DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
by Quinn Sweetzir
On a team which features underperformance across various areas of the club, a few of the Toronto Blue Jays somewhat minimal bright spots have included their overperforming bullpen. All-Star closer Roberto Osuna has been a dominant reliever ever since he stepped into the big leagues, newly appointed has impressed with both quality performance, and a quantity or innings pitched out of the bullpen, and Danny Barnes has impressed with solid middle relief and an exceptional beard ever since the season began.
The bullpen has definitely been one of the clubs biggest strengths thanks to solid performances from this trio, as evidenced by ERA’s of 3.12, 3.19, and 2.81 for Osuna, Tepera, and Barnes respectively. Despite these strong performances, Dominic Leone has arguably performed better than any other reliever in this bullpen, having himself managed to record a bullpen best 2.63 ERA to this point of the season, while having received far less attention than these other members.
It’s obvious just from looking at this number that Leone doesn’t get enough credit for being a critical and dominant member of the 2017 Blue Jays bullpen, and this is a result of a few factors. He hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves thanks in part to only ended up on the opening day roster thanks to Osuna starting the season on the DL, having been acquired through a waiver claim from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and having been shuffled between AAA and the bigs several times this season.
Before the season started Leone was not one of the extra relievers I identified as having a strong chance to contribute significantly to the big league roster, and yet he’s managed to record a top 30 fWAR in all of baseball among relievers. This puts him ahead of several “elite” relievers including all stars such as Wade Davis, Brandon Kintzler, and Indians closer Cody Allen.
With such a dominant performance, it’s a wonder why Leone hasn’t gotten more attention for being one of the best relievers in baseball. It’s fairly obvious from a glance at the numbers that Dominic Leone has become one of the been very good, but how has he managed to do this, and is it sustainable or simply the result of good fortune?
One way Leone has managed to perform in such a way has been his dominant cutter, which generates whiffs at a rate of 23.75%, and is thrown 35.89% of the time. His cutter has managed to produce 2.24 inches of horizontal movement, just 0.2 inches less than Mariano Rivera managed to achieve throughout his legendary career. As a contrast to Leone’s cutter however, he’s used his four seam fastball 3.83 inches of horizontal movement in the opposite direction. However, Leone has managed to throw his 4 seamer at a fairly similar rate of 45.38%, which is keeping the righty unpredictable.
In essence, Leone’s two most prominent pitches, which are thrown at very similar velocities (5.87 mph difference), at relatively similar rates (9.49% usage difference), yet have massive differences in horizontal movement (5.78 inches) are simply hard to hit. It’s pretty easy to imagine how this would lead to success for Leone, whether it be through whiffs, or weak contact. Either result from opposing hitters should lead strong results for the righty, and to this point in 2017, they have.
WIth such a dominant pitch combination, it’s easier to understand how Leone has become an effective reliever, and there is solid evidence to suggest that his success is sustainable. During his rough 2015 and 2016 seasons, the differences in both pitch usage, and horizontal movement were reduced dramatically, and assuming Leone’s horizontal pitch movement can continue to be this good, and the usage of these two pitches remains relatively in line with what’s been done to this point in the season, then I expect him to continue to be an elite reliever.
Dominic Leone hasn’t gotten enough recognition for just how good he’s managed to pitch this season. He’s been one of the best relievers in all of baseball, and has managed to do this thanks to dominant stuff and intelligent pitch usage. Thanks to this lethal combination, Leone has become a very impressive reliever in 2017, and I would expect this to continue through the rest of the season and possibly beyond.
by Quinn Sweetzir
As is the case with any struggling, mediocre baseball team, the list of issues surrounding this seasons Toronto Blue Jays is incredibly long and comprehensive. Writers, analysts, and fans alike will point fingers at various components of this poorly performing ballclub, from underachieving pitching to abysmal offensive output to I wrath of significant injuries which have hampered this club in various ways this season.
Often lost in the shuffle of areas where the Jays need to improve is the general lack of depth which has been exposed dramatically as a result of underperformance and injuries to everyday starters. When regulars have struggled or been unavailable, the backups and minor leaguers called in to replace them have simply been unable to pick up the slack to any considerable margin. This has been true from both an offensive and pitching standpoint, as the lack of depth has been exposed to the point of disaster on both these fronts.
It’s clear that depth is a legitimate weakness that needs to be addressed as the club hopes to improve, but what is the actual extent of the negative impact it’s had on the Jays this season? Is the difference negligible or is there serious gains in terms of wins which we can expect to make as a result of having decent depth. As it turns out, the answer is a lot more significant than might be expected on the surface.
Before I proceed in evaluating the quality of Toronto’s depth, I first have to define some parameters as to what that means. On every baseball reference 2017 team page, it lists each team's “regulars” at each defensive position, along with 5 (or sometimes 6) starting rotation members, along with 5 relievers. In the case of the Blue Jays, Baseball Reference essentially considered regulars to be a part of the opening day roster for the lineup and rotation, with only some variance in the bullpen. For my somewhat arbitrary definition of depth, I’ve decided that players who are not included as these regulars are now considered depth players, which now includes the clubs bench, non-regular rotation members, and 6/7th relievers which would rarely be used in high leverage situations.
Next, we have to evaluate just how bad the Blue Jays depth players have been this season. For this, we I’ve decided to use rWAR to evaluate the performances of various Blue Jays depth players, compared to that of other teams across the league.
“If we set the goal of improving to replacement level depth then the Toronto Blue Jays could conceivably win 6-7 more games over the course of a season.”
Offensively, the Jays depth players have performed extremely poorly, especially in the infield. Overall, Blue Jays depth position players have combined to be worth -2.5 rWAR. This may seem low on the surface, but if you consider that poorly performing backup infielders (such as Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney, and Chris Coghlan) have combined for -2.1 rWAR on their own, this number becomes far more feasible. Another area where depth has been poor is from various backup catchers (including Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Luke Maile, Mike Ohlman, Miguel Montero, and Raffy Lopez), which have combined to produce an atrocious -1.5 fWAR. Though the infield is saved somewhat by the surprisingly decent outfield (mostly Ezequiel Carrera’s 0.6 rWAR) and passable performances from brief callups (such as Darrell Ceciliani, Dwight Smith Jr, and others), the differences are only offset somewhat, and the overall total is still incredibly poor.
