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Josh Towers and three home runs propel the Jays to victory. Your game report today is a double-header, notes on the game followed by the scoop on why the Jays did not make a deal at the deadline.

Looking at the two teams, the Jays on-base percentage is ten points better than the Sox, their slugging is eight points less, but these teams are two evenly matched offenses. The pitching is the difference between the teams, the Sox ERA is at 3.66, the Jays 4.03. Josh Towers starts tonight on five days rest, usually a good omen for Towers.

Jon Garland breezed through the first inning throwing all fastballs away. His location was excellent except for one pitch he left over the plate but Vernon Wells hit it right at the third baseman.

In the bottom of the first Chicago scored two runs on three hits. The home run by Paul Konerko came off a hanging slider but the two doubles by Tadahito Iguchi and AJ Pierzynski were outside pitches that the hitters went with to the opposite field for doubles, nice hitting by the Sox.

In the second inning the Jays scored five despite a bad running error by Corey Koskie who was out by 15 feet trying to turn a single into a double. That error did cost the Jays as the next five hitters all reached and scored. Greg Zaun learned from the Sox hitters and went with an outside fastball for a single to left. Eric Hinske turned on an inside fastball and laced a double to left, another nice piece of hitting. Reed Johnson put a defensive swing on a two strike slider, and got the barrel of the bat on it to send it to right centre for a triple. O-Dog went down and in to golf a fastball to right field for a home run, and Russ Adams took advantage of the wind blowing out to left to go with the pitch and hit another home run to left. Finally Vernon Wells stayed true to form and pulled an outside slider to third, 2 at-bats, 2 pitches seen by Vernon.

Baseball Prospectus's Umpire Report shows that tonight's home plate umpire Jeff Nelson is a league average umpire, as measured by BA and ERA, and tonight it looks like he has a good sized strike zone, he is definitely not squeezing the pitchers. Nelson rang-up Carl Everett on a high strike and that carried over to the next inning when the Sox expressed displeasure with some of the calls. As a result Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was thrown out. The ensuing "discussion" between Nelson and Guillen was entertaining, Nelson had some things to get off his chest too, it looked like the WWF there for a while. Rod Black suggested that Guillen might have been looking to get kicked out to fire up his team. I think I remember Jon Miller and Steve Stone on Sunday night's game commenting on how Bobby Cox would always pick on an umpire and get thrown out of a meaningless game in August or September, just to find a way to show his team that every game is important. Guillen's rant might have paid off, there were a couple of pitches to Everett later in the game that looked the same as the one called a strike, but now were called balls.

In the fifth Russ Adams hit his second shot of the night, this time pulling a "down the middle" fastball to right for the home run to give the Jays a 6-2 lead. For those of you who did not hear, in July Adams hit .329, with an OBP of .427 and a .380 SLG. Good signs of development for the rookie and his at-bats in the lead off position have been good, taking pitches, making the pitcher work, and letting his teammates get a read on the pitcher. Vernon Wells took a few pitches and got a pitch up that he hit back up the middle for a hit, sometimes being selective pays off.

In the sixth the Jays scheduled hitters are Koskie, Zaun, and Hinske. Koskie struckout his first two at-bats and has only one extra-base hit since he came back off the DL. Corey has not found his good form since coming off the DL, a hot swinging Koskie could propel the Jays to a hot streak. Before the game I heard Jeff Blair on the radio saying that JP's #1 off-season priority was to find a catcher, that Zaun was not a #1 catcher. Warren Sawkiw disagreed, as do I. I think it is unreasonable to expect Zaun to catch 140 games next year, but I still think he can be the #1 catcher, Zaun works well with the pitchers and that is the primary job for the catcher. Before the game I was surprised to see Hinske starting instead of Aaron Hill. But when you look at the numbers Hinske has better numbers against righties than Hill. Hinske's OPS against RHP is .758, against lefties it is .616. Hinske should not start against lefties again this season. On this night he rewards Gibby's faith going 3-3 in his first three at-bats. I was also surprised to see Johnson again getting the start in right, but he also had two hits to reward Gibbons' faith. Hudson hit a sac fly to make the score 7-2 in the middle of the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth Towers makes a couple of mistakes and has runners on first and third with one out. Towers gets a pitch in on Dye and gets a pop up, but he grooves one to Aaron Rowand who drives in the run to make it 7-3.

Bad boy Bobby Jenks came in for the seventh. Jenks was the #21 prospect of the White Sox and probably would have been higher if not for a number of troubling personal incidents in his past. Jenks throws hard and features all fastballs to Catalanotto but no fastballs to Vernon. Jenks came into the game with 11 hits and 7 walks allowed in 8 innings but his control was good tonight.

Tonight was another excellent start for Towers, eight hits and no walks in 7.2 innings. Josh's last two starts before this one were also very good, Josh is pushing hard to get that tenth win, the one he couldn't get last year when Gibbons left him in for a ton of pitches in his last start of the season. Josh was pulled after hitting Pierzynski and Justin Speier follows by hitting Dye. I was disappointed that Guillen had been thrown out of the game earlier, he was probably blowing a gasket after the two Sox batters were hit.

