted: March 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

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A preview of the first post at AL Eastbound & Down.

Since the Detroit Tigers landed big slugging 1B/DH Prince Fielder and signed him to a massive nine-year $214 million dollar contract I have heard (and read) from a lot of Blue Jays fans – and the general consensus is they are fed up, frustrated and upset.  They heard the rumblings that the Jays were going to be potential players on this year’s free agent market, that the team had permission to spend, not as much as the New York Yankees but at least to the level of the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels.

Alex Anthopoulos doesn’t make many mistakes and hasn’t taken much in the way of criticism since he took over the reins from J.P. Ricciardi but this offseason he has done a poor job at one thing, controlling the expectations of an impatient fan base.  The Jays were allegedly interested in Yu Darvish and might have (or not) placed on a bid for the Japanese star pitcher and “Jays Nation” ate this story up and ran with it.

There were numerous reports stating the Jays were at first interested, and then really interested, then super-duper hardcore interested.  With only a few days left until the posting deadline expired the Jays were even called the hands on favourites to win the bidding.  The Jays policy has been a strict one, and up to this point a sound one, they do not comment on rumours or alleged reports on available players.

In this day and age with twitter, facebook and other various media outlets hammering home a variety of hot stories and rumours it is probably best to just leave it to them and not make an official ‘statement’ one way or another.  But in this instance I would have toned down the rhetoric (we have money to spend) and tried to “turn down the temperature” for any big off season plans the Jays had.

Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for $214MM over nine years – was this a wise move? 

My first thought when I read the initial “rumours” about this signing that there is no way the Tigers would be dumb enough to pay a bad-bodied DH in the making 200+ million dollars.  Yet it is being confirmed that this is indeed the case. 

Let me get the obligatory “this player is great” out of the way early, because it is easy to appreciate what a great hitter Prince Fielder has been over his career.   

998 282 390 540 391 141 230 23.4

 Yeah, as I already stated you can see that any team would be dying to add a player with those types of numbers but ultimately I feel this is simply a waste of resources for the Tigers.

First, the Tigers didn’t need to make this move right now.  Fielder’s value and production will be at its highest over the next two to three seasons but the Tigers (with or without Victor Martinez) are favourites to win their division for at least the next three seasons in my opinion when looking at the landscape of the division.

This signing will absolutely affect nothing in the grand scheme of things other than the Tigers will clinch the division a week earlier.  The playoffs are a crap shoot and adding one player to your line-up is not going to give you a huge advantage over a short best of seven baseball playoff series.

 Fielder will be a huge help in the regular season playing 160+ games a season, without question but again the playoffs can have unlikely heroes all the time (Jim Leyritz for example) and the stars don’t always shine (Alex Rodriguez I’m looking at you).

By the time Fielder is starting his decline the divisional outlook should look quite a bit different with the Kansas City Royals presumably starting to make their presence known with a plethora of top quality minor league talents hitting the big leagues soon.  Minnesota has had too strong a track record of player development to continue their recent swoon and Cleveland and Chicago have only one way to go.

When the division is starting to toughen up the Tigers will have two fat DHs with monstrous, bloated contracts saddling their operations and payroll.  Good luck selling a team on a declining DH with no defense and a horrible physique if you are thinking they have an ‘out’.  A Vernon Wells salary dump happens only once in a baseball lifetime.

Second, and probably the most important point, there is almost no way Fielder will bring back the on field value (in terms of WAR) when he eventually (or possibly immediately) shifts to DH full-time.  The rough cost of a win on the free agent market is $5 million and with Fielder earning 24 million per season he will need to average 4.8 WAR per season.

Fielder, who turns 28 in May, has reached 4.8 WAR (or higher) in three of his past six full seasons, no easy task for a player of his age, position and limited defensive abilities.  But given his age it is safe to assume he has reached his peak and will not be improving over the duration of the contract and in fact is likely to plateau and/or decline in the next season or so given what we know about peak power and the age hitters start to see declining output.

