Wednesday, 27 March 2013

On the clock...

And as I write this I learn that time has run out for Ricky Ro to right his ship and break with the Jays. In anticipation of Opening Day one week from tonight, and with most rosters pretty close to settled, I wanted to take a look at how the AL East rivals match up.

Clearly, I'm not generally the go-to girl for in depth statistical analysis of player quality, but I'll still offer my impressions and if nothing else, provide a handy reference for what these teams intend to go to war with next week. I used the recently published Fangraphs positional rankings, which uses a projected WAR figure which I won't explain (find out the details at the link) as the sole source (other than my own opinions) but for simplicity sake I've separated the starters from the bench.  also, I totaled each player's WAR across all positions for which they were projected to contribute, again for simplicity. My goal here is total projected WAR, while there's was specific to positional strength. Finally, I disregarded those bench players beyond the 4 I listed on each team. The extent to which this affects the overall rankings should be marginal.

Commentary after each list will note if there's some obvious concern (i.e., for instance, the 2012 figure is strikingly different from their previous 2-3years of work)

(Note: projections were published before Vernon Wells was traded - you be the judge of how much that deal affects the rankings)



1. Matt Weiters - 4.1 
2. JP Arencibia - 2.2
3. Jarrod Salalamacchia - 1.6
4. Jose Molina - 1.0
5. Francisco Cervelli - 0.8

Of note here is who actually wins the full time job in New York. but since they project the same WAR for both Cervelli and Stewart, it doesn't really matter. 

First Base

1. Edwin Encarnacion - 3.3
2. Mark Texeria - 2.9*
3. Mike Napoli - 2.2
4. Chris Davis - 1.6
5. James Loney - 0.9

The obvious caveat here is how long Texeria is out. The author (in this case Matt Klassen) factors in projected playing time but I'm not sure the projected 525 PA is a solid prediction or not. As it goes down (potentially) then so, too, do the Yankees projection (unless you put a lot of stock in Wells' contribution).

Second Base

1. Robinson Cano - 5.1
2. Ben Zobrist -5.1
3. Dustin Pedroia - 4.9
4. Macir Izturus - 1.8
5. Brian Roberts - 0.4

Note well that Zobrist's high total derives from the ability to play multiple valuable positions. Izturus gains from that too, of course, but he's far from being the hitter Zobrist is. also of note here is the impossibility of projecting Brian Roberts because no one can say how much he'll be able to play or how well.


1. Jose Reyes - 3.2
2. JJ Hardy - 3.0
3. Yunel Escobar - 2.8
4. Derek Jeter - 1.7
5. Stephen Drew - 1.7

Over his last six seasons in which he exceeded 500 PA, Reyes averaged 5.2 WAR - over the last three since the injury that cost him most of a season, he's averaged 4.4 and that includes the only season of the six in which he fell below 4.5 (2010, coming off the injury season). With all due respect to the projection systems, I cannot let such a low projection for him go unchallenged. It's at least 1.0 too low given his age and recent health.

Third Base

1. Evan Longoria -6.4
2. Brett Lawrie - 4.2
3. Kevin Youklis - 3.4
4. Will Middlebrooks - 2.8
5. Manny Machado - 2.5

The author rightly notes the potential for Lawrie to take a quantum leap, I'll go ahead and make the assertion that he could easily be in the top 3-5 at his position in baseball in 2013.I'll also concede that both Middlebrooks and Machado have more helium than lead in their potential futures.

Left Field

1. Brett Gardner - 3.5
2. Matt Joyce - 2.4
3. Melky Cabrera - 2.1
4. Nolan Reimold - 1.3
5. Johnny Gomes - 0.9

Projecting Cabrera to regress to the level of his Yankees days seems a bit much, in my view. Gardner gets a big boost from the projected time in CF while Granderson recovers, and Joyce a smaller bump from the projection that he'll open in RF until Myers is recalled. 

Center Field 

1. Adam Jones - 3.3
2. Desmond Jennings - 3.2
3. Jacoby Elsbury - 2.9
4. Curtis Granderson - 2.2
5. Colby Rasmus - 1.8 

Elsbury suffers from playing time concerns due to injury history, Granderson likewise.While I don't share the pessimism on Rasmus, I'm not in a position to dispute it.  I will note, though, that he only need to improve by 1.0 WAR to land right in the thick of this list. It doesn't take an All-Star year to do that.