When the Sox failed to score everyone knew retribution was coming, if Rowand had jacked one to make it a one run ballgame, then retribution might have been postponed until later. When I say everyone knew the retribution was coming, I mean everyone except TSN who were showing a highlight package in the middle of the game and missed Adams being hit. TSN also underperformed in other ways, as usual there were no pitch speeds, and the top corner info box was a no-show about 50% of the time in the first three innings.

Justin Speier was his usual efficient self. Here is Speier's ERA by month - 7.56; 1.08; 1.42; and 0.68 in July. Justin could have been the closer, if he had survived April. His form is a big pickup for the Jays with Jason Frasor hitting a rough patch right now. An excellent game for the Jays, good pitching and good hitting.

Bonus Coverage

The trading deadline came and went with no moves by the Jays. JP has said he was not interested in trading any of his front line guys because none of them were giving him diminishing returns. I first saw JP Ricciardi talk about "diminishing returns" in the Globe and Mail on July 23rd.

"Orlando Hudson? I would say we're not trading him. We don't have many players on our club right now that we feel are giving us diminishing returns. We're close to winning with these guys, and I don't know what message we'd be sending by moving any of them."

Since then I have seen similar quotes from JP using the diminishing returns expression, and I think I know what he means but I decided to do some research. To explain it I went back in time to delve into the world of Bill James, Billy Beane, Moneyball and the Oakland A's.

JP received his front office indoctrination with the Oakland A's, a front office that used sabrmetrics and the works of Bill James to help construct their roster. Moneyball describes how Bill James was very influential on the thinking of the Oakland A's, Sandy Alderson and Billy Beane. In the 1982 Baseball Abstract, Bill James published an essay, "Looking for the prime", a study of how age impacts baseball players. At the time the baseball truism was that the years 28 to 32 were the prime years for a baseball player. Bill's conclusions were, as you might expect, somewhat different.

"Both pitchers and non-pitchers attain their greatest aggregate value at the age of 27, with a nearly equal figure at age 26. Thus both pitchers and non-pitchers, as groups, attain their greatest value before the 28-32 period even begins, are declining throughout that range and have lost nearly half of their peak value by the time it ends. If you must assign a 5-year peak period to all players regardless of description, the best shot would be 25-29."

Moneyball touches on the age profile and how the A's look at it. Billy Beane is quoted as saying about Eric Chavez. "He's 24 years old. You know if he's here now" - he holds his hands at his chest - "He'll wind up here" - he raises his hand over his head. Michael Lewis questions Billy Beane about the age issue, Lewis suggests individuals are different, how can you assume players will follow the pattern? His answer is equally simple: baseball players follow similar patterns, and those patterns are etched in the record books. Of course, every so often some player may fail to embrace his statistical destiny, but on a team of 25 players the statistical abberations will tend to cancel each other out. And most of them will conform fairly exactly to his expectations.

Michael Lewis might have overstated the case somewhat but in general players do improve until they are 27 or 28, and when the A's put together their roster on that basis it's a fair assumption that JP is doing the same. So when JP talks about diminishing returns he is saying his core group of young players are still getting better. Let's look at the ages.

The Young Core
		2005	2006	2007
1B Hinske 	 27	 28	 29
2B Hudson 	 27	 28	 29
SS Adams 	 24	 25	 26
3B Hill 	 23	 24	 25
CF Wells 	 26	 27	 28
RF Rios 	 24	 25	 26

Key Additions
		2005	2006	2007
C  Zaun  	 33	 34	 35
1B Hillenbrand 	 29	 30	 31
LF Catalanotto 	 30	 31	 32
LF Johnson 	 28	 29	 30
3B Koskie 	 31	 32	 33

All six of the young core are in the 25-29 year old prime, or are coming into it, assuming you agree Hinske is a core player. Those six hitters, as a group, should be better next year than this, with Hinske and Hudson peaking this year, and none of them will be out of the 25-29 year peak until 2008. We could expect then that JP will be repeating his "no diminishing returns" speech this time next year too. On the other hand Zaun, Catalanotto and Koskie are on the down slope and those players are, in theory, giving diminishing returns. Hillenbrand hits the down slope next year. Zaun, Catalanotto and Hillenbrand are each playing well and are not showing signs of slowing down. So, from a trading perspective, given the statistical aging expectations, there is no obvious player to trade. The Jays have no replacement for Zaun, Hillenbrand is in the final year of his 5 year prime, only Koskie and perhaps Catalanotto are the players that age based roster construction, and team needs, would say to trade. If the Jays determine that Aaron Hill and Gabe Gross can adequately replace Cat and Koskie, JP could look to trade those two players, or if the Jays sign a big slugger to play LF, then Cat becomes half a DH or is tradeable. Let's have the same look at the pitchers.

