DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
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
I want to preface this article by thanking you for reading Dingers From the 6ix. Since I started this blog last September, it's been viewed over 10,000 times by keen Blue Jays fans looking hard for good content.
Thanks to your constant viewership, I decided now was an appropriate time to get some feedback from you the reader on what you like about the blog, what we can improve, and what we can do to keep you coming back.
If you're interested in being heard, and can spare a couple minuets, please complete the following form by clicking here.
Your opinions are appreciated, and I thank you, the reader for helping to motivate me to make this blog better.
by Quinn Sweetzir
With the club just one game below .500 on the morning of June 1st, the recent improvement in performance should be considered a miracle of sorts considering their atrocious April. At the start of the season, I made 27 bold predictions for each player on the roster, plus a couple players on the DL, and since the first two months of the season are finally over, I decided to review my bold predictions in effort to wither expose my lack of ability in predicting a player's success, or decide that I’m worthy of becoming a major league executive with my predicting prowess.
After injuries, Biagini is forced to make a few spot starts throughout the season. He impresses enough to be given a rotation spot in place of one of the Jays pending free agent starters in 2018.
Well, this prediction seems to be rather accurate. Biagini has impressed with his 5 starts this season. At this point, I would consider him to have a high probability of becoming a full time starter in 2017.
An increase in Estrada’s BABIP is offset by the fact that his back is fully healthy, resulting in yet another good season from the veteran righty.
Looking back, this prediction looks rather safe. Estrada has been very good, increasing both his strikeout rate and changeup usage en route to a very good start.
John Gibbons uses Grilli as a traditional setup guy, which leads to some early season struggles, particularly against left handed hitters. However, a change in his usage results in a very successful second half.
Wow, I’m on a roll. Grilli was had an absolutely terrible start to the season, but hasn’t allowed runs in 10 of his last 11 outings, proving that he’s back on a roll and potentially able to contribute over a midseason stretch.
Though his performance is still decent, Happ is inconsistent throughout the season, which causes him to be left out of the Jays playoff rotation in October.
It’s hard to evaluate the the success of Happ considering he’s been hurt for most of the season, but what I have seen indicates that Happ has had trouble with command. As a result, I think that my prediction could be fairly accurate, even if I have to give myself an incomplete for now.
Used mostly as a lefty specialist, Howell manages to be among the major league leaders in total games pitched, and proves to be worth much more than his 3 million offseason price.
Hahahahahahahahah! Ahahahahahahahaha! For some context, Howell has 11 GP, which gives him a pace of 34 GP for the season. Last years MLB leader (Brad Hand) had 82 GP.
Leone spends most of the season shuttling up and down between the majors and AAA before ending up with a different organization by the seasons end.
Thanks to injuries to the rotation and bullpen, extra roster spots have enabled Leone to be with the Jays nonstop until recently. However, I expect this prediction will become more accurate as the season progresses.
In a contract year, Liriano has one of the best seasons of his career, and is good enough to be given starts in a playoff game. Liriano will also break the 200 inning total for the first time in his career.
I’ll confess that I was very wrong on Liriano. He’s hasn’t been good, hasn’t been healthy, and hasn’t been able to get through six clean innings even when he was both for the occasional start. Let’s hope for a better final couple thirds of the season from Frankie.
Thanks to the return of his velocity, Loup manages to return to his pre-2015 form and becomes an effective weapon out of the bullpen for the Jays by the seasons end.
Amazingly, Loup has managed to become an effective and trusted bullpen lefty, and has even managed to fill the role that was expected from Howell. Let’s hope for more of the same from Loup, even if I don’t think it’s sustainable in the long run.
Though Osuna’s performance is very good, a mid season arm injury causes him to miss significant time, which results in him losing the closers role before the end of the season.
If this prediction is to become accurate, then we can expect an injury to happen to our star closer soon. Even though he struggled out of the gate, Osuna is back on pace for a good season, which was expected by the rational folks before the season.
Though Sanchez still pitches well enough to be effective, he pitches worse than he did in 2016 by a wide margin, finishing with an ERA around 3.70.
It’s hard to evaluate the success of this prediction given the righty’s injuries, however Sanchez’s ERA has increased to 3.35 to start the season. Even though it’s tough to draw serious conclusions considering the lack of sample size, it remains possible that Sanchez could either meet, or destroy this projection as the season progresses.
The generically named right hander continues with his average and uneventful performance by pitching about 50 games with an ERA around 3.50.
Considering he’s probably been the Jays second best reliever this season, the projection I made at the start of the season seems rather bullish. To this point, Smith has managed a 3.14 ERA and is on pace for a whopping 85 GP this season. It’s unlikely he reached that level, however I would expect Smith to continue pitching well into the end of 2017.
A newfound confidence for the young righty leads to a Cy Young caliber season from Stroman, who manages to record the most fWAR of any pitcher in the AL East.
Is Stroman on pace for a Cy Young season considering how dominant Chris Sale has been? Probably not, however Stroman has managed to improve on last years totals, and could see some even more improvement from the young righty.
