Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Blue Jays Consultant (Baseball Operations) Keith Law, who marks his first year with the organization today. For a quick trip back in time, take a look back at the lengthy Baseball Primer thread that his announcement precipitated. Law's move from Baseball Prospectus to a major-league club was greeted by Primates roughly the same way as was Richard Dreyfuss's ascension to the alien spaceship by the scientists in Close Encounters -- congratulations on achieving our collective dream, you lucky stiff.

The thread itself, unfortunately, is crammed with too much talk about whether or not Keith is a pleasant e-mail correspondent, which was and is beside the point (though just for the record, he is). The more interesting discussion is about whether the Blue Jays became, with his hiring, the poster boys for sabrmetrics, the great walking experiment in whether or not a sabrmetric team can succeed.

In retrospect, of course, these arguments were off-base: Ricciardi wasn't building a spreadsheet-based club, either before or after Keith's hiring. What sets the Ricciardi-LaCava-Wilken-Law-Scott braintrust apart from many other teams is their intelligence and their willingness to consider new angles and innovative solutions, including those revealed by sabrmetrics, in an effort to build a successful organization. Sabrmetrics won't tell you to offer Dave Berg a two-year contract or to take a chance on Tanyon Sturtze, but the Blue Jays have done both these things confidently. To call the team a sabrmetric laboratory is to vastly underestimate the complexity of running a major-league club and to undercut the insights that all of the front office's personnel bring. If (when!) the Blue Jays succeed, it will be testament to the power of smart thinking and the courage to innovate, exactly the same as every other successful company or initiative the world over.

The thread is notable also for the appearance of two current Batter's Box contributors, Craig B and Gideon, under their own names, and for the fact it was my first post at Primer -- a momentous occurrence that helped pave the way to my presence here today and to many, many hours of using the Internet at work for non-business purposes. Accordingly, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my employers for not firing my sorry butt. :-)
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_Kent - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 10:32 AM EST (#99583) #
This is a noteworthy anniversary for Keith, and by proxy the sabrmetric community, but also for Blue Jays fans. From a CNN/SI report on the copycat Red Sox hiring Bill James:

It was Law, not any scout, who advised Toronto to take minor league pitcher Corey Thurman in the Rule 5 draft, partly because Thurman, though only 47-44 in six seasons in the Royals' organization, showed impressive ratios of hits and strikeouts to innings. Thurman, 24, had a 4.37 ERA in 68 innings last season. "He was the best Rule 5 of the year," Ricciardi said. "Keith saw him coming."

As a middle-aged coach steeped in the folly of "traditional wisdom," I have learned a great deal from the more enlightened generation of baseball analysts. I admire J.P., Billy Beane, and others who have continued to evolve from their playing days, and accept new theories with open minds. Ricciardi hired Law for one reason -- to help him resurrect a franchise that was in disarray -- and the results speak for themselves; a miraculous turnaround in one short year.

I know that sometimes people jump into a discussion without following the links we so thoughtfully provide, but in this case, do check out the Primer thread Jordan mentions, and while you're there, be sure to click on the article at the top of that page -- Keith's farewell Prospectus column.

On the subject of Mr. Law's netiquette, I've enjoyed our e-debates about a couple of players who appeal more to me than to him, or vice versa, and would guess that anyone he insulted really had it coming. On behalf of Batter's Box readers, thanks for keeping us in the loop, Keith, and many happy returns.
Dave Till - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 10:58 AM EST (#99584) #
Congrats to Mr. Law - it's good to know that the team I root for has a lot of smart people working for it. Eventually, every team will employ smart people (well, maybe not Baltimore), so let's enjoy this window of opportunity.

(I've never corresponded with Keith Law, but I have swapped emails a few times with some other BP folks, most notably Chris Kahrl. Everybody I've written to has been polite and friendly, and some have taken the time to write lengthy responses to my screeds. Whatever you may think of some of the BP people, at least they all genuinely love baseball, and that can't be a bad thing.)
Dave Till - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 11:10 AM EST (#99585) #
Oops, just re-read the last sentence of my last post, and I should clarify: there aren't any BP staffers whose writing I don't like. I know of a lot of people who disagree with their work, or think them arrogant, though. That's what I meant to say, Your Honour. :-)
_rodent - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 11:25 AM EST (#99586) #
One of the posts on Primer anent the Law hiring: "Sabermetrics people pretty much have to root for the Jays now." Too bad Batter's Box wasn't up last January.
Pistol - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 02:05 PM EST (#99587) #
Technically, Law was hired on January 2nd. The post was on the 10th...

Anyway, since Thurman was one of Law's big known contributions, what role do you think Thurman will play this season? In the pen, or in Syracuse to work as a starter?
Craig B - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 02:39 PM EST (#99588) #
Pistol, I have to subscribe to Earl Weaver's dictum here... the best place for a young pitcher is in long relief.