For a quick comparison the currently reviled but once feared slugger DH/LF Adam Dunn had one of the most impressive runs a DH has had from 2004-2010.  His wOBA ranged from .403 to .365 in that span and his lowest HR total was a solid 38 – yet due to his awful defense, and left field status only managed a total of 18.9 WAR (or an average of 2.7 WAR).

There is no reason to think Fielder can’t produce upwards of 4.5-6.0 WAR for the next few seasons as his power is still extremely relevant but when he starts to decline there is little chance he can consistently produce that with his bat alone (if he moves to DH). 

We also have to account for the adjustment Fielder is going to be making with respect to his new team.  He is moving to a very friendly pitcher’s park that does not play nearly as offensive as the launching pad in Milwaukee.  He will also be moving to the tougher league and will be facing brand new pitchers (or guys he has faced less) on a nightly basis. 

Third, Prince Fielder is a large, large man.  There have been numerous studies done that have shown his body type will obviously not age as well as a slimmer player.  The absolute pounding his knees, ankles and joints take on a daily basis will eventually begin to catch up with Mr. Fielder and the natural decline phase every player goes through could be a more extreme one for him.

In closing, every team in the league would love to add a big time bat to the heart of their order and indeed Fielder might even push some of those teams right into contention (Washington, Toronto, Miami to name a few) if they were close to making a competitive push in their respective divisions. 

The Tigers are not one of those teams, there division is horrendous and that $214 million could have been spent on various pieces that will be needed to remain competitive over the next decade.  It was an unnecessary but impactful signing and maybe the real moral of the story is Mike Ilitch (Tigers/Red Wings owner) is among a handful of owners in sports that is never afraid to make a big splash – no matter the cost.

Dave Cameron at Fangraphs summed it up nicely when he wrote:

“And, if they win a World Series during that time, it will be easy to live with the cost to the future of the franchise while throwing a parade. However, that argument can be used to justify signing any player to any sized contract, and shouldn’t be how teams operate. At some point, the cost begins to exceed any potential benefit you could reasonably expect, no matter just how desperate you are to win or how much you think a single player will help you.

Fielder will absolutely help the Tigers. He might even be enough to help them get to the World Series and perhaps take home a trophy. But, in reality, if the team had $214 million to spend this winter, they should have been in on Jose Reyes and C.J. Wilson, who won’t make as much between them as what the team just guaranteed Fielder. As I wrote yesterday, the Tigers definitely needed to make an impact move, but because they got stuck in a position where there was only one impact bat left on the market, they found themselves having to vastly overpay in order to get that improvement.

For Detroit’s sake, I hope they win a title in the next three years, because the franchise’s ability to compete long term just took a serious hit. Borrowing from the future to win in the present isn’t always a bad idea, but at these prices, the Tigers should have explored options.

The cost was simply too high.”

I know everybody starts a story about a guy that they are about to criticize with the standard or classic “I respect (insert name here) but…” and go on to grill a guy without showing much in the way of ‘respect’ but I legitimately respect Nick Diaz as a fighter.  As Dana White put it he is a “true fighter” and Diaz will fight anyone, anytime and anywhere – without question.

Nick Diaz possesses solid all-around skills with a good boxing game, awesome ju-jitsu and a nasty mean streak that more than a few opponents have felt the wrath of over his career.  Diaz, only 28 years old feels like he should be in his late 30s with the amount of experience and fights he has had but is really only hitting his prime fighting years now.

In short, he is a fighter who deserves respect and he had mine until he disrespected a guy who has not only fought whoever Dana White has told him to but a who’s who of elite cage fighters – a list that makes Nick Diaz’s career hit list look rather, well, lame.  Maybe Diaz was a bit discombobulated after taking quite a few solid shots from the out of shape BJ Penn when the fight was over and called out GSP.

Rumors circulated that Diaz wasn’t happy about fighting Penn, whom he considered a friend, and was exceptionally angry at St. Pierre. When St. Pierre was injured in training, the fight with Condit fell off the card and White moved Penn-Diaz to the main.

Diaz, though, was angry he was meeting Penn and not St. Pierre. He shouted to St. Pierre from the cage after the bout ended.

