Monday, 31 March 2014

A Couple of Mostly Meaningless Predictions

WARNING: Dubious statistical pseudo-analysis ahead!

'Tis the season for boundless optimism, and it's often delivered in the form of predictions based on tiny samples of spring training performance. We all know that spring training is all but meaningless when it comes to predicting a player's regular season performance, but that doesn't stop us from trying anyways does it? It's just too tempting for fans (and content starved writers) to find meaning in the meaningless, and as long as it's presented as exactly what it is, mostly unfounded guesswork, I don't think there's anything wrong with giving in to the urge from time to time.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Making Lemonade Out of an Eight-Man Bullpen

It's seemed for a while now that the Blue Jays' search for a fifth starter will go right down to the wire, with Drew Hutchison likely having secured one of the two available spots, but with none of the other candidates for the rotation really having done much to separate themselves from the pack. It is also appearing as though, due to a number of pitchers' lack of options, the club may again start the season with an eight-man bullpen. Let me be clear. I don't like the eight-man bullpen. I think the Blue Jays are a better team with a fourth bench player than with an eighth reliever. That being said, I was watching Todd Redmond's start against the Tigers on Saturday and I started thinking that carrying an extra pitcher might be exactly what the Blue Jays need to squeeze every last shred of production out of that fifth starter's spot.

If you recall the game in question, Todd Redmond cruised through the first five innings without allowing a run. In the sixth inning he allowed a lead-off home run to number nine hitter Ezequiel Carrera. As the lineup returned to the top, Victor Martinez hit a double and was pinch run for by Hernan Perez. A fielding error allowed Steve Lombardozzi to reach, and advanced Perez to third. The next batter, a young upstart by the name of Miguel Cabrera, scored Perez on a sacrifice fly. Clean up hitter Don Kelly smacked a double that advanced Lombardozzi to third, and then Tyler Collins smacked another double that scored both Kelly and Lombardozzi. Redmond retired the next two batters to get out of the inning, having allowed four runs on six straight batters reaching base, albeit one on an error. He was replaced by Steve Delabar in the top of the seventh.

I'm not faulting anyone for this situation. It's spring training, so it makes all the sense in the world that they would allow Redmond to try and pitch his way out of trouble in the sixth inning. I'm sure that in a game that actually counts for anything there would have been a much quicker hook. In any case, drawing conclusions from one spring training start would be idiotic. Still, it got me thinking, and led me to tweet this:

Friday, 14 March 2014

Belated Thoughts on the Santana Saga

Well that was fun wasn't it? Feeling, for one Saturday afternoon at least, as though the Blue Jays might actually land one of this off-season's most sought after free agent pitchers? And on a one-year deal? And for just the same $14 million that they must have had earmarked in the budget for qualifying Josh Johnson, and which they still thought long and hard about offering him despite a 2013 season that was even worse than Ervin Santana's 2012?! Sigh...

I can barely even bring myself to feel feelings about this to be perfectly honest, but if I could I'm sure they'd be of the darkly negative variety I'm almost constantly railing against here and on Twitter. I'm still trying really hard not to let myself go down that rabbit hole by focusing on all the reasons that I didn't want anything to do with Ervin Santana back in November when the entire free agent market was the Blue Jays' oyster. It's doesn't seem to be working though, because pretty much all of those reasons went right out the window the second it became clear Santana would sign a one-year pillow contract to try to build up his value and cash in on a multi-year deal next off-season.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Winter of Our Discontent

"What're we doin' here Paul?"
"Apologist" has become my least favourite word in the English language, and I'll tell you why.

Many sports fans see the world in black and white. Every team decision is either brilliant or indefensible. Every trade must be won or lost. Every contract is either a "good contract" or a "bad contract". Fans are also very fickle. Their judgment on the moves teams make is often passed with the benefit of hindsight, which is of course unavailable to the front office executives who are required to make decisions without the benefit of the crystal ball we all wish we had, but which none of us really do. Outcomes are pointed to as proof of good or bad process, as if a series of sound decisions have never before been rewarded with nothing but disappointing results.

As someone who often tries to navigate the shades of grey and layers of nuance in the types of decisions front offices make, and who considers it a public service to point out the flaws in this kind of hind-sight empowered, dichotomous thinking, I get called the A-word all the time. No, not that one (but sometimes that one too). I'm talking about "apologist". As though a willingness to consider the pros and cons of any particular move and, even if I don't always agree with the final decision, at least acknowledge the thinking behind it as defensible makes me some sort of propagandist (been called that too) for the Blue Jays, Rogers, and most commonly the Alex Anthopoulos regime.