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It's easier than you might think.

Step 1: Do Nothing

The Jays won 75 games last year, but Pythagoras suggests they should have won 83 (actually, 83.5 to be more precise). The only significant non-random factor that affects a team's deviation from its Pythagorean record is the strength of its late-inning relievers. While the Jays don't have an elite closer like Rivera, Papelbon or Nathan, the tandem of Jason Frasor and Scott Downs was great last year, and between those guys, Brandon League (who was actually really good in 2009 - check out his peripherals) and the huge stable of other relievers the Jays have, I'm confident they can cobble together a league-average back end. It only needs to be league average to be expected to perform according to Pythagoras, and it very well could be above average, in which case the Jays could be reasonably expected to out-perform their Pythagorean expectation.

That might be beyond the talents of our faithful manager, though. We'll stick with 83 wins (83.5 to be more precise) for now.

Step 2: Sign Mike Cameron

Milwaukee recently acquired a new center fielder, so Cameron looks to be superfluous. Before I get into the feasibility of the Jays signing him, you're probably wondering "how the $#&@ is Mike Cameron going to add 5 wins??!?!?! (4.5 to be more precise!!?!??!)"

Well, if you believe in numbers, specifically the value statistics from Fangraphs, it's certainly possible. Let's look at said numbers.

Mike Cameron was worth 9.8 runs with the bat and 10.0 with the glove last year. That is excellent value from a center fielder (4th most in the majors in 2009). In fact, it's the best value Cameron has provided in the 8 years of data Fangraphs has. Given that Cameron will turn 37 before the 2010 season begins, this should make you a little wary. However, it should be noted that his 2009 line was a near-duplicate of his 2008 performance, on both offense and defense, and none of his luck-indicators such as HR/FB, BABIP or batted ball type scream fluke. But for our back-of the envelope 2010 projection let's knock him down to +8 runs on each aspect of the game just for posterity.

Vernon Wells, on the other hand, was not one of the most valuable center fielders in 2009. Actually, as I'm sure you all know, that's quite an understatement - he was, in fact, the 2nd least valuable. He was worth -8.1 runs with the bat and -18.2 with the glove last year.

The other player we need to consider is the only one who managed to eclipse Wells' suckitude on the CF value leaderboard - Alex Rios. Rios' 2009 stats in his time with the Jays: 0.6 runs on offense, -3.3 on defense.

Lastly, the rest of the Jays' right fielders - Joe Inglett and Travis Snider both managed to accumulate about -2 runs on defense in very small sample sizes, while Jose Bautista was really good in his limited time. Overall, Jays' RFs were -3.4 last year.

Okay, time for some math. (I just realized I failed to mention that in this scenario, Cameron is taking over center while Wells shifts to right. But you already knew that.) Replacing Wells' defense with Cameron's nets about 26 extra runs. Replacing Rios' offense with Cameron's is another 8 runs. I'm going to take the liberty of assuming that Wells' offense will bounce back a little bit - let's be conservative and say he's just going to be a league average hitter. There's 8 more runs. The last thing is Wells' defense in RF - for what it's worth, Fangraphs says his arm was slightly above average last year, and his terrible UZR numbers were based primarily on his rapidly deteriorating range, so maybe right field, where a good arm is perhaps more important relative to range, would suit Wells. Anyway, let's say Wells would duplicate that -3.4 figure.

That brings us to 42 more runs for the 2010 club. I don't know the exact formula for converting runs to wins, but the Fangraphs value numbers suggest it's around 10:1. So, 42 more runs = 4.2 wins, and with some convenient rounding, that brings us up to 88 wins (87.7 to be more precise!).

Can we sign Mike Cameron?

Before 2008, Cameron got a 1-year, 7 million dollar deal, with a $10 mil club option. Despite his excellent performance over the last 2 years, he's into his late thirties, so I doubt it would take much more than that, especially since so much of his value is tied up in defense.

Large Caveat: of course, this analysis is in a vacuum. I've been assuming that the performance of the rest of the club stays the same from 2009, and that might be unreasonable, especially given the great seasons from Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, Marco Scutaro and Ricky Romero.