Tepera dominates for a period of about 2 months before falling off a cliff and returning to his previous form, similarly to Bo Schultz in 2015.
Based on the fact that Tepera has been one of the Jays best relievers in 2017, I really hope the second half of this prediction doesn’t come true. If only for the sake of the Blue Jays playoff hopes.
As the backup infielder, Barney plays well enough for the Jays front office to finally accept that Ryan Goins has no place on the Jays roster by midseason.
Given the fact that Barney’s performance at the plate hasn’t been very good so far, I suspect that Ryan Goins and his 4 home runs (and the problems they cause) are here to stay, if only because Goins is more controllable in the long run.
After a relatively poor 2016, Bautista comes back at his best, and records a .260/.375/.500 triple slash with 30 dingers. Though his defense is far from perfect, it also improves from his dismal performance in 2016.
Jose Bautista’s current pace - .251/.362/.455, 31 HR’s and an 8.4 UZR/150 improvement over 2016. I’d say that this prediction is pretty spot on so far.
Playing most of his early season games as a backup outfielder, Carrera gains the starting left field job by May – only to lose it to Dalton Pompey when he goes through a massive slump in mid June.
All things considered, Zeke managed to take over left field duties in May, however he probably won’t lose his role outright until later than mid June, considering Pompey’s concussion has kept him out of action all season.
Donaldson suffers from both minor injuries and a small decline in performance which leads to his worst season since 2012.
A calf injury has kept his out of the lineup for much of the season so far, and this prediction is frighteningly close to coming accurate should he suffer another. However he hasn’t shown any decline in his limited performance to date.
A surprise addition to the roster, Goins simply fails to hit, resulting in him being moved to another organization before the all-star break.
Like I said above, it seems as if Goins is here to stay thanks to 4 home runs, versatility, and the perception that he’s a good defender.
He’s actually not, and has a -5 DRS so far this season.
Extra rest given to Martin because of the teams acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia leads to a sizable increase in his performance, resulting in Martin’s best season since joining the Jays.
Even though his offensive performance has improved from an OBP and BA standpoint, a reduction in his power hitting abilities and his failure to throw out baserunners offset these improvements. This results in zero overall gain in terms of his success.
The power surge caused by moving to the first hitters park of his career causes Morales to set a new career high in home runs by the seasons end. Morales also plays the field more than he has in any season since 2010.
Morales is currently on pase for 32 home runs and 225 innings on the field. These totals would be slightly above, or near his career highs respectively since 2010.
Though his performance doesn’t blow anyone away, Pearce manages to stay healthy for the entire season. This leads to about 3 fWAR from the newly signed free agent.
Since Pearce is currently on the disabled list, and has managed to record a whopping -0.5 fWAR so far this season, I think it’s pretty safe to say that my prediction is dead wrong to this point. Let's hope he improves.
With his new found ability to take pitches, Pillar is able to become a feared hitter in the Jays lineup, becoming the leadoff hitter by the seasons end. This combined with his defense leads to a 7 fWAR season.
To my surprise, Pillar has made much of this prediction true to this point, even if it’s exaggerated. He’s managed to record a respectable 111 WRC+ in 2017 and has taken control of the leadoff spot, even if his fWAR is on pace to be just 3.1.
Though he starts the season in the minors, Pompey is called up to replace Carrera in mid june, and impresses enough to keep the starting left field job for the rest of the season.
If you delay this prediction be a month considering Pompey’s concussion, I think it becomes very plausible. His injury history does muddy the waters a little bit however.
The Jays new backup catcher plays well enough to keep Russell Martin fresh, and is a 1 fWAR improvement on Josh Thole’s 2016.
Let’s skip this one.
Everyone’s least favorite Blue Jay struggles badly when given a full time role, and ends up being released after the Jays trade for a replacement at the trade deadline.
To the surprise of literally everyone, Justin Smoak has not only managed to avoid becoming a complete dumpster fire, but has even managed to lead the Jays position players in home runs, and in fWAR. Way to prove me wrong Smoak!
Although Travis manages to stay relatively healthy throughout the season, his performance declines. Travis will end up hitting somewhere around .265 and will lose his leadoff spot to Kevin Pillar by the seasons end.
Travis is currently not the leadoff hitter, and has a .261 batting average. I think there’s a good chance this one becomes a reality (even though I hope he hits .300).
Tulo regains much of the hitting ability he lost after his trade to Toronto, and he manages to be worth about 4 fWAR with a WRC+ around 115.
Thanks to a hamstring injury, Tulo has only played in 20 games. However, 0.1 fWAR and a WRC+ of 84 are significantly worse than I expected to see from Tulo at this point. Let’s hope he can change that.
