Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Perfect Year to Trade Wells

What could we get for Vernon Wells today? The quote "trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late” has been attributed to the great Branch Rickey who was the General Manager of the Cardinals and then the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal makes the point in analyzing the Ryan Howard deal that power hitters are in greater demand since the post steroid era penalties established in 2004. Though the contract is still a stumbling block, a CF who hits near .300 with 30 homers and 100 RBI and plays strong defense is a rare commodity today and should be in strong demand come the end of June should his bat continue.

Look what the Yankees paid to get Curtis Granderson who has averaged 25 homers, 70 RBI, 19 SB and 4 Errors over the last 3 years. It took Ian Kennedy, Phil Coke and Austin Jackson to pry Granderson loose from the Tigers, Granderson appears to have peaked in 2009 with 30 homers and 71 RBI. Yet in the previous 8 years Wells has averaged 25 homers, 108 RBI, 10 SB, and 2 Errors.

The Jays would undoubtedly have to eat some salary to make a trade happen, but this likely is the perfect year to make a deal. Given that Wells is not part of our future and with a boat load of teams needing a big bat, his value will never be higher. The Giants in particular are one of the top teams on that list with the Braves and perhaps even the Angels and Marlins considering changes. We now have Fred Lewis to take over CF temporarily, and though he isn’t a long-term solution, he at least can provide admirable defense while AA continues to explore a longer term option.

One major prospect with some upside and 1 or 2 others with some potential would likely get it done similar to the Granderson deal. The Braves, Marlins, and Giants all have farm systems rated in the top 10 and have the prospects to get such a deal done. The Giants have several top outfield prospects, the Marlins have a couple of interesting future third baseman, while the Braves as usual have lots of pitching on the rise.

Wells is at the top of the MLB leader board in total bases and doubles and is near the top in several other categories. His OBP shows he is more patient at the plate and he is slugging over .700. His stats are virtually identical to Matt Kemp of the Dodgers though Wells is outslugging him by 130 points and getting on base more frequently by 50 points. So who would you trade to get Matt Kemp? If Wells continues his hot season start by the end of May, look for several suitors to come calling and Alex Anthopolous to pull the trigger. Wells would move to a potential contender and the Jays would continue to build toward 2012. It would be a win for both teams and reward Wells for his loyalty.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Tidbits

Power Can Cover Up Other Deficiencies

Ever wonder why some one dimensional players like Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, and yes even Adam Lind get paid the big bucks? It's because teams will accept high strikeout rates to get the home runs and RBI that come along with those booming bats. A look at the Jays team stats would lead you to believe that they are playing just average baseball through the opening 8 games. They are in the top tier in pitching but below the middle of the pack with the bats...............except for homers and strikeouts where Blue Jays lead the AL. This provides more evidence that their early success is due to good pitching supported by timely hitting and power.

Jays have really only 3 bats going to date, Lind, Wells, Gonzalez, and even Buck is hitting better than expected. However, Snider, Overbay, Bautista, Encarnacion, and even Hill haven't really got off the ground yet this season. Fortunately, that timely hitting and power has led us to a 6-2 record in support of strong starting pitching. Expect the strong pitching to continue and the hitting to become more balanced once the other bats get going.

Don't Sweat It If Starters Faulter

The 3 most likely pitchers to be called up if the need arises are Brett Cecil, Brad Mills, and Robert Ray (Rzepczynski is on DL). Through 6 games at Las Vegas, these 3 pitchers have 4 starts, with a pitching line of 22 IP, 20 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 30 SO, ERA of 1.64. They won't duplicate those stats in the majors, but it does make a major statement about the depth of our starting pitching. This doesn't even count the potential return of McGowan, Richmond, and Litsch later in the year. You want to dig deeper into the organization? How about Luis Perez, Zach Stewart, and Kyle Drabek at New Hampshire. Through 5 games they have 3 starts with a pitching line of 20 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 19 SO, ERA 1.80. Now if we had such depth in position players to match.

The Real Adeiny Hechavarria


Forget all the scouts and executives who have seen this young SS and have made their assessments of his potential. Why not hear from someone who has seen him play regularly and
rise through he Cuban ranks. White Sox SS Alexei Ramirez has more first hand knowledge than anyone and thinks he'll be a star.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Gaston Loses This One

Good old Brian Tallet........and good old Cito Gaston loyal to the end even at the expense of a loss.

