Post 36: Getting “It” Done: A Closer’s Story

It seems like nowadays that whenever you talk about the Toronto Blue Jays the conversation ultimately drifts towards the Blue Bird’s closing situation. I guess this is understandable considering it is the Toronto baseball media’s topic du jour coming on the heels of a 25 blown save season last year and Santos’ unfortunate start (except for today, woo!) but it is misguided for many reasons. First of all what most people need to understand is that closers are not pitching Ubermensch. Many seem to assume that since they pitch the final inning in a game they are unhittable, ball-launching robots. Now that would be pretty cool but the reality is that for the most part closers are no different than any other above average reliever, just these guys are the ones trying to secure the 27th (and not always the most crucial) out. Secondly, closers are heaped with so much unwarranted praise and unwarranted criticism it makes my head spin. When they save a game, no matter how shaky their performance was, they are always the ones credited with that “SV” in the box score and when they blow it, the sky starts falling. Never mind the other pitchers who might have pitched equally, or more effectively in worse situations. And thirdly, closers are nearly a dime a dozen, the ultimate replaceable part, that is until you find one who really sticks. There are some who maintain their status for a long time but for every Mariano Rivera and Jonathan Papelbon there is a long list of pretenders who are no more than flashes in the pan. But since all of this is ignored by most fans who only want to see a closer “get the job done”, I thought it would be a fun exercise to see who the top closers in Major League Baseball have been over the last 5 years based solely on save percentage (minimum 20 save opportunities). As you can probably guess this research turned up some interesting results. Now before you jump down my throat, the yearly averages were based on all the pitchers being weighted equally (most of these guys pitched a similar number of innings).

2011
Number of players who converted a save in 2011: 125
Number of players who converted 5 or more saves in 2011: 49
Number of players who converted 10 or more saves in 2011: 34
MLB top 10 average saves/opportunities: 375/399 (93.9%), 2.34 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Top 10 Closers by SV% in 2011:

1. Jose Valverde** (49/49, 100%)
2.24 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.59 K/9, 4.23 BB/9, 2.03 K/BB, 0.62 HR/9

2. John Axford** (46/48, 96%)
1.95 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 10.51 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 3.44 K/BB, 0.49 HR/9

3. Ryan Madson** (32/34, 94%)
2.37 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.20 K/9, 2.37 BB/9, 3.88 K/BB, 0.30 HR/9

4. Andrew Bailey (24/26, 92%)
3.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.86 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 3.42 K/BB, 0.65 HR/9

5. JJ Putz** (45/49, 92%)
2.17 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.47 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 5.08 K/BB, 0.62 HR/9

6. Javy Guerra (21/23, 91%)
2.31 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.94 K/9, 3.47 BB/9, 2.11 K/BB, 0.39 HR/9

7. Joel Hanrahan (40/44, 90%)
1.83 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.00 K/9, 2.10 BB/9, 3.81 K/BB, 0.13 HR/9

8. Jonathan Papelbon (31/34, 91%)
2.94 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 12.17 K/9, 1.40 BB/9, 8.70 K/BB, 0.42 HR/9

9. Heath Bell (43/48, 90%)
2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.32 K/9, 3.02 BB/9, 2.43 K/BB, 0.57 HR/9

10. Mariano Rivera** (44/49, 90%)
1.91 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 8.80 K/9, 1.17 BB/9, 7.50 K/BB, 0.44 HR/9

Blue Jays who converted a save in 2011: Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, Casey Janssen, Shawn Camp, Octavio Dotel, Jesse Litsch

Best season in 2011: Frank Francisco, 17/21 (80.9%)
3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 3.2 K/BB, 1.20 HR/9

Blue Jays total saves/opportunities in 2011: 33/58, 56.8%

2010
Number of players who converted a save in 2010: 125
Number of players who converted 5 or more saves in 2010: 48
Number of players who converted 10 or more saves in 2010: 37
MLB top 10 average saves/opportunities: 345/375 (92%), 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Top 10 Closers by SV% in 2010:

1. Heath Bell (47/50, 94%)
1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.06 K/9, 3.60 BB/9, 3.29 K/BB, 0.13 HR/9

2. Rafael Soriano** (45/48, 94%)
1.73 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 8.23 K/9, 2.02 BB/9, 4.07 K/BB, 0.58 HR/9

3. Neftali Feliz**WS appearance (40/43, 93%)
2.73 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 9.22 K/9, 2.34 BB/9, 3.94 K/BB, 0.65 HR/9

4. Ryan Franklin (27/29, 93%)
3.46 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 5.82 K/9, 1.38 BB/9, 4.20 K/BB, 0.97 HR/9

5. Joakim Soria (43/46, 93%)
1.78 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 9.73 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 4.44 K/BB, 0.55 HR/9

6. Brandon Lyon (20/22, 91%)
3.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 6.23 K/9, 3.58 BB/9, 1.84 K/BB, 0.80 HR/9