If Thurman isn't able to continue his success at the major league level, by all means he should go to Syracuse and work on being a starter. For now, though, we have a lot of young starters in Toronto, who are frequently going to need a long man to transition them to the rest of the bullpen. I think Thurman has shown that he can handle pitching in the majors, and throwing in long relief while working extensively with the major league pitching coach is the best way to go.
_dp - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 02:41 PM EST (#99589) #
Thurman is one reason I don't like the Jays acquisitions of Sturtze and Creek. the way he looked last season, he should at least be pitching as a swing man out of the 'pen, and should be given a shot at the rotation along with Hendrickson, Miller and Walker. The Jays handled Thurman really, really well last year- when they were having troubles with the rotation, they never once leaned too hard on him, while allowing him to get in enough work to evaluate him.

Realistically, I think he starts the year in Syracuse and stays there for a while unless he dominates. What appeared to be a position of organizational weakness now looks like one of depth, as the Jays seem to have a bunch of 3-5 starters coming through the system.
_Ryan Adams - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 03:00 PM EST (#99590) #
I would prefer to see Thurman go to Syracuse and log some regular innings, which would hopefully help him work on his control. In 2002, his work was scattered and when he did pitch it was usually only for 1 or 2 innings. By my count, he pitched three innings just four times all year (his longest appearance was 3.1 innings).

His control in the minors was never great, but it also wasn't as bad as it was in 2002. His high walk total would partially be due to making the jump right from AA, but it's possible he may have the same problem that Justin Miller has -- finding the plate early in the game.
Coach - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 04:22 PM EST (#99591) #
Too bad Batter's Box wasn't up last January.

Who knew anyone would care? We're here to stay now.

On the subject of Thurman: he's never pitched in AAA, he was one of the best, if not the best, in the AA Texas League as a full-time starter in 2001, and you can dismiss his only big-league start. Understandably nervous and obviously wide-eyed with excitement, he walked the leadoff man and never really found his command, but battled through a couple of scoreless innings. Having spent all that emotion and energy, he looked gassed by the third, when he gave up three singles, including a bunt, that led to two runs. I'd call Ryan's comparison of that lone outing to Justin Miller's chronic first-inning jitters premature, if not unfair.

Don't forget he's not as overpowering as he looks; Corey's a big, strong man, but as a pitcher, he's a finesse guy whose best weapon is an excellent changeup. Lots of regular innings in the first half of 2003 in Syracuse, in healthy competition with some other talented youngsters (Arnold, Chulk, Smith and maybe even Miller) and some experienced veterans, will determine when he gets back to the Show, and in what role. I'd hate to pigeonhole him now, and the Jays -- for once -- have the luxury of depth, so what's the rush to decide his future? By 2004, assuming he's healthy and continues to learn, he'll either be in the Jays' rotation, or a valuable contributor in the bullpen. Compared to last year, aren't these great problems?
_Ryan Adams - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 05:58 PM EST (#99592) #
I'd call Ryan's comparison of that lone outing to Justin Miller's chronic first-inning jitters premature, if not unfair.

Actually I wasn't looking at his one start specifically -- I grouped it in with all his other appearances. My point was that he had poor control for most of the year, which was significantly worse than he displayed in the minors as a starter. Since his outings in 2002 were in relief and normally not very long, I was thinking that he may not have had time to settle in and adjust, which could have lead to his high walk total.

I hope this clears things up.
_Ryan Adams - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 06:14 PM EST (#99593) #
On a side note, I read in another forum that Miller is out of options. I haven't been able to confirm that for myself, but it's possible given how long he's been a professional. Anyone know when he was added to the 40-man roster?
_R Billie - Friday, January 10 2003 @ 10:24 PM EST (#99594) #
Looking at Miller's bio, he was drafted in June of 1997 and played the remainder of the year in A ball for Colorado and did quite well (2.14 era, 67.1 ip, 68 h, 3 hr, 20 bb, 54 k).

He found similar success in A ball in 1998 (3.69 era, 163.1 ip, 177 h, 14 hr, 40 bb, 142 k).

That sharp increase in professional innings seemed to take it's toll in 1999 though and he only pitched 37 innings, once again in A ball for some reason. (4.14 era, 37 ip, 35 h, 3 hr, 11 bb, 35 k) At the end of the year he was dealt in a 3-way trade to Oakland in a trade that sent Cirillo from Milwaukee to Colorado.

Assuming that makes three pro seasons for him (the third pretty much wasted) I would guess he should have been added to Oakland's 40 man roster for 2000. He made 18 starts at AA doing decently, but really seemed to find his groove in 9 impressive AAA starts in the PCL (2.47 era, 54.2 ip, 42 h, 3 hr, 13 bb, 34 k).

2001 saw him take a step backwards at the AAA level with his ERA ballooning to 4.75, though reports are that the A's tried to fool with his delivery to make it more over the top...supposedly to help his effectiveness against lefties. Instead, Miller lost movement on his fastball and started giving up homeruns at an alarming rate though his other numbers seemed solid (165 ip, 174 h, 26 hr, 64 bb, 134 k).