Also: 88 wins sounds nice, but in the AL East, it's not enough. Is there any point to shooting for 88 wins? If you ask me, if the Jays want to try to contend in 2010, this is a move they should try to make, but they would need to make a couple others as well (today's rumour of Chris Snyder for Lyle Overbay might be a good start, though the loss of defense at first base could make it a wash. Further analysis pending)

Anyway, what do you think, Bauxites? Would you sign Cameron? Are there other CF options out there that interest you? (Here's a list of free agent center fielders from MLB Trade Rumors.) Or are you on the complete opposite side of the fence - blow it up and contend in 2015?
75 to 88 Wins in 2 Simple Steps | 16 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Forbes - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 03:45 PM EST (#208155) #
Blow it up. This team, even with Cameron, might beat the Rays. However, there's two teams ahead of us that have built far better teams through different methods. The Yankees develop good farm systems and use it for trading (plus their bottomless wallet). The Red Sox have built a deep farm system and use it to supply the major league team. The Blue Jays never did either.

As AA stated today, the team will be built through scouting and development, not quick fixes. I personally love it and am now actually looking forward to the future for this team. 
92-93 - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 04:15 PM EST (#208156) #
AA keeps basing his organizational plans around the fact this is a "75 win team". That's extremely disturbing.
ramone - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 04:26 PM EST (#208157) #

"AA keeps basing his organizational plans around the fact this is a "75 win team". That's extremely disturbing."

Why is it disturbing, he stated the research that for a 80 win team or so to reach the next level in one year only 4% or something have done it succesfully.  I'm with Mike Forbes on loving the increased emphasis on scouting for trades on the MLB level, in the draft and specifically an increased presence in Latin America.

Gerry - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 04:48 PM EST (#208159) #
Good stuff Dave, I hope the Jays front office is using this kind of evaluation in regard to how to get better.  I was disappointed that the Jays defense took a step back in 2009 as compared to 2008.  I think what the Jays do with moving Vernon Wells from centre field will be a very interesting part of the off-season.
92-93 - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 05:01 PM EST (#208161) #
I can't fathom how moving Wells out of CF with Gaston as your manager is remotely possible - that's certainly not how Cito would have liked to be treated.
Dave Rutt - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 05:02 PM EST (#208162) #
Why is it disturbing

I believe 92-93 was referring to the Pythagorean record. I agree with what AA said in his conference call about keeping track of where your team is at before deciding whether to make any big free agent splashes; if it's the kind of thing that takes you from 90 to 95 wins, it's worth over-spending, because there's a good chance it gets you to the playoffs. However, it's critical when performing this kind of analysis to correctly assess your current team, and this is not a 75 win team, it's an 83 win team, and 8 wins is not insignificant. It may not change the overall direction right now, but it would be re-assuring to know the GM can correctly assess a team. (by the way, personally I have no doubt that he can, he was probably just referring to the team as a 75 win team to push the need for long-term development)
Jays2010 - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 05:23 PM EST (#208163) #
Lets not forget the contributions of Scott Rolen last year as well. If the Jays want to make a run in 2010, Cameron would certainly be a good start but I think it needs to go further than that. I'm more on board with the blowing up model (though I certainly don't think it has to take until 2015), but there are some interesting options to target on short term contracts such as Cameron for CF (with Wells in RF), Beltre at 3B, Snyder at C, Nick Johnson at 1B, Rich Harden at SP and Putz as RP. I don't think anyone (other than possibly Harden) would require more than a 2 year deal and, if necessary, maybe the Jays overpay on a one or two year deal to sign the player. Maybe it could be a 90-95 win team and it certainly wouldn't be financially crippling...
92-93 - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 05:25 PM EST (#208164) #
Dave, I commend you for giving AA the benefit of the doubt, but I'm not sure why you do. I've been listening to his interviews keenly, including those from when he was an AGM, and there really hasn't been anything from him to believe he's into the advanced statistical side of the game, for lack of better words. In fact, I'd think the glowing support from a dinosaur like Beeston would point to the opposite. I'd be inclined to agree with you if he even hinted once at the fact that 75 wins wasn't a true representation of the team's true talent level. He said last year's team wasn't competitive - that's absurd.
ayjackson - Saturday, November 07 2009 @ 07:39 PM EST (#208172) #
How would people feel about Rick Ankiel and Rocco Baldelli instead of Cameron?
TamRa - Sunday, November 08 2009 @ 12:07 AM EST (#208178) #
I don't know that Cameron by himself gets you there but I think it's a quality move.