Right Field

1. Jose Bautista - 4.6
2. Shane Victorino -2.7
3. Nick Markakis - 2.3
4. Will Myers - 1.4
5. Ichero Suzuki - 0.9

Bautista's 2012 pro-rates to about 6.0 WAR, which is pretty much in line with the two previous years.  I'll say the projections are selling him short here. Victorino is so high because they project him to play CF in the presumed absence of the likely-to-be injured Elsbury.

Designated Hitter

1. David Ortiz - 2.6
2. Adam Lind -1.1
3.Travis Hafner - 1.0
4. Luke Scott - 0.8
5. Wilson Betimit - 0.5

Lind edges out Hafner on the basis of his potential to play 1B on occasion, which hafner won't likely be doing.


1. Rays (Lobotan, Johnson, Rodriguez, Fuld) - 2.5
2. Red Sox (Ross, Carp, Ciriaco, Nava)- 1.9
3. Blue Jays (Blanco, Bonifacio, DeRosa, Davis) - 1.8
4. Yankees (Stewart, Rivera, Nunez, Boesch) - 1.5
5. Orioles (Teagarden, Canzler, Flaherty, McLouth) 1.1

My observations here is that possibly Bonifacio's playing time was under-projected, and that I would have assumed Teagarden had more value. On the other hand, the Rays get perhaps a bit more credit here than they otherwise would because of the assumption that Johnson will gain some noticeable at-bats in the period while the Rays wait on the clock to tick on Will Myers. The Rays do use their bench morethan any of their rivals here though.

Totals so far, offense only:

1. Rays - 25.7
2. Blue Jays - 25.0
3. Yankees - 22.0
4. Red Sox - 21.6
5. Orioles - 19.6

Am I the only one here who thinks the undervaluing of Bautista, Reyes, and possibly Cabrera - to say nothing of the potential progress of Lawrie and/or Rasmus - ought to be more than sufficient to account for 0.7 WAR? I am biased of course but I don't see anything close to a similar undervaluing of the Rays hitters, and in fact I might contend that both Zobrist and Jennings are a bit high.

On to the pitching...

#1 Starter

1. CC Sabathia - 5.2
2. David Price - 4.8
3. Jon Lester - 3.9
4. Jason Hammel - 3.2
5. RA Dickey - 3.1

SERIOUSLY? The models make Dickey out as a slightly worse bet than Jason HAMMEL? You're kidding me, right? The author notes that dickey seems to be undervalued and encourages an upgrade in yur mental adjustments. No s***. Add one full WAR here, on my authority.

#2 Starter

1. Hiroki Kuroda - 3.1
2. Ryan Dempster - 2.9
3. Brandon Morrow - 2.5
4. Wie-Yen Chen - 2.0
5. Jeremy Hellickson - 1.4

Again...huh? Hands up everyone in baseball who'd rather have Ryan Dempster in 2013 as Brandon Morrow? anyone/ Anyone at all? Buhller? also, by the way, I'll take Hellickson over Chen, and I'm not a huge Hellickson fan.

#3 Starter

1. Andy Petitte - 3.3
2. Matt Moore - 2.7
3. Mark Buehrle - 2.3
4. Clay Buchholtz - 2.3
5. Chris Tillman - 1.6

Sensing a pattern? FORTY year old Andy Petitte is a full win better than Mark Buehrle? while throwing (projected) 40 fewer innings?The seven years younger Beuhrle has had exactly two season in his career under 3.3 - I'd also project Moore to best Petitte and, if healthy (a big if) Buchholtz as well. Petitte's numbers did pro-rate to 3.4 last year over a similar number of innings, but we're to accept that the models saw no age-related decline? He only put up 2.1 in his last year before "retirement."
#4 Starter
1. Josh Johnson - 2.9
2. Alex Cobb - 2.4
3. Ivan Nova - 2.1
4. John Lackey - 1.7
5.  Miguel Gonzalez - 1.4

Pop quiz - Josh Johnson or Ivan Nova? if you even paused to consider Nova, go away - you don't know what a baseball looks like. Johnson, in far from classic form for a significant portion of 2012, still put up 0.9 more than this.

#5 Starter

1. Feliz Doubront - 2.1
2. Rickey Romero* - 1.6
3. Phil Hughes -1.3
4. Jake Arrieta - 1.3
5. Jeff Neimann - 1.0

Obviously, you have to adjust for the Romero situation here, but he's only projected for 137 IP in this model so it seems as if that's been done already.