7. Brian Wilson**WS appearance (48/53, 91%)
1.81 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 11.21 K/9, 3.13 BB/9, 3.58 K/BB, 0.36 HR/9

8. Jose Valverde (26/29, 90%)
3.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 4.57 BB/9, 1.97 K/BB, 0.71 HR/9

9. John Axford (24/27, 89%)
2.48 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 11.79 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 3.44 K/BB, 0.16 HR/9

10. Andrew Bailey (25/28, 89%)
1.47 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 7.71 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 3.23 K/BB, 0.55 HR/9

Blue Jays who converted a save in 2010: Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor, Scott Camp, Jesse Carlson, David Purcey

Best season in 2010: Kevin Gregg, 37/43 (86%)
3.51 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 1.93 K/BB, 0.60 HR/9

Blue Jays total saves/opportunities in 2010: 45/61, 73.7%

2009
Numbers of players who converted a save in 2009: 124
Number of players who converted 5 or more saves in 2009: 46
Number of players who converted 10 or more saves in 2009: 37
MLB top 10 average saves/opportunities: 365/390 (93.6%), 2.55 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Top 10 Closers by SV% 2009:

1. Fernando Rodney (37/38, 97%)
4.40 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 7.26 K/9, 4.88 BB/9, 1.49 K/BB, 0.95 HR/9

2. Mariano Rivera**WS appearance (44/46, 96%)
1.76 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 9.77 K/9, 1.63 BB/9, 6.00 K/BB, 0.95 HR/9

3. Mike MacDougal (20/21, 95%)
4.31 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 5.63 K/9, 6.29 BB/9, 0.89 K/BB, 0.50 HR/9

4. Huston Street** (35/37, 95%)
3.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 10.22 K/9, 1.90 BB/9, 5.38 K/BB, 1.02 HR/9

5. Jonathan Papelbon** (38/41, 93%)
1.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 10.06 K/9, 3.18 BB/9, 3.17 K/BB, 0.66 HR/9

6. Francisco Cordero (39/43, 91%)
2.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.83 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 1.93 K/BB, 0.27 HR/9

7. Joakim Soria (30/33)
2.21 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.72 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 4.31 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9

8. David Aardsma (38/42, 90%)
2.52 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.09 K/9, 4.29 BB/9, 2.35 K/BB, 0.50 HR/9

9. Trevor Hoffman (37/41, 90%)
1.83 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 8.00 K/9, 2.33 BB/9, 3.43 K/BB, 0.33 HR/9

10. Joe Nathan** (47/52, 90%)
2.10 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11.67 K/9, 2.88 BB/9, 4.05 K/BB, 0.92 HR/9

Blue Jays who converted a save in 2009: Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, BJ Ryan, Jeremy Accardo, Scott Camp, Casey Janssen

Best season in 2009: Jason Frasor, 11/14 (78.5%)
2.50 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.50 K/BB, 0.6 HR/9

Blue Jays total saves/opportunities in 2009: 25/41, 60.9%

2008
Number of players who converted a save in 2008: 139
Number of players who converted 5 or more saves in 2011: 48
Number of players who converted 10 or more saves in 2011: 37
MLB top 10 total saves/opportunities: 375/411 (91.2%), 2.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Top 10 Closers by SV% in 2008:

1. Brad Lidge**WS appearance (41/41, 100%)
1.95 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 11.94 K/9, 4.54 BB/9, 2.63 K/BB, 0.26 HR/9

2. Mariano Rivera** (39/40, 98%)
1.40 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, 9.81 K/9, 0.76 BB/9, 12.83 K/BB, 0.51 HR/9

3. Joakim Soria (42/45, 93%)
1.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 8.82 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 3.47 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9

4. Francisco Rodriguez** (62/69, 90%)
2.24 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 10.14 K/9, 4.48 BB/9, 2.26 K/BB, 0.53 HR/9

5. Jonathan Papelbon** (41/46, 89%)
2.34 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.00 K/9, 1.04 BB/9, 9.63 K/BB, 0.52 HR/9

6. BJ Ryan (32/36, 89%)
2.95 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 2.07 K/BB, 0.62 HR/9

7. Brian Fuentes (30/34, 89%)
3.08 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.22 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, 3.73 K/BB, 0.43 HR/9

8. Trevor Hoffman (30/34, 89%)
3.77 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 9.13 K/9, 1.79 BB/9, 5.11 K/BB, 1.58 HR/9

9. Bobby Jenks** (30/34, 89%)
2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 5.55 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, 2.24 K/BB, 0.44 HR/9

10. Troy Percival**WS appearance (28/32, 88%)
4.53 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.49 K/9, 5.32 BB/9, 1.41 K/BB, 1.77 HR/9

Blue Jays who converted a save in 2008: BJ Ryan, Scott Downs, Jeremy Accardo, Jesse Carlson, Brandon League