It’s clear that from an offensive standpoint that depth players have performed poorly, but what about the pitching? Injuries have resulted in 5 different depth players making starts for the club, each with varying success. In total, they’ve combined to be worth an unsurprisingly poor -1.0 rWAR to this point of the season. This continues into the bullpen, where relief depth has combined to produce a staggeringly bad -1.1 rWAR. The combined poor play of depth starters and relievers has resulted in pitching depth which has performed to a tune of -2.1 rWAR, a total which by any measure is remarkably poor.
Depth players have performed to an abysmal combined -4.6 tune of rWAR, but now we need to know how bad is this compared to other teams? Is expecting to improve an unrealistic dream, or a plausible reality? It turns out that the Blue Jays have the 3rd most poorly performing depth players in the MLB, with only the lowly San Francisco giants and Pittsburgh Pirates performing worse. If the Jays rank near the bottom in terms of the performance of depth players, then just how much improvement could be realistically expected?
If we set the goal of improving to replacement level depth then the Toronto Blue Jays could conceivably win 6-7 more games over the course of a season. Replacement level is defined as being the production you could expect to receive for a team of minimum salary players, including minor league free agents, and AAAA players. In theory, this should be fairly easy to achieve, however in practice it’s much rarer than you might expect.
Only 13 MLB teams managed to have depth players combine to perform above replacement level, which would mean that the Jays would have to improve from well below average to slightly above if they wanted to improve by this magnitude.
“an improvement to league average depth … would put [the Jays final win total] at about 82 wins, a rather significant improvement from their current pace of 76.”
If expecting replacement level depth isn’t possible for the majority of teams than perhaps the Jays should aim to improve to average depth from offensive and pitching standpoints separately. The average MLB team receives 0.9 rWAR every 162 games from depth position players, well above the -3.6 rWAR the Blue Jays would produce at their current rate over the course of the season. As a result, an improvement to league average performance from depth players would result in about 4.5 more wins for the Jays, a rather significant amount considering the closeness of wildcard races over the past few seasons.
The standards for average pitching depth are far lower however, where the average 162 game rWAR projects to be around -1.3. Though pitching depth is significantly worse than that of position players in terms of total value, the Jays could still make gains by improving in this regard. Toronto’s pitching depth currently projects to be worth -3.1 rWAR at the end of the season, so an improvement to league average could still improve the club by about 1.8 wins next season.
Overall, an improvement to league average depth would likely have resulted in a 6-7 win improvement for this seasons Toronto Blue Jays, which would put them at about 82 wins, a rather significant improvement from their current pace of 76.
It’s now clear that poor depth has cost the Jays around 4-5 victories to this point in the season, and improved depth would certainly have resulted in better performance to this point. We can spend the whole day thinking about how a few extra wins would’ve changed the whole fortunes of Toronto’s 2017 season, but it is clear that improving depth could be a rather easy way for a club with hopes of contending in 2018 could improve significantly without the excessive price tag of a remodeled pitching staff or a loss of prospect capital to improve on weak position players.
Better depth additions need to be given serious consideration as a method of improving this club in 2018, as they would go a long way towards improving the club next season. These improvements would almost certainly have a significant towards improving the club in 2018, while costing a fraction of the price of expensive free agents, or ambitious trade targets.
by Quinn Sweetzir
I’m pretty sure that the scope of the Toronto Blue Jays awful 2017 season has been beaten to death at this point. The underperforming pitching, declining defense, and abysmal offense has resulted in a rather mediocre 46-54 record, leaving the status of the Jays trade deadline strategy up in the air.
Although cases could be made for everything from buying everyone to a Jeffery Loria esque fire sale, the club seems destined to make moves which will do more to improve the clubs chances of winning in 2018 than in this season or the more distant future. This decision, motivated largely by the business interests, is not necessarily in the best interests of the club in the long run from a player personal standpoint, but would certainly require the club to return to contention in 2018 for it to be considered at all successful.
Many moves will need to be made if the club wishes to achieve this, including everything from improved starting pitching to consistent corner outfield acquisitions to reliable depth as a whole. This may seem like a large list of needs on the surface, however the acquisition of one seemingly unspectacular player could do a surprising amount to fill these needs.
Of course you know I’m talking about Yangervis Solarte if you read the title, but exactly how much can he do to improve this club's chances of winning in 2018. On the surface, a 29 year old with a career high of 2.8 fWAR in a season wouldn’t be able to offer more to the Jays than any other mediocre regular. Upon further inspection however, there is a rather surprising number of reasons to acquire Solarte, who manages to improve the Jays in ways which wouldn’t be expected from a quick glance at his batting average.
One reason for acquiring Solarte is his rather solid plate discipline, an area where several different Blue Jays have struggled at points this season. For his career, Solarte has a career strikeout rate of just 11.4% percent, an impressive total which borders on excellence according to Fangraphs . In addition, his seemingly average career walk rate of 7.9% becomes rather exceptional when you consider his 87.0% contact rate, which likely results in less opportunities for walks as a result of increased balls in play.
Although his plate discipline is impressive, his versatility is also something which would be of tremendous help to the Blue Jays. Solarte has spent most of his career as a third baseman, before transitioning to second base this season, however he's also played 1B, SS, and LF at various points in his career. This means that if Devon Travis manages to return from injury and take back the starting 2B job, Solarte could still be useful by providing other players with rest, without resulting in a significant performance drop off, particularly from an offensive standpoint. In the meantime, Solarte would slot in as a very good, starting caliber second baseman.
