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That's what Richard Griffin calls the "statistical seamheads" who approve of the J.P. Jays.

In today's column, Griffin proposes that Raul Mondesi's "deterrent" arm is more valuable than Frank Catalanotto's bat. Of course, if and when it suits him, Rich will notice the difference in run production, and praise Cat's positive influence in the clubhouse, compared to the distraction of Mondesi (and his posse). How long do you think it would take Brian Cashman to agree to a Cat-for-Mondesi deal? The scary thing is, the baseball columnist for Canada's largest paper would make that offer. Appalling ignorance.

Second-guessing the decision to carry just three OF (Griffin, taking another swipe, calls Cat an infielder and says it's only two) is appropriate -- it's an unusual strategy that could indeed backfire. However, there will be changes made; the Jays have simply selected the best 25 for the opening series or two, not carved the roster in stone for the entire season. I'm still advising Ken Huckaby and Doug Linton to rent by the week in Toronto.
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Pistol - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 10:20 AM EST (#20644) #
"Griffin proposes that Raul Mondesi's "deterrent" arm is more valuable than Frank Catalanotto's bat"

I'm not even sure he's saying that. I think he'd rather have someone with a cannon in RF that would hit below the Mendoza line than a weak armed Barry Bonds.

I can see RG now: 'Who cares about 60 HRs and a .500 OBP. He allows a runner to take an extra base once a series, just like, um, Terrance Long! Send him to Syracuse! Winning baseball is all about defense.'

Despite his throwing limitations, is it not possible that F-Cat will have more range than Mondesi? Maybe, maybe not, but it seems arm strength is how most people judge OF defense when range to me seems much more important.

Interestingly, for all the grief he takes about his defense, Shannon Stewart fared quite well in putouts on fly balls among left fielders last year, ranking 5th. It's a BP Premium article from yesterday.
_Jim - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 10:45 AM EST (#20645) #
Cult? Zombie-like? I find that insulting. The guy whose brain I just finished eating agrees. Or rather, agreed.

I take it from Griffin's detached and objective description that he wouldn't include himself in said cult. Maybe Coach can whip up some "I appreciate OBP Kool-Aid" and Fed-Ex Rich a bottle or two.

Watching Mondesi, Green and especially Barfield gun down greedy runners was terrific, but I have to think that outfielder arms are overrated. That's not to say they're unimportant, just overrated. Making a big, exciting play - like throwing out a runner trying for a double to end an inning - will get you a lot of attention, but who's to say that the next batter wouldn't have grounded out anyway?

Conversely, I'm sure there will be much hand-wringing and scrutiny the first time someone takes an extra base on Catalanotto, and John Cerutti will note that they didn't have that problem when Raul Mondesi was here. Meanwhile, Catalanotto has quietly gone 1-2, with 2 walks and 3 runs scored that day...
_MikeJ - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 10:45 AM EST (#20646) #
Is there a secret ceremony to become a member of this cult?
_snellville jone - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 10:45 AM EST (#20647) #
Griffin seems to think that baserunners should only advance as far as the batter does. Someone with speed scoring from first on a double? How could this possibly happen?
_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:21 AM EST (#20648) #
I think you guys are freaking out over nothing. Griffin didn't say anything like that. He said that the corner outfield defense is a concern, and I agree that it is. Wouldn't we prefer to have an RF with an arm out there, all other things being equal, especially with a pitching staff that (as Griffin correctly points out) needs all the defensive help it can get? Of course we would. This outfield needs help, both in (defensive) quality and in quantity.

I understand why the Jays set up the roster the way they did, and I might have done the same thing, but let's not pretend that everything's okay with this outfield, because it isn't.