That’s it for my bole preseason predictions. Although there were a few where I was dead wrong, most of these have been fairly accurate to this point, especially if I get a little give/take.
by Quinn Sweetzir
On a team which has struggled with streaks of winning and losing, heating up and slumping, and an inability to stay out of the doctors office, few players - if any - have been as consistently solid for the Toronto Blue Jays this season as starting pitcher Marcus Stroman. In the season’s first couple months, Stroman has managed to record 62.2 innings of 3.30 ERA, which is very good overall. This is especially when you realize there are signs which suggest Marcus Stroman is underperforming somewhat to begin 2017.
I want to be clear that Marcus Stroman has been very good to start this season, however there are signs out there which suggest to me that he can end up being even better as the season progresses. His ERA is already down a full 1.07 runs from his 2016 total, so what makes me think he can be even better as the evolves into the the middle months? Well, there turns out to be more than you might expect at a glance.
The first of many ways Stroman has improved is in terms of total velocity, which has increased by a rather impressive margin to begin this season. In total, his average fastball velocity (which includes cutters, sinkers, and 4 seam fastballs) is up by 0.94 mph to early in 2017 compared to his 2016 average.
In addition, the young righties velocity increased as the season progressed into the summer months. It is also clear that his velocity is higher when you consider this:
As you can see, Stroman’s velocity is much higher than it was last season, and this could be a result of two possibilities. First, Stroman was still trying to regain full strength after he missed the vast majority of the 2015 season with a torn ACL and his velocity improved progressively as a result, or his velocity tends to increase in the early part of the season. Regardless of the cause however, the velocity increase has to be a good sign for the future of Stroman’s season, whether the velocity continues to increase into July as it did last year, or plateau’s at a level which is much higher than it was last season.
Oftentimes however, an increase in a pitchers velocity results in a significant decrease in that pitchers movement, however this has not been of concern for Stroman to start the season. In fact, the horizontal movement on all his pitches except his cutter has increased early in the season, without a significant change in Stroman’s vertical movement. This should indicate that his stuff has improved this season, and his results should improve with it.
Among the several impacts of an increase in velocity is there is often an increase strikeouts and whiffs from opposing hitters. In particular, Stroman’s fastballs have been whiffed on at a exceedingly high rate compared to his career numbers, as his whiff% is up 2.93%, 1.16%, and 4.28% for his 4 seam, sinker, and cutter respectively.
Although opponents are whiffing on Stroman’s fastballs at an increased rate this season, this increase is offset by a decrease on whiffs against Stroman’s changeup and curveball, and a stagnated whiff rate against his slider. Opposing hitters are whiffing 3.23% less of his changeups and 12.22% less on curveballs.
The decrease in whiff rates among Stroman changeups can be attributed to small sample size (he’s thrown just 17 CH’s in 2017), however the dramatic decrease in whiffs on curveballs is much more concerning. At first glance, Stroman’s curveball is being thrown at relatively the same velocity this season with similar movement to seasons past.
This leaves pitch location as a probable cause for Stroman’s struggles to get swings and misses with his curveball this season, and when you investigate his pitch locations, a disturbing trend becomes clear.
As you can see, the discrepancy between Stroman’s pitch location on curveballs between this season and his career numbers is massive. In seasons past, the Jays starter would pound the zone down and away as a put away strikeout pitch, however he’s instead trying to backdoor with the curveball at an increasingly high rate. A likely result of this is that opposing hitters take the curveball inside rather than swing at the curveball which starts in the zone, and breaks down and away.
Luckily, the fix to this problem is relatively simple; all it requires is a conscious effort by Stroman and whomever is catching him to make sure he uses curveball in ways which should generate more whiffs. If he can manage to do this, it could go a long way, towards improving his overall strikeout totals.
Perhaps surprising considering his good results, Stroman has had bad luck to start the season, particularly with batted balls. If you don’t believe me, consider that among the 15 qualified starters with the highest BABIP’s in baseball, only Stroman has an ERA below 3.75, and only two have ERA’s below 4.20 (Stroman and Martin Perez).
This relatively high BABIP becomes even more shocking when you consider Stroman’s career numbers. His career BABIP is .308, so this season's total of .341 appears to be a significant outlier.
But just to make sure, I decided to use a formula I developed to predict a player's BABIP based on batted ball types. The formula is as follows:
The constant variables are MLB batting averages for that batted ball type, and Stroman manages to achieve a predicted BABIP of .310, which seems rather reasonable considering his tendency to sink the ball and force grounders.
Obviously, the unproportionally high BABIP has resulted in additional baserunners and subsequently additionally runs allowed for Stroman to start the season. However these unsustainable baserunner totals are going to decrease as the season progresses, and we should expect improvement from Stroman over the course of the season as a result.
With the help of improved fastball velocity, better curveball location, and more sustainable batted ball luck, Marcus Stroman appears poised to improve on an already solid season. If everything comes together, I believe we could even be talking about Stroman as a Cy Young candidate by the end of the season. Just consider that the last few AL Cy Young Winners - Corey Kluber, Dallas Keuchel, and Rick Porcello - all came out of nowhere to win the award, and an improved performance from Stroman could put him in this company.