Moving beyond 2017, Solarte could slot in one of a variety of roles, including a solid backup infielder who actually capable of putting up decent offensive numbers, as a 1B should Justin Smoak start to decline offensively back to his career norms, or as an outfielder should the Jays be unable to find better replacements for Jose Bautista and Steve Pearce. It’s the variety of roles which Solarte is capable of playing which makes him a worthwhile acquisition, as acquiring him also allows you to fill out later needs based on general value to the club rather than positional need. The reasons for acquiring Solarte from a versatility standpoint are endless, and this would certainly be of tremendous value to the club in improving their 2018 roster.
Despite strong plate discipline and all would be for nothing if Solarte wasn’t an effective player in general. Thankfully, he’s rather talented, having managed a respectable WRC+ of 109 in his career to date. An above average offensive player who plays up the middle is incredibly valuable to a team like the Blue Jays, who’ve trotted out some combination of Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney in basically every game since Travis was injured. Solarte’s defense isn’t exactly elite, however in general it’s passable, and should be solid enough to feel comfortable with.
In addition to his solid, if unspectacular on field performance, there are other reasons to acquire Solarte looking beyond 2018 and into the future. His contract is incredibly team friendly for someone of his caliber, as Solarte is under club control until 2021 including options which peak at just 8 million dollars. Considering his consistent performance over the years, this seems incredibly reasonable, and is solid enough for Solarte himself could be easily traded if the team falls out of contention outright in the coming seasons with the expectation of a decent return.
It’s obvious why acquiring Solarte would benefit the Blue Jays significantly next season, but despite the advantages, he’s still a fairly average regular who shouldn’t cost the Jays any irreplaceable prospects which would be considered future building blocks. The price to acquire him would probably be a couple decent players, but I can’t see San Diego demanding much more than a player who projects as a 50-grade future big leaguer.
If the Jays really do want to try contending in 2018, then they should give serious consideration to acquiring Yangervis Solarte at this years trade deadline. There are several reasons why the Jays should acquire him, and he could do a surprising amount to help the club content next year, should they chose to go that route. Although it is unlikely that the Jays end up doing this (because you can never predict who the clubs are going to acquire), as it would be a very solid acquisition.
by Quinn Sweetzir
To call the Toronto Blue Jays season a disappointment at this point would be a massive understatement. Several pitchers have underperformed, their defense has declined immensely compared to last season and most of all, the offense has regressed to a level where Justin Smoak hits cleanup and nobody questions it. This has lead to a laundry list of areas the club needs to improve on going into the trade deadline, and quite frankly some of these needs are getting vastly overlooked. As a result of the lack of publicity and discussion these important needs are getting, I decided to break them down for myself, and expose the multitude of weaknesses which currently posses the Blue Jays organization.
Improved Social Media Presence
I’m just gonna come out and say it; the Blue Jays social media presence is weak. All the Jays accounts do is simply state what events which happened, and are already known by the vast majority of the audience they have. If the Jays really want to improve in this regard than some type of deadline move needs to be made. For example, one move the Jays could make would be acquiring the Athletics instagram guy, who made this reply following a sweep of the Yankees.
The price might be high but the rewards would surely be worth it. Plus, we know Billy Beane is willing to make obscure trades after he held out for the inclusion of soda in a trade during the 2002 deadline.
As for twitter, the obvious option would to try developing the Jays current twitter guy, an option which would be largely encouraged by the current Shapiro and Atkins considering their style of development. Unfortunately, the club doesn’t have the time necessary to develop their him/her into a real contributor, and should therefore consider a more Anthopoulos Esque move. One option includes paying a heavy price to acquire the Rockies twitter guy, who probably wishes to upgrade to an account with nearly 5 times as many followers. The price would be steep, but Colorado has shown a willingness to move franchise stars before (Hi Tulo), and the move could have significant short term gain for the Blue Jays. Another option could be to call up the Fisher Cats twitter guy (who's talented, not only young) directly from AA and see if he/she can contribute to the big league account. I asked the Fisher Cats account if they were interested and replied with this.
Although they denied interest in the big league job, I suspect this is more to protect his colleague's emotions rather than a denial of interest. Either option would be solid but no matter what, the Jays have to make a noteworthy move to improve in this regard.
Letters for the Level of Excellence
Have you thought about why the Jays have yet to put Roy Halladay on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence yet? Do you wonder whether Vernon Wells is worthy of being on this esteemed list? Maybe you just know Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are gonna end up on this level someday. If you can’t comprehend why these players aren’t on the Level of Excellence already (even though Encarnacion and Bautista are still active in the MLB), I present the only logical reason for this problem; the lack of letters available.
Sooner or later, they’re gonna have to put Halladay on the Level of Excellence, and the Jays should use the trade deadline leverage other clubs into providing letters of their own. This would allow the Jays to save costs, resulting in increased ability to fully pay the soon-to-be albatross contract of Troy Tulowitzki. Although an opposing team's font may not be ideal on the surface, this would also give the Rogers Center a unique feature which it currently lacks. Plus, none of the future Jays Level of Excellence members played exclusively for Toronto, so some of their other teams would surely be interested in providing their own letters!
Hitting the Cutoff man Lessons for Ezequiel Carrera
It’s no secret that Ezequiel Carrera has struggled with hitting the cutoff man at various points this season. This primary result of this is advancing baserunners thanks to poor these throwing decisions, so the Jays should acquire someone who might have a chance of teaching Carrera how to hit a cutoff man, especially since the clubs internal efforts to do so have been unsuccessful to this point.
Steve Pearce taking over the left field job has largely resulted in Zeke being used almost exclusively as a defensive replacement. If he wishes to become valuable in this area, his throwing decisions are going to have to improvise by a sizable margin. Acquiring the rights to an exclusive defensive tudor such as Joe Carter could make the difference, since Zeke appears to be doing the opposite of what logical defensive coaches have tried to teach him. At this point, every run counts, and the Jays need Carrera to improve if they wish to see a sizable defensive improvement over Steve Pearce late in games.
