Archive for the ‘ Baseball ’ Category

2012 MLB Season

I’m trying to be positive about the Blue Jays’ outlook this year. I really want to be excited about the team. But I just can’t do it.

They are having a great spring. There’s no arguing with that. They’ve been playing incredibly well in Grapefruit league play. As I write this, they have an .815 winning percentage. That’s leaps and bounds ahead of their closest competition. But years and years of watching baseball (and pretty much every other professional sport) has shown me that preseason numbers don’t mean shit when it comes to the regular season. In the preseason, you’ve got a bunch of minor league players giving absolutely everything they have in an effort to make the team. Every year, that inflates many teams preseason stats.

In my opinion, it actually benefits the teams that will probably be shitty in the regular season. The perrenial contenders have their rosters pretty well set before spring training ever kicks off. The minor leaguers know they probably aren’t making the team, so they don’t press nearly as hard. If you’re a first base prospect in Boston or New York, why bother? You’re not making the team. But in the weaker teams, the prospects know they’ve got a shot. They play as hard as they possibly can to try and make it. That gives a bump to those team, gives them a competitive advantage over the teams whose own minor league players are just there to fill spots when the major leaguers don’t feel like playing.

Obviously, I know it’s not just that simple. But that’s part of it, and it’s a major factor in why preseason numbers rarely have any relevance on the final standings in the regular season.

Back to the Jays, there are numerous reasons why I doubt they’ll finish higher than fourth in the AL East this year. For one, they are as good as Boston, New York, or Tampa. Personally, I think it’s possible for them to finish as high as third, but only if they have record-setting offensive output and Tampa’s pitching fails them completely. I doubt Boston will meltdown again like they did last year, and despite being old as dirt, the Yankees are the Yankees. They’re better than the Jays.

In the end, it comes down to the on-field product. I don’t think the Jays have done enough to field a competitive team. I think AA did his best to improve the team; I just don’t think it was enough.

From a pitching standpoint, I just don’t think they’re good enough. Romero is a solid pitcher. But he’s not an ace. He’s Shawn Marcum, version 2.0. Ideally, he slots in the two-hole, behind a real ace. Brandow Morrow is similar. He throws heat, but if he’s off, he gets lit up. He’s like a young A.J. Burnett. I know nobody wants to hear that, not even me, but they’re very comparable. Brett Cecil is about as inconsistent as it gets. Alvarez and Drabek have a shitton of potential, but they’re young. And McGowan is trying to come back from injuries that should have ended his career. There’s no way to know how he’ll hold up.

The bullpen is the same. They shored it up a bit, but still. Who’s their closer? Sergio Santos? He blew six saves last year. Cordero’s not getting any younger. The rest of them haven’t been able to do shit up to this point; why should we think they’ll be able to get it done this time?

For the position players, it’s as simple as looking at each position and seeing how the Jays’ stack up against divisional rivals. At catcher, if Arencibia can mirror last year’s performance, I give the Jays’ the edge at that position. At least offensively. Defensively, Arencebia isn’t great. He isn’t the worst, but he’s not the best.

First base, no. With Tex and Gonzalez in the division, they aren’t even close. At the moment, I don’t even know who their fucking first baseman is. Is it Adam Lind? He’s a DH at best. Realistically, the Jays are probably dead last in the division at first. I’m not sure who Tampa and Baltimore have there, but it can’t be much worse than the Jays.

Same thing with second base. Kelly Johnson? Fuck that guy. He can occasionally put up decent numbers, but he’s streaky as hell. And even his best numbers weren’t great. It’s a crapshoot, at best.

And that’s all I really need to say. When you go into a season with no clear-cut first or second basemen, you’re screwed. But I’ll go on, just so I can actually talk about the Jays’ high points.

Yunel Escobar at short is decent. He’s probably not tops in the division, but he’s solid, consistent, and not a defensive liability. I’ll take it.

Third base. Brett Lawrie. A bright spot for the Jays. The kid’s got potential and intensity coming out his ass. Statistically, he’s one of the weakest third basemen in the division, but he could easily be one of the best before too long. Obviously, I’m biased, but watching him play, there’s nothing in his game that I think could hold him back to being equal with Evan Longoria before too long.