“I don’t think Georges was hurt,” Diaz said. “I think he was scared.”

Apparently St. Pierre approached White moments after the fight. The UFC’s ultimate good guy was angry that Diaz continually disrespected him and questioned his injury.

Saying GSP was scared is not only laughable it is borderline ridiculous.  Let’s compare the two fighters, their past 5 years of fights, opponents and results and see if Diaz has a case.  First, tale of the tape:

  GSP Nick Diaz
Age 30 28
Height 5’10” 6’1”
Weight 170 (fight night 185+) 170 (fight night around 180)
Reach 76” 74”
Record 22-2 26-7

Without question GSP will be the bigger and stronger man on fight night but Diaz will not give up much (if anything) with respect to cardiovascular conditioning.  Still, GSP will have a slight reach advantage and will definitely be able to impose his will physically in the clinch, on the ground and against the fence.  Diaz is a crafty and smart fighter but has shown a weakness against powerful wrestlers in the past which could be a key component to the matchup.

There have only been three common opponents that have faced both Diaz and St. Pierre – BJ Penn, Karo Parisyan and Sean Sherk.  Nick Diaz lost to both Parisyan and Sherk via decision while GSP defeated both rather easily (Sherk via TKO and Parisyan via DEC).  Nick Diaz recently defeated a horribly conditioned BJ Penn who managed to hold his own in the first round but was literally out on his feet and dead tired to start the second round – though Diaz could not finish him. 

GSP fought BJ Penn twice and after a subpar performance on March 3rd, 2006 where [GSP] won a split-decision he absolutely dominated Penn with a TKO stoppage in January/2010 – the worse loss of Penn’s career. 

Diaz lost to another ground and pound specialist when Diego Sanchez defeated him on November 5th, 2005 in a unanimous decision victory for ‘The Nightmare’.  The relevance of that fight is the fact St. Pierre is another guy who can dominate the ground game with strong takedowns and ground-and-pound skills. 

What about Diaz’s claim that GSP has been scared to fight?

GSP is currently on an impressive nine-fight winning streak since his loss to Matt Serra on April 7th, 2007 and hasn’t even been tested in any of those contests (outside of an accidental eye poke to Jake Shields).

Date Opponent Result
8/25/2007 Josh Kosheck Unanimous Decision
12/29/2007 Matt Hughes Submission – Arm bar
4/19/2008 Matt Serra TKO – referee stoppage
8/9/2008 Jon Fitch Unanimous Decision
1/31/2009 BJ Penn TKO –referee stoppage
7/11/2009 Thiago Alves Unanimous Decision
3/27/2010 Dan Hardy Unanimous Decision
12/11/2010 Josh Koscheck Unanimous Decision
4/30/2011 Jake Shields Unanimous Decision

None of these fights have even been close with most being complete blowouts/shutouts for GSP against a who’s who of MMA elite. 

Josh Koscheck has been nearly unbeatable against stellar competition himself but posed no threat at all to GSP (twice).  “Kos” has defeated Matt Hughes, Paul Daley, Anthony Johnson, Chris Lytle, Diego Sanchez (who defeated Nick Diaz) and Dustin Hazelett.

Jon Fitch is essentially undefeated in his MMA career outside of one of the worst beat downs of his career at the hands on GSP in August/2008.  Fitch, though not the most exciting fighter in the world (a criticism of GSP as well) has been a winner with an overall record of 22-3-1.  He also defeated Diego Sanchez (who defeated Nick Diaz).

BJ Penn was actually in great shape for the rematch against GSP for the belt in January/2009 and was totally outclassed and destroyed over 4 brutal rounds.  GSP leaned on him, beat him down and made him eat his own words when BJ Penn was forced to “quit”.  We don’t need to rehash Penn’s amazing resume and pedigree – he is a fighter’s fighter and a true MMA warrior/legend. 

Thiago Alves was the scariest welterweight in the world with highlight reel knockouts and GSP made him look like an inferior fighter in all aspects of MMA (including striking).  Prior to his loss to GSP in July/2009 Alves had looked to be one of the top fighters in the UFC with impressive victories over Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes, Karo Parisyan and Chris Lytle.