If I’m being completely honest, there has been some improvement in the commercial department during Jays TV broadcasts this season. In particular, the WestJet commercials featuring Aaron Sanchez have been adorable, especially the one which with the cute puppy.
However, these improvements have been largely offset by a handful of creepy, disturbing, and annoying commercials which are a significant detriment to the broadcast. In past articles, I've spoken against the infuriating Sportsnet Now commercials, so instead I’m going to discuss another particularly cringely bothersome advertisement; the new Dairy Queen commercial featuring a rather awkward finale. The beginning of the commercial is rather forgettable, however the end includes a teenage employee who replies to the notion that he’s filled with kindness with the quote “actually I’m full of chicken strips, just got off break”. As a fast food employee of a similar age to the actor playing the commercial, I can insure you that 80% of us would reply with a simple thank you. The other 20% would wither giggle and blush excessively or terrifyingly run away having been creeped out. Also, never in my time as an employee have I told, or seen someone tell a customer what they had on break, exposing further inaccuracies in addition to the obviously disturbing nature of the commercial. It could be worse however, we could have the BMO talking ball commercials from the Raptors games. I don’t even care about the return, if the Jays can manage to get rid of these DQ commerciale, it would make the broadcast significantly more pleasant for the fans.
A Better Wardrobe for the Broadcast Crew
Last among the Jays big trade deadline needs is a serious improvement from a fashion standpoint among members of the television broadcast. For example, Arash Madani’s suits always appear to be far too big when I see him on the television, especially in the shoulders. Buck Martinez also needs to add something to his wardrobe besides a plain, pale, pink, dress shirt. However, my complaints on the outfits of these members of the broadcast pail in comparison to my views on the wardrobe of Gregg Zaun.
If you need evidence of Gregg Zaun’s awful wardrobe, look no further than his Canada Day getup, which honestly speaks for itself.
*WARNING: Scrolling down may cause permanent blindness, a desire to throw your phone at the wall, and severe mental trauma*
If your eyes still work well enough for you to continue reading, then let me just say that this isn’t exactly a one-off irregularity for Zaun. Earlier this season for instance, he was heavily criticized for wearing a bright pink suit while accusing Stroman of attracting too much attention to himself and being unsportsmanlike. This obvious hypocrisy is further exposed with regular viewership, as Zaun regularly wears deliberately outfits in effort to become a baseball version of Don Cherry. Unfortunately, sports television is generally moving away from the big personalities, so perhaps the Jays could trade the rights to their limited games of Matt Devlin’s play by play for a functioning microphone and a suit to be named later in effort to rationalize Zaun somewhat.
That concludes the trade deadline moves the Jays need to make this deadline. Although many these needs have fallen under the radar somewhat, the is an instrumental need to improve in these areas. The needs range across a wide variety of Blue Jays related components, almost all of which have struggled throughout this season and if the Jays want to become a premier franchise both on and off the field, some of these move should be made. If nothing else, it would make your fans very happy to see deadline decision of the sorts.
STARS, STARTERS, OR BUSTS: WHAT CAN WE REALISTICALLY EXPECT FROM VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR. AND BO BICHETTE IN THE FUTURE?
by Quinn Sweetzir
At 41-47, the first half of the Toronto Blue Jays season has been suboptimal to say the least. The club has declined defensively, experienced severe regression from several of our pitchers, and has generally failed to score sufficiently enough to win ballgames. As a result of our decline, the desire for an optimistic aspect of the organization has led many to search outside the major league club and into Jays prospects. Enter Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, a pair of position players who’ve impressed the masses with solid offensive performances in the minor leagues this season, leading some to hail the pair as the Jays next great duo.
Guerrero Jr. and Bichette’s first half performances have been strong enough to see their stocks rise significantly especially in Top Prospects lists. For example, Baseball America's Midseason Top 100 Prospects List saw Guerrero Jr. and Bichette ranked as the 2nd and the 44th respective prospects in baseball. Additionally, Baseball Prospectus' Jeffrey Paternostro ranked this pair as the 13th and 29th respective prospects.
The hype for this pair of minor leaguers is extreme, with major league projections envisioning future contributions ranging from average major leaguers to outright stars. But if we look at their talent from a realistic, historical perspective, what probability do they have of actually meeting or exceeding these expectations in their future. In order to determine these odds, I decided to investigate past prospects and attempt to identify trends which were applicable to the prospect duo.
According to Bo Bichette’s player page on Baseball Prospectus, his realistic role is as a 50-grade, major league regular with overall future potential as an above average, 60-grade middle infielder. If we rely on the Fangraphs interpretation of the 20-80 scale, Bichette would have to be worth approximately 2.0 fWAR to reach his 50-grade potential, and 3.0 fWAR to reach his 60-grade ceiling.
Based on Bichette’s latest prospect ranking, I identified potential comparables to the Jays young shortstop, who were based on the following criteria:
Of the 83 players who meet these requirements, I ranked them based on career fWAR, and fWAR/600 PA in order to identify how many of them manage to achieve sustained big league success. The results are below, with each dot representing the performance of a prospect:
If we assume that the odds are the same for Bo Bichette as they are to the comparables included, there is an “bust potential” (sub-replacement level) of around 25%, and a “star potential” (3.1 or greater fWAR PA), which is only about 16%. In addition, Bichette has just a 39% chance of being worth 50-grade, 2.0 fWAR/600 PA in his career, despite that total being described as a “realistic role” in Bichette aforementioned BP player page, and just a 16% chance of reaching his overall future potential.
Bichette’s ceiling may seem rather low when compared to the successes and failures of the past but what about Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? Fangraphs' KATOH Projections believe he will produce 18.9 fWAR during his first 6 MLB seasons, and if we assume he gets 600 plate appearances per season, this translates to about 3.2 fWAR/600 PA.
