Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Days of Cecil Past

It shouldn't take one of my trademark long winded posts to cover this, particularly when i'm writing as usual after everyone else you read has already weighed in. but I do have acouple of observations on today's rotation shuffle.

Item: Drabek in - If you've been following me you know I've said for ever since McGowan came up lame that there was an unstated competition between Drabek and Cecil to be the guy who was still in Toronto when McGowan returned. Turns out Cecil accelerated that process. Which, IMO, is ultimately a good thing for everyone although I'm sure Cecil doesn't see it that way now. I've had a barely disguised desire all winter to see Drabek and McGowan come to camp and be so very good that Cecil is clearly the sixth best option because they are more likely to be integral to the future than he is (and this became more obvious with McGowan's contract extension).

For reasons which I'll get to in a moment, I always figured that before Hutch & co. arrived, the Jays needed to field a rotation of Romero/Morrow/McGowan/Alvarez/Drabek for as long as possible to see what they had there. In my opinion, with health, that might be their best five even when the kids start arriving. Spending a lot of time being fair with Cecil was counter-productive to that end (as signing or trading for another veteran pitcher, such as Gavin Floyd, would have been). So while it's the least remarked upon item of the day, it's the best news to me - Drabek is in, and likely will be until/unless he proves he's not worthy. Even when McGowan is ready.

Item: Laffey to Vegas - Good. with all the available options, anything which puts Laffey in a Blue Jays uniform can only be considered disastrous news.

Item: Cecil to New Hampshire - Just to be clear, if you have not heard Cecil was given the choice of AAA or AA and wisely chose the latter. it's closer, the pitching environment is much better, and he apparently has a good working relationship with AA pitching coach Tom Signore. That said, let's be frank - you've probably seen the end of Cecil as a starter for the Blue Jays. He's either going to end up in another organization or, more likely, take the Janssen/Litsch track to the bullpen. where, by the way, he might very well be a pretty high quality option. Remember guys like Scott Downs and Darren Oliver who were mediocre or worse starters and excellent LH relievers.

John Farrell's comments today about the choice of Carreno was as revealing as you can get. He said the management believes they need power from their starters. Hard throwers. As a starter, that's the thing Cecil manifestly ain't gonna be. He would have had to have ben exceptional to overcome that bias and I don't think even being exceptional puts him back in the top five if everyone is healthy. when four spots out of five are preemptively locked in, assuming health, the window is very small. In all likelihood, it's closed on Cecil as a starter in Toronto, just as it has on Litsch. However, down the road that's good news for the Jays bullpen. It might be difficult to do at the distance of AA ball, but if Cecil can learn from Casey Janssen to embrace the idea that being in a major league bullpen is better than being a stubborn minor league starter - if he can learn from Darren Oliver how to turn a mediocre starting repitoire into highly effective set-up skill-set, then he still has a place in the Blue Jays future.

Item: Joel Carreno in the rotation - Yes he starts the third game, but be very clear that he's the 5th starter and the place-holder for McGowan. There's a clear path for the Jays to tweak the rotation so as to put him in that spot, and it's obvious that between him and Drabek he's the guy who can slide into a relief role until he's needed to start again which barring a miracle recovery from Dusty will be April 21.
Carreno is the sort of guy who should do well in his first turn or two through the league. one might suspect that the longer he's exposed the more his tendency to a bit of wildness will let the league catch up to him, but he's not going to be in the rotation long term - more than a month would be surprising. Then comes McGowan and, should a need arise in June or later, it's more likely to be Jenkins, Hutch, or McGuire - albeit if Carreno dominates in this stint they may reward him with another go and ride him until the results fade. The point is, though, that there's reasonable reason for optimism.

Item: Carlos Vilianueva is still in the bullpen - (so is Luis Perez) some members of the media, particularly Bob McCowan, have openly questioned why the Jays have given no hint that Villianueva is a candidate to plug into these gaps. of course the simple answer is that he's not stretched out, but John Farrell has specifically said "that's not going to happen." for whatever reason, the Jays have decided they simply do not want to do that.
The question does not pose answers that are THAT obvious from the outside looking in. Mike Wilner was ask on the air during the season preview show tonight about the possibility and he called it a myth that Villianueva pitched well as a starter last year, but that's not really true. Carlos V got 13 starts and for the first nine of those, he was excellent. He had a 3.67 ERA, a .648 OOPS, and solid if not eye-popping ratios. but he went completely off the rials over the last 4 starts, with an ERA over 9 and a DL trip at the end. The common assumption was that the decline is and was attributable to fatigue, and perhaps it was, or perhaps the Jays think the league caught up to him, or some combination of the two. In any case, don't hold your breath on this idea.

