Wednesday, 20 February 2008

You Don't Know Dick, 2nd ed.

Since Johnny was so kind to point out that Griffin had posted something, I think it's time for the second installment of our recurring series, You Don't Know Dick.

In today's installment, we'll focus on "Why clogging the bases is better than not clogging the bases".

For a Griffin blog, I'd have to say it wasn't half bad. I'm not going to bother going into the anti-JP stuff Johnny referred to, but I think it's important to address several problems with this statement...

Q: Hi Richard.

I have been anxiously awaiting the new baseball season and I am glad to see Spring Training has arrived. I will be taking in some games in Dunedin for the first time ever and I am very excited to see how this year’s edition of the club pans out this spring. Many Jays fans, myself included, were frustrated last year with the inability of the offence to manufacture runs. It often appeared that John Gibbons and his team were banking on a big hit to cash in some runs instead of playing small ball - hit and run, bunting and sacrificing outs to advance runners. My question is this: Do you see a change in style emerging this year with the acquisition of Eckstein as our leadoff guy? Where do Vernon and Rios fit into the batting order? I believe that we need to take better advantage of their speed. Should the Big Hurt be dropped in the order to fifth or sixth as to avoid him clogging up the bases in the early innings? Thanks for your time. I hope to spark up some Blue Jays chat with you in Dunedin.

A: That’s a very astute observation about the "inability o manufacture runs." In an interview early this spring, Aaron Hill said very much the same thing, but when I asked Gibbons about it, he claimed that it wasn’t a big deal and didn’t cost the Jays many games. Of course, if he stated the obvious about it being a devastating weakness of the ’07 club, he would have been pointing a finger directly at fired hitting coach Mickey Brantley, a good friend of his. So don’t expect Gibby to go along with that indictment of situational hitting.

But you will, indeed, see a different offence with Eckstein at the top of the order. Most of the hit-and-run action will come at the bottom of the order with Aaron Hill, Gregg Zaun and the others. However, when Reed Johnson is batting second, it will happen at the top.

As for the batting order, I believe that Rios is a better third-place hitter than Wells and that Wells should bat fourth behind Rios. After those two big righthanded bats, the Jays should hit the doubles-machine Lyle Overbay with Thomas hitting sixth ahead of Scott Rolen. Against lefthanders, it would be okay to move Thomas up to fifth.

First off, I think the Jays will be doing a lot of hit & runs with the top of the lineup. Overbay's shown he's got great contact skills, and being left handed he could take advantage of that when Eckstein is on. Rios would be more than capable of doing this for when Eck/Lyle are on base, so it's not like the hit/run will be used the most at the bottom of the lineup. Hell, Eck will be doing a fair amount of hitting when Zaun/Hill are on base. I think what he meant to say was that most of the running will be done by the bottom of the order...but who really knows what Griffin means now-a-days.

Another thing the reader asks was whether Thomas should bat lower to avoid clogging the bases. Griffin agrees, and the proof is that he doesn't believe Thomas should hit higher than 6th against RHP. I totally agree, I don't want Thomas clogging up the bases when Vernon has gotten on base against RHP to the tune of a 306 OBP over the past 3 years.

Dick, I got something to tell you....

CLOGGING UP THE BASES IS A GOOD THING! It means you have runners on, and I'm sure you're aware of this, being a baseball writer and all, but in order to win games you need to score runs. And in order to score runs you need....runners. So more runners = more potential runs = more games won.

So now that we've got that out of the way...

Thomas deserves to hit no lower than 4th against RHP. He's the cleanup crew, and this isn't really debatable. He can clog the bases so that "doubles machine" Lyle Overbay can give base clogging Thomas a chance to score.

As for an inability to manufacture runs last year...

At any given point - Glaus, Overbay, Johnson, & Zaun were injured. They were replaced by McDonald/Clark/Smith, Stairs or Phillips, Stairs or Lind, and Phillips/Fasano. Excluding Stairs, these terrific offensive juggernauts probably had a combined line of 250/270/300. When you've got these 4 guys in the lineup, it's pretty damn tough to score runs, because... nobody is clogging up the bases. The guys in front of them won't score because those guys can't get a hit, and after they've gotten themselves out there's nobody for Rios and the other healthy regulars to drive in.

So manufacturing runs really wouldn't have made much of a difference. What did this team in is the fact that it came in 27th in the majors in OPS vs. RHP. Had the team put up a better OPS than say, 715 (which was better than the awesome lineups of Kansas City, Washington, and San Fransisco), they would have scored more runs. You realize how sad that is? 14 of 16 NL teams that used pitchers to hit, were more successful against RHP than the Jays were. Manufacturing runs isn't gonna make a difference when you can't hit 75% of the leagues pitching.

I also hope when he said Johnson is batting second, it was a typo, and that he's batting first, and only against LHP. I figure he just made a typo. After all, the keys are right next to each other...

That's it for now, but tune in for another installment of You Don't Know Dick...

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