Other projected starters in total

1. Yankees - 1.5
2. Red Sox - 1.1
3. Orioles - 1.1
4. Jays - 0.9
5. Rays - 0.9

Sigh. Not going to sweat half a win.

 Totals for rotations: 

1. Yankees - 16.3
2. Red Sox - 14.0
3. Jays - 13.3
4. Rays - 13.2
5. Orioles - 10.6

Highly disputable in my view. I could argue that any or all of four different Jays starters are projected at least 1.0 too low. Two of them workhorse guys for whom injuries are not an issue. The writer points out that a lot of Tampa's run preventions success comes from excellent fielding results, which is why they appear to be somewhat undervalued and mentally I adjust their totals accordingly. Petitte is as much as a full win too high. In reality, I'd suggest all of the top four fall somewhere between 14 and 15 total.


1. Rivera - 1.4
2. Santos - 1.4
3. Hanarahan - 1.0
4. Rodney - 1.0
5. Johnson - 0.9

Yes, Janssen is ostensibly the closer but since they are so tightly bunched, i decided to use the guy with the higher projection here. Let's also pause to note here that WAR, as a rule, doesn't much care for relievers in general.


1. Yankees (Robertson/Logan) - 2.2
2. Red Sox (Bailey/Uehara) - 2.1
3. Blue Jays (Janssen/Oliver) - 2.0
4. Rays (Peralta/McGee) - 1.5
5.  Orioles (Stroup/O'Day) - 1.2

Not much to complain about here, other than perhaps wondering whether Bailey is ready to give 65 innings this year.

Other relievers

1. Yankees - 0.7
2. Blue Jays - 0.7
3. Red Sox - 0.5
4. Rays - 0.4
5. Orioles - 0.4

You should have expected something like this - it's usually inconsequential who the "other relievers" are unless they are horribly bad.

Bullpen totals

1. Yankees- 4.3
2. Blue Jays - 4.1
3. Red Sox - 3.6
4. Rays - 2.9
5. Orioles - 2.5

Pitching staff totals

1. Yankees - 20.6
2. Red Sox - 17.6
3. Blue Jays - 17.3
4. Rays - 16.1
5. Orioles - 13.1

Obviously based on my previous remarks you know I question this. off the Cuff I'd make it more like

Jays - 20.3
Yanks - 20.1
Red Sox - 17.6
Rays - 17.6

But...I'll lay that aside and go with the opinion of the cold numbers and the objective evaluators of those numbers. So with that said, here's the overall WAR totals:

1. Yankees - 42.6
2. Blue Jays - 42.3
3. Rays - 41.8
4. Red Sox - 39.2
5. Orioles - 32.7

So if you've been makingthe AL East a 3-way dead heat, well, the projections agree.  You'll forgive me if I assert that a reasonable intuition regarding the numbers presented here make the Rays and Yanks virtually even and the Blue Jays 2-4 games better.

If we assume, just for ease of discussion, that replacement level is a team that would win 50 games (I know, it's not that simple and I may have that total wrong - so sue me) then this would produce standings like this:

Yankees: 93-69
Blue Jays 92-70
Rays 92-70
Red Sox 89-73
Orioles: 83-79

I'm not going to take time to work out whether that would even be realistically possible given the intra-division schedule - but just adjusting it for my own views (i.e. that Reyes, Bautista, Morrow, Dickey, Buehrle, Johnson and maybe Cabrera are a full win short - and giving them credit for only half that much...and docking the Yanks for Petitte and too much optimism re Tex and Granderson...and bumping the Rays for the defense notation regarding their run-prevention ability....

Blue Jays: 95-67
Rays: 93-69
Yankees: 91-71
Red Sox: 89-73
Orioles: 83-79

But that's 31 wins more than the division accumulated last year., 16 more than their best year in the
last'll do a little intuitive adjustment to get my final prediction

Blue Jays: 94 - 68
Rays: 89-72
Yankees: 87-75
Red Sox: 84-78
Orioles: 79-83

I'll go with Detroit to win the AL Central (shocker I know) and Texas to re-bound slightly (and benefit from Oakland coming back to earth a bit) and win the AL West. Just for fun I'll call the angels the other Wild Card. Jays\ and Rangers in the ALCS. I'll go with the Nats to represent the NL.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 5

A quiet week, for the most part, and one in which I've worked too many hours leads to a late and short entry this week. With two weeks (less now) to go until opening day, the fucus has narrowed to a few key concerns:

1. Whither Ricky Romero? In the wake of yesterdays first game-action trial of his mechanical adjustment, questions abound. Given AA's response to questions I think it's reasonable to assume that if he "clicks" as Alex hopes, he'll break camp with the Jays and if he shows no progress over his next two starts, then their hand will be forced and they will have to let him continue to seek the handle in Buffalo to start the year.

