In the mean time I was taking in all the discussion of projection systems and their limitations and looking primarily at the Steamer system at Fangraphs to try and wrap my mind around a baseline comparison between the Jays and their rivals. Andrew Stoeten covered all the basic caveats in his excellent article for the National Post discussing why the systems could well be undervaluing the Jays young trio of pitchers and if you haven't read it already, you should probably go do that before you continue here. The only thing I'd add to his specific comments is that the systems are ill-equipped to account for the distinct possibility that Sanchez s the closer and Norris is the full-time #5 which would further affect their potential contributions.
While Stoeten wisely makes reference to specific changes in approach which led to improvement, I'm going to engage in a much more base commentary - difference of opinion!
While I was perusing the Steamer projections, I kept coming back to the projection for Dalton Pompey. I'm prepared to accept the offensive projection, even though I think it's low because frankly, every partisan fan can pick out projections they are sure are too low. Rather, what offended my sensibilities were the OTHER projections for Pompey.
By all accounts, Pompey is a gifted fielder, perhaps not the very elite level (as in Anthony Gose, for example) but quite close. Moreover, he has a startling track record as a baserunner, having stolen 114 bases against only 20 caught stealing in his career (85.1%). Again contrast this with Gose: 316/114
Now consider the respective projections for these two by Steamer:
[key: PA - AVG-OBP-SLG - wOBA-Bat-BsR-Fld-WAR]
(only the line under CF)
Exact same PA, almost identical offense. Again, I disagree with that but fine. But look what happens in the baseruning and fielding columns. By what sorcery does Gose get credit for 150% more baserunning contribution than Pompey? At the VERY worst they should be relative equals. Worse, how in the world do we justify a NEGATIVE number for Pompey on defense? Gose might, perhaps, rate a slight edge (depending on how much metrics disagree with eyes - I confess I know little about defensive metrics but i know it's highly sensitive to sample size) but the edge should be relatively modest.
In short, if Gose is an almost 1 WAR player than Pompey is at a minimum likewise.
On an entirely different note, I reiterate my previous dissent regarding the remaining available payroll. With the arb cases settled, the current outlay stands at about $125.7 million (pre-arb salaries estimated but that's easy to approximate). Thus, if we take Beeston at his word that the US$ payroll will be higher than last season, the available amount should be no less than $12m and realistically one or two million more at least. However that does not mean the Opening Day payroll will be and I would suggest it is just fine to stand relatively pat and hoard those dollars for potential mid-season acquisitions.
Continuing the teme of dissent, beyond the fact that I'm calling Pompey a potential ROY candidate, projection systems be damned. I'm fine with the stop-gaps at 2B until/unless Travis is ready for his debut, and ! don't think the bullpen is nearly the potential liability some expect. Particularly if, as I suspect, Sanchez is the closer.
Bullpens are, of course, notoriously volatile, but the narrative that the Jays have done nothing to improve the bullpen is misleading. For example, if you simply subtract all the innings thrown in relief by pitchers no longer in the organization, the bullpen ERA goes from 4.09 to 3.15. Another popular narrative is that the excellent 2013 bullpen (it was) went completely south in 2014 doesn't tell the whole story.
First, let's fire up the Arbitrary End Point Machine.
(and yes, the start of a new month is an arbitrary end point just as much as anything else not tied to an actual event which can be reasonably assumed to have impacted a player's performance)
Looking first at the Bullpen during the notorious August collapse...
Disregarding pitchers accumulating 3 innings or less, there were 7 relievers at work during August. Four of those, Cecil, Loup, Sanchez, and Jenkins, pitched as well or better individually and collectively (1.95) during August as they did the rest of the season (during which they collectively posted a 2.78 ERA). The other three, Janssen Redmond and McGowan, pitched collectively outside of August to a 2.90 ERA, while collectively in August they were 5.93.
Let's look closer.
Looking at the game log, McGowan was skewed by one bad outing on 8/5 so I'll dismiss him from the exercise. (by the way, twice McG gave up as many as three runs and between them he only got one out - take those away and his ERA in relief is 2.11 - someone tell me again why this guy isn't back in Blue yet?). Janssen got rocked twice, out of 11 appearances. (In fairness, the famous post-ASG food poisoning slump tells us more about Janssen than any AEP will). Redmond had one awful week. August 15-22 he gave up 8 ER in 3.2 IP, without which his season ERA would have been 2.40.
Those six games, though? All loses but only two directly a result of one of these pitchers failing.
So let's look elsewhere. I mentioned the impact of pitchers no longer on the team, but for a finer focus, let's take McGowan (who may yet return - I hope) and Janssen (identifiable extenuating circumstances) out of the picture.In that scenario, the bullpen ERA drops to 3.26..and 55% of those deleted innings went to Santos and Rogers.
So let's review. The five best relievers from 2014 are back (and a sixth ought to be, winkwink) and the ones causing failure - apart from Delebar - are gone. Estrada (2.89 last year as a reliever) and you ave a perfectly solid core. If Delebar regains his groove they're even better. Plus a solid smattering of low-risk high upside flyers. I'd still bring back McGowan (a shocking revelation, I know) but otherwise, I think we're fine.
(assuming health of course)