Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dunedin Dispatches: Week 2

Following the same format, not bothering with a link dump since that's done better elsewhereby guys getting paid to do it.

Item: Get ready for the Fasano Flop! Apparently Sal Fasano has come up with a technique to both block the plate and avoid massive home-plate collisions. How cool would it be to add something new to the grand old game that no one ever thought of before?

Item: as the paid press is wont to do, there are several very similar stories today about the role mark DeRosa is trying to play in refining Mr. Incredible, aka Brett Lawrie. At one point DeRosa is quoted making a comparison between Lawrie and The National's Bryce Harper(!)

Item: Brandon Morrow employs on-line site to demonstrate to Ricky Romero one of the places where he went wrong last year. It seems Romero lost confidence in, and almost stopped using, the sinker which had been possibly his most effective pitch in 2011. Morrow found data which showed that Romero's use of that pitch had dropped by half from 2011 to 2012. This is cool not only in that it motivated Romero to go out today and focus on regaining the polish he once had on his sinker, but also as an insight into how at least one member of the staff is looking for not-so-obvious information in an effort to make himself and his team better. The only question in my mind is - why don't the Jays have someone in their employee looking for just this sort of data?

Item: Casey Janssen is taking it slow. So slowly that no one seems to speak with confidence about him opening the season on the active roster. No one is  really worried about the long term recovery, but given the number of out-of-options players they have to manage, and the awkward situation concerning who will actually be the closer, a couple of weeks on the DL might be just what the management could use right now. Ultimately, it would give them a couple of more weeks to decide about fence-sitting guys like Jefress and Cecil, and it would also allow them to more naturally flow into a "co-closer" situation with Janssen and Santos. I'd guess that the Jays would ultimately be stronger if Santos got the bulk of the classic save situations, while Janssen got both the 4-inning-or-more save situations and was also available for the very pivotal 7th and8th inning situations. You might end up with Santos having 30 saves and Janssen having 10 or 12, but with the latter every bit as crucial to the success of the pen as the former. The flip side being that Santos probably would NOT be as effective in those more-than-an-inning tasks as Janssen would. The problem, as always, is whether or not they can see past the baseball cliches associated with being the "capital C" closer, and the resulting worries about hurt feelings and such like.

Item: Some are not convinced Mekly Cabrera might not face further punishment. I'd be pretty stunned by that but, also, seeing Bonafacio getting a chance to run wild would be kinda cool. Pro-rate his steal numbers from last year and imagine him following Reyes in the batting order.

Item: Jays acquire another big high-strikeout reliever for bargain basement prices. Michael Schwimmer might be, say, Jeremy Accardo...or he might be Jeremy Accorado, (if you don't know what that means, check out his career stats) but either way, if you can get a guy who might in theory contribute something to the major league team for Art Charles, you do that all day and all night. Charles is never going to suit up for a major league game.

Item: John Farrel sets new standard. For a long time, the classic "in-joke" around the Jays was "it's not a lie if we know the truth" but that meme may now have been supplanted when John Farrel said in an interview yesterday "if I recall correctly, I was traded." Right. Came as a complete shock to ya, eh? If I'd had any cle that the Jays would bring back Gibby, I'd have founded "firejohnfarrell.com a year ago.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Duneiden Dispatches

As the paid media ramps up their detailing of all things Blue Jays in this most optimistic of springs, it seems to me that the link dumps have already been done elsewhere (DJF is very through, and you can follow Blue Jays Aggregator on Twitter for another fine source) s rather than do that, I think I'll just do a player-by-player rundown on the items that have caught my eye and contribute a fresh spin, if I have one.
Starting from the outfield wall and moving inwards...

Melky Cabrera - has said "stop asking me about the PEDs" and I think that's fair. The question of how much of his past 2 years production was "enhanced" is a fair one (I say this as one who is not convinced that PEDs actually produce much in the way of enhanced results, except in the recovery time from injury and I don't see why I should object to that effect). But let's confine the discussion of the subject to "what are our reasonable expectations for LF production in 2013?' m'kay.?

Colby Rasmus - Richard Griffin, among others, writes that this is Rasmus' "make or break year" which, realistically, it is. If he is going to hold off Anthony Gose in Toronto, he must step up his game this year. Otherwise he'll find himself starting over again next year. Some suggestions, though it is very early, about his approach seem to be hopeful. I'm one of those who's irrationally optimistic about a big year for him.

Jose Bautista - the question has been asked whether his wrist will still hamper his production this year, but the strong buzz in Dunedin is that he's swinging with authority and shows no sign of ill effect.