Prior to fighting St. Pierre Jake Shields was undefeated since December/2004 (a 15-fight win streak) but was dominated by GSP on their feet for five rounds.  An eye-poke forced GSP to fight at a disadvantage for a majority of the fight but he still handily defeated him 4 rounds to 1 in a one-side fight.  Shields was unable to take GSP down or mount much in the way of a sustained attack.

Comparatively Nick Diaz is on a ten fight win streak and has not lost since his November 10th, 2007 TKO loss to KJ Noons.

Date Opponent Result
5/11/2008 Katsuya Inoue TKO – referee stoppage
6/14/2008 Muhsin Corbbrey TKO – referee stoppage
7/26/2008 Thomas Denny TKO – referee stoppage
4/11/2009 Frank Shamrock TKO – referee stoppage
6/6/2009 Scott Smith Submission – Choke
1/30/2010 Marius Zaromskis TKO – referee stoppage
10/09/2010 KJ Noons Unanimous Decision
1/29/2010 Evangelista Santos Submission – Arm Bar
4/9/2011 Paul Daley TKO – referee stoppage
10/29/2011 BJ Penn Unanimous Decision

A ten fight winning streak is nothing to joke about especially in MMA and the fact Diaz was able to stop/finish so many of his opponents is a true testament to his fighting spirit (only two decisions in ten fights) and I do not mean to downplay his opponents in any way but that list isn’t exactly filled with elite MMA talent. 

I’d venture a guess and say if GSP fought those same 10 fights he would probably have as many stoppages as Diaz.  Conversely is Diaz had to go through the past 9 opponents of GSP I am not confident he would even be victorious over Josh Koscheck (pains me to say that), Jon Fitch (awful matchup for him) or Jake Shields for that matter – let alone look as positively dominant as GSP did.

It has to be said that Nick Diaz wasn’t in the UFC at the time due to contractual obligations with Strikeforce/Elite XC so his potential pool of opponents was always going to be weaker.  However for him to claim GSP is afraid to fight Diaz, Condit or whoever after looking at the above information shows Diaz is either misinformed or just ignorant to the type of career dominance GSP has managed over the past 5-6 years.

Barring any possible setbacks or complications (which aren’t out of the question given the past couple months) Nick Diaz will have a chance to back up his brash remarks on February 4th, 2012 (Superbowl Weekend) when he gets his long-awaited UFC Welterweight title shot versus incumbent super-champion Georges St. Pierre.

Photos by MMAWeekly.com!

How do Diaz and St. Pierre matchup?

Honestly I think it is an awful matchup for Diaz given St. Pierre’s wrestling acumen and Diaz’s past subpar performance against the strong wrestlers but at the very least it will be an excited lead-up and countdown to what might be the biggest fight in UFC history when the two finally square off in the octagon. 

Given their respective resumes and “strength of schedule” over the past 5 years I expect GSP to go in as a relatively big favorite (my guess betting line will be GSP -250).  St. Pierre said he respects Diaz’s talent and won’t underestimate him.  Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight news conference that St. Pierre told him Diaz “is the most disrespectful human being I’ve ever met, and I’m going to put the worst beating you’ve ever seen on him in the UFC.”

St. Pierre wouldn’t go nearly so far while speaking to Yahoo! Sports, but he sounded as if he were counting the days until Feb. 4.

“This is a fight I am looking forward to very much, and it’s a fight that I wanted very badly,” he said. “This is a very important fight to me personally. I am glad that the UFC did it for us.”

Nick Diaz will give St. Pierre a first-rate challenge and GSP will definitely not go unscathed given Diaz’s ‘never say die’ warrior mentality but I do not see him being able to do what Koscheck, Shields, Hughes, Penn, Alves, Fitch and others could not over the past nine fights– defeat Georges St. Pierre (or even win a round). 