Best season in 2008: BJ Ryan, 32/36 (88.8%)
2.95 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 9.00 K/9, 4.34 BB/9, 2.07 K/BB, 0.62 HR/9

Blue Jays total saves/opportunities in 2008: 44/56, 78.5%

2007
Number of players who converted save in 2007: 133
Number of players who converted 5 or more saves in 2011: 47
Number of players who converted 10 or more saves in 2011: 36
MLB top 10 total saves/opportunities: 336/371 (90.5%), 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Top 10 Closers by SV% in 2007:

1. JJ Putz (40/42, 95%)
1.38 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 10.3 K/9,1.63 BB/9, 6.31 K/BB, 0.75 HR/9

2. Jason Isringhausen (32/34, 94%)
2.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.44 K/9, 3.86 BB/9, 1.93 K/BB, 0.55 HR/9

3. Jonathan Papelbon**WS appearance (37/40, 93%)
1.85 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 12.96 K/9, 2.31 BB/9, 5.60 K/BB, 0.77 HR/9

4. Takashi Saito (39/43, 91%)
1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 10.91 K/9, 1.82 BB/9, 6.00 K/BB, 0.70 HR/9

5. Ryan Dempster** (28/31, 90%)
4.73 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7.43 K/9, 4.05 BB/9, 1.83 K/BB, 1.08 HR/9

6. Joe Nathan (37/41, 90%)
1.88 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.67 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 4.05 K/BB, 0.50 HR/9

7. Kevin Gregg (32/36, 89%)
3.54 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 9.32 K/9, 4.29 BB/9, 2.18 K/BB, 0.75 HR/9

8. Brett Myers** (21/24, 88%)
4.33 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 10.88 K/9, 3.54 BB/9, 3.07 K/BB, 1.18 HR/9

9. Mariano Rivera** (30/34, 88%)
3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 9.34 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, 6.17 K/BB, 0.50 HR/9

10. Bobby Jenks (40/46, 87%)
2.77 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 7.75 K/9, 1.80 BB/9, 4.31 K/BB, 0.28 HR/9

Blue Jays who converted a save in 2007: Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen, Jason Frasor, BJ Ryan, Scott Downs, Shaun Marcum

Best season in 2007: Jeremy Accardo, 30/35 (85.7%)
2.14 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.6 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 2.38 K/BB, 0.5 HR/9

Blue Jays total saves/opportunities in 2007:  44/69, 63.7%

Pitchers Who Made the Top 10:
Mariano Rivera – 4 times (made playoffs and played in WS)
Jonathan Papelbon – 4 times (made playoffs and played in WS)
Joakim Soria – 3 times
Jose Valverde – 2 times (made playoffs)
John Axford – 2 times (made playoffs)
Andrew Bailey – 2 times (made playoffs)
JJ Putz – 2 times (made playoffs)
Joe Nathan – 2 times (made playoffs)
Trevor Hoffman – 2 times
Bobby Jenks – 2 times
Neftali Feliz (made playoffs and played in WS)
Brian Wilson (made playoffs and played in WS)
Brad Lidge (made playoffs and played in WS)
Troy Percival (made playoffs and played in WS)
Ryan Madson (made playoffs)
Rafael Soriano (made playoffs)
Huston Street (made playoffs)
Francisco Rodriguez (made playoffs)
Ryan Dempster (made playoffs)
Brett Myers (made playoffs)
Javy Guerra
Joel Hanrahan
Heath Bell
Ryan Franklin
Brandon Lyon
Fernando Rodney
Mike MacDougal
Francisco Cordero
David Aardsma
BJ Ryan
Brian Fuentes
Jason Isringhausen
Takashi Saito
Kevin Gregg

Unique Closers: 36/50 (7.2 new closers in MLB top 10/year)
World Series participants: 6 (Rivera, Papelbon, Feliz, Wilson, Lidge, Percival)
Playoff Participants: 16
Number of Playoff Teams With a Top 10 Closer: 22/40, 55%

4 teams not represented in the top 10 from 2007-2011: Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets.

2007-2011 Averages:
2011(5/8) – 375/399 (93.9%), 2.34 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
2010(3/8, 2WS) – 345/375 (92.0%), 2.35 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
2009(4/8, WS) – 365/390 (93.6%), 2.55 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
2008(6/8, 2WS) – 375/411 (91.2%), 2.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
2007(4/8, WS) – 336/371 (90.5%), 2.75 ERA, 1.08 WHIP

Sergio Santos (2010-2011):
31/37 (83.7%), 3.29 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 4.3 BB/9, 2.69 K/BB, 0.60 HR/9
115.0 IP, 148 K, 55 BB, 7.4 H/9,
2011 Specifically: 3.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 13.07 K/9, 4.12 BB/9, 3.17 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9 2.87 FIP, 2.69 xFIP, 2.25 SIERA

Tom Henke (1986-1992):
204/???, 2.51 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 3.81 K/BB, 0.8 HR/9
1987 Specifically: 2.49 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 5.12 K/BB, 1.00 HR/9
1991 Specifically: 2.32 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 4.82 K/BB, 0.70 HR/9
*Blue Jays made playoffs both years.