The only other bright spot for the Jays is, of course, Jose Bautista. Regardless of where they play him, the guy hits like a fucking truck. I don’t need to say much more about him. Any guy who gives you 40+ HR and 100+ RBI is a good thing.

The rest of the outfielders are a bunch of prospects and guys known for their fielding/base-running. Sure, Thames or Schnieder could have breakout years, offensively, and nail down one of those positions. Or they could do what they’ve been doing and routinely float between the Majors and Triple-A ball. It’s impossible to tell.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I think the Jays are doomed, once again. Too much unknown. They have skilled players, good prospects, but they’d all need to come together at the right time, and in a major way, to make any kind of meaningful impact. There’s too much left to chance, and that rarely, if ever, works out well.

Plus, I think their pitching sucks.

Later.

Jim Thome In the Hall of Fame?

A piece I wrote when this topic came up last August.

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I know this is a little late, but I wanted to give my thoughts on Jim Thome hitting his 600th career home run and the argument about whether or not he is Hall of Fame worthy. For me, the answer is a no-brainer: of course he is.

600 home runs. That’s an exlusive club, and that number alone should guarantee Thome’s inclusion into the Hall, upon his retirement. Just think about that for a minute. Throw aside every other stat and just realize that out of the thousands of men who have played in the MLB over the years, only eight have hit at least 600 home runs. Eight. Three of those eight are already in the Hall of Fame, and are considered three of the best, if not the three best baseball players of all time. Two of the eight would be first-ballot Hall of Famers if it weren’t for all the steriod shit. Another is going to be a first-ballot inductee. And A-Rod is still playing. So, just based on the company he is in, Jim Thome deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. I mean, who’s going to hit 600 next? Albert Pujols, probably. And when he gets there, that’ll be another first-ballot Hall of Famer in the mix.

Let’s look at some of Thome’s other numbers. He ranked 8th all-time in walks, and six of the seven guys ahead of him are all in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds is the only exception, and I think we can all agree he’d be in Hall if it weren’t for the steroids. 1713 walks overall. That’s insane, and is really telling about just how good of a hitter Thome has been over his career. Add that to the AB/HR ratio, where he ranks 5th lowest, and you get one of the most dangerous power hitters of the last two decades.

There are several arguments for why Thome shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. One is his extremely high number of strikeouts, which ranks him second all-time in that category. But I don’t buy that. Even with the huge amount of strikeouts, he still has a career average of .277, which isn’t mind-blowing, but is solid. Not to mention he’s tied for first all-time with 12 walk-off home runs. That’s the definition of clutch. The biggest indicator for me of why strikeouts are, or should be, a wash when it comes to Hall of Fame consideration, is Reggie Jackson. He’s the all-time leader in strikeouts, and he’s in the Hall. That’s proof, I believe, that strikeouts can be discounted, if the player in question ranks high enough in other categories.

Then there are the people who bring up the fact that Thome has never really been counted among the best players of his era. It’s true, to an extent. When people mention the best players of the last two decades, you hear names like Bonds, Rodriguez, Griffey, and the like. Thome is rarely mentioned among them. But to counter that, I’d like to point out that he’s had nine seasons where he hit 100+ RBI. He hit 90+ RBI in another two seasons. He’s hit 30+ home runs 12 times. But because he played in an era with so many great players, like Bonds, Griffey, and Rodriguez, his very solid numbers were always overshadowed. Doesn’t mean he was a bad player, or even an average player. He was just not as good as those guys.

And then there’s the fact that he’s basically been nothing but a DH for the last 6 years or so. Which again, I don’t buy. His hitting stats more than make up for the fact that he has essentially no fielding stats since 2005. I’d like to point out that back in the day, when he actually did play first base, he had a fielding percentage of .994, which isn’t too shabby. He never made more than 10 errors in a single season while playing first. But in the end, I don’t think his defensive stats should matter. Thome was and is a power hitter, first and foremost. The fact is, he wasn’t a defensive liability when he played in the field, and when it got to the point where he might start becoming one, due to injury and age, he became a DH. It shouldn’t factor into the decision much, in my opinion.