In the end isn’t GSP just in another class by himself (in the welterweight division)?   He trains with the best in each discipline (and spends a fortune on his training camps), is given the best game plans for his opponents (Greg Jackson disciple) and has fought the absolute best of the best in the world.  Nick Diaz, while a gamer has had some losses to a few opponents who aren’t exactly on GSPs level (Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan, Diego Sanchez, Sean Sherk and KJ Noons).

I can see GSP working off his strong jab to setup Diaz for bigger strikes (kicks) while also utilizing his far superior strength to impose his will on Diaz.  GSP will take Diaz down, control the fight on the mat with some nasty ground and pound, and simply win rounds.  Seeing what happened the last time an opponent used his mouth to goad St. Pierre I could also see this being a vicious one-sided beat down (think Koscheck, Josh, orbital bone).

My predictions: GSP defeats Nick Diaz via unanimous decision.

Sorry for the lack of activity lately, but here is a little break from sports. If this doesn’t move you, nothing will!



In what is shaping up to be a hotly contested and heavily debated AL MVP race I thought I would share a few thoughts as we head down the stretch.  The popular candidates at this point seem to be the New York Yankees CF Curtis Granderson the Boston Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia and 1B Adrian Gonzalez as well as the Toronto Blue Jays RF/3B Jose Bautista.

Statistically this is a one-horse race as Joey Bats is far and away the best player in baseball, ok, you need proof?  Damn you!

J.Bautista 314 454 649 459 196 7.7 37 82 92
C.Granderson 277 374 585 410 160 6.0 35 98 115
J.Ellsbury 315 372 521 393 147 6.8 23 81 93
D.Pedroia 307 396 469 382 139 7.0 16 69 80
A.Gonzalez 347 409 554 410 159 5.5 21 99 87

 I included a few counting stats that are often used to measure the value of potential candidates (HR, RBI, R) but before you look at RBIs and runs please first look at the average runs scored by each the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, 5.4 runs per game.  The Blue Jays on the other hand with the inferior overall line-up score 4.7 runs per game, a solid mark actually (fourth overall in MLB!) but I don’t think I am going  out on a limb when I say Bautista doesn’t have the surrounding talent (for now) that the other candidates enjoy.

With that out of the way why is there even any debate?  Bautista has the best stats in baseball by a wide margin and is producing a near historic season, apparently it’s because the Blue Jays are only a fourth place team in the AL East.  I think that has been a ridiculous argument over the years and even more so in this instance.

Imagine the Blue Jays played in the horrendous AL Central, they would likely be leading that division by a few games (and would’ve likely added a few pieces at the deadline) as there Pyth W-L record this season is an impressive 67-22 (4.7 RF, 4.5 RA) while the division “leading” Detroit Tigers sports a Pyth W-L of 65-64 (4.5 RF, 4.5 RA).

The Blue Jays haven’t had much luck this season when considering just there run differential (which is what Pythagorean win-loss theory is based on) let alone when we consider the division they currently reside in.  The AL East is an absolute beast and for my money the hardest division in sports.  The Jays would beat up on the AL Central, no question about it in my mind.

To my point, are we now saying that if the Blue Jays were in fact playing in the weak AL Central division (and likely leading it handily) that suddenly Jose Bautista is a legit MVP candidate but because they are in the hardest division in sports, holding their own but only fourth place, he isn’t?  Put the Blue Jays in almost any other division and they are suddenly looking more like contenders than “just a fourth place team” while also making Jose Bautista’s MVP candidacy more legit for the “needs to play on a winner” crowd.

As it stands right now Jose Bautista is the most valuable player in baseball, no matter how you view it.

Former Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi has taken his share of criticism since departing from the team but the franchise does owe him a bit of gratitude for leaving behind two of the best players on the roster, Jose Bautista and newly minted “boss” starter Ricky Romero.  I wanted to focus on the latter today considering you must have been on Mars for the past 18 months if you aren’t familiar with the exploits of one Jose Bautista.

