Archive for July, 2011

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!

When I saw that Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick would be entering the Baseball Hall of Fame together it was pretty exciting to see two key members of the back-to-back World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays being recognized.  Naturally the first thing that came to my mind was “the trade” Pat Gillick pulled off and how much that seemingly turned the Jays from a strong team to a championship calibre squad.

On December 5th, 1990 the Toronto Blue Jays sent 1B Fred McGriff and SS Tony Fernandez to the San Diego Padres for 2B Roberto Alomar and 1B/LF Joe Carter.  Gillick and the Blue Jays are often lauded for the deal and it is considered by many Blue Jays fans as a steal for Toronto, I wanted to take a different look at that trade today. 

Although the Blue Jays obviously went on to become the first non-American franchise in baseball history to win not only one World Series title, but two in back-to-back variety (1992 & 1993), is that enough for you to consider the trade successful?  Most GMs in sports consider any trade that nets a championship a success, no matter the cost – flags fly forever right?

Without the titles was the trade as big of a success as people make it out to be, I wanted to take a quick look at that today.  Let’s start with what the Blue Jays received from both Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

Carter, the hero of the 1993 World Series with his series-winning walk-off homerun against the Philadelphia Phillies and the “Wild thing” Mitch Williams will always be considered a Blue Jays legend.  Carter played 7 seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays and gave the team 203 HRs and produced a 9.8 WAR (Wins above replacement level player).

Alomar, the only Blue Jays player to ever be enshrined in Cooperstown is one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game (behind only Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby in my opinion) but played only 5 seasons for the Jays.  Alomar had 832 hits, 206 steals, 451 runs and produced a 22.3 WAR during his short but productive reign.

The Blue Jays let both Carter and Alomar walk as free agents and received nothing in return for either of them so there are no assets to also take into account, which hurts the overall value of the trade when we look at what we gave up.

Tony Fernandez is one of the franchise’s great all-time players and though he returned to the Jays on a few different occasions I just wanted to add up his total value since leaving the Jays originally in the Alomar/Carter trade. 

Fernandez went on to play 9 more MLB seasons with various teams and even returned to the Jays for two more years (1998 & 1999) and was still productive and as popular as ever.  In the 9 seasons since the trade he amassed 1134 hits, 108 SBs, 547 runs and produced a solid 17.7 WAR.  He wasn’t a superstar but played the game hard and will go down as a 1980s Blue Jays icon along with George Bell, Jesse Barfield, Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb (among others).

Fred McGriff had a surprisingly productive career and even jacked 30 HRs as early as 2002.  McGriff went on to hit 368 HRs and produced an impressive 39.9 WAR.  He finished his career with 493 HRs, 1550 RBIs and a .382 wOBA.  He was easily the most productive player in the trade and a guy the Jays likely regretted dealing all things considered.

Again this is not to say the trade shouldn’t have been made and I am not implying it wasn’t a successful deal.  Losing McGriff was the biggest loss but we did have a very successful 1B of our own pretty shortly after when Carlos Delgado took over and had some of the best offensive seasons in Jays history.  You can never take those two championship banners from Toronto and that is the bottom line here but to say the trade was a total steal is wrong.

We got 5 productive seasons from Alomar, 7 from Joe Carter,  and two rings but also gave up young stud first-basemen and one of the best Blue Jays middle infielders of all-time.  Maybe I am just too big of a Tony Fernandez fan!

As the All-star break draws near the baseball pundits are starting to announce, proclaim and reason as to who they feel are the most deserving “first half” award winners.  As I love to read about baseball I am always scouring the net for anything related to the game.  As I have read more and more pieces about who should be the AL MVP I am stunned to see that it is not the slam dunk answer it should be.

Here are the two most widely mentioned candidates:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS HR BB% K% wOBA WAR
A 348 405 583 989 16 8.1 18.4 .422 4.4
B 331 467 687 1154 28 19.8 18.1 .481 6.1

 

On what planet would anybody even give minor consideration that Player A (Red Sox Adrian Gonzalez) can even sniff the jock of Player B (Blue Jays Jose Bautista) let alone give the asinine opinion that Adrian Gonzalez is the more “valuable” player than the best hitter in baseball?  Don’t give me the helps his team win more games, or the Red Sox have the better record and Jose Bautista while a great hitter hasn’t helped the Jays more in the win-loss column.