You've got Jake Peavy on the ropes, a 2 run lead after 5, and your starter is in line for his second win while not having a great day, wouldn't it make sense with the strength of our bullpen to get out of Dodge with the lead and hand it over to some fresh arms? Not Gaston! He's got to ride his starter another inning, throw 27 pitches, and let Tallet put himself in a position to lose the "W" for him AND his team. Fortunately, Jays scratch and claw for another run in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 7-6 before Gaston decides the prudent thing is to hand it over to the pen.


This is the part of Gaston's managing style that drives people crazy. We all appreciate loyalty and the players love him for it. Letting his pitchers struggle a little to gain confidence by facing adversity is an admirable goal, but not at the expense of the team goal which is to win the game. Tallet had already thrown 75 pitches and didn't have his best stuff today. With a bullpen that hasn't been taxed so far this year due to the number of quality starts, and with 2 pithers who haven't even made an appearance, today was the day to hand it over and run 2-3-4 relievers out there if necessary to put this game to bed.


Heading into this game, how many of us would have loved to get to the 6th inning with a 2 run lead on Jake Peavy? Can you say ALL OF US! It is such tough games against the opposition's ace that will show what we're made of as a team. When the team performs against the top teams, we don't need the manager to put the game at risk.


The relievers as it turned out, turned it over to Jason Frasor in the 9th with just a one run lead instead of 2 or 3. Did the extra pressure of a small margin of error contribute to the homer Frasor gave up? We will never know, but the extra run always makes a difference. So after Frasor gives up the tying run who does Gaston go to but ..................Jeremy Accardo, a fresh arm for his first outing of the year. After a solid first inning, he is forced to stay in the game now that we're in extra innings and gives up a triple to Mark Teahen to give the Sox the lead.

The way it should have played out would have been Accardo in the 6th, then Camp and Downs leading to Frasor in the 9th with a 2 or 3 run lead. The outcome likely would almost certainly have been a victory instead of a blown save and loss in extra innings.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jays Won't Stay Under The Radar Long

Teams Will Notice Jays Soon

It's a small sample of only 5 games, but as I predicted several times during the spring, the Jays are showing a team that is capable AND performing at a level that will lead them to a .500 record.

Pitching

Good pitching almost always beats good hitting and it is the Blue Jays strength. They are 5th in ERA, 2nd in hits given up, 5th best in walks, and have only given up 4 home runs. Given that Brandon Morrow is the only starter with overpowering stuff, the Jays starters will succeed by keeping the ball in the park, keeping hitters off base, and keeping them off balance. The ability to throw strikes and throw off a hitters timing by changing looks and speeds is more important than pure stuff as 300+ game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine proved time and again. Dana Eveland did that yesterday and if Jays are to have a winning season, it is this approach which will take them there until flamethrowing prospects like Zack Steware and Kyle Drabek arrvive on the scene. There are however enough power arms in the pen, that it should be a strength for the team and be near the top of the AL stats board. All drama aside, the closers, Frasor and Gregg, have gotten it done and with a few hiccups will continue to do so. The starters have been so good, that Merkin Valdez hasn't even had an outing yet. Nice problem............let's hope it continues.

Hitting

Though the Blue Jays are in the middle of the pack in batting average they are amongst the leaders in homers, RBI, and OBP. It is early yet and the power was supplied early by Vernon Wells and many of the walks by virtue of opposition pitching, but the Jays are capable of putting up enough runs to be dangerous and support strong pitching. Just as we don't want to get too excited about Vernon Wells hot start, we shouldn't be too concerned about players who haven't gotten it going yet.
Aaron Hill hasn't gotten it going yet but we all know he's going to hit. Lyle Overbay's recent seasons aside, he is a good hitter and will have a respectable showing. Travis Snider has shown more patience at the plate this year and had a couple of timely hits and just needs to be in the lineup every day to settle in to the breakout season I predict. Alex Gonzalez bat (and defense) has been a nice surprise and Adam Lind has been .....................well Adam Lind of last season.

Fielding

The 4 errors in the first 3 games was a little disconcerting, but the team has responded to play errorless ball with some spectacular defense since. We must play strong defense to support a pitching staff that relies on putting the ball in play to get outs. We have the talent to finish in the middle of the pack. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

Recap

The Jays are off to a similar start to last season. Except for a blown save they would be undefeated and have already had a couple of comeback victories, a weakness in recent years. Opponents on the schedule in April include the White Sox who have a good team, the Angels, Rays, and Red Sox. Therefore their record at the end of this month should be a better indicator of this team's capabilities than it was a year ago when they had a weak schedule to start the season.
The team will lose some games to those good teams but look for a 12-12 record to start May.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opening Night on the Farm Shows Mixed Results

Opening night on the farm proved that it’s not only the big club which has lots of pitching talent on their roster.

