Archive for August, 2011

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!

2011 AVG OBP SLG woBA wRC+ WAR HR RBI R
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.

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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.