I don't see the rationality of "blow it up" because there's not a lot of peices you want to move that have golly-gee-whiz value.

My thought is that if the Overbay/Snyder deal goes down, then Lind can go to 1B and the Snider-Cameron-Wells outfield is in place and you can do a variety of things about DH depending on how serious you are in 2010.

That just leaves SS to settle.

And there's no reason besides more bad luck why that's not a competent mid-to-high 80's team. Which is enough to try to keep interest in the team up while he builds for the long term.

The only down-side, if you consider it a downside, is a matter of some 5 or 6 spots in the draft order.

Denoit - Sunday, November 08 2009 @ 08:16 AM EST (#208183) #
Pathagorean wins doesn't = actual wins. The fact still remains this team only won 75 games. There is a reason for it. And good for management to realize that this team needs some work.
92-93 - Sunday, November 08 2009 @ 08:41 AM EST (#208185) #
Management chose to totally ignore that reason by bringing back Cito Gaston for 2010.
Spifficus - Monday, November 09 2009 @ 11:15 AM EST (#208223) #

Management chose to totally ignore that reason by bringing back Cito Gaston for 2010.

Given that this has been a trend for several years now, it doesn't seem fair to blame this on Cito

Twitchy - Monday, November 09 2009 @ 11:55 PM EST (#208260) #
With all due respect I think the post missed it's mark.

Yes, adding Cameron makes the Jays around 4 wins better, which should upgrade them from 75-79. No argument there. The problem is, you can't just say that since the Jays are an 85 win pythag team, that they're suddenly going to play like an 85 win team next year. Despite what you argued, the reason the Jays underperformed the pythag has absolutely nothing to do with their late game relievers, or with the offense.

The Jays are an unfortunate team, because they have to deal with two teams that are a 90-95 win pythag in Boston & New York, and another 85+ win pythag team in TB. It's not just this year they've underperformed their pythag - it's been like this for 3 years now (07-09). And you can't argue that it was all based on the bullpen, because in 08 the Jays had the best pitching staff, starters or RP, in the majors. So clearly that's not why they're underacheiving based on the pythag record.

The biggest issue is the strength of the competition. Yeah, the Jays would be an 85 win team in any other division, and yeah, they should be an 85 win team. But they're not, because the Rays, Yanks, and Sox are still significantly better teams. If you've got two 95 win teams by pythag, and another 85+ win team by pythag, and a fourth 85 or so win team - one of them isn't going to play to their potential. And odds are it isn't the 95 win teams that will underachieve.

You do have the right idea in getting Cameron and shifting Wells. Ideally the Jays would grab Adrian Beltre, a 3B known for his D coming off an injury plauged year. If he's healthy he's a lock for an 800+ OPS outside of Safeco which is death to RH power hitters. You add those two, and you're on to something.

scottt - Tuesday, November 10 2009 @ 06:34 AM EST (#208266) #
While it's true that the Jays did poorly against their division this year, that has not been the norm. In particular, the Jays have been terrible in inter-league play against teams they should have beaten.

The key to rebuilding, should be to sign only free agents who are expected to have trade value for the whole length of their contract. That approach led Florida to 2 titles and filled their farm systems with exciting prospects. Someone like Jason Bay for example.

Cameron would be a good pick as long as they don't hang on to him too long.

Nick Johnson has spent too much time on the DL. You know somebody will overpay for him and I hope it's not the Jays.

ComebyDeanChance - Thursday, November 12 2009 @ 06:15 PM EST (#208352) #
and this is not a 75 win team, it's an 83 win team, and 8 wins is not insignificant.

Do you mean 8 wins or 8 Pythagorean 'wins'? I suspect AA used 75 wins because the team won 75 games.. Hardly surprising. When he said the team needs to win 95 games to make the playoffs, I suspect he meant actual wins, not imaginary ones. Again, hardly surprising. I doubt he's interested in 8, or 18 more imaginary 'wins'.
The fact that teams with better pitching than hitting can hold other teams close in losses and win some blowouts, doesn't change reality. The team needs to win 20 more games than it did to make the playoffs, which are determined by actual wins, not imaginary ones.
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