Ricardo Romero was born November 6th, 1984 in East Los Angeles, California and was drafted 6th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2005 MLB amateur draft.  The 2005 draft year in MLB is akin to the 2003 NBA draft that produced Lebron James and Dwayne Wade, among a few other stars.  Taken ahead of Romero that year was Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Jeff Clement (ouch, the Detroit Pistons of this draft) Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Braun.

It doesn’t stop there check some of the names taken after Mr. Romero: Troy Tulowitzki, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, Chris Volstad, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza,  Blue Jays CF Colby Rasmus, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie.  Ok, forget comparing it to the 2003 NBA draft, or any draft, that is a who’s who of young baseball talent and even a few franchise players.

Considering his home park and division Ricky Romero has been one of the best left handed starters in baseball the past two seasons.  Brandon Morrow has the best stuff on the staff but Ricky Romero is our best pitcher.  Let’s do a quick comparison against another top lefty who most assume is a Cy Young contender annually, let’s see if you can guess his identity based on current stats.

2011 ERA xFIP K/9 BB/9 K/BB HR/9 BAA GB% WAR
Romero 2.73 3.63 7.5 3.2 2.3 0.87 .242 55.1 2.7
Player B 3.22 3.43 8.7 3.2 2.7 0.97 .231 50.6 2.7

Pretty even across the board although it is clear that Player B is more of a strikeout pitcher while we all know Ricky Romero likes to induce groundball outs when he can.  Player B is Boston Red Sox lefty Jon Lester who is having another very solid season in another tough ball park and tough AL East.  Lester is often among a handful of candidates when discussing best pitcher in the game while it is very rare that Romero will get the same type of praise.

Market and city has a lot to do with the difference in perceived value but Romero is 11 months younger than Lester and performing at a very similar clip over the past two seasons.  Lester was quite a bit better last year overall (5.6 WAR) but Romero held his own throwing 200+ IPs for the first time in his career (4.0 WAR).

His intense demeanour during his starts is a testament to a desire to win and his light hearted banter with teammates on off days make him an ideal leader and role model in the clubhouse for some of the future Blue Jays arms that are being stockpiled in the minor leagues.  Maybe Tyler Beede was too intimidated to sign with the Jays after one glimpse of Romero’s scowl walking off the mound?

Don’t take this as campaigning for a Cy Young and I wouldn’t even call this a breakout season for Romero as most of his peripherals are identical year over year but it is just as nice to see him settling into a dependable workhorse starter for the Blue Jays.  Maybe Blue Jays fans were spoiled all those years watching the legend that is Roy Halladay apply his craft that we don’t appreciate the fact Rick Romero is developing into a true number one starter.

Bonus: Most Valuable MLB Players From 2001-2010

If you haven’t already heard the Toronto Blue Jays were unable to sign their top pick from the 2011 MLB Amateur draft Tyler Beede. The right handed starting pitcher will honour his committment and attend Vanderbilt in the fall. Alex Anthopoulos discussed that and other issues in the video below, I could listen to him all night, what a great baseball mind.

The long awaited Major League debut of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospect 3B Brett Lawrie occurred tonight and I thought I would provide some thoughts and observations on his first game.

Lawrie, 21 years old is listed at 6’0” and 213 pounds and he looks like a middle linebacker for Ohio St with his impressive build and physique.  He possesses massive strong forearms and looks extremely athletic.  He appears better suited for a more physical sport and my guess is he could’ve had success in multiple sports if he had the inkling.

With nothing left to prove at AAA the Jays did the right thing bringing him up now after destroying minor league pitching with a slash line of 353/415/661 with 24 2Bs, 18 HRs and a .459 wOBA.  He was playing in a supped up offensive environment and he could still stand to refine his patience at the plate (7.9 BB%) or he could be vulnerable to more skilled and savvier major league pitching.

Small nitpicking aside this is one of the most anticipated Blue Jays debut in franchise history.  I don’t remember this much buzz surrounding a prospect on the Jays since Jose Cruz Jr. was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in 1997 (what a rip off).

First inning – Nick Markakis flares a little grounder down the third base line, Brett Lawrie was playing well off the line with the shift on for the lefty, he ranged far to his right and made an athletic (though offline) throw to first base.  Markakis was safe on the play as Lawrie really had no chance, but an athletic play.