At the very least however, improvements from Stroman in these areas should lead to an even better finish to a season with a strong start from an individual standpoint, even if the Jays have struggled as a whole. A strong second half from Mr. HDMH himself could help propel the Blue Jays back into the playoff picture as well, and this seems readily possible considering the above factors.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Before you start reading, I would like to announce that there is no typo in the title. I understand that home run problems are usually the concern of the pitcher, and that with the exception of a single scoreless appearance last Canada Day, Ryan Goins has never pithed at the professional level.
Before I get into that, I should first explain what happened in the Jays last game in Milwaukee. Up 4-1 in the 6th inning, Ryan Goins came up to bat. He did the most unexpected things I've seen from this team all season. If you haven't seen what Goins did, here's the video.
Ryan Goins hitting a grand slam is one of those things I did not expect to witness as I watched the game. Goins getting a hit is rare enough, so a 4 run moonshot has to be one of his all time career highlights.
The utility infielder has displayed more raw power than anyone expected this season, and has managed to hit a couple no doubters since carving a full time role at short stop. This is where the problem begins however, as hitting the occasional home run results in Goins attempting to go for more, which leads to bad hacks with massive uppercuts.
Goins has one plate appearance after his grand slam yesterday and it didn't go well, as he struck out on 4 pitches from Wily Peralta - a swingman with a 5.52 ERA. This at bat, Goins swung through two middle middle fastballs, before going down hacking at a slider outside the strikezone.
Although this is only one at bat, the fact remains that whenever Goins hits a home run, he gets ultra swing happy, and begins swinging out of his shoes trying to hit another. The result is a performance which is even worse at the plate that his usual flawed self.
This is what I mean when I say Goins has a home run problem. Hitting home runs makes him too undiciplined to be even a competitent hitter, let alone average one. But I can't just tell you that without giving you some evidence, so here's Goins' numbers in the 5 games following a HR (if Goins was only used as a defensive replacement and did not get a plate apperance, a 6th game is included).
In essence, Goins walks less, hits less, and hits for less power when he swings for the fences like he does after a recent home run. And if an already terrible hitter becomes even more terrible, it makes that player almost unusable and utterly useless.
In addition to these terrible numbers, on 3 separate occasions, Goins has failed to EVEN GET ON BASE in the 5 games with plate appearances following a home run. If this isn't enough to convince you Goins has a HR problem, maybe an even more specialized sample will convince you.
I could explain myself again but the evidence explaines it self. There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that an already ineffective hitting Ryan Goins is significantly worse after hitting home runs.
The fact remains that by trying yo hit dingers, Goins becomes too swing happy to be even remotely useful. In addition to the bad numbers, the eye test tells me that Goins whiffs significantly more when he try's to hit home run, and his lack of a single extra base hit in 14 games following a home run.
Anyway, if Goins is in the lineup tomorrow, I wouldn't be too optomistic about his performance. His consistinely poor showings following games where he hits bombs indicates that GoGo has a home run problem of sorts, even if it's not a problem in the traditional sense of the phrase.
The lack of consistent performance following games with home runs expose Goins' home run problem, and until he can prove to be a steadier offensive threat. Until then, Goins should remain out of the lineup, especially with Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson set to return tomorrow.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Even though the 19-26 record is probably not as strong as the Toronto Blue Jays or their fans had hoped for, the fact remains that there have been a handful of strong starts to the season from players on the team which we certainly had low expectations. Among those performing surprisingly well include previous regulars like Kevin Pillar, relievers such as Ryan Tepera and Aaron Loup, and bench players turned regulars like Ezequiel Carrera and Justin Smoak. Expectations for these five were quite low to start the season, however they have all managed to exceed expectations and become useful players in the early stages of the season.
At around this point in the season, players usually regress/progress back towards their expected norms. Just consider players like Devon Travis, who had an absolutely dreadful April, but has rebounded nicely and started to return to his career averages. Instead hasn’t necessarily happened for the aforementioned five, who’ve managed to overperform and become some of the clubs most useful players. This leads me to ask whether this group is just having an extended hot streak or has actually done something to improve their performance in 2017.
Leading all Blue Jays position players in WAR, Kevin Pillar has dramatically exceeded expectations to start 2017; improving his offence by a substantial margin and continuing to play exceptional defence. Pillar’s OPS has jumped from .679 in 2016 to .853 so far in 2017, and most would point to improved plate discipline as the biggest factor in creating this improvement. This is evidenced by a reduction in his O-Swing%, which has decreased by 4.6% from 2016 to 2017. However Pillar hasn’t done this by simply refusing to swing at pitches, and has also managed to become more selective with a Z-Swing% which increased by 8.4% over the same time. The result has been both a 3.2% increase in Pillar’s walk rate, and a 4.4% increase in Pillar’s hard contact rate, resulting in improved performance at the plate for Pillar. Assuming Pillar continues his impressive improvement in plate discipline, the sustainability of his success seems very plausible.