Which is not to say that Griffin isn't a jerk.
Coach - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:24 AM EST (#20649) #
Cat's OBP will give Delgado (and Josh Phelps) more RBI opportunities, with fewer outs, than the horrid -- but strong-armed -- Mondesi/Cruz sandwich Carlos was stuck between for the first half of 2002. As the voice of "traditional wisdom" around here (but I hope not a dinosaur) I leave it to the statistical seamheads to calculate Runs Created, Runs Prevented, and any other comparisons, especially if they support my instinctive conclusion. And of course, there's the Dreaded Intangibles, which geezer coaches know are real, if impossible to measure. On that scale, anyone -- even Carl Everett -- is an improvement over Raul, and Cat brings a lot to the clubhouse; his work ethic and communication skills are exceptional.

I refuse to join any cult that would accept the likes of me as a member.
Mike D - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:37 AM EST (#20650) #
Coach, I find your reaching out to the zombie-like cult admirable.

That's a great way of putting it -- "especially if they support my instinctive conclusion." I'm reminded of something Vin Scully once said (but did not come up with himself): "Statistics are used by baseball fans the way a drunk uses a lamppost -- more for support than for enlightenment."
_Mick - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:38 AM EST (#20651) #
I remember once reading an old Detroit News report about Ty Cobb which compared his arm to "a wet hot dog."

So I'm sure Cobb wouldn't be welcome in the Jays lineup. (Actually, he wouldn't be ... pretty sure he'd object to playing with Carlos Delgado.)
_M.P. Moffatt - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:52 AM EST (#20652) #
Do you get the feeling that JP could never do right in the eyes of Griffin?

Suppose JP traded *for* someone of Mondesi's profile.. both on the field and off. I'm 100% sure that Griffin would lash out at the stathead GM "who doesn't consider clubhouse chemistry to be important".

Or if he kept a great defensive backup outfielder, he would have been blasted for either:
(i) cutting Huck
(ii) not having enough arms in the bullpen

The "statheads" can never win in his eyes... which is fine, because none of us would really be trying to if we were in JP's position.

Mondesi is totally overrated defensive OF. Despite his foot speed, his range was just terrible. Yeah, it's nice to have a great arm in RF, but what's the point if he saves a base with his arm... and gives up two with his feet?

That being said, I think the Jays outfield D is pretty weak. The starting day 25 won't be the same guys as the All-Star break 25 or the 25 at the end of the season.

_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 11:57 AM EST (#20653) #
"Do you get the feeling that JP could never do right in the eyes of Griffin?"

Yes, very much. That's Griffin's whole schtick, right there.

Which is not to say that there's nothing Ricciardi can do about this. If Ricciardi were to grant Griffin some kind of extensive interview, I guarantee that Griffin would gush about the guy for at least a week's worth of columns. Check out some of the stuff he's written during this spring training - when Griffin actually speaks to another human being, he can't find enough good things to say about the guy. It's only when he's crouching alone in his hole that the negativity comes out.
_Cristian - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 12:03 PM EST (#20654) #
"pleasing the zombie-like cult of statistical seamheads to no end"

I think what would please the zombie-like cult to no end would begin with Griffin handing in his resignation.

Cat may not have had a good day in right field but he had a productive day batting. Mondesi's cannon arm? 0-4 w/a strike out.

I agree that the outfield situation isn't ideal. Griffin is right to point this out. However, educated fans realize that he has reached a conclusion before he puts pen to paper. Is a little objectivity too much to ask? How about admitting the obvious counterpoints to his argument? Griffin is just a sloppy writer with credibility that falls every year. Let's hope for his sake he is in writer's spring training right now. That is, his production isn't as important as getting his bylines in. If he doesn't improve this season, I think the Star should send him down to a community paper. Preferably though, they'll give him his outright release.