Brett Lawrie - there's a story out that Mark DeRosa has assumed the mentor role with Lawrie, and while I'm a skeptic about DeRosa's contributions at the plate, if indeed his vaunted leadership skills leverage maximum production for Lawrie, it more than justifies his spot on the roster.  I've seen one article which suggests that there's still a solid chance he could step to the next level this year. I, for one, believe that Lawrie will very soon insert him into the discussion "who's the best 3B in baseball?" and wouldn't be shocked if he did so in 2013.

Jose Reyes- Much is being made of the enthusiasm Reyes brings to the clubhouse and the field. While there's a limit to how much that translates into actual wins, if these reports are accurate, Reyes stands to become as big a fan favorite as Lawrie and Joey Bats.

Macir Izturs/Emilio Bonifacio - the well know "only competition among batters in camp" meme is being played out hard. I started out, after the trade, assuming that Bonifacio would win the job, but the article soften mentioned that Izturus is rated a better defender and i'm moving to the view that the team might work betters with Izturus the primary 2B, and Bonifacio available to provide spot starts and flexibility all over the left side of the field. I don't think there's a wrong answer here.

Edwin Encarnacion - one of the things no one is writing about that's on my mind is how much EE is now considered the first baseman, as opposed to the DH. My guess is that he'll spend a lot of time their during ST and lay claim to the position, if for no other reason than the guy who's performing ought to get preference when it comes to being on the field (which every hitter prefers to being a DH) when all other things (health, defense, etc) are equal.

Adam Lind - famously put his foot in his mouth concerning the departed coaches. Chad Mottola, the new batting coach, is confident he can get Lind back to being productive. Most think the leash is pretty short. If things go poorly, you'll see an import before the break. If Jim Thome finds himself unemployed on April 1, don't be surprised if the Jays stay in contact with him as long as Lind's production is in doubt. David Cooper is, however, not breathing down his neck this spring. Cooper has serious back issues and his potential to ever be a regular major leaguer may be in doubt.

JP Arencibia - the only storyline here is his determination to be a viable option for catching RA Dickey (and thereby being in the Opening Day lineup. Of course, there's also the ongoing competition behind the plate among potential back-ups Josh Thole and the aging Henry Blanco. I still can't wrap my head around the idea that Blanco is the favorite here, unless Thole is still nursing some injury, but you have to file it under "the team knows more than I do."

The rotation - Dickey's knuclker is impressing already; Johnson is talking about how his improvement over the course of 2012 had to do with bringing back and refining his curve;  Romero reports the injuries he had cleaned up over the winter to be feeling very good and hopefully his mental state is much improved,given he's no longer expected to carry the staff on his own shoulders; Mark Behrlie is being discussed more for the dog issue than anything else; and all is quite regarding Brandon Morrow - but let us pause for a sec and contemplate the times opposing teams will have to deal with his heat after having faced Dickey the night before.

Casey Janssen/Sergio Santos - the former is the presumptive closer, but going at a reduced speed while he recovers from minor off-season surgery. In theory this opens the door for Santos, who's reportedly fully healthy, but short relievers don't need much ST to be ready so it's a month too early for this speculation. 

Other pitchers...

Dustin McGowan - had been throwing since December, experienced mild shoulder pain (which he blames on too-long long toss) - obviously I can't express optimism but i still have hope.
JA Happ - the theme remains that he's potentially ticketed for Buffalo, more on that in a sec.
Brad Lincoln - Like Happ, he has options and those may land him in the Buffalo rotation, but...
Darren Oliver - all quiet
Steve Delenbar - all discussion presumes he's set to be a key player in Toronto, even though he does have an option or two.
Esmil Rogers, Brett Cecil, Jeremy Jefress - all out of options and thus all assumed to have something of an edge in making the team. AA even mentioned at the SOTF meeting that rogers was assured a job on that basis. But today John Gibbons said that he would take the best team north, options aside.If that's true, all three of these will have to fight for their job. McGowan is out of options too and should he end the spring healthy, something has to give.
In theory, Happ, Lincoln, and younger guys like Chad Jenkins, Aaron Loup, and Evan Crawford would be part of such a competition. Some writers suggest that minor league free agent signings like Justin Germano and David Bush would also be candidates but I have a very hard time believing THAT.

Still, Gibbons' claim enlivens what is already probably the most interesting roster-construction discussion of the spring.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tick tock

Like you, I grow increasingly frustrated with the long delays between posts. I'm going to have to break away from my love for long elaborate high-content posts because they never get finished. I have, on my spreadsheet, most of the data for a mega-post featuring a player by player comparison of all the teams in the AL East.  And yet, it seems sort of silly to do that much work demonstrating the Jays are the on-paper favorites when las Vegas has already told us as much.