Las Vegas

Brad Mills showed that you don’t have to have overpowering stuff to be successful as a pitcher. Known for an average fastball but outstanding change, Mills struck out 9 and only gave up 2 hits over 6 innings and was never in trouble. Unfortunately, Trevor Reckling, one of the Angels top pitching prospects matched him for 5 innings and it took the 51’s until the 7th to score so Mills didn’t record the win. Sean Henn who pitched a scoreless inning as did Purcey and Rommie Lewis got the timely “W”. Overall the pitching staff only gave up 3 hits.

New Hampshire

Kyle Drabek showed overpowering stuff in 5 innings striking out 8, but walked 2 and gave up a first inning homer to allow 4 runs overall. Luis Perez followed with 3 perfect innings striking out 5. Daniel Farquhar had a perfect inning of his own in the 9th for the save. Brad Emaus continued with his spring performance recording 3 hits and 2 RBI, while catcher Brian Jerolman had 2 hits and 2 RBI of his own in support.

Dunedin

Our single A team couldn’t do anything right on opening night with only 1 of 5 pitchers having a scoreless outing and recording only 3 hits. The only saving grace was Travis d’Arnaud getting his first hit as a Blue Jay and hitting it in the seats for a 2 run homer.

Lansing

The Jays got 5-2/3 of 3 hit, 1 run relief to support starter Ryan Shopshire who gave up 5 runs but it wasn’t enough as that single run occurred in the 11th and led to a 6-5 loss. Both Nestor Molina and Dustin Antolin notched 3 K’s and neither gave up a hit but Evan Crawford struggled and recorded the loss. Ryan Schimpf had an outstanding start to the season with 2 hits, a homer, and 4 RBI to go with Eric Eiland's 3 hits.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Leadership On Several Fronts

Do we love Jason Frasor now? He made it interesting again but came back from a leadoff walk to strikeout the next two before recording the third out for his second save in 3 opportunities.

How can you not love the fight in this young team? Romero gives us a brilliant start only to be outperformed by Ranger starter C.J. Wilson. Under normal circumstances we would be starting the 9th inning expecting a save for the win. In this case, the Jays did what the best teams do, they found a way to win. Though the tying run came off the sizzling home run bat of Vernon Wells, he only created the opportunity. It took the subsequent at bats by bottom half of the order and a clutch single by Mike McCoy to provide the lead.

Janssen looked overpowering in his single inning before Frasor closed it out. Romero and Wilson put on a pitching clinic which baseball purists like me love. What impressed me most was the key hits in pressure situations and the fact the hitting was spread throughout the lineup. Strong "team" focused performances like today will not only create success but mature a young club like the Jays.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Now That's the Script I Was Talking About

Gaston's Confidence in Tallet Well Deserved Tonight

I've been riding the Jays all spring for their continued plans to make Tallet part of their starting rotation when I don't believe it is his strongest role. If he shows more performances reminiscent of tonight I will finally give it up and accept the professional baseball people know better. Let's see first if he can be consistent for a couple of months.

Tallet gave up only 2 earned runs and wasn't phased at all by the back jacks in the 4th. All he did was get back to the way he had been pitching and finished 6-2/3 innings with 6 strikeouts. Gregg followed with 1-1/3 innings of overpowering stuff before Frasor recorded his first save with 2 strikeouts of his own. He provided some drama by giving up a leadoff double to raise the emotions of fans who saw the same thing the day before leading to a blown save. It was the pitching script I keep writing about and expect season long for the Jays. It's also a pitching formula that will keep the Jays interesting and competitive this year.

The Highlight Reel

Vernon Wells with 2 homers and 3 RBI. He looks more comfortable at the plate right now than at any time in 2009. As I've previously said, one or more of he, Oberbay and Encarnacion have to have comeback years for the Jays to make .500 and Wells is off and running in that quest. Travis Snider looks more mature and patient at the plate taking a couple of walks before he got a pitch to hit that he drove to LF for a double. One of those walks was with the bases loaded and drove in a run.