Okay, so what does all of this mean? For the most part good relievers make good closers and guess what Jays fans? Sergio Santos is our best reliever and if FIP/xFIP/SIERA are to be believed, he stacks up against some of the best names from 2007-2011. I’m conflicted on the closer role to begin with (I would much rather bring in the team’s best reliever in the most important situation relative to the outcome to the game even if it isn’t the 9th inning) but if we are looking for a guy to “get it done” Santos is obviously that option despite his struggles in his first 2 save opportunities of the season. Or would you rather Mike MacDougal, Kevin Gregg, Brett Myers, Troy Percival, Fernando Rodney, Ryan Franklin, BRANDON LYON…

Notes: ** denotes made playoffs, closers minimum 20 save opportunities

Edit: realized I somehow forgot Brandon Lyon in my final paragraph. He’s terrible and deserves mention in that wrap up so to make up for it his name is in all caps. Cheers.

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Be back in the Spring

I’ll be back…

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Post 35: Rajai Davis and the 50+ steal, sub-.300 On Base Percentage Club

With 98 stolen bases through 115 games this season the Blue Jays rank 8th overall in the majors and have already destroyed their 58 steal total they from 2010. John Farrell has the entire team running, this season they already have 3 players with double digit swipes compared to just Fred Lewis last year and if Travis Snider and Jose Bautista can pick up their pace the Blue Jays will end 2011 with at least 5 players with 10 or more steals. But while the entire team has been more aggressive on the base paths it has been one man leading the charge and he’s doing it in one of the most unique ways baseball has ever seen, that man is Rajai Davis.

Davis is a thoroughbred, a reputed base thief; he has stolen 177 bags in 567 career games and is coming off a 50 steal season in 2010 with Oakland. Not only that, but Davis has been a game changer when he’s been on base, pushing the issue and reaping the rewards that come from his extreme aggressiveness. So far in 2011 Rajai has 34 stolen bases, good for 3rd in the American League, 10 multi steal games, and 3 games with 3 steals. Rajai has stolen 3rd base 17 times and is a near perfect 8 for 9 when stealing 2nd and 3rd in the same inning scoring all 8 times he’s pulled off that trick. Rajai isn’t just getting into scoring position, he’s also stealing in the clutch. From the 7th inning on Davis has only been picked off once in 11 attempts. In the 21 games that Davis has a steal he has scored 21 times and in those same 21 games the Jays sport a 16-5 record. Pretty good stuff.

Now other than the fact that Rajai is on pace to be the first Jay with 50 steals since Shannon Stewart in 1998 (he’s on pace for 51) what’s so unique about Davis’ season? Well Rajai Davis is one of only 2 players in the AL with 20 of more steals and an on base percentage lower than .300, Sam Fuld is the other and he has only 20 swipes and an OBP of .298. In fact Davis’ .272 OBP is so low he is on pace to have the lowest on base percentage with 50 or more steals since Billy “The Priest” Sunday’s 1888 season with the Pittsburgh Allegheny’s of the American Association. Let’s skip ahead to the modern era shall we? If Davis keeps up his pace he will become only the 5th player since 1967 to join the 50 steal, sub-.300OBP club, joining Bert Campaneris, Omar Moreno, Miguel Delone and Vince Coleman, not only that, but he will set the record for lowest OBP amongst those players, a .272 clip.

What’s so shocking about being a member of this club is that with an on base percentage that low and steal totals that high everyone knows what’s going to happen when Rajai reaches base, yet they still have serious trouble stopping him. While Jays fans can be happy with the speed element that Rajai has injected into the line up, fans can’t help but think, could Rajai break Dave Collins’ single season franchise record of 60 steals if he could just get on base a little more frequently? With one more year left on his contract Davis still has time to figure out how to get to first a little more frequently and before it’s all said and done could hold a franchise record that has stood for over 30 years.

Other food for thought:

-Rajai Davis is 34/45 in SB attempts, a 75.5% success rate.