After the inning was done, Brett was talking and presumably taking advice from John McDonald, likely about just eating the ball and not risking the throw next time.  Having veterans like Johnny Mac around doesn’t help a club statistically but it is hard to measure the impact he can have on our younger players.

Second inning – Two out and two on, Brett Lawrie makes his debut at the plate.  Lawrie has a nice solid wide stance and looks strong and comfortable with the bat.  Facing right hander Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Ball, Lawrie takes a close slider. 1-0

Pitch 2 – Ball, takes another close slider. 2-0

Pitch 3 – Good swing, just a bit late on a fastball, fouled behind home plate. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Big slow curveball, out in front, fouled into third base territory. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball up the middle, Lawrie hammers it up the middle for an RBI single! 

First big league hit in his first big league at bat!  Great at-bat, good patience, good balance and a solid stroke to centre field!  Lawrie 1-1 with a single and RBI.

Third inning – Nolan Reimold hits a ground ball to Lawrie and he boots it, the ball got right through him on a slightly strange bounce.  A play he should have made, nerves/adrenaline possibly playing a role after getting the big first hit.  The error is meaningless and the Jays got out of the inning, Lawrie will definitely have to continue working hard on his defense and it has been made very clear that he is not going to second base.

Fourth inning – Brett Lawrie leads off the inning for his second MLB at-bat, still facing Tommy Hunter.

Pitch 1 – Fastball upstairs, ball.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball down the middle, taken for a strike. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big breaking ball outside, ball. 2-1

Pitch 4 – Another big looping breaking ball, outside. 3-1

Pitch 5 – Broken bat grounder to third base, Lawrie hustled hard down the line but was thrown out by a step.

Another solid at-bat, Lawrie worked the count and got a solid pitch to hit and just got sawed off.  Lawrie might be facing another pitcher in his next at-bat as Tommy Hunter has struggled to keep his pitch count inline, already has 70+ pitches in the fourth inning.  Lawrie now 1-2 with a single and RBI.

Sixth inning – Lefty Troy Patton relieves SP Tommy Hunter, not much known about him to be honest (apparently a switch hitter according to Yahoo!)

Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and nobody on-base.

Pitch 1 – Fastball up, called a strike though looked like a ball. 0-1

Pitch 2 – Fastball way outside, taken. 1-1

Pitch 3 – Big curve ball, bends into the inside corner, taken for strike two. 1-2

Pitch 4 – Off speed pitch bounced in, taken. 2-2

Pitch 5 – Fastball a bit up (and maybe outside) called strike three, it looked like a ball.

Tough at-bat with a couple questionable calls (at first glance), Lawrie goes down looking and is now 1-3 with a single and RBI.  Lawrie continues to look poised at the plate and appears he will be a gamer at the plate, a guy who can grind out an at-bat and never given an out away.  This might infuriate some Jays fans but he reminds me of Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill mechanically with a touch of Josh Hamilton (maybe it is the tatoos!).

Another tough play in the field for Lawrie, another ball bounces off his glove, allows a run to score without getting an out.  Gets another chance, shows good hands on a sharp ground ball, gets the ball quickly to second base for one out, Aaron Hill struggled to get it out of his glove, can’t turn the double play.

Eighth Inning – Brett Lawrie comes to bat with 2 outs and runners at first and second base.  Now pitching for the Orioles is Chris Jakubauskas, a big righty with terrible stats so far (6.10 ERA, 1.76 WHIP).

Pitch 1 – Breaking ball low in the dirt, taken.  1-0

Pitch 2 – Fastball upstairs, handled by Brett Lawrie with a hard hit single to left field, Colby Rasmus thrown out at the plate!

Two out base hit and almost another RBI, Lawrie with a rocket to left field on a pitch up in the zone is now 2-4 with two singles and an RBI.

Final Box Score Line for Brett Lawrie – 2/4, 2 singles, 1 RBI, 1 K.