After joining the Blue Jays organization in 2009, Ryan Tepera spent years developing as a starting pitcher before converting to a reliever full time in 2014. Coming into this season, Tepera had managed a 3.16 ERA over 51.1 career innings at the big league level, however expectations remained somewhat low thanks to a career 5.03 FIP and a miniscule .215 BABIP. Tepera’s strong numbers may be slightly inflated to start this season as well, thanks to a continually low BABIP at .222 and an extremely low 3.6 HR/FB%. However his ERA of 3.04 lines up with his FIP of 2.93, and a 4.3% increase in strikeout rate suggest that his surprisingly strong performance is more sustainable than we might expect from Tepera. In addition, he allowed 7 of his 9 earned runs during two outings where new relievers allowed his inherited runners to score, suggesting that his performance might be even better than his numbers suggest. Although he might not be able to remain as successful over the course of the season as he is right now, I believe Tepera could manage around 70 innings of 3.50 ERA ball, and his recent improvements are probably more sustainable than you some people might think.
Over the last two seasons, Aaron Loup managed to record an ERA of 4.61, and expectations weren't much higher among most fans coming into this season. However, Loup has managed to record an ERA of 2.76 and has been very good as a lefty specialist, allowing lefties to record an OBP of .429. Unfortunately for Loup, his improved performance appears to be more a result of a lack of innings combined with luck rather than a more impressive performance to start this season. Most of all, Loup has managed to record a 4.96 BB/9, more than twice his career average. Loup’s fastball velocity is also still short of his previous levels - averaging just 91.9 MPH in 2017 compared to 93.2 MPH in 2015 - and the lack of an improved strikeout rate and an inflated LOB% of 79.7 suggest that Loup has been lucky rather than good. In addition, Loup has the highest HBP/IP of any reliever with at least 50 innings at a rate of 0.18 since 2015. This isn’t to suggest that there isn’t value to having Loup on the Jays as a lefty specialist, but his ERA of 2.76 should rise by around a run over the course of a full season. Unlike what might be suggested by glancing at basic stats, Loup’s performance has not improved to his pre-2015 form, but has instead managed to be successful largely through luck early in the season.
Spending significant time as the starting left fielder, Ezequiel Carrera has managed to be at least an average hitter, with a WRC+ of 100 and a .286 batting average. On the surface, these seem like solid numbers until you consider some of the more detailed aspects of his performance. If you remember last season, Carrera started on a hot streak which began to collapse in the beginning of June. Carrera managed a WRC+ of 151 in April and May last season, however opposing pitchers increased their fastball usage by 4.5% during June, July, and August, and his WRC+ dropped to 53 as a result. Opponents are using fastballs at around the same rate to that of his early season numbers last season, and I suspect they will soon change their approach when pitching to Carrera by throwing less fastballs and more offspeed and breaking pitches.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the sustainability of Justin Smoak's success, and found some rather surprising results. Most importantly, he’s managed to reduce his whiff rates on breaking balls have decreased by large margins. Whiff rates have decreased by 4.95% and 8.11% on sliders and curveballs respectively. These are rather impressive totals and assuming Smoak can maintain his successes, he should continue to be successful for the foreseeable future. As as result, Smoak’s strikeout rate is down 13.3% from his numbers last season, and the new 19.5% figure would be the best of his career. In addition, Smoak’s hard contact rate is up by 5.7% from his totals last season, obviously indicating that an improved approach against breaking balls is leading to a substantially higher batting average - which increased from a career average of .226 to a career high of .278. His OPS and WRC+ are also up from .710 to .881 and from 97 to 135 respectively from his career numbers to those of this season.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Much was made about the Blue Jays utterly terrible start, but a recent turnaround which includes a still climbing winning streak of 4 games has signified the start of an effective rebirth for the Jays. Although the 16-21 record is far from exceptional, the improvement the club has shown of late has inspired me to hand out some mid-May awards.
Forgotten Man Award: Matt Dermody
Honorable Mentions: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Melvin Upton Jr.
This one is simple really. If I told you to list every player to play for the Blue Jays this season, who is the last one you’d remember. The answer is probably Matt Dermody, who owns an ERA of 135.00 over just a single appearance. That appearance was on April 16th against the Baltimore Orioles, a game which the Jays lost 11-4. Dermody was responsible for much of that blowout, as he surrendered 5 runs over just a third of an inning and owns a -0.2 WAR as a result.
Despite having received the honor of being the forgotten man award winner, Dermody is still on the Jays 40-man roster, so it’s possible that he could reappear at some point before the seasons end. Until that happens however, Dermody must be the choice over Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who’s 10 game performance was terrifyingly bad, and Melvin Upton Jr., who doesn’t qualify for this award since he’s a minor leaguer in San Francisco’s system.