Similarly to Bichette, I created a list of comparable prospects for Guerrero Jr., based on a slightly different criteria:
In terms of corner infielders, 73 players meet the requirements. I repeated the same process as was done with Bichette, which produced the following results.
Of the two prospects, Guerrero Jr. is less risky prospect, with just a “bust potential” of about 22% as opposed to 25% for Bichette. There are a couple reasons for this however, as according to SB Nation's Royals Review, found evidence that both higher rated prospects, and corner infielders tend to succeed more at the major league level than lower ranked, middle infield prospects; these are areas where Guerrero Jr. is at the advantage. In addition, Guerrero Jr. also has a higher “star potential”, with about a 21% chance for 3.1 or more fWAR/600 PA as opposed to his fellow infield prospects 16%. However Guerrero Jr. doesn’t have as much of a chance of succeeding relative to expectations as Bichette, thanks to a higher realistic 55-grade outlook and a overall potential value of 65, which are around 29% and 10% respectively.
For all the numbers and percentages displayed, there question of how well they could combine to perform in the big leagues still remains. The possibilities range from both flaming out miserably to both becoming significant stars, so I decided to use the data I collected to decide what the likelihoods of various performance outcomes from these two players are. Here are my results.
If you’re having trouble with the odds, let me help you break it down.
Whether the odds are better or worse than you expected in terms of Bichette and Guerrero Jr.’s cumulative major league outlook, it is interesting to view and discuss regardless. Them performing to the higher performance level side of the projection could have significant impact in terms of the clubs long term success.
The overall conclusion I’ve reached is that fans, analysts, and executives need to be wary of becoming too attached to prospects, especially bunches of them. In my opinion, expecting greatness from both of Guerrero Jr. and Bichette is a recipe for disappointment, and my evidence suggests that 6 out of 10 times, at least one of them will struggle as a major leaguer.
I’ll confess that on the surface this take may be unpopular on the surface, but as the saying goes, “history repeats itself”, and expecting Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to be any different is unrealistic. They are talented baseball prospects, with more significantly more talent than I could ever dream of, however automatically calling them successful big leaguers is before they’ve even advanced into single A is shortsighted and dreamy.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Throughout all the high and lows of this eventful Blue Jays season, there’s almost always been one very consistent and unique characteristic of this team; Sportsnet’s broadcast of Jays games. Like any broadcast, some members of the team are better than others, therefore making it important to assess each member of the broadcast individually. After all, what is it about each member which either causes ourselves to become glued to our televisions, or make us turn away and run upstairs? In order to answer this question and provide Sportsnet with valuable feedback, these grades need to be given out so improvements can be made in the future.
Buck Martinez: C+
Martinez was fairly difficult to grade, because he has moments where he is actually quite good, but every once in awhile develops an over-fascination with Aaron Judge or Kevin Kiermaier and it all goes to waste. One of Martinez’s more enjoyable features is a unique and emotional home run call, which brings hope to the homes of Blue Jays fans once the ball comes off the bat. Unfortunately, he often struggles to identify whether a ball is going to be caught or going to go over the fence, making some calls rather interesting. Martinez also has occasional lapses in focus leading him forget the number of outs or the score, but does provide decent, albeit imperfect analysis. Overall, I think he would fit better doing colour commentary as opposed to play by play, but he does do a reasonable enough job to earn a passing grade.
Jamie Campbell: B
Tasked with the difficult job of keeping Gregg Zaun in line during Blue Jays Central and ingame segments, Campbell does a solid overall in his role as host of these features. I would like to see him do a better job of standing up to and questioning Zaun as opposed to acting like his puppet, however Campbell’s stability and calmness is certainly a welcome sight on the broadcast. Campbell also does a solid job segwaying between segments, introducing topics, and avoiding general mistakes, leading him to a fairly generous grade.
Dan Schulman: Incomplete
It’s hard to argue that Schulman is the best overall member of the broadcast. His play by play coverage is superb, and his words roll of the tongue as if they were words of god. His lack of playing experience is also a welcome contrast to his booth mates in Martinez and Tabler, which gives him a unique perspective to what’s going on during the game itself. The only thing stopping Schulman from receiving an A+ grade is his unfortunate commitment to ESPN, which prevents him from regularly broadcasting Jays games. As a result of this, Schulman unfortunately fails to qualify for a grade, therefore leaving him with an incomplete instead.
Arash Madani: D+
Show me someone who claims to be more boring than Arash Madani and I’ll show you a liar. His role on the broadcast consists almost entirely of asking uninteresting questions to players, lifelessly reading experiences, and serving to relay forgettable messages on forgettable topics such as the my Blue Jays codes and future game information. Madani also struggles to deliver captivating segments, and instead provides depressing dialogue. He also has a bad habit of name-searching himself during Jays games on social media, often creating awkward interactions with viewers by responding to criticism. All put together, Madani gets a bad grade for his lack of emotion and charisma during his segments.
Sportsnet Now Commercials: F
Much like Donald Trump’s stupidity, the Sportsnet Now commercials are almost universally hated among Jays fans, yet continue to be a regular feature in daily life. If you’ve managed to avoid this epidemic, they’re attempting to convince viewers to use Sportsnet Now by having two annoying and unwanted men make awful jokes and undesirable statements. Amazingly, these commercials possibly rival the BMO talking ball commercials they have on Toronto Raptors broadcasts in terms of the irritation they cause. Hopefully Sportsnet will eventually acknowledge that these commercials are an utter disaster, but until then I'm not left with no choice but to give a failing grade to these part of the broadcast.
Pat Tabler: D
If Fangraphs gave out WAR for broadcasters, Tabler would manage to achieve a lower total than he achieved in his Blue Jays career. As the colour guy, Tabler adds very little to the conversation, either pointing out things which are incredibly obvious, inputting ineffective ideas, or just generally adding nothing to what’s going on the field. His additional lack modern baseball knowledge is especially apparent when he discusses topics such as infield shifts, further enforced by a lack of acknowledgement to new and relevant statistics. Overall, Tabler just fails to provide the viewer with anything which benefits the broadcast, resulting in his poor grade.