I think this zombie-like cult would die of starvation if forced to feed on Griffin's brain.
_Jurgen Maas - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 12:37 PM EST (#20655) #
I share some concern about Cat as the everydayt RF, but I don't think anybody believes he'll be there when the Jays start making their Wild Card runs in '03. More likely, he'll be playing LF when they chase Stew out of town, and Werth will take up RF.
_dp - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 12:52 PM EST (#20656) #
The OF situation is a little scary- Werth isn't ready at all IMO, Cat's back is bad, and if Dave Berg has to play RF for 2 straight games the GM has made a mistake. By and large I like the moves JP has made, and I think this team is poised to do well, but it isn't that hard to find a quality 4th OF who can play CF- I'm hoping that JP can grab one in early April when all the cuts have been made (it sounds like that's the plan, too).

The Jays had Chad Mottola in AAA all last season, and he hit well, even played CF, although he wasn't very good there. He'd be a good choice, but I'm not sure where he is now. There are some useful guys floating around- Chad Hermanson could probably be pried away from LA, Ruben Mateo would look good in RF if Cat goes down at all. These guys might take decent low-A prospect to grab, but there are cheaper options as well- Raul Gonzalez will start in AAA.

It isn't the worst problem to have, but it could become troublesome. It'd be nice to see a guy on the bench with some upside who can grab spare AB- I guess Wise could be that guy if he starts well in AAA, but I'm not counting on it...
_King Rat - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 12:55 PM EST (#20657) #

Seriously, I share (for once) Griffin's concerns on this score. While I think we all agree that this bizarro roster construction is only temporary, and will be nothing more than a weird memory when Werth's wrist is better, I don't think the same can be said of the starting outfield. Don't get me wrong, I think the offense will more than make up for the putrid defense, but I don't think Griffin's alone in worrying about a team that not only has bad corner OF defense, but backups who aren't likely to be any better in the field.
_King Rat - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 12:56 PM EST (#20658) #
Incidentally, am I going nuts, or did Griffin refer to Barfield, of all players, as a guy with a bad arm?
_Matthew Elmslie - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:03 PM EST (#20659) #
"Incidentally, am I going nuts, or did Griffin refer to Barfield, of all players, as a guy with a bad arm?"

You're going nuts. He referred to Barfield, Green and Mondesi as guys with good arms. The Jays have had a lot of guys like that in their history; you can throw in Mark Whiten and the young George Bell as others.

I miss Chris Latham.
_R Billie - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:05 PM EST (#20660) #
I think a few things are clear.

1. The outfield defence is far from ideal as currently composed.

2. It's not going to stay this way all season. This time last year ole Griff was bemoaning the left side of the infield and while it was quite problematic (as was second base) it was eventually fixed. JP ain't dumb and in a two or three months when better options like Werth and Wise are ready to join the team again they'll be brought in.

2a. Stewart is very likely to be traded in July, hopefully after batting about .350 in the first half, hopefully for something very good. This would accomodate moving Werth into a full-time role.

2b. Catalanatto will eventually move to left and Jason Werth and/or Player X to take over right field, thereby resulting in a stronger outfield defence. Hudson can probably handle a spot higher in the order.
_R Billie - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:21 PM EST (#20661) #
I think also think the no extra outfielder situation is just going to last the first two weeks of the year. At that point one of the catchers and likely Doug Linton will be cut to bring in Miller in the 5th spot and either Werth or Johnson as the 4th outfielder.
_dp - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:40 PM EST (#20662) #
Why is there any talk of Werth being ready for the majors?
His EQ OB% at AAA-.334
EQ SLG-.410
Until he makes significant strides, he won't be ready to produce adequately for a RF. He was a good prospect as a catcher, but as a corner OF, he needs to hit more to be raedy to be anything more than a 4th OF.

From this perspective, I see no need to move Stewart unless JP can get a really good return on him. Maybe I'm just partial to Stewart because he's been the only consistently excellent Jay the last few years other than Delgado, but I don't think it would be bad to see if he'd take a long term deal for less than market value. The problem will be that no one knows what market value is after the slalary deflation this off-season. I wouldn't be shocked if Stew couldn't command more than $5 million on the FA market unless the Yanks decide they want to upgrade LF.