2. Reintegrating the WBC veterans. These last two weeks will be used to let players from the classic attempt to "gel" with those who didn't. In particular, JP Arencibia who got only two starts in the tournament will get a lot of reps.

3. Bullpen showdown: As of now, Brett Cecil has pulled into the clear lead for the final spot available. That assumes that the current wisdom that Aaron Loup will make the team is true. If he doesn't, or if Casey Janssen isn't quite ready, Jefress might yet stick - otherwise he's the most likely to be traded at this point.

4. Second base: the jays seem to have decided not to decide, tentatively planning to use both of them situationally. Which is not a biad idea in my view..

5. Backup catcher: whispers are that, unsurprisingly, Blanco still has the inside track.

also, the Jays have added a couple of more arms to the Buffalo crowd - Guillermo Moscoso and Todd Redmond.

All for now.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 4

Now with loads of Alex Anthopoulos content,given the Thursday interview on PTS:

Item: AA expressed confidence that both Janssen and Santos will be ready for the opening day roster, and noted that if both are healthy Janssen is still the presumptive closer.

Item: He said that Brett Lawrie is two weeks away probably, from getting into games and that puts him on a tight schedule to be dialed up by opening day. Don't be too stunned if he opened the season with a brief DL stint for rehab.

Item: Alex discussed the bullpen competition at some length. He noted that being "out of options" could serve as a tie-breaker in a close competition. He noted that pitchers who were excellent last year have a solid leg up as long as they are having a good camp, and mentioned by name Delebar and Loup. He then answered a question about Jefress and sang his praises but voiced caution and wanted to see whether he would keep it going. He spoke glowingly of McGowan, that he seems to be completely healthy and anxious to get into games - and used the expression "if healthy he has the best stuff in the organization."He did strongly imply thatitwas quite late to have him break camp with the Jays. the easy decision is to open theyear on the DL for a 30 day re-hap stint and hope that an opening develops on the big league roster before they haveto make a decision on him.
 I'll discuss the bullpen situation more further down.

Item: He clarified the situation with David Cooper. Without going into the gory details, the release was a function of CBA rules and the Jays hope to sign him to a minor league deal and give him a chance to recover.

Item: They discussed #1 prospect Aaron Sanchez and Alex refers to hm as "our Matt Moore" and quoted the well known Mel Queen comment that Sanchez was aheadof Chris Carpenter or Roy Halladay coming out of high school.

Item: Anthony Gose is much better this spring (Alex is not the only one to make this observation) but he also said he wants to see the spring success carry over to to the regular season. He said "offensively hestill has work to do."

Item: Plenty of confidence that they opportunity exists to sign Josh Johnson to an extension if theywish to.

Item: During a discussion of Romero he said basically that Ricky is the guy but that was open to adjustment, but tellingly he noted that in a season when you are going for it, you can't lose games protecting someone's feelings.

Item: he finished with an acknowledgement that trade talks heat up at the end of ST and pretty much flat out stated that if the out of options guys are not going to make it they will  be discussed in trades. Don't look for the team to lose anyone good without any compensation. 

Early on, Alex was highly praising what he saw from Jose Reyes, and every report concerning Reyes is glowing. this guy could be THE big acquisition in terms of intangibles, even more so than all the imported pitching.

In other items...

Item: the Jayshave signed, to a minor league contract, former Mariner Munenori Kawasaki He'll likely be the starting SS in Buffalo and serve as a depth option. 

Item: Adam Lind is having a great spring. Worth remembering, Lind regularly has a great spring. Stay tuned.

Item: Gibbons says the 2B job will "go down to the wire"


Item: Brett Cecil had a solid outing today.-his best of the spring. The news cycle doesn't buzz much about Esmil Rogers, who's been assumed to be a lock, and Brad Lincoln, who's assumed to not be likely to make it, but if i may indulge in another round of speculation...
Seven spots.