Gregg Zaun: Imagine the worst grade you can, it’s worse than that
Where do I begin? In the past, I've written about Gregg Zaun's lack of character from a personal side, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll instead only going to discuss his value to the Jays broadcasts as a whole. Zaun has incredibly conservative baseball views, often rejecting “new-school” ideas outright, supporting the unhelpful fundamentals of the past. Zaun regularly makes statements which even the casual fan recognizes to be inaccurate, and some of his features such as the Sunday Roast have become so associated with irrationality, they’re almost unwatchable. I’ve only scratched the surface of Zaun’s lunacy, and this grade shouldn’t be much of a surprise to a regular viewer of Jays games on Sportsnet.
Hazel Mae: A
If there was a competition for most underappreciated sportscaster in baseball, Mae could easily be among the favourites. She was incredibly loved in Boston before she came to Sportsnet, and has done a incredible job despite being somewhat hidden by the persona of bigger names on the broadcast. Mae’s best feature is probably her interviewing skills, which are often taken for granted despite being rather strong. She also has more baseball knowledge than people give her credit for. As a result of her strong work, Mae receives the highest grade of any member of the Sportsnet Blue Jays TV broadcast. I hope you appreciate this esteemed recognition Hazel!
Even though the broadcast has many faults, we should give them some credit; despite its issues, it’s not Fox Sports. We should at least be blessed by the fact that we don’t have to listen to Harold Reynolds question Canada's passion for baseball on the regular, who's possibly the only broadcaster who can rival Zaun in terms of irrationality. Hopefully Sportsnet can recognize the problems with their current broadcast and can take action to improve it down the road. It will go a long way towards making Jays games more watchable (especially when the team is struggling).
by Quinn Sweetzir
The Toronto Blue Jays have a problem; their very good starting second baseman is injured again. As a result of Travis’ unfortunate injury, the current second base platoon of Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins has resulted in minimal offensive production. Even though other options such as the likes of minor leaguer Jason Leblebijian, or free agent Brett Lawrie, and a wide assortment of trade targets from across the major leagues have been discussed, the fact remains that if a move like that was coming, it’s likely that it would have occurred by now. Instead, we’re seemingly stuck with the mediocre performance of Barney and Goins in the meantime.
The recent acquisition Miguel Montero doesn’t appear to change anything on the surface, but rather appears to be an overall upgrade over a historically bad offensive performer in Luke Maile. Although this is likely the most clear reason for making the move, it could indirectly improve Toronto’s second base situation by making one simple change; make Russell Martin the Jays second baseman, at least on a part time basis.
For a club that’s struggling offensively, the goal of the Blue Jays needs to be putting the best offensive club possible. Unfortunately, both Darwin Barney and Ryan Goins have limited skills with the bats, so there will continue to be a hole at the bottom of the lineup as they remain in place. This problem could be partially solved by playing Martin at second base, and allowing Miguel Montero to catch for a significant portion of the time.
If we explore the offensive abilities of Martin, Montero, Barney, and Goins, a very clear offensive trend becomes apparent. Just consider the following.
Career WRC+ vs RHP
Against right handed pitching, it’s obvious that Montero and Martin are the best hitters of the bunch, and if this team wants more offensive production, it’s going to be necessary to get both Martin and Montero into the lineup. The only plausible way this is going to happen is by playing Martin at second during many games where the Jays face a right handed starter.
Despite the obvious offensive improvement which results from having Montero and Martin would result in against right handers, the same cannot be said for lefties. Just consider their offensive performance against the opposite handedness.
Career WRC+ vs LHP
Against lefties, Montero’s offensive performance is drasticailly reduced, and so Martin would continue to catch part time with Barney filling in at second base during these times. This unconventional platoon would obviously result in the most possible offensive production, but how would we fair defensively? In this scenario, the defensive concern would not be with the left handed side of the platoon, but the right side. This leaves the question of whether Martin and Montero’s increased offensive performance could make up for the seemingly lesser defensive performance.
First off, let’s compare the defensive performance of both Montero and Martin behind the dish. From a pitch framing standpoint, StatCorner grades Montero as a reasonably more talented pitch framer than Martin to this point in 2017. Additionally, both players have been rather poor at throwing out baserunners to this point in the season (although Martin has managed to be slightly better), however this is offset by reputations for calling solid games for their pitchers. The overall result is that there is no significant defensive drop off between starting one of the pair over the other.
This leads to the final question related to this unconventional idea, which is how well Russell Martin would perform as a second baseman. The honest answer is that we can’t have a certain answer until he plays the position consistently, however his reasonable performance in limited action at third base indicates that his skills as an infielder are solid enough to perform decently. Furthermore, Team Canada’s apparent willingness to play Martin at shortstop during the WBC (which was unsuccessful thanks to an insurance issue), demonstrates that there is at least some confidence in Martin’s ability to play the middle infield. Another reason why trying Martin at shortstop isn’t a terrible idea defensively is that neither Goins nor Barney have performed as well as you might infer by their reputations. In fact, Goins and Barney have performed rather mediocrely overall, as they’ve managed just 1 and -2 DRS at the position respectively. If the defensive performance of Goins and Barney is average at best anyway, than the price to pay on the field for having Martin at second base should be offset by offensive improvement.
On at least a part time basis, Russell Martin should begin to start playing second base with Montero catching. The increase in offensive performance could be significant, however the drop off in defensive performance is limited, making this a risk worth taking. The offensively struggling Jays need more runs than they are currently getting, and moving Martin to second on a part time basis could be extremely beneficial in terms of increasing general offence. For a team badly in need of an offensive spark, this could be the motivation to get on a roll, and turn the Jays into buyers heading into the deadline, but even if it fails to spark everyone else, it could still lead to increased production from the bottom of the order.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Dear Roberto Osuna,
Even before the unfortunate circumstances of your current mental health were revealed to the world yesterday, you were a hero to all Blue Jays fans. You have accomplished so much in your short career that some individuals have elevated you into a status which can only be considered exceptional, and heroic. Whether it’s your 1.04 career playoff ERA, 75 career saves, or 4.4 fWAR in just 172.2 IP, the question becomes what more could we ask from a 22 year old who’s already been through so much adversity and challenges in his life?