So i may or may not ever get THAT post up, but in the mean time, Spring Training opens in less than a week and I'm going to have to find a rhythm reacting to the news of the day. Which should be much more frequent in the coming weeks. So rather than  do a numbers post, let me wander through the virtual clubhouse in light of the rash of stories on the SotF event this week. (and yes, I know, 900 other Jays blogs have already plowed that ground in some fashion).

Item: Starting pitchers - As you've no doubt read, John Gibbons showed his cards on the rotation order, listing them Dickey > Morrow > Buehrle > Johnson > Romero. That's as solid a set as you will find. Dickey, as the defending Cy, enjoys a presumptive entitlement to the first spot, no matter how managers might pooh-pooh that idea. Morrow and Johnson are interchangeable, and going with the returning player instead of the import is smart, plus the hard-thrower who follows Dickey probably gets an edge vs the same team, and you might as well not give that to the guy who's playing for a mega deal (Johnson). Eleven times in the first half alone, Morrow will follow dickey against the same opponent.

Splitting up the hard-throwing righties with the finesse lefties is as "Baseball 101" as it gets, and given Romero's 2012, it would be hard to put him over Buehrle.  That said, a lot of speculation revolves around Romero having put too much pressure on himself to carry the staff last year. The pressure will be completely off this year, in that regard, so don't be shocked if he has a huge rebound. also, as I've done the last two years, so say I again: like for Morrow to be the best pitcher on the team and a Cy contender.

Item: Bullpen - Janssen as the presumptive closer is only fair, but they say a bit more about Santos when the question is asked than I would like. I really really like Santos and am not worried on the health issue, but when you do as good as Janssen did you have proven you are up to the job. Don't mess with that. Listing those two and Oliver as the only locks makes sense to me...but why does Esmil Rogers keep making that list? AA always says "since he's out of options" BUT Brett Cecil and Jeremy Jefress are also out of options and they are not listed as likely locks. If options really do serve as major factors in who breaks camp with the Jays, then you have already accounted for six spots unless someone blows up well and truly. That would leave only one spot which you have to assume Delenbar is far ahead of the pack
on.

So. I'm going to pencil in Janssen > Santos > Oliver forthe 8th and 9th, Delenbar for the key 7th inning guy (Frasor's old job, really) and fill it out with Rogers, Jefresss, and Cecil, pending failure. I've a hunch that Cecil comes into his own as a poor man's Scott downs this year and goes on to have an impressive career.   JA Happ and Brad Lincoln lead the Buffalo rotation and wait for a chance in Toronto. Followed by Chad Jenkins and some retreads. Pending, of course, the health of Dustin McGowan.  Relief wise, the Jays are well stocked with options, having Aaron Loup, Evan Crawford, on the doorstep and a few others, besides those already mentioned, with some skills.

One of the noticeable things when it comes to comparing WAR totals between the AL East competitors is that you don't really know what to do with the WAR accumulated by guys like Happ that have been crowded off the roster.

Item: Catchers - The Jays acknowledge the existence of a competition between Henry Blanco and Josh Thole. Personally, short of a health issue I can't conceive of Blanco winning that but all the reports say he has the presumptive edge going in.

Item: Second - as Alex has previously noted, Izturus has the presumption as camp opens. Gibbons added that he's the one with the better Glove. I'm anxious to see Bonifacio in the lineup a lot. But I'm much more understanding on this point than i am the catcher question.

Item: Whither Colby Rasmus? John Gibbons articulated my own view - that Rasmus is on the verge of putting it all together. Like Romero, he probably thinks too much for his own good and now here he is surrounded by team-carrying talent all around the diamond. he doesn't HAVE to be a star and sometimes, that's just the environment where such a player blossoms. I wouldn't be at all shocked if he stepped up to the level of players Like Curtis Granderson, and he could be even better than that. Keep in mind he had an .823 OPS in the first half last year, and that's with a slow start. What remains is for him to put together a whole season as he did at his best.

And finally, for tonight, let me take a moment to acknowledge the elephant. YES, we will have to worry, for a while, about Bautista's hand. It MIGHT screw up his whole year. But before early season panic sets in, let's remember that last year, he was sitting on May 10, 2012, he was hitting .177 - and until his hand was hurt returned  it around pretty darn nicely. So don't look for me to dwell on that possibility much.

With all that said, I'm ready to get this party started!