AL Stolen Bases Leaders (2011):
1. Coco Crisp, OAK – 37SB, .330 OBP
2. Brett Gardner, NYY – 36SB, .358 OBP
3. Rajai Davis, TOR – 34SB, .272 OBP
T4. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS – 31SB, .371 OBP
T4. Elvis Andrus, TEX – 31SB, .333 OBP

Lowest OBPs with a 50 Stolen Base Season (All-time):
1. 1888, Billy Shindle, BAL – 52SB, .249 OBP
2. 1888, Billy Sunday, PIT – 71SB, .256 OBP
3. 2011, Rajai Davis, TOR – 51 (Projected), .272 OBP
4. 1972, Bert Campaneris, OAK – 52SB, .278 OBP
5. 1888, Hick Carpenter, CIN – 59SB, .280 OBP

50 Stolen Base, sub-.300 On Base Percentage Club (Modern Era):
1. Bert Campaneris:1967/55SB/.295 OBP,          1972/52SB/.278 OBP.
2. Omar Moreno: 1977/53SB/.295 OBP,           1982/60SB/.292 OBP
3. Miguel Delone: 1978/50SB/.294 OBP
4. Vince Coleman: 1994/50SB/.294 OBP
5. Rajai Davis? 2011/51SB(Projected)/.272 OBP

Blue Jays Single Season Stolen Base Record:
1. 1984, Dave Collins – 60SB
2. 1993, Roberto Alomar – 55SB
T3. 1982, Damaso Garcia – 54SB
T3. 1996, Otis Nixon – 54SB
5. 1991, Robert Alomar – 53SB

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Post 34: The Curious Case of the Cursed Contract

Now that we’ve just passed the MLB All Star break let’s take a look at one of the more controversial contracts given out this past off season, the 7 year 126 million dollar deal given to Jayson Werth by the Nationals. If you’re thinking that those numbers sound familiar they should because Werth’s deal is the same in length and money as the deals signed by both Vernon Wells and Barry Zito in 2006. They say good things come in threes but now 5 years later with Werth’s deal it appears the opposite is also true.

December 18th, 2006 the day Vernon Wells signed was when this saga began. Coming off a nice campaign in which he hit 32 home runs Wells was the leader of the Blue Jays and had the pedigree to warrant an extension. However the deal didn’t look smart for long. Fast forward to 2011 and Wells isn’t even a Blue Jay anymore. Through his first 63 games as an Angel Wells has struggled, hitting .221 with a cringe worthy .664 OPS. His 14 home runs in 267 at bats has him on pace for 27 this year, but that’s hardly a worthwhile silver lining for the 23 million he’s making.

Now to Barry Zito, contract number 2 in this unholy trinity of deals. As they say even the best laid plans often go awry, and awry they went with this contract. Since joining the Giants Zito hasn’t had a full season with an ERA under 4.00 and in 2008 he had the worst season of his career. As a Giant Zito hasn’t even come close to living up to the 18.5 million he’s making annually and with his contract running until 2013 his team is in big trouble. Why? In 2011 and 2012 Matt Cain and then Tim Lincecum become unrestricted free agents and barring a miracle San Fran can’t afford all 3. So before Zito’s time by the Bay is over, one of these pitchers is going to have to go and Zito’s contract is as untradeable as they come.

Now finally on to Jayson Werth, since signing his deal Werth’s performance has plummeted. After conveniently putting together the best numbers of his career in his walk year Jayson has seen his stock tumble. He’s gone from being a legitimate 30 home run, 20 stolen base threat to something much worse. While the speed is still there, he has 11 swipes already in 2011, not much else remains. His average is an abysmbal .211, his slugging percentage is 180 points lower than last season and sits at .352 and not only that his gag inducing .669 OPS ranks him in a tie for 123rd overall in the Majors with such offensive dynamos like Corey Patterson and Danny Valencia. These offensive woes would be easier to stomach if Werth was playing spectacular defense, but he isn’t. With 6 errors so far he has already matched a career high while consistently making a mess of right field. In short, Werth is barely performing at replacement level, much less the level a team and its fans expect from a player earning an average of 18 million dollars per season. Not only that, but when Wells and Zito signed their contracts they did so at 27 and 28 respectively, Werth on the other hand signed his deal at 32. Yes, he hit his stride later than most players, having his breakout campaign at 29, but since the end of the steroid era most players have peaked by this age and knowing he’s under contract until he’s 38 is nightmare fuel for management and supporters alike. One lone bright spot for the Nats is that Jayson Werth is typically a good 2nd half producer, July and August are when his bat heats up, but if it doesn’t this deal could look like an albatross after less than 162 games.

Jayson Werth still has 6 and a half seasons to do something Vernon Wells and Barry Zito haven’t, prove his deal isn’t one of the worst of all time, but in expansive Nationals park and with father time working against him, there is no guarantee that he won’t be “Jayson Worthless” when it’s all said and done.

A little extra food for thought:

-Vernon Wells in 640 games since signing his extension has hit only 96 home runs and 347 RBI while batting a mediocre .262 with a .759 OPS, not exactly elite production.

-Barry Zito’s career 180: With Oakland Zito went 102-63 with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.250 WHIP. Since joining the Giants, Zito sports a 43-59 record with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.401 WHIP.