What you’ve has managed to accomplish in his young career becomes increasingly impressive when you consider said adversity. You had to quit school as a 12 year old to help support your family. You worked all day and still found time to develop as a good enough pitcher to get signed for 1.5 million dollars as a 16 year old. You overcame a torn UCL and the Tommy John Surgery, a procedure with which many fail to ever truly put behind them. You made it to the big leagues despite having never previously pitched an inning above A ball, and you went on to strike out a man who finished his career with 696 career home runs in your first career appearance.
The list of things you’ve managed to accomplish as such a young player in baseball is lofty and exceptional, so much so that you’ve become a hero to Blue Jays fans everywhere despite having yet reach an age where you’d even be expected to appear in the majors, let alone contribute to such an extreme magnitude. And the fact that you’ve been able to do this in spite of the difficult mental circumstances which have possibly been a struggle for a longer time than we might think is a testament to how talented and unique a player you really are.
It is a legitimately amazing what you have accomplished in your short career, and yet it’s surprisingly easy to understand how and why you’re undergoing this unfortunate tragedy. As fans we have a tendency to forget that our favourite players are human, and that like all of us, have problems which go beyond their struggle on the mound and into the challenges of daily life.
As I consider the contexts of the life you’ve lived to this point, I’ll confess that I never really thought about the struggles you must still be going through to this day, even if you’ve managed to better your family's overall life by a particular material margin. I’ll also confess that I’d assumed all your problems were solved because of the wealth achieved as a result of making the big leagues.
In assuming your problems were solved as a result of better finances, I glossed over the realities of your real life circumstances. People like me only see the dominant closer, and forget about the fact that you’re a 22 year old human, living in a foreign country, where the languages spoken are foreign, under the watchful eye of thousands if not millions of Blue Jays fans ready to turn on you is a simple bloop single falls between 3 players. I personally apologize for forgetting this, and neglecting the actual realities of what you’ve gone through in your life, in your baseball career, and otherwise.
Despite the obvious impact anxiety has had on your life, some individuals continue to undermine the impacts of these suboptimal problems, by instead suggesting that these issues make you soft and weak. Those people are idiots. They don’t understand the struggle you’re going through, and the impacts it can have if not dealt with carefully. Ignore this hate, and remember that we respect and support you for what you’ve done, and how you’re responding to this catastrophe.
I would like to speak on everyone’s behalf, and applaud you for seeking the kind of mental support which is clearly necessary. Your individual well-being is far more important than than the success of the Blue Jays, and you are quite frankly encouraged to take as much time as you need to ensure your mental health is 100%. It’s more important than a win here or there.
Just like any other Blue Jays superfan, I respected you for your greatness on the mound and your incredible journey off it. You we’re already a hero to us all; but now, you’re much more than that. Your bravery in seeking help given the circumstances you’re in and the expectations everyone has of you demonstrates a character which no one could have picked up from solely watching you dominate day in day out on the mound.
Get well soon Roberto Osuna. You are a hero to me, and to the entirety of Blue Jays nation.
Quinn Sweetzir and Toronto Blue Jays fans everywhere.
by Quinn Sweetzir
The Bandwagon Fan
Do you know who Casey Janssen is? What about Jesse Litsch or Marco Scutaro? If you don’t, there’s a very strong chance you are a bandwagon Jays fan whether you want to admit it or not. Although associations with the word “banwagoner” are usually negative, longtime fans will appreciate you hoping aboard, buying tickets and merchandise, and helping to improve the general popularity of the team. We need you if we ever want Rogers to spend money to make the club better in the future. (I do realize that the team's 29-32 record means the bandwagon fans aren’t the ones reading this).
The Ryan Goins Sympathizers
If you fearlessly defend Ryan Goins and don’t ever consider the importance of his actual skill on the field, you are probably a Ryan Goins sympathizer. You love Goins for a variety of reasons, whether it’s his good looks, your belief that his defence is good (I maintain it isn’t, and am supported by a -5 DRS), or his occasional hot offensive streak. Regardless of the details, your unwavering support for a career .222 hitter is both admirable and unexpected, even if I think you guys are completely wrong, and hope you accept his lack of ability sooner or later.
The Way Too Serious (And Pessimistic) Fan
Why all know one of these fans, they’re the one who wants trade Jose Bautista because he went 0 for 3 with a walk, but adores a scoreless yet stressful inning from Jason Grilli. In addition to this, you will often find the way to serious fan cusses at the ballpark whenever something goes wrong, and will often find any excuse he can to disregard any skills a player has as the result of a single bad game. Overall, the way too serious fan is the one you hate to be around, cause they’re constant negativity is both an annoyance and displeasure to everyone around him.
The Guy Who Saw the Aaron Sanchez WestJet Commercials
This person knows nothing about baseball, but saw a cute commercial where Aaron Sanchez had a puppy, and another one where he works at a hot dog stand and therefore thinks he's a god. It’s likely that these fans don’t realize that Sanchez’s blister injury was caused by these commercials, and it remains to be seen what will happen if he suddenly begins to struggle.
The Emotional Fan
If your emotional state relies on whether or not the Blue Jays won on any given gameday, you’re most definitely the emotional fan. Non baseball fans will judge you for your inconsistent actions, but you will support and love the team nonetheless. In addition, you most likely become frighteningly overjoyed after a winning streak, and depressingly miserable of a losing streak.