Alex Anthopoulos continues to mystify and impress the Toronto Blue Jays fan base and I think his latest acquisition of prized outfielder Colby Rasmus helps remind us all that we have one of the best minds in baseball at the helm.  I am almost starting to worry that other GMs will simply stop dealing with Alex and the Jays with the worry they may be getting fleeced. 

Kind of strange that Zach Stewart has never set foot in AAA to play for Las Vegas in the ultimate offensive environment isn’t it?  Stewart at 25 is a dinosaur (in prospect years) and probably one of the oldest players in that league and putting up very pedestrian numbers to boot.  Anthopoulos and the Jays knew if he played the whole season in Vegas his stats would likely look terrible and either kill his waning confidence even more or worse, destroy any remaining trade value he might have had.

Keith Law is an excellent talent evaluator and a great baseball writer but I have never understood his fascination with Stewart, whom he still claims is a great prospect in the Jays organization.  I disagreed vehemently via twitter with the rationale he was an aged, overrated and underwhelming talent likely destined for the bullpen at some point and let’s just say he didn’t agree, at all. 

@keithlaw keithlaw
@tdotsports1 It is hard to get such a large quantity of wrong into a single tweet. Well done

Not to beat a dead horse but seriously 25 years old, still in AA and not even dominating much younger competition?  He flashed a 90 MPH fastball in his brief MLB cameo and through 94 IPs in AA has a 7.06 K/9, .283 BAA, 1.41 WHIP and a 3.35 FIP.  Not horrific but nothing that jumps out at you screaming ‘stud’ and certainly nobody considered untouchable if a Colby Rasmus could be acquired.

Colby Rasmus is a 24-year old CF with a boatload of potential and has a pretty impressive MLB resume already as well.  He was ranked the 41st most valuable trade asset in baseball by Fangraphs (yeah, a pretty reliable source) and was ahead of such names as Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Wieters.

So to recap we traded a bullpen arm in Jason Frasor, a 25-year old pitching “prospect” in Zach Stewart and a good young lefty (but a reliever currently) in Mark Rzepczynski and we received a top 50 MLB asset in CF Colby Rasmus?  Right, next you are going to tell me somebody took Vernon Wells’ and Alex Rios entire contracts, gave us Yunel Escobar for Alex Gonzalez and we were able to sign the best hitter in baseball to a below-market contract that saved us around $100 million total dollars.

That’s not say Rasmus is not without warts given his long time ‘feud’ with the guru Tony LaRussa and relative step back stats wise in 2011 he still has a lot to prove.  He is currently slashing 246/332/420 with 11 HRs – good for a .332 wOBA.  He has maintained his great patience (11.7 BB%) and cut down his strikeouts dramatically (19.9 K%) and still has a decent .175 ISO (isolated slugging).

Defensively he won’t be confused with Austin Jackson in CF and UZR has never been a huge fan of his as witnessed by his -7.1 UZR rating in over 2800 IPs in centre.  His best tool is the bat and if he can continue to show good patience and an improving eye while maintaining (or adding) to his fairly impressive power stroke he could be a real boost to an already impressive Blue Jays line-up and a great left handed bat to go with the big righty Jose Bautista. 

He will likely man centre until prospect Anthony Gose proves he can hack it in the big league offensively, Gose is supposed to be a plus defender with great speed.  Colby Rasmus is young and was ranked as the 3rd best prospect in baseball in 2009 by Baseball America and will remain relatively cheap until 2014 though he is heading for arbitration at the end of this season and will see a decent raise.

As per Fangraphs here is how the massive three team trade worked out:

Blue Jays: Colby Rasmus, Mark Teahen, Brian Tallet, Trever Miller, P.J. Walters

Cardinals: Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, Edwin Jackson, Cory Patterson

White Sox: Jason Frasor, Zach Stewart

The biggest minus to the trade is losing Mark Rzepczynski who has shown to be a more than capable relief pitcher while still having the potential to one day join the Blue Jays rotation.  My condolences go out to ‘Scrabbles’ biggest stalker fan Drew Fairservice at Ghostrunner on First

Sorry dude, but you have to give to get!