Biggest Disappointment: High Performance Department
Honorable Mentions: Jose Bautista, Gregg Zaun
I’ll confess that Jose Bautista has had an absolutely terrible start to the season. I’ll confess that Gregg Zaun’s continued idiocy is be a massive annoyance to fans and Marcus Stroman alike. But the overwhelming winner of the biggest disappointment award has to be the Toronto Blue Jays new high performance department.
Brought in before 2016 with the hopes of improving player health, the department has been nothing short of a colossal disaster to start the season. The list of important Blue Jays on the disabled list continued to grow, and there are no indications that the department is doing anything to improve recovery times, reduce the rates of injury, or improve the general health of players. Although it’s still too early to make massive conclusions about the department, early impressions seem to indicate that the department is failing and they will be the recipients of the biggest disappointment award until they prove otherwise. Or until Zaun says something really, really stupid.
Gregg Zaun’s Favorite Player Award: Francisco Liriano
Honorable Mentions: Jason Grilli, Chris Archer
Speaking of Zaun, the next award I am going to hand out is Gregg Zaun’s favorite player award. Zaun has continued to demonstrate his lack of general baseball knowledge over the course of this season, but his biggest issue this season is probably his encouragement of players policing themselves through beanballs, and other nonsense.
In the past, Zaun has supported veterans more than rookies in terms of respect and general liking, therefore the obvious choice for Gregg Zaun’s favorite player award is Francisco Liriano, who is the most experienced player on the Blue Jays who’s tied for the team lead in hit by pitches. Consideration was also given to Jason Grilli for being Jason Grilli, and Chris Archer for throwing at Jose Bautista.
Worst Commercial: Sportsnet Now Rule 73/66 Commercials
Honorable Mention: Aaron Sanchez’s WestJet commercials
Even though Aaron Sanchez’s blister was probably a result of the puppies, or the hot dogs, or the premium seating from the WestJet commercials, the impact of this pales in comparison to the atrocity that is the Sportsnet Now ads.
I don’t think Sportsnet understands what makes a good broadcast considering the vastness of unappealing commentators, analysts, and reporters; but their sure doing a good job of turning away viewers with their ridiculous statements, opinions, and lack of captivation. The commercials make unnecessary jokes including watching Sportsnet Now at your best friend’s wedding, making out with your best friend’s sister, and not knowing what split screen means. However, these ads make me more likely to hack Sportsnet Now than to use it. In fact, the commercials are so bad that there in competition with BMO’s talking ball commercials during Toronto Raptors broadcasts for the worst commercial on a Canadian sports network in 2017.
Most Loved Bad Player: Ryan Goins
Honorable Mentions: Chris Coghlan, Luke Maile
If you only listened to the Blue Jays broadcast and knew next to nothing about baseball, you might think Ryan Goins is the second coming of Cal Ripken or Derek Jeter. Seriously, the ways Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler rave about Goins is sickening, especially considering his modest 83 WRC+ and .667 OPS. His defense is good, but it far from makes up for his lack luster offensive skills.
Martinez and Tabler have spoken about how regular playing time since Troy Tulowitzki’s injury has helped Goins improve his skills with the bat, even though his actual results have continued to be well below average. Additionally, there seems to be a large Goins fan base which thinks his glove makes up for his bat, which is simply not the case considering his replacement level performance over more than 1000 career PA's. Honorable mentions to Chris Coghlan, who’s -0.2 WAR is overshadowed by his impressive “slide” over Yadier Molina and Luke Maile, for simply not being Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Josh Thole.
That concludes the different Toronto Blue Jays awards up to this point in the season. All I can say is the recent turnaround in club performance is a good thing, and that this team is finally on the right tract after an atrocious start. I hope these awards highlighted areas where the team is thriving, or needs to improve if the team wishes to continue their new found success into the remainder of the 2017 season.
by Quinn Sweetzir
Note: Unlike most of my articles, this one is not about baseball or the Toronto Blue Jays. This is a one-off article.
Having spent the last few seasons competing with the likes of the Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat etc. for the title of being the second-best team in the East, the Toronto Raptors continued the trend of falling to LeBron James after being swept in the second round. No one has been able to overthrow the LeBron James led Cleveland Cavaliers in the past three seasons or the LeBron James led Miami Heat before them, but the Toronto Raptors could conceivably improve with major moves that don’t involve getting rid of Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan.
Instead of a full scale rebuild where the Raptors trade one or both of their stars in the hopes that they can bounce back in time for LeBron’s dominance to have diminished, the Raptors should make dramatic changes to their supporting cast. Lowry and DeRozan are legit all-stars, and building another team which contains as much talent as these two players posses is both difficult and unlikely.
Since it’s unrealistic to expect that engaging in a total rebuild will result in a better long term roster than what the Raptors already have, the Raptors should instead attempt to improve by acquiring a third all-star. In particular, the Raptors should make a concerted effort to acquire someone like Paul Millsap or Blake Griffin, both of whom are free agents and appear willing to move to new organizations.
If the Raptors were to do this, they would obviously need to clear cap space, as such of their current core including Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, and PJ Tucker are also free agents. As currently constructed, the Raptors stand to get worse since their current cap situation makes resigning all four of these players highly unlikely.