The Fantasy Baseball Fan
If you claim to be a Jays fan, but secretly cheer for the opposing team in order to help win in fantasy, you definitely follow into this category. The person who states that he hopes we will win, but wouldn’t be bothered if Aaron Judge hammers a couple home runs are among the worst fans ever in my opinion. The waiving of support is a nuisance to the true fans, who just want their team to destroy everyone regardless of their fantasy implications. (If you want to avoid this AND play fantasy, make sure to draft lots of Jays to make this point invalid).
If you don’t know if you’re a collector, first ask yourself the following questions. First, do you own a Blue Jays bobblehead from before the Price/Tulo trades? Second, have you been to a game where there wasn’t a free giveaway this season? Finally, how many pieces of old Jays memorabilia do you own? If your answers are yes, no, and too many to count, you are certainly the collector, who is probably more concerned with the amount of cheap stuff they own than the quality of Blue Jays gear which they posses.
If you’re the person with a Blue Jays blog, or are any sort of unpaid Blue Jays writer in general, you certainly qualify for this part of the fanbase. Considering your tendency to write, you are certainly a dedicated fan, but you also represent a small fraction of fans who are looking to help provide input to the club with the hopes they might listen, knowing full well they won’t.
The Fan Wearing a Brett Lawrie Jersey
You could instead call this person the cheap fan, but the fan wearing the Brett Lawrie jersey is way more specific. They bought the jersey with the hopes that he would remain a star on the club for years, only to be disappointed when he struggled with consistency and general performance. Now, they’re too scared buy another jersey and will chose to avoid buying a jersey for the foreseeable future. It could be worse however, you could be the proud owner of a Munenori Kawasaki jersey.
The Drunk Asshole
Have you ever thrown a beer can at Hyun Soo Kim? What about streaking on the Rogers Center field? Maybe you were even among the idiots chucking garbage on the field during the 2015 ALDS. If you’re guilty of any of these, you are definitely belong on the drunk asshole portion of this list, an exclusive club for only the stupidest and most moronic of a large community of Blue Jays fans.
The Wave Starter
If you want to guarantee getting blackballed by the entirety of Blue Jays twitter, there is no easier way for this to be accomplished by starting the wave during a Jays game. The wave starter can be a hero for the aforementioned bandwagon fan or drunk asshole, but for the rest of us, the wave is simply a nuisance, which annoys anyone trying to enjoy the game. #BanTheWave is the most underused hashtag of all time by the way.
Interested in discovering whether you’re a Zaunist or not. Ask yourself whether or not you like the way Marcus Stroman plays baseball. If you don’t, first take a look at this article which Stroman himself retweeted. After that, get off of Instagram and learn how baseball actually works so you can stop thinking that Zaun would make a good major league manager, let alone a average analyst. Lastly, chose a different team to cheer for, perhaps a team like the Texas Rangers, whose history of mediocrity reflects well with Zaun’s career.
If you own the jerseys of more than 3 current Jays players, and suffer from severe emotional trauma whenever you have to miss a game, you are most definitely a Toronto Blue Jays superfan. This fan owns season tickets (if he lives in the GTA), travels to watch road games, and interacts with other fans and the club by any means possible. Regardless of the final result of the team's actions, the superfan will always be respected by the entirety of the Jays community.
The Know It All
Did you know that Jose Bautista 284 home runs as a Blue Jay? What about the fact that Roy Halladay had 1562 strikeouts in his Jays career? If you did know this, you have the right to call yourself a Blue Jays know it all, who is aware of everything past and present with regards to this ballclub. I do have some bad news if you did know the above statements; they’re wrong, and if you thought they were right you are not allowed to call yourself a Blue Jays know it all. Bautista has 276 home runs as a Jay, and Halladay has just 1495 strikeouts.
The Stupid Know It All
In many circumstances, this is the fan who watched “Moneyball” a couple times and not thinks they’re a baseball analytics god, who can unquestionable state the effectiveness of a player based entirely on that player's OBP. If you are this fan, you probably think that the entire skill of a player is based off of now basic statistics you learned from said movie, set in 2002. Or perhaps you are still living in 1993 and think that batting average is the above all stat in terms of batting performance. Regardless, your oversight towards more modern stats is appalling and the unwillingness to accept that you lack real baseball knowledge is concerning to the rest of the fanbase.
The Small Ballers
Want to see Jose Bautista be replaced with a speedy contact hitter like Ben Revere? Think Kendrys Morales should try stealing a base? Or maybe you think Josh Donaldson should bunt down a run with a guy on first. If that’s the case, and perhaps you need to both follow Keith Law on twitter, and afterwards do some research on the potential risk/reward of bunting. Anyway if you do think more small ball is the way to go, I would advise against both rooting for the Jays big sluggers, and following me on twitter.
The Leafs Fan
Have you ever found yourself yelling at Latin American Jays in swedish rather than spanish? Maybe you think the Jays should try acquiring Auston Meadows for one of their aging stars. It’s also possible were one of those people streaming the Leafs game while at the Rogers Center. In any case, you’re a leafs fan first, but the occasional purchase of a Jays cap of ticket is just enough to keep yourself convinced that you’re still a baseball fan.
The Fun Police
Sam Dyson was DFA’d by the Texas Rangers recently; and if you thought his persona was enough of a reason for the Jays to pick him up, then you’re surely part of this particular group of Jays fans. To be honest, the Jays are probably the wrong team to cheer for if you want boring, but perhaps you like Gregg Zaun enough to cheer for them anyway. The fun police also adore former players like Goose Gossage, and consider Jose Bautista’s bat flip to be disrespectful to the game. If you are part of this group, please get out of my blog.
The West Coast (Or Close To) Fan
Fans from Toronto always seem to forget they exist, but the west coast fan base can be just as important as the base from the GTA. If you don’t believe about these fans passion, just ask the Seattle Mariners about how their current homestand is going. West coast fans also enjoy a west coast road trip, since they finally get to watch a game at a convenient time. These fans are fine to fly under the radar, but hate being left out when discussing the strength of the Jays fanbase.
by Quinn Sweetzir
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