-Jayson Werth just slumping? Since June 1st, 2011: 40 games, 22H/145AB, 2HR, 10RBI, 5SB, 41K, .152AVG, .283OBP, .518OPS

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Post 33: Dustin McGowan’s speedball hath returned; glory days not over yet

Some very encouraging news has recently come out of extended spring training down in Dunedin regarding Dustin McGowan. The often operated upon pitcher’s career looks as if it has taken a significant turn in the right direction, a very welcome piece of good luck for someone who has seemingly had all the breaks go against him since 2008.

According to Alex Anthopoulos and John Farrell, McGowan’s zombie arm has shown increased strength and velocity and Dustin has returned to hitting 95mph on the gun. No word yet if the arm craves brains and other sweet human innards but so far his latest recovery has gone well. So well in fact that with this increased strength it looks like McGowan may return to a starting role if he is able to make it back whereas before it seemed like he would be relegated to relief duty if he ever punched his return ticket to the show.

So, if McGowan is able to comeback from these 2 shoulder surgeries (and a knee surgery), what does he bring to the table? The answer is: plenty. First though, let’s examine what exactly has happened to McGowan over the last 3+ years…

Dustin McGowan was the Blue Jays supplemental 1st round pick (33rd overall) in the 2000 amateur draft. In the minors McGowan eventually developed a fearsome reputation as a punch out artist and was considered one of the brightest pitching prospects in the Jays’ system after posting a great 9.2 K/9 and a ludicrous 11.9 K/9 at AAA Syracuse in 2006 and 2007 respectively. It was after this 22IP AAA stint in 2007 when Dustin looked like he was ready to stop bouncing back and forth between the big club and the minor leagues. After his call up in 2007 McGowan posted the best numbers of his career up to that point and looked like he was ready to become a mainstay in the rotation.

Dustin’s 2007 season, age 25:

W  L  ERA    IP BB  SO  ERA+  WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
12 10 4.08 169.2 61 144  110 1.220 7.7  0.7  3.2  7.6  2.36

Not bad at all. Dustin’s 2007 numbers, at 25 years old (a baby at the MLB level) indicated a bright future laid ahead. Also in 2007, Dustin tossed 2 complete games, including one on June 24th. Now you’re probably thinking,

“Hmm, June 24th does sound familiar. Why does this date stick out?”

Oh right, that’s the day Dustin nearly channeled his inner Dave Stieb and came within 3 outs of no-hitting the Colorado Rockies. At that point it became obvious that McGowan had the tools the succeed at the major league level. However you can have all the pitching prowess in the world but if your arm breaks down, you’re in deep trouble no matter who you are.

Fast forward to 2008 and things started decently enough for McG. Not as good as 2007, but hey, still promising enough for a youngster in his sophomore season. Unfortunately for McGowan and the Jays the young pitcher was unable to finish his sophomore year. In fact he was only able to make it through 111.1 IP before he shut himself down mid-game on July 8th with what was described then as shoulder pain. That shoulder pain revealed a torn labrum and a few weeks later the partial tear was revealed to be a full tear and Dustin underwent surgery to repair the labrum.  Up until now that was pretty much all she wrote for McG as his subsequent recovery did not go according to plan. It went so unaccording to plan that in 2010 Dustin underwent surgery on his right shoulder again, this time on his rotator cuff in an attempt to improve his range of motion. Brutal stuff and I won’t even mention the freak ACL injury that he suffered in 2009 that also required surgery. So before he was 30 years old McGowan had undergone 2 major shoulder surgeries and a major knee surgery. Oof. Basically, the last 3 years for McGowan have sucked… Bad. To be honest it’s truly a wonder that he’s even had the drive to keep going through all of this, other people would have shut it down for good.

For those of you unfamiliar with pitchers having shoulder surgery, the prognosis is not good and if it’s your labrum that’s the problem, it’s even worse. This is not an exact comparison by any means but it seems as if labrum repairs are the Tommy John surgery of days gone by. Or to use another limb, sort of like microfracture knee surgery about 10 years ago. I don’t mean they are similar in terms of the procedure but rather in recovery time and future expectations for the repaired player. For example, having surgery on your elbow sucks. It sidelines you for the rest of the season and the recovery time is approximately 12 months but today it’s estimated that 95% of pitchers who undergo the procedure are able to recover from Tommy John and pitch again in the majors, which is actually pretty remarkable when you think about it. Now by contrast the recovery from shoulder surgery (labrum repairs in particular) is not nearly as predictable. So far the post-rehab results from these surgeries has been a mixed bag in terms of what to expect. In a number of cases the news has not been good and the surgery effectively marked the end to numerous promising careers (see Mark Prior, Jason Schmidt, Erik Bedard*), but that being said it is not necessarily a death sentence for your career and there are players who have come back strong, including one former Blue Jay, Chris Carpenter.