And there we have it. I don’t think I stated my case, or Thome’s I should say, all that well, but there it is. He is one of the best power hitters of his generation, who was often overshadowed by his great peers. But his hitting stats, his 600+ home runs, decent average, and high number of walks, make him a future Hall of Famer in my eyes.

Later.

Vernon Wells

A piece I wrote when Vernon Wells made his first trip back to Toronto with the Angels.
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Last night was Vernon Wells’ return to Toronto, after being traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the last off-season. I didn’t watch the game, but I heard all about it afterward. Vernon got a standing ovation, and then homered off the first pitched he saw.

Good for him. Despite his short-comings on the field, Wells was always a hard-working and charitable guy within the city. He was good to the fans, gave a lot of money to charity, and was just generally a nice guy. He deserves to be treated well by the Toronto fans, and I thought the standing ovation was a pretty classy move.

But, while I was on Twitter last night, I decided to scroll down through all the tweets mentioning Wells (he was trending). After a certain point (see: any tweet mentioning him before yesterday), they were all about how terrible he’s playing this season. The dichotomy was pretty amusing. At the top, they were all similar to ‘Classy guy, good player, I wish him well’, and lower down ‘Wells fucking sucks, he couldn’t hit a beach ball, trade him for some baseballs and a hat’.

And it’s kind of sad, because he really does suck. I mean, he puts up decent numbers, HR and RBI-wise, but he’s only hitting .208 on the season. He’s on pace to finish the season somewhere around 25/65, and for a guy who makes the amount he does, that’s just not acceptable. Last season, he did good. Hit .273, with 31 HR and 88 RBI. That’s what allowed the Jays to unload his ridiculous contract on the Angels. If they’d thought he’d be hitting .208 at this point in the season, there’s no way that trade gets made.

So, I don’t really have a point in this piece. I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s interesting how things change between players and fans, once the player is traded. When he played in Toronto, Vernon Wells was vilified often by the fans, due to the lack of production in relation to the amount of money he made. Now that he’s an Angel, all their fans hate him, and he gets a standing ovation in Toronto. It’s a very strange thing.

Later.

The Blue Jays Stealing Signs

A piece I wrote when this “story” first broke last summer.

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When I saw the article about this on TSN.ca today, I laughed. You know, the Jays probably are stealing signs. Every team steals signs. It’s a part of baseball. Any advantage you can give yourself you do. Anybody who doesn’t believe that is a fucking moron.

And it really doesn’t matter, in the end. The Jays are 28-27 at home this season. One game over .500. You know what that means? It mean they suck at stealing signs. If they were any good at it, they’d hit the ball more and win more fucking games. They have three guys hitting over 300 at the moment; one of those has only played four games, and the other’s average is dropping like a rock.

The best part of this story is that the Yankees and the Red Sox are two of the teams who were specifically named as teams that were “concerned” about this shit. Are you fucking kidding me? We’re 14 and 11.5 games back from the division lead and in the wild card race, respectively. We haven’t even played in a post-season game since ‘93. Calm the fuck down. We’re not catching you, even if you give us a list of every pitch you’re going to make before you make it.

It just all seems so stupid to me.

And I could sit here and badmouth the Yanks and the Sox, bring up the players they have, and have had over the years, who’ve been accused to doing steriods. That’s cheating, last time I checked. But I’m not going to do that, because I don’t care. It’s all about winning. You do what you’ve got to do.

As a fan, I don’t care if the Jays cheat. In fact, I want them to cheat. We haven’t made the payoffs since 1993. Fucking 1993. That’s fucking crazy. I turned three two days before the last playoff game they played. Three. I’m almost 21 now. So I say cheat. Do whatever the fuck you have to do to win. Steal signs, do steroids, beat up opposing players before the game. Smoke crack and dance around the dugout in your boxers. I don’t give a fuck. Do whatever you need to do. Just win.

That’s all I got.

Later.