In any case, I can't see JP putting Werth in RF this season unless he's really crushing AAA pitching.
_Mick - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:42 PM EST (#20663) #
Here's a question ... and I really mean this. Is there any team right now that doesn't have something local pundits can scream and bitch about? Heading into the season, has any team at least cosmetically addressed every issue, leading to a media love-fest?

The teams I follow closely (NYY, TEX) have major question marks in the bullpen (NYY) and the rotation and defense (TEX). Sorry, "defence."

This is not "best team." It's "team that has addressed every roster position to the point that local media will at least wait and see how it turns out." I'm thinking here (I can smell the smoke) ...

Maybe PHI is on a honeymoon. From an outsider's perspective, I don't look at them and think "Oh boy, there's a problem they haven't addressed." (Not that they'll all work out of course.) LA seems to be in pretty good shape overall, given that their middle infield is untested and/or unproven -- but quite a few teams have that same problem.

OAK's outfield, SEA's pitching health and depth ... Okay, maybe ANA is still OK around the horn.

Maybe I'm asking, if you know, what ARE other local media bitching about? Are the MIN guys all over the potential lack of offense? (Uh. offence?)
_M.P. Moffatt - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 01:47 PM EST (#20664) #
The last Phillies broadcast I listened to the commentators were worried about the bullpen.

In Rochester, NY most of the complaints I hear from Yankees guys are about Mondesi (which makes today's column even funnier) and from Mets guys are about how the average age on the team is 43. They also complain about Mo Vaughn and the outfield.

_Chuck Van Den C - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 02:09 PM EST (#20665) #
(Mick) Here's a question ... and I really mean this. Is there any team right now that doesn't have something local pundits can scream and bitch about?

Mick, couldn't agree with you more.

Further, when one (be it Griffin or anyone here) criticizes the Jays, they're criticizing a team that's hoping to win about 85 games. No one is expecting the Jays to realistically contend for a playoff spot this year and subjecting the current roster to that level of scrutiny is inappropriate.

Yes, the OF situation is thin. Yes, Catalanotto really isn't a RF. Yes, the middle IF is unproven. Yes, the starting rotation has question marks. Yes, we've got more mediocre catchers than Al Martin has wives.

This team is still in transition. Pointing out weaknesses is fine, but only within that context.

I vowed not to dump on Griffin -- he's not worth the time or effort -- but here's a salvo anyway. Griffin represents your pretty typical, crummy, local scribe. He's an insider who really knows what's what. We unpaid fans who are slaves to our calculators and our weenie stathead God in the GM's office couldn't possibly begin to understand the sport and its nuances. We need someone on the inside to set us straight and Griffin is the self-elected man for the job.

Lucky us.
Pistol - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 02:22 PM EST (#20666) #
I figure at some point the Jays will have a 4th OF on the team. But why does that mean that the 12th pitcher or 3rd catcher have to go?

I think having both Bordick and Berg is the real waste of a roster spot.
_M.P. Moffatt - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 02:29 PM EST (#20667) #
Context is *key*. Sure J.P.'s Jays have holes and aren't going to win 100 games. But "only" 85 wins in the second year of a rebuilding plan would be pretty damn good.

In The Sporting News Griffin predicts the Jays to win 82 games, so they can't be bad. Of course TSN predicts the mean number of wins for a team to be around 87, so take that with a grain of salt. :)

_jason - Friday, March 28 2003 @ 05:46 PM EST (#20668) #
Having a very good CF also helps eleviate deficiancies in LF and RF. Sheffield and C.Jones aren't the greatest OFs, about average, but the Atlanta OF doesn't suffer because they have the best CF in all of baseball. Wells is, from what I've seen, in the top five for defensive CF, (A.Jones, Hunter, Cameron, Edmonds, Wells), and that has to play into JPs thinking for allowing Stewart and Cat to fill out the OF defensively.
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