Stuff To Worry About

Encarnacion with his 2nd error in as many games and the Jays with 3 overall tonight. It didn't hurt them overall tonight but the Jays need to play strong defense so they don't blow good outings by a young pitching staff. The team needs to spend a lot of time with John Buck on pitch identification and selection. He looked awful but is a big strong guy and if he can make better contact is capable of 15-20 homers. Don't expect Snider to hit 9th for long. He and Buck will be swapping spots in the batting order once Snider has a solid few weeks.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Jays Hammer Astros

A Winning Formula

Brandon Morrow answered all the questions today and is ready to start the season as the Jays 4th starter. After giving up only a run on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts in 5 innings, Morrow was extremely effective and proved once again the Jays have the pitching talent to play at the .500 level in spite of their inexperience. Though he walked 3, Morrow threw 54 of 86 pitches for strikes and wasn't really hurt by the passes. If he can improve command even slightly he could be a dominating force on the mound this year with his mid 90's fastball overpowering hitters. Dana Eveland followed him for 3 innings and did throw strikes but gave up 5 hits and 2 ER.

Most everyone in the lineup had a hit and Hill continued his scorching bat with 3 hits and his 6th homer of the spring. Notably they hit better with runners in scoring position and Encarnacion appeared much improved with a homer and 4 RBI. Travis Snider showed a good eye at the plate and ended up on base 4 times as he took a couple of walks in addition to his 2 hits.

An insignificant 9th inning saw minor leaguer Sean Henn allow damage from a 3 run homer following an error by SS Jesus Merchan. This situation would have called for Casey Janssen or Jeremy Accardo under normal circumstances and would likely have had a better outcome. But give Henn credit for rebounding to limit further damage and get out of the inning.

Today's game is indicative of what we can expect from the Blue Jays this year. Effective pitching which frequently gives up less than 4 runs a game and enough timely hitting spread throughout the lineup to plate enough runs to win. It is a formula which will give us 80 or so wins and make us dangerous to teams expecting a cakewalk when playing us.

A Potential Trade to Remember

Hill Would Bring a Prospect Bounty

I love Jeremy Sandler’s article in the National Post about trading Aaron Hill. I believe it was Branch Rickey when as a Dodger executive said “better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.” Sandler’s article speaks directly to that concept.

I don’t think there is anyone in baseball including the Jays who expected the extent of Hill’s breakout year, surpassing 30 homers and 100 RBI. If anyone had said Hill will have 20 homers and 80 RBI and play outstanding defense, all Blue Jays fans and executives would have been ecstatic. It’s for this reason that nobody anticipates Hill repeating last year’s numbers. This would have been the year to trade him “one year too early” knowing that due to his age, contract, clubhouse leadership we could receive something in the order of the Roy Halladay haul in return.

Though nobody would like to see a young talent like Hill gone, 2B is one of the easier positons to replace in baseball and we have a couple of candidates waiting in the wings even it they wouldn’t quite match Hill’s performance on the field. Brad Emaus has shown himself to be a capable if unspectacular player who would be solid at second and may still have some room to grow as a player. Mike McCoy who is with the team as both an IF and OF replacement would add an element of speed to the lineup which Hill can’t bring and has shown he is capable of playing at the big league level.

The same argument might be made about Adam Lind as well though many in baseball think he is still capable of building on last years performance. As a weak defensive player, the market for him would be more limited. Alex would be doing his best for the long term interest of the team in considering such a move knowing that we are at least 2-3 years away from fighting for a playoff spot in the AL Beast.

We all miss Roy Halladay right now and are still mourning his loss and seeing him pitch every 5th day. In 2 years with Wallace and Drabek in our lineup he will be a distant memory. The same could be said of Aaron Hill if traded for a similar package.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Pitching Gets It Done Again

Saturday Game Summary

Ricky Romero continues to show maturity as again tonight as he gave up too many walks but managed to only give up one earned run over 5 innings. The Jays lefthander threw 77 pitches but only 42 for strikes which is why he walked 3. He needs to continue to improve on his command and cut down on the walks, but you've got to love how he manages to battle on the mound and get results even when he doesn't appear to have his best stuff. The bullpen of Valdez, Downs, Frasor only gave up 1 run in 3 innings. Only Rommie Lewis who will be in Las Vegas allowed runs from the relievers. The hitters however were not as effective leaving 9 on base and hitting 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Bautista continued hot with 2 hits while Wells, Lind, Hill appear ready for the season. Encarnacion and Snider on the other hand continue to struggle.