The Raptors should trade expensive contracts like those of Jonas Valanciunas (15.46 million), DeMarre Carroll (14.80 million), and Cory Joseph (7.63 million), even if the return is minimal to non-existent. In an age where veterans are more overpaid than ever, having solid quality, depth on rookie contracts has never been more valuable. Luckily, the Raptors have young players like Jakob Poetl and Delon Wright, who can probably produce at 90% of the level of JV and Joseph. Norman Powell is already better than Carrol too, and still has one year on his rookie contract. Plus, JV, Carroll, and Joseph would surely combine to make more money as free agents than what they’re currently being paid, making their seemingly large contracts more tradeable than it would appear.
With depth replacements already in the organization on their rookie contracts, there’s no need to carry the more expensive veterans, and if the Raptors were to trade all three of JV, Carroll, and Joseph, than the players Raptors would enter free agency with over 80 million dollars in cap space. This doesn’t consider the cost of resigning Lowry, but even if he signs a max contract, the Raptors are still left with more than 40 million to sign other free agents, and potentially pick up another star.
Plan A should be to sign a talented star level forward, preferably (and most likely) Paul Millsap, who put up 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds as the best player on the Atlanta Hawks this season. The Raptors were reportedly trying hard to acquire him midseason this year, but the Hawks decided they didn’t want to sell him after all, so he remained property of Atlanta. Toronto could also conceivably make a push for Blake Griffin given that he would also be a good fit, but Millsap should be the Raptors preferred option since Griffin should have far more suitors and might not even be as good as Millsap without Chris Paul.
If the Raptors are unable to sign Paul Millsap, trading this trio still makes sense, and using the cap space to retain Serge Ibaka, and either PJ Tucker or Patrick Patterson which helps keep the Raptors competitive enough to try something similar next year if they wish. Doing this also makes since if you can resign them using bird rights and use the cap space to quality three point shooters such as Robert Covington or Kyle Korver, or stud defenders like Tony Allen or Andre Roberson.
As currently constructed, the Toronto Raptors are in no position to defeat Cleveland unless LeBron leaves to play baseball. However, a total rebuild doesn’t necessarily make a title more likely in the short or long term. Acquiring one star is hard enough, and acquiring a second is even harder. If the Raptors wish to win a title, their more likely to do it through acquiring a third star while they already have 2 than by trying to rebuild, and acquiring three later.
by Quinn Sweetzir
With a record of 9-18, it’s safe to say that the opening to the season has not gone exactly how the Blue Jays had hoped. Even though this start has been rather atrocious, there have been a handful of bright spots on a team full of disappointments, most notably Justin Smoak. After being hailed as a low quality and replaceable layer by most fans and analysts in the offseason, Smoak has resounded by having a very good start to the season, with a .796 OPS and 117 WRC+ as well as batting fairly high in the order in most of his recent starts.
Although Smoak is a pleasant surprise for most of us, the fact remains that a single month of a 162 game season is far from a large sample size. This leads me to ask whether Smoak has actually been lucky or good to start the season.
On the surface, a .305 BABIP for Smoak doesn’t seem to high, especially considering the face that he recorded a .295 BABIP last year when he struggled dramatically. Additionally, his batted ball rates are at essentially the same level they were last season, so perhaps there is more to this than just some good luck early in the season.
For his career, 52.6% of the pitches Smoak has faced have been fastballs, however this is down by a large margin this season to just 44.0%. The fastballs he has faced have been harder too, with an average velocity of 93.7 as opposed to his career average of 91.9. To compensate, opposing pitchers are throwing Smoak significantly more breaking balls, with curveball usage up 4% and slider usage up 7.6%. This trend should be unsurprising however, since opposing fastball rates are down 5.1% as a team.
The eye test leads me to believe that Smoak generally struggles against breaking balls, but maybe there’s more to this which I haven’t realized. To investigate I pulled up some heatmaps for Smoak’s career in the hopes we’d all been fooled.
It turns out that the eye test was right in this case; Justin Smoak is not good as good at hitting breaking balls as he is at fastballs for his career. So, has anything changed this season? It would appear not, as Smoak is slugging .378 against breaking balls this season, which is both well below his career slugging against fastballs – which is .499 – and a rather small improvement on his career .235 slugging versus breaking balls considering the small sample size.
But if results against breaking balls are not the biggest reasons for a progression in performance for Smoak, then what is? Smoak’s biggest problem last season was his absurd 32.8% strikeout rate, a career high which would have been good for second in the MLB (behind only Chris Davis) had he received enough plate appearances to qualify.
Smoak has improved on that horrendously bad figure by a 10.7% to 22.1% to start 2017, and I have reason to believe this is somewhat sustainable since he never had a strikeout rate above 24% before he joined the Blue Jays. Interestingly enough, Smoak’s walk rate is down by 7% also, indicating that among the biggest improvements Smoak has made, has been the ability to put the ball in play at an elevated rate.
