Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Change and Hope

Well, after last night's . . . interesting . . . game against the Red Sox, the Jays made a couple of roster moves, one of which received cheers from most and the other indifference for the most part. But as Marc Hulet at Fangraphs notes, neither major leaguer affected got a fair shake.

Hulet points out the obvious concerning Merkin Valdez and the perhaps not so obvious regarding Jeremy Accardo. In the case of designated-for-assignment Valdez, he's logged all of 1.1 IP in the Jays 20 games played this season. The report was that the Jays liked his arm a lot, but were worried about his control. It doesn't take a baseball genius to figure out that a pitcher who gets so little work is going to have wonky control. Most of us understand that but the impression I get is that most Jays fans have little interest in the fate of the seventh man in the 'pen.

When it comes to Accardo, most of the commentary I've seen has been along the lines of "About damned time!" as if Accardo pitched himself off the roster. While it IS true that Accardo has ben awful this year, particularly in allowing all six inherited runners to score, he also is a victim of sparatic usage. Accordo didn't pitch in a Jays game until April 12, going over a week without an appearance, then was riding another eight game stretch of non-appearances when he was called upon last night. Again, you can't expect a pitcher to be at his best in such a pattern of usage.

That said, I do not necessarily object to Accardo's demotion, if for no other reason than to get him regular work so that he can be fairly judged. But giving up on Valdez and risking losing him seems rash. It's true that there haven't been a lot of "safe" places to gamble on the man, but if you trust a guy enough to put him on the roster, trust him enough to put him in a game.

One of the things people throw out against Cito is that he doesn't use his hitters in the best possible way to give the team a chance to win. For instance, several pinch hitting opportunities in which he let's Ruiz rust in order to stick with Overbay. Cito has his reasons which, in short, go beyond winning that particular day's game. Ok, fair enough. If that is true, then, that "losing one today to win two tomorrow" is the operative philosophy, then does it not logically follow that using Accardo or Valdez in higher leverage situations (when no "safe" blowout games occur) is also dictated by that philosophy? Would that line of thinking not suggest that "I'll put Valdez out there in this one run game instead of Camp and even if he blows it he gets some good work in and he'll be a better option if I really need him a couple of days from now"?

It seems to me that Gaston has a noticeable different mindset when it comes to how he uses his pitchers as opposed to how he uses his hitters.

In any case, coming in from las Vegas to shore up the gassed bullpen are Josh Roenicke and Rommie Lewis. Lewis is a LHP who was the closer at Vegas. He's never pitched in the majors before and one presumes he's getting the call because Jesse Carlson is struggling still, in AAA (and Purcey hasn't gotten polished as a reliever yet). One would expect Lewis will hardly ever pitch so, like Ruiz, he should content himself with the perks and salary of being on a major league roster rather than expect to actually, ya know, get to play baseball.

Roenicke, on the other hand, provokes mixed emotions. On the one hand, he's been untouchable at Vegas and based on that small sample certainly deserves the call. There's some whispering about the 'net, which I can't find again now, that the reason he struggled with the Jays last year was that he was nursing a sore elbow, so it's a very good thing to see him get a chance to restablish his reputation with the team and the manager. However, if he gets the same neglect Accardo did, he might well produce the same results and THAT is decidedly NOT a good thing.

I'm hoping that things break right so that Roenicke gets a chance to shine.

On that note, there's a new report from FoxSports' Jon Paul Morosi (via MLBTR) which indicates the Jays continue to have discussions about trading Scott Downs and Jason Frasor. On the surface, one has to ask if the Jays wouldn't be selling low on either man, particularly on Frasor, but as Morosi notes, Downs has such a solid track record over the last few years that one bad week is hardly going to crash his value, and Frasor has an insanely high BABIP which indicates a large measure of bad luck is in play here. Certainly, the drop in velocity will hurt Frasor's value though.

I'm not sure we could expect anything soon (though sooner on Downs than on Frasor as the latter will have to re-establish his desireability for longer) but in a year when the Jays are re-tooling for the future, it would be desirable to have Roenicke (in particular) in more high leverage situations, such as setting up Kevin Gregg, rather than rusting away at the neglected end of Gaston's bullpen bench.

In that regard, I hope that we seen both pitchers dealt soon.

Another potential beneficiary is Brad Mills who's been dominating AAA this year. Mills has to be keeping one eye on Dana Eveland who's disaster last night followed on the heels of a mediocre previous outing. While it must be noted that the Red Sox own Eveland to an astounding extent (his career ERA is almost a full run lower if you take out his starts against Boston) it's still worth keeping an eye on him for a potential decline.

However, if Eveland holds on to the rotation spot until at least the time when one of the Jays injured pitchers (like Zep most likely) is ready to return, Mills will possibly be aced out of a chance to start in the majors this year desipte his dominance. If he's not up by mid-June, then he's gonna find himself no higher than seventh on the depth chart for the major league rotation. Thus, his ticket might be in the 'pen. And with Carlosn struggling, Purcey a work in progress, and Downs on the trade block, there is a legitimate opening for the left handed Mills to work out of the major league 'pen should Downs be packed off in the near future.

Here's one possible lineup for the Jays' pitching staff coming out of the All Star Break:

Starters - Marcum/Romero/Morrow/Cecil/Zep/Litsch (yeah, I know that's six...allows for potential injury)

Relievers - Gregg/Roenicke/Tallet/Janssen/Mills/Camp/one of Carlson, Purcey, Accardo, Lewis or even Valdez if he clears waivers.

And that's before we even address how quickly the Three Caballeros in New Hampshire come.

This is the year when every change is a chance to hope for good things, because it's likely more change is coming.


eyebleaf said...

Nice read, mate. Tend to agree with everything you've written. Hope Roenicke doesn't languish in the pen, and that Mills eventually comes up. He's certainly got more upside than Eveland. I'm not too concerned about dealing Frasor and Downs; if J.P. was able to get Roenicke for Rolen, AA should be able to get a decent return on two good arms in the pen, the first 20 games not withstanding.

As for Litsch, do you think he will pitch this year? I'm thinking that since Marcum was kept out for all of 2009, they might do the same with Litsch in 2010. And I can't say I think that's a bad idea.

Also: love "the Three Caballeros."

The Southpaw said...

I thought that originally but Lott tweeted he was going to go out on rehab in the next few weeks (think it was Lott)...and the general implication is that barring a setback that mid-June would be realistic.

which is exactly what I was saying last year when Bastian et al were insisting he'd be out until well into the second half at best.

SP said...

Sad that McGowan is suddenly out of the discussion after all the hope just a month ago.

The Southpaw said...

I'm not completely without hope that he might recover, but so much of the train will pass him by that it becomes problematic for him to regain a slot.

He's not even throwing so you are looking at.....after the break at least, probably August, before he might be capeable of pitching in the majors and by then you have (assuming no further injuries)six or seven guys with legitimate claims to being worthy of the major league rotation in front of you and Drabek probably breathing down your neck.

I just don't know how you work a rehabbing guy into a crowd like that.

Chill said...

I think that if McGowan can go in mid-late August, there will be enough of the regular starters reaching their innings limits for the year (Cecil, Zep, Morrow) that someone is likely to be shut down and that would open up a slot or three in the rotation, then we could see McGowan, Drabek, Stewart.

Here's to hoping we have that dilema to look forward to...