Jose Bautista is so far superior to almost any hitter in baseball none of those things matter, for this season.  When there is a needed “tie-breaker” because the players are neck and neck in terms of statistical analysis than fine, I will begrudgingly accept the old and tired win-loss debate.  But for the first half of 2011 how can any knowledgeable baseball writer even think of not saying Jose Bautista is the game’s best?

To further illustrate my point let’s compare Adrian Gonzalez to another player:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS HR BB% K% wOBA WAR
Ad.Gonz 348 405 583 989 16 8.1 18.4 .422 4.4
B 275 395 569 964 17 16.0 22.0 .414

 

Player B has pretty solid stats right across the board and is neck and neck with Adrian Gonzalez in most categories.  Player B is the ZIPS rest of season projections (courtesy of Fangraphs) for Jose Bautista.  Now a caveat, when a player like Bautista who has scorched the baseball world in the first 79 games of the season the ZIPS projections will be that much more conservative for the rest of the season stats.  If I had to vote for MVP, of course I would give it to Adrian Gonzalez with this comparison yet it goes to show just how talented Jose Bautista is.

Maybe Jose Bautista has just been luckier, Adrian Gonzalez has a .389 BABIP while Jose Bautista has a .322.  Jose Bautista does have a higher HR/FB this year (26.7) but it isn’t that far off last seasons (21.7).  Jose Bautista has played RF and 3B and has the highest WAR in baseball as well as the MLB lead in HRs, BB%, ISO, OBP, SLG%, wOBA and in some cases by a wide margin.

To quote Anderson Cooper it is high time we started “Keeping them honest” when it comes to misinformed and highly impartial baseball writing and opinion.  This year (for one half of a baseball season) the race for the AL MVP is not even close, it is Jose Bautista, all day every day.

#Beastmode – follow me on twitter.

With the news that Toronto Blue Jays slugger and all-time leading (one time) All-Star vote getter Jose Bautista (that was a mouthful) will be entering the 2011 All-Star Game Home Run Derby I have heard more than a few people mention the possibility of the dreaded “jinx”.  I am not sure where this started and there isn’t a worse crowd than the baseball world to bring out mostly unfounded superstition.

But I was bored and I thought I would give a lazy effort to see if there was any merit at all to this theory that a player will magically fall off after hitting in the derby.  For this exercise I must caution it is very rudimentary and doesn’t include a few things I was either not in the mood to look up like HR/FB ratio in the second half and overall FB% which would have given us a much better overall indicator of any supposed drop off.

Second a lot of players are just going to simply tire down the stretch and their homerun numbers suffer.  Third some of the players on this list aren’t really just homerun hitters and possibly had big first half numbers (hence, making the all-star game) that were never sustainable over a full season and thus the inevitable second half decline to bring their overall numbers back into line.

I included the past five HR derby’s and used the two finalists from each as presumably the longer you go in this competition the worse it will supposedly “wreck” your swing.  The “1st half” numbers are in bold and the “2nd half” or post all-star game numbers aren’t.

2010 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
D.Ortiz 18 14 14 19
H.Ramirez 13 25 8 27
2009 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
P.Fielder 22 14 24 12
N.Cruz 22 13 11 15
2008 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
J.Morneau 14 26 9 28
J.Hamilton 21 18 11 22
2007 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
V.Guerrero 14 26 13 20
A.Rios 17 20 7 41
2006 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
R.Howard 28 11 30 8.8!
D.Wright 20 17 6 40
2005 HR AB/HR HR AB/HR
B.Abreu 18 18 6 44
I.Rodriguez 6 49 8 25

Again with a very basic look at the past five homerun derby finalists we see that of the twelve players involved seven had worse overall performances when considering AB/HR.  While it isn’t a comprehensive study I don’t feel that anything conclusive could be shown with the data presented nor did I expect it to. 

Some guys have hot second half’s like the unreal 2006 season by Ryan Howard (seriously, what a season!) and some guys were always going to fall off in terms of overall power (like David Wright in 2006). 

So for anybody thinking this could potentially ruin the best hitter in the game, think again.  If Jose Bautista goes on to a worse second half it will have nothing to do with a serious version of batting practise.  For those curious here are Jose Bautista’s current HR numbers heading into the all-star game. 

Bautista – 27 HRs, one every 10 ABs.