This leads me to ask whether Smoak is doing anything differently this season when he’s pitched a breaking ball. In fact, the biggest difference Smoak has made is a reduction in whiff rates, which have decreased by 0.90% against sliders, and a rather impressive 6.79% decrease versus curveballs. Although the sample size is quite small, it is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses, as a more disciplined Smoak could make a big difference going forward.
His approach has been different depending on whether he’s facing a slider or curveball however, as there are different causes for a reduced whiff rate in both cases. Against sliders, Smoak is actually swinging more often than he has for most of his career, however he has managed to foul off 6.48% more sliders than his career average so far. Even though a foul ball is an relatively unproductive result, it does increase the amount of pitches thrown in an at bat, which therefore increases the probability of facing a fastball; a pitch which Smoak excels at hitting.
Unlike with sliders, Smoak is taking 4.35% more curveballs early in the season, but is still fouling them off at a rate which is essentially the same as his career averages. It’s too early to tell whether this change is causing Smoak to strikeout looking more often or in fact shows an increase plate discipline, but if it is the latter, it could help explain why Smoak is such an improved hitter.
Although some individuals have chalked Smoak’s early season success to luck early in the season, I believe that to an extent, Smoak’s success is sustainable. It’s true that some things such as his BABIP are at a career high, however I argue that Smoak’s success is more a result of increased awareness about breaking balls which he’s being thrown, and an increased ability to avoid whiffing on these pitches should help Smoak dramatically in 2017. If Smoak can avoid striking out against breaking balls at a higher rate than in seasons past, it should lead to some continued success for the veteran 1st baseman.
by Quinn Sweetzir
With three blown saves in his first four save opportunities of the season, it’s safe to day that Roberto Osuna’s start in 2017 has been less than ideal. After starting the season on the disabled list Osuna has come back, only to allow 5 runs in first 6 innings of the season. In addition, his struggles in both spring training and at the World Baseball Classic have put Jays fans on high alert.
Among the more obvious concerns for Osuna’s struggles is a velocity drop, as his fastball has decreased 1.4 mph. Several individuals have pointed to this as the most significant reason for Osuna’s struggles. After all, we saw what a velocity drop could do to a reliever when we watched Drew Storen pitch last year, and he wasn’t very good.
Usually, the biggest impacts of a velocity drop is a reduction in the quality of a pitcher’s stuff, which often leads to a reduction in strikeouts. Storen suffered a rather dramatic 2.2 mph decrease in velocity from 2015 to 2016, which led to a dip strikeouts from 10.96 K/9 to 8.36 K/9. However, Osuna hasn’t suffered the same fate, as his K/9 is down from 9.97 in 2016 to 9.00 early in 2017. This is a small sample size but it is something to pay attention to in the coming games as a reduction in stuff often leads to a reduced strikeout rate.
However, one similarity between Osuna’s and Stroen’s velocity drops is the increased amount or contact these pitchers allowed. In both cases contact rates both in and out of the strike zone increased by around 6%. As you can see, there are comparable between the dominant to replacement level Drew Storen, and the dominant to TBD Roberto Osuna. I should however emphasize this sample size is incredibly small, and we should understand that drawing real conclusions this early in the season is virtually impossible.
This leads me to explore an entirely new idea, which is that Roberto Osuna needs to stop throwing his sinker. Late in 2016, Osuna struggled somewhat, allowing a 3.96 and 4.10 FIP and xFIP respectively. During September, Osuna increased his sinker usage by over 20% from his season average to that point. This trend has continued in 2017, with his fourseam fastball usage decreasing to 29.90% and sinker usage rising to 26.80% in 2017.
There is a rather significant problem with Osuna’s sinker however, and that is it doesn’t really sink all that much. Just consider the differences between Osuna’s sinker, and that of his teammate Marcus Stroman, who’s sinker is significantly better.
A you can see, the difference between the sinker of Osuna and Stroman is dramatic. Stroman’s sinker sinks around 6 or 7 vertical inches than Osuna’s, while Osuna’s averages around 2 or 3 inches. The problem with the sinker is that is if the vertical movement is insignificant, then it becomes a slower version of a fourseam fastball.
For his career, Osuna’s sinker is about 0.7 mph slower than his fourseam fastball, and when you combine this with his with the overall velocity drop he has suffered from this season, his velocity on sinkers with minimal movement is about 2 mph less than his average fastball velocity in previous seasons. Basically, more than a quarter of Osuna’s pitches have been close to straight fastballs which are 2 mph slower than they have been in the past.
The conclusion I’ve reached from this article is that Roberto Osuna needs to stop throwing his sinker. He struggled when he threw it last season, and when he throws it this year its lack of movement is exposed when its thrown 2 mph slower than your fourseam fastball career average. Osuna’s velocity drop on its own is not enough to cause sustained struggles, however regularly throwing slower sinkers which don’t sink is probably the most alarming aspect of Osuna’s early season struggles to this point.