2002 was presumbly his third option year where he was up and down with the Jays but spun a promising 8 starts in Syracuse where he had a 1.61 era (44.2 ip, 34 h, 0 hr, 16 bb, 29 k). When he's on, Miller is a groundball pitcher whose late movement gives hitters fits. He had trouble with his command in the bigs though and his 5.54 era was largely due to his 66 bb in 102.1 ip. About a third of those walks came in the first inning of his appearances. His other major league ratios were very solid for a rookie though (102.1 ip, 103 h, 12 hr, 66 bb, 68 k).

Well that was convoluted but to sum up, yes it would appear (to me at least) that Miller's option years have been used up. Maybe someone else knows differently?
Coach - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 11:21 AM EST (#99595) #
I can't answer the question of Miller's remaining options, and it's all so complicated that teams need a full-time assistant GM to keep track of such issues, and contractual matters. (It used to be a fella named Ash in the Gillick years, and Tim McCreary does the job now.) However, if Justin can't be farmed out, and isn't quite ready to take a regular turn, there's the "option" of making him the long man or swing man in the bullpen, a role that could still be advantageous to his development, as Craig pointed out about Thurman earlier.

All the more reason why Corey should be a AAA starter this year, and Ryan, I concede that his control wasn't always impeccable in relief, either, but that's part and parcel of nibbling at the corners, an occupational hazard for any pitcher who has to set up an average heater with his breaking ball and off-speed stuff. Miller can be downright wild, Thurman's a work in progress, and they both have a high upside, but others, like Jason Arnold, could leap ahead of them fairly soon as big-league rotation mainstays.

R Billie, thanks for the Miller background and the link. The Star uses stats from a Canadian source -- Fantasy Sports Services -- and they are excellent. I spoke to Digger Turnbull about linking to them, but he prefers to redirect us to his clients' sites, which include a number of U.S. media giants.
Craig B - Saturday, January 11 2003 @ 04:33 PM EST (#99596) #
Wow! Using the FSS Player Index is even faster than the Star's.

At any rate, despite not having the historical stats like (my #1 statistical site) or the splits, leaders, defensive stats, and zone rating of ESPN (my #2 site), the waymoresports (and now FSS) are my #3 resource because of the minor league stats which are outstanding, and the fact that they carry nearly every player on a 40-man roster. Other indispensable internet resources are the Baseball America site (for current minor leaguers not covered on waymoresports), (the official site of Minor League Baseball, even better than Baseball America but less reliable), and for the best game summaries and boxscores available...
_Kent - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 10:17 AM EST (#99597) #
Craig, I'll add links to the sites you like that are missing, except for FSS. I might want to write something for their Forecaster magazine someday. If anyone hates the Star, here's another of their clients -- KMOX Radio in St. Louis. (I am not a huge fan of the current manager, but I've bled Cardinal red since Musial was still playing, and they are second in my heart to the Jays.)

Last year, as part of the STATS, Inc. online fantasy game, they had a fast, accurate live scoreboard with play-by-play, so I didn't go to the MLB site often. If I'm home during the season, I'd rather watch Diamond Surfing on The Score than surf the Internet, but the last I heard, it isn't coming back -- that's worse news than the CBC dropping a dozen games.
_Shane - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 12:44 PM EST (#99598) #
Kent, between the games dropped by TSN/CBC the last two years, to the fact that hockey playoffs brought the number of April televised games down to ten in '02, I won't be playing the victim this year. I welcomed a brand new baby DirectTV sat dish into the programming family for the '03 MLB season. A little less Rob Faulds has to be a good thing. I suspect it'll be the smartest thing i've done in quite a while.
_Ryan Adams - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 01:08 PM EST (#99599) #
The Arizona Republic has the nicest Forecaster layout of the ones I've seen (it's the easiest on the eyes).

When Forecaster started doing their online baseball content, they showed their hockey background. Instead of bats/throws in their player profiles, they had shoots/catches.
Craig B - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 02:19 PM EST (#99600) #
I'd rather watch Diamond Surfing on The Score than surf the Internet, but the last I heard, it isn't coming back

This is the worst news I've had all year. Diamond Surfing was the best show on television.
_Kent - Sunday, January 12 2003 @ 03:32 PM EST (#99601) #
Supposedly the Score is for sale, but nobody's lining up to buy it. They overpaid for the MLB rights last year and lost money. If no other Canadian network wants the package (included ESPN2 midweek games and playoffs) it may be possible for them to get it back at a reduced cost, or we may be sadly deprived of baseball.

Shane's solution (satellite) is OK if you can afford it; the Extra Innings package on my digital cable is becoming more attractive all the time, but it's not cheap either.
_Larry Gomez - Tuesday, January 21 2003 @ 07:48 PM EST (#99602) #
Some other interesting winter/fall stats from Justin Miller that I found:

1999 - California Fall League
Miller posted a 3.78 ERA in 33.1 innings, led the league with 54 K's and had just 14 walks. Held opponents to a .254 batting average.

2000 - AFL
3.55 ERA, 24 Ks in 33 IPs

2001 - Dominican Republic
Good numbers... can't find exact stats... at least 3-1
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