Item: Dusty McGowan is still on the DL - earlier in the week the team said he wouldn't try to throw for 5-7 days and Farrell commented that ever how long you laid off, it would take about that much longer to get back into game action. From there you need to build back up to at least 74-80 pitches on rehab. Looking at the calendar then, Dusty doesn't project to be in a re-hab start before the middle of the month at the earliest, and there will not be less than three of those. that means there's not any possibility that McGowan pitches in Toronto during the month of April.

For the purposes of the following projection, I'm penciling him in lightly for May 1, but if we don't hear a good report about him throwing a bullpen by next Monday afternoon you can expect that date to start slipping even further back. If the Jays get into the third week of may without him, they might start suffering some setbacks. by that time, they should have a pretty solid read on both Drabek and Carreno, as well as have had seven or eight looks at the four options in New Hampshire.

4/5 -- at Cleveland - Romero
4/6 -- off
4/7 -- at Cleveland - Morrow
4/8 -- at Cleveland - Carreno
4/9 -- Boston - Alvarez
4/10 - Boston - Drabek
4/11 - Boston - Romero
4/12 - off
4/13 - Baltimore - Morrow
4/14 - Baltimore - Alvarez
4/15 - Baltimore - Drabek
4/16 - off
4/17 - Tampa - Romero
4/18 - Tampa - Morrow
4/19 - Tampa - Alvarez
4/20 - at KC - Drabek
4/21 - at KC - Carreno (most likely)
4/22 - at KC - Romero
4/23 - at KC - Morrow
4/24 - at Baltimore - Alvarez
4/25 - at Baltimore - Drabek
4/26 - at Baltimore - Carreno (?)
4/27 - Seattle - Romero
4/28 - Seattle - Morrow
4/29 - Seattle - Alvarez
4/30 - Texas - Drabek
5/1 - Tex - Carreno/McGowan
5/2 - Tex - Romero
5/3 - at LA - Morrow
5/4 - at LA - Alvarez
5/5 - at LA - Drabek
5/6 - at LA - Carreno/McGowan
5/7 -
5/8 - at Oak - Romero
5/9 - at Oak - Morrow
5/10 - at Min - Alvarez
5/11 - at Min - Drabek
5/12 - at Min - Carreno/McGowan
5/13 - at Min - Romero

After this you have 10 of the next 13 against TB, NY and Tex and the other three against an NL team (true it's the Mets but still, the NL has been a problem for the Jays). So Carreno will have 3-4 chances to make a name for himself, and Drabek will have 4-5 to begin to prove he's the guy the team hoped he'd be a year ago. Before Dusty pushes someone out. and as I said, by 5/13 the quartet in AA will have each had at least 7 starts (if healthy)) so if the Jays get to the hard part of the schedule and someone isn't pulling his weight, they will have had time to get a solid read on on the "Plan B" options.

I realize a lot of folks are saying tonight things which amount to "See? this proves the jays should have gone out and gotten Floyd/Gonzalez/Latos/somebody!" I'm still not in that group. I'd rather watch our guys as block our guys.

One other point I should address. It was pointed out to me on Batter's Box that I argued (albeit, before the come-apart of the last couple of weeks) that ZIPS possibly undersold Cecil and that there was a reasonable expectation that he was projectable as a 2 WAR guy, and that that comment seems to stand in opposition to my comments in other places that Cecil's future ultimately is in the Jays pen or out of town (and that a comment I was making before the last couple of weeks). In fact, in my view, the two do not conflict. In my opinion (and the actual data might prove me wrong) a 1.5-2 WAR pitcher is just an average guy. the sort of person who might give you 180-200 innings and an ERA+ of 95-105.
That's what I thought Cecil was a month ago. that's what i think he is long term right now (although i concede the possibility that if the last couple of weeks are the sign of a deeper issue that might change the paradigm). The "bullpen future" comment is not "getting off the Cecil bandwagon" but rather my strong confidence that the team has five major-league ready SP who are notably more talented than he is. that is, to put a finer point on it, all that was necessary for Drabek to pass him was for Drabek to simply be a reasonable facsimile of what the team thought they were getting. If he ends up being as good as the projections a year ago suggested, he's considerably better than Cecil.
So saying Cecil is a 1.5-2 WAR guy and saying "he's at best the sixth best option, and in time will slide from that point" are not contradictory statements. A year from now, Cecil might well be the 8th, 9th, or worse option - and STILL be the guy that, if he were pitching for, say, Kansas City, be a 2 WAR guy.

So you can see - I believe in our depth. let's get this part started, I smell playoffs!

1 comment:

WC said...

Great breakdown.

Sending Cecil to Toronto had disaster written all over it. He needs to spend time in the minors to rebuild his game and demonstrate that he is more than a rotation stop gap for 2012 and beyond.

Now is the time to develop Drabek and Alvarez at the major league level. Nothing wrong with getting a closer look at Carreno as well.

Given McGowan's inning count for the season is likely limited, I would rather him miss some time early on rather than burn out during the stretch.