Mortal locks if healthy: Janssen, Santos, Oliver - the only waiver here is if one of the closers need a few days on the DL to catch up.

That leaves four.

Rogers has been presumed to be in, and it's hard to conceive that Delebar isn't likewise a lock. Today Alex added loup by name as a presumptive guy.

That would leave only one. Jefress and Cecil are both out of options, as you know, so if one doesn't make the team he's almost certain to be traded. Lincoln and Hall do have options, as Michael Schwimmer, Justin Germano, and anyone else you've heard called a candidate. I can't seeany of them forcing the Jays to get rid of two big league pitchers.

McGowan, of course, will almost certainly get 30 days in the minors to establish some momentum and catch up to the others, and he'll be hoping that roster machinations will open a role for him by May 1.

All this leads me to believe that it would not be stunning to think that Janssen might spend at least the first week on the DL and thus give Alex room to maneuver a few more days.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 3

The Dusty Edition! Now with no lambchops (thank the gods, I much prefer the new look).

Yes as you might imagine, THE big story for me this week is the rekindling of the elusive dream of watching a healthy Dustin McGowan take baseball by storm. Yes, I know I know the odds have to be astronomical, but as long as HE believes, I believe. The Jays are saying, obviously, that his opportunity for now is in the bullpen, and that's new territory for McGowan in terms of the physical demands. But, while I'm assuming there will be a 15-day stint on the DL to open the season (to give him time to catch up AND to see who in the bullpen proves himself unworthy (I'm looking at you, Jefress) I'm going to go ahead and pencil McGowan in as the long man and theoretical #7 starter.

This means that Jefress, options or no, has an uphill battle (I hope I don't have to explain why the Jays would rather lose HIM on waivers as McGowan). It also means Brad Lincoln is that much more likely to be the Bison's closer rather than be in the majors on opening day. What has not yet been said, but which I believe to be true, is that if the jays had relatively long term injuries in the rotation, McGowan would be no worse than the second option (behind JA Happ) to step in, even if it meant he had to be stretched out "on the job."

In other news - cue the Chicken Little crowd, Sergio Santos has mild tricep soreness. Keep calm for now.

Item: Colby Rasmus is a complex dude. He offered a negative review of  John Farrell's choices; he noted that he tried too hard to get out of the slump (understandable, and part of the maturation process to recognize the error of that); and he notes that he's probably more comfortable being "just another guy" out of the spotlight instead of a high-profile cog (which given what we've learned of his personality makes perfect sense). Along with Morrow and Lawrie, he's the guy i expect to really step up to the next level this year.

Item: there as a minor kerkuffle ofmedia noise about Bautista's supposed anger issues at the plate. meh. i don't careto give that any thought.

Item: a bit more buzz around Aaron Loup than seems warranted given the crowded situation for middle relievers.  Loup is pitching very well so far, but combine AA's "I've learned not to make decisions based on ST" with the reality that you have to find a way to deal with an out of options guy if he sticks, combined with his relative age and inexperience, combined with the potential that McGowan might somehow hold together...I just don't see it.

Speaking of relief pitchers, the common cliche is that if Jeremy Jefress (for example) doesn't make the team, they would likely lose him on waivers since he's out of options. But i don't think so. My guess is that by the third week of March Alex will have fielded multiple offers on the three OOO guy sand be prepare to pull the trigger on whomever doesn't make the cut.None of them will be "lost" to a simple waiver claim, IMO.

Item: more and more you see the stories praising both DeRosa and Blanco as Magical Mystery Players who bring serendipity and success to those around them even when they don't contribute much at the plate. I guess we'll find out.

Item: making an exception to the "why bother with links?" principle again - it's worth your time to check out this update at DJF because it includes a section on the Centennial college writers who are doing features on interesting Jays prospects. That's refreshingly different.

Item: in the ex-Jay department, Shi Davidi has a nice piece on Aaron hill that reinforces what we all should know but sometimes forget - there's so very much mental about the game that you simply can't assume that any statistical based projection system is going to give you a definitive idea of how good a player will be this year. It's the best we've got, but there's so much it can't adjust for. I remember many a conversation in 2011 about how Hill was clearly done, one of the worst 2B in the game, and Kelly Johnson was far superior.
Even though I was a Hill supporter in that conversation, the experience taught me to try and not be so adamant about my views. There's so much more the team knows than what we know that to assume you KNOW the team made a mistake is irrationally foolish.