Now I’m not going to go into great detail regarding Chris Carpenter’s career with the Blue Jays but it’s quite easy to see the similarities between Carpenter and McGowan. Both were 1st round draft picks (Carpenter, 15th overall, 1993), both showed flashes of success at the major league level with the big club and both went down with devastating shoulder injuries. However, the one difference is that while the Jays cut bait with Carpenter only to see him have a successful recovery and post-surgery career in St. Louis, it seems they have learned their lesson this time around and realized the half million or so that McGowan is making on a year to year basis is a pittance compared to value of the results he could potentially put up.

Now on to the potential. Obviously nothing is guaranteed for McGowan, far from it, this could easily be another bit of false hope, but the fact that he has returned to pitching 95 miles per hour after 2 shoulder surgeries is extremely encouraging. This is a guy who in 2007 was being talked about as a guy with “ace” stuff. I mean… 11.9 K/9 in AAA?! Pure unadulterated nastiness! However before I make any bold predictions I’m going to need to see Dustin start at least 1 game at the MLB level, but if he can return to the rotation as the 4th or 5th guy, I think that alone would be huge for the Jays. Not only would his return be a heartwarming and inspirational story for all other ball players beset with career threatening injuries but I can’t imagine him being any worse than Jesse Litsch, Jo-Jo Reyes or Carlos Villanueva, so really, it would be positives all around.

So Dustin, Good luck and God speed in your recovery! Hopefully 2011 is the (re)start of something big!

Oh, two more quick things before I forget… Adam Lind should return this weekend against the O’s! Woo! Expect an article on him when he returns. Also, I, like everyone else who represents Baseball North, continue to wait with extreme impatience for Brett Lawrie’s inevitable call up. Can’t wait!

*Erik Bedard’s career looks like it might be on the upswing once again, but I’m not ready to say he’s back until he’s had a few more turns in the rotation.

 

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Post 32: The Replacements, non-Keanu Reeves edition

Recently, Corey Patterson and Carlos Villanueva have had a most excellent opportunity to leave their mark on this years edition of the Toronto Blue Jays. However, will their stay in these new larger capacities be temporary or will we see them carve out a permanent spot on this roster?

Let’s first take a look at Mr. Patterson, the 3rd overall pick in the 1998 MLB draft. Since Travis Snider played his last game with the big club on April 28th it has been Patterson who has taken most of his playing time.

Patterson so far in 2011:

 G  PA  AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
40 167 156 21 42 13  3  2  20  6  4  9 33 .269 .307 .429 .737  105

The numbers are hardly spectacular, but it’s worth noting that Patterson has been remarkably consistent since being inserted into the line up full time, picking up hits in 17 of the 22 games he has played in May. Not too bad for someone whose ass we thought would be polishing pine when the season started. So what happens when Snider is ready to return north from Las Vegas? Well, Patterson has played well enough as a replacement player, but let’s not kid ourselves, Snider is the longterm answer in left field and the only reason why Patterson was given a chance at all was due to Snider’s supreme suckiness.

Evidence of said suckiness:

G    PA AB R  H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
25   99 87 7 16  4  0  1  12  5  1 10 23 .184 .276 .264 .540   53

Ugh… Not good for Snider, especially considering how high expectations were for Lunch Box coming into 2011. But, assuming he is able to correct whatever it was that caused his demotion I can’t foresee anyway the Jays allow Patterson to block his return to left field. Interesting to note: Snider 5 SB, 1 CS. Patterson 6 SB, 4 CS. Intriguing.

Now on to Carlos Villanueva. Carlos has recently stepped up to fill the “void” left ever since Jesse Litsch was placed on the 15 day DL (retroactive to May 19th). Lately the news trickling out is that Jesse’s DL stint won’t be as short as we once thought, with some even suggesting he’s out indefinitely right now. Whether indefinitely means he’s gone for an additional 15 days or longer, I don’t know, but I do know that because of this Carlos will get another opportunity or 3 as a starter.

So far in 2011 Carlos Villanueva has been brilliant as a reliever and has been one of the most consistent performers on the entire Jays team. And hey, his first start of the year in New Yankee Stadium was pretty darn good too.

Villanueva in 2011:

 G GS  IP  ERA  H  ER HR BB SO ERA+  WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
14 1  29.1 1.53 12  5  2 11 26  254 0.784 3.7  0.6  3.4  8.0  2.36

I know it’s still early in the season but those are pretty phenomenal numbers across the board. You could say he’s improving his… CV! See what I did there?! Carlos Villanueva, CV… Okay, that was terrible. Moving on… There are a few things to worry about, Villanueva’s 0.6 HR/9 is way below his career average of 1.3 HR/9 and his H/9 is currently 4.6 per 9 below his career mark of 8.3, but until those numbers start correcting themselves, let’s just enjoy what he is putting up.

