Saturday, August 6, 2011

All Hail Redux

You know, lost in the uber-hype around Brett Lawrie is how often we are doing this sort of thing lately? Just a little over a week ago we were all losing our composure over Colby Rasmus (and for good reason) Late last season we got giddy over Kyle Drabek and powered-up by JP Arencibia. Before the end of this season we might get a chance to swoon over Henderson Alvarez. these are heady times!

I was tempted to squeeze out the time to gush over his promotion Thursday, and again Friday - but a rush-job love-fest would be something easy to find all over, why do I need to do that too? One of the things I've found akward about blogging is the unwritten rule that if something big happens with your team, good or bad, you rush to the keyboard and pound out a response. for various reasons - some selfish - I've never done that much. I prefer to marinate a bit in the news and the reactions around me and left my thoughts be informed by the wisdom - and nonsense - of others.

But having had 48 hours to meditate on the arrival of Lawrie I don't end up with much more than what I had Thursday. He's a major milestone on a virtual autobahn of team-building, as was Rasmus. It's true that there will be a constant undercurrent of hand-wringing about his defense, but he's not going to be anything close to the issue Encarnacion was in that regard. If he turns out to be "below average" no one will care if he hits like everyone thinks he will. One need only to read the quotes from John Farrell, who's thin veneer of grizzled baseball cliches was not nearly sufficient to cover up his school-girl gushing over Lawrie, in order to pick up on the idea that this is not just another prospect.

On the other hand, many fans' comments seem to forget the process, discussing hitting him 2nd or even fifth or even THIRD. Let's not get nuts people. I quibble a bit with Farrell's lineup last night (I can't understand Hill still batting in front of Arencibia) but Lawrie at #9 is actually excellent, IMO. if he gets off to a fast start he basically acts as a trigger to restart the lineup one batter early. He gets the benefit of more veteran players feeling out pitchers he's unfamiliar with, and then from his first at-bat onward, he's at the head of a line that goes Lawrie > Escobar > Thames > Bautista > Lind > Encarnacion > Rasmus...how can you NOT love that? It's far better than hitting him in front of Hill.

If you will pardon me a tangent into rosterbation here, looking forward to 2012 the team has no need to add a starter at any position from outside the organization except at 2B. and if they fail to scrounge up an above average guy there (the market, either FA or trade, is remarkably thin) then honestly, you can win a LOT of games with one hole in your lineup - it's not going to kill us as long as he's hidden away at the bottom of the order. it does remain to be sorted out how you deal with Snider and Thames if you bring back EE - can you bring the older guy back on the understanding that he's strictly a reserve? I mean you CAN - you have an option - but can you in good conscience? if so, problem solved. Let Thames DH and serve as your primary OF reserve, and let EE back DH and 1B and be your emergency 3B - it's a valuable role if he'll take it. Of course, Davis will rust but that can't be helped.

Speaking of Snider - I understand the raw emotions concerning sending him down and on an emotional level i share them - but you have to think Adam Lind has had a nice talk with him and told him "I got the T-shirt." What Alex Anthopoulos is saying is dead on - this happens with young players all the time and the idea that he's out of favor or needs a change of scenery or some such is just silly. He DOES neet to get his plate control back (only one walk on his most recent recall) and I'm concerned that the modified swing might not be as conducive to power as the one he originally came up with, and in that regard more work - regular work - is a good thing.
But he's 23, and he has almost 900 at bats in the majors. One need look no further than Alex Gordon to see why patience is advised. Is it possible he ends up a perpetual underachiever? Sure. But we are a long long way away from concluding that.

Among the other moves made Thursday which are naturally swept aside in the fooforall is the recall of Luis Perez for the bullpen and the disabling of Carlos Villanueva with what is essentially a phantom injury. There's every reason to assume that Villanueva simply ran out of gas after the break. He had a very good nine game run that was invaluable but ultimately that's likely his role - be a very good reliever who can step into that emergency starter role if need be. A contender needs a guy like that.
There will be a need for a fifth starter soon and while the easy answer would be to give those starts to Jesse Litsch, the team is saying publicly they want to find out how he works as a reliever and the early returns are favorable enough (2 walks and a hit in 5 IP against 9K) that this may well continue. If it does, then things might get very interesting if Farrell was serious about the potential the team could seek to take a look at Henderson Alvarez. Will Brad Mills already in the rotation and Kyle Drabek still refining his game, there doesn't seem to be another obvious option once Litsch is ruled out. Dustin McGowan is doing fantastic but he hasn't pitched above A-ball or more than 3 IP this season. I look forward to seeing him in September but anything earlier than August 27 is too aggressive to be realistic.

One other point on pitching - the weakened bullpen. both this year and next year need attention but i don't think it's a stretch to say the team is somewhat resigned to less than great work in some quarters this year.

The current pen is Rauch/Francisco/Camp/Janssen/Litsch/Perez/Ledzma and Miller. Miller really has no business here, Ledzma is very slightly better but no good team should want him. Rauch is having his worst year in a while (other than his mediocre tour in Arizona) and Camp seems to be in decline. that leaves four guys you can have some confidence in - five if you count Villanueva when he comes off the DL. While PJ Walters is no prize, I'm a bit puzzled he's not up here instead of Miller or Ledzma. Surely he'll be back on September 1. Sean Henn and possibly Danny Farquar are probably better than those two bums as well, though Henn is very much a scrub. Starters Chad Beck and Joel Carreno are other options though there's been no mention of calling them.

Looking ahead to next year, the core of Janssen, Listch, Villanueva and Perez is still pretty sound (though without a long track record in some cases. One could make a reasonable argument for any of those three righties getting a shot at closing but the team doesn't seem so inclined. if that doesn't change we can anticipate a repeat of last winter with a coule of potential closers imported (among the candidates, Francisco isn't a bad option). Also, a reliable more veteran LHP would be on the agenda. but the art of bullpen construction is highly unpredictable. if it was me, I'd try to persuade the Giants to trade Sergio Romo or seen someone similar to him (the Braves have some options) even if you have to pay "too much for a reliever" to do so.

Still, there's no real need to sweat the bullpen - all too often when we think it's fine it stinks, and when we think it stinks it turns out fine. Relievers are weird like that.

Lots of rain in Baltimore as I type - might be looking at a double header tomorrow if things don't change.

Edit to add: I've been meaning to include a link to a wonderfully lustful article by Callum at Mop-Up Duty about the potential of the Jays breaking the bank for Yu Darvish this winter. Consider me on board.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tammy,

The fact that you don't run to the key board and type out some drivel every time someone has a hangnail, is why the vast majority of readers check out this site. Please keep up the insightful posts.

My only question is does Lawrie stick at 3rd, or do we push him to LF giving us a real back up. Given the dynamics, I think the team will try to make it work at 3rd and he has the athleticism and work ethic to make it work.

Also it's really time to get Thames out of the 2 hole and back down in the order where he can have some of the benefits your spoke of in your article.