Also, what makes this situation so much different than the Patterson/Snider replacement situation is that Jesse Litsch doesn’t have nearly the same relative upside as Snider. So, even if Villanueva returns to levels that are more in line with his career averages, he could still represent an upgrade over the Ginger Bearded hurler. Now, while Litsch may not be the greatest, before we let ourselves get caught up in the Villanueva madness, we should probably take a peek at his career starter/reliever splits.

Villanueva as a starter:

GS   IP   ERA  WHIP  SO BB HR  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB  BAA  OPS
28 154.2 4.71 1.422 104 55 28  9.6 1.63  3.2  6.1  1.89 .275 .829

Villanueva as a reliever:

 G    IP   ERA  WHIP  SO BB  HR  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB  BAA  OPS
216 299.2 3.87 1.201 303 107 36  7.6 1.08  3.2  9.1  2.83 .225 .672

Hmmm, crap. Well, here’s hoping that Carlos keeps pitching above his head because the historical evidence not so subtly points to him coming back to Earth if he keeps going as a starter. Now for comparison’s sake, let’s see how Jesse Litsch has been pitching in 2011.

Litsch in 2011:

GS   IP   ERA  WHIP  SO BB HR  H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB  BAA  OPS
 8  46.1 4.66 1.424  36 18 28  9.3 1.2  3.5  7.0   2.00 .268 .795

It’s worth noting that before going down to injury, Jesse was on pace to put up a career best K-rate (7 K/9 compared to 4.8 per 9 career average) but in doing so, he was also walking more people compared to his career totals. Before May 19th, Litsch was putting batters on base for free at a rate of 3.5 per 9 compared to his 2.5 average. Now, after considering these fluctuations it’s actually quite remarkable how similar Villanueva and Litsch have performed as starters and it’s for this reason that I think that Carlos has a decent chance to remain in the 5th spot once Jesse comes back. In order to solidify his spot though, he will need to translate his relief form to his starts, but if he’s able to do that, maybe we’ll see more repeat performances like his May 23rd outing against the Yankees.

It’s unlikely that either Corey Patterson or Carlos Villanueva will establish themselves as a “can’t lose” piece on this team, but when called upon both have performed admirably and if they can keep it going, at least one of them should hang on to their larger role until October (and hopefully beyond).

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Post 31: Joey Bats, Dinger Machine

After seeing the Toronto Sun cover asking if Jose Bautista was the best player in baseball I thought I would dig a little bit (not too much) and take a look at Jose’s dinger rate since he started cranking up his production late in 2009. After seeing just how consistent this guy is I’m dedicating this post to all the haters. Joey Bats is for real, read on to see for yourself.

2009

September/October – 109ABs, 10 HR, 1 HR/10.9ABs

2010

April/March – 89ABs, 4 HR, 1 HR/22.25ABs

May – 94Abs, 12 HR, 1 HR/7.83ABs

June – 84ABs, 4 HR, 1 HR/21Abs

July – 98ABs, 11 HR, 1 HR/8.9ABs

August – 97 ABs, 12 HR, 1 HR/8.08ABs

September/October – 107ABs, 11 HR, 1 HR/9.72ABs

2011

April/March – 82ABs, 9 HR, 1 HR/9.11ABs

May – 37ABs, 7 HR, 1 HR/5.28ABs (!!!)

Since September 1st, 2009

797 Total ABs, 80 HR, 1 HR/9.96ABs

Jose Bautista has only failed to hit a  home run at a clip of 11AB/HR TWICE in the last 9 months! This is insane, people! Some fans don’t seem to grasp how incredible this is, so to give you a little more perspective…

2010:

Albert Pujols: 1 HR/13.97ABs (42 HRs)

Miguel Cabrera: 1 HR/14.42ABs (38)

Joey Votto: 1 HR/14.78ABs (37)

2010 MLB HR/AB average: 1 HR/37.4 ABs

2007, or the last year people hit 50 before “Bats”:

Alex Rodriguez: 1 HR/10.79ABs (54 HRs)

Prince Fielder: 1 HR/11.46 (50 HRs)

Historical Mashers:

Babe Ruth, 1927: 1 HR/9ABs (60)

Roger Maris, 1961: 1 HR/9.67ABs (61)

Barry Bonds, 2001: 1 HR/6.52 ABs (73*)

Hank Aaron, 1956-1966: 1 HR/16.45ABs

In summation, Jose Bautista is a beast! Yes, he has only been hitting jacks like crazy for close to 1.5 seasons now BUT it’s not like he’s had any bad power months in that time. Even in his 2 “down” months he still beat the MLB average by 15 or so ABs. He may not be the best player in baseball (I don’t think any outfielder can claim that title right now), and yes, he does lack a few parts to his game (although I may add that he’s quickly rectifying this in 2011 – .516 OBP) but I’m sick and tired of people saying this guy is a joke and that his production is unsustainable because right now he’s proving that it is.

Hope you enjoyed snacking on this food for thought!

EDIT: Just realized that I forgot an additional .67ABs for Roger Maris. 

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