		2005	2006	2007
SP Halladay 	 27	 28	 29
SP Lilly 	 29	 30	 31
SP Chacin 	 24	 25	 26
SP Bush 	 25	 26	 27
SP Towers 	 28	 29	 30
SP McGowan	 23	 24	 25

		2005	2006	2007
RP Batista 	 34	 35	 36
RP Chulk 	 26	 27	 28
RP Frasor 	 27	 28	 29
SP/RP League 	 22	 23	 24

In 2005 only Miguel Batista lies outside the prime age range, in 2006 Ted Lilly will hit the down slope. For 2006 Halladay and Towers should be the same as this year, while Chacin, Bush and McGowan should be better. In the bullpen Chulk, Frasor and League should be better.

Age and performance is only one part of the equation, these days salaries are as important. Again we have the words of Billy Beane from an interview he gave to Athletics Nation

"One of the reasons that this team was so successful during its run was that we had young players that were contributing at the major league level that were very cost-effective which allows you to add other things. When you have a guy like Chavez and Tejada playing short and third making $300,000, it allows you to bring in a Kevin Appier. It allows you to bring in a player of that status and of that salary to augment it. When you have guys surrounding the diamond that are making 5, 6 or 7 million dollars in our market, that gets chewed up pretty quick. The remainder of your roster gets filled in with guys who probably shouldn't be there. The most valuable resource in this game is 0-3 (years of service) players who are good players on your major league team. Those are the most valuable guys you can have because that allows you to do so much more because they fill out a critical role."

As JP ponders his roster for 2006 he can anticipate a better offense and better pitching if Bill James is to be believed. Let's hope Bill James is right.

Blue Jays 7 White Sox 3 - Towers and Power | 18 comments | Create New Account
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Mike Green - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 09:57 AM EDT (#124539) #
There have been several research pieces, since Bill James' 1982 piece, which confirm that age 27 remains on average the prime from an offensive perspective. I just spent a fruitless 20 minutes searching for them, but I'm sure somebody will know where to look.

I am not aware of research on aging patterns for defence. It would not surprise me to find that the peak for the outfield is 25 or 26, as raw speed is disproportionately important.

Aging patterns is only one aspect of projection. Talent and development different from the norm are needless to say important factors.

Pistol - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 10:02 AM EDT (#124541) #
I would think that diminishing returns would also factor in salary. So as a player reaches his arbitration years and his salary increases he'd have to improve to avoid diminishing returns. However, after year 3 almost all players would be providing diminishing returns so perhaps that's not what JP is talking about.


Here's Russ Adams' stats in AA, AAA and the majors:
Lg	Games	Ave	OBP	Slg
AL	106	0.278	0.343	0.458
AAA	122	0.288	0.351	0.408
AA	65	0.277	0.349	0.387
His average and OBP have been creeping up since he's been the leadoff hitter, although whether those are related items or a coincidence I do not know.
Pistol - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 10:12 AM EDT (#124542) #
BP had an article looking at the Manny non-trade and one of the items in the article was an estimate of a player's salary prior to reaching FA:

MLB Year 1 - $350,000 salary
MLB Year 2 - $500,000 salary
MLB Year 3 - 40% of market salary
MLB Year 4 - 60% of market salary
MLB Year 5 - 70% of market salary
MLB Year 6 - 80% of market salary

So as I mentioned above, a player will have diminishing returns relative to his salary as he reaches his arbitration years. However, it'll still be better than most alternatives until free agency hits.

The article took a very quantitative approach to assigning value to each of the players in the trade which I don't think I've seen presented quite that way before (ie - the NPV of Hanley Ramirez is $6.12 million).
Mike Green - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 10:16 AM EDT (#124544) #
The improvement in Adams' batting average does not surprise me at all. He was exceptionally unlucky early in the year, posting a miserable BABIP despite good speed, decent power and a respectable line drive rate. His BABIP is now a still low .287. He's going to be a fine hitter for average soon. THT's batting stats encapsulate things quite well.
the mick - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 10:55 AM EDT (#124545) #
I'll be curious to see how Gibbons uses Speier the rest of the way. Once the calendar hit May, his number became absolutely sick. Something like a WHIP of 0.63, ERA just over 1.00. He is clearly the Jays best reliever. I like that Gibby used him in a high leverage situation last night, when one swing of the bat could have made it a game again. I just hope he doesn't get too attached to Miggy being The Closer and uses his best guy when he needs him.
rtcaino - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 12:31 PM EDT (#124558) #
Great analysis Gerry. I found it very enjoyable.

Do you guys think that, as Mick speculated, Gibbons may change the closer mid season? I doubt he would. One of the big knocks against Tosca is that his bullpen roles were too fluid. Though I do agree, at this point in time, Speier may be the more effective option. Iím not sure Gibbons would risk messing with what has been an effective bullpen.
Gerry - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 12:35 PM EDT (#124560) #
Gibbons won't change the closer. But Speier might get to be the 8th inning guy, or close when Batista is tired.
sweat - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#124564) #
I think you are right, gerry. Removing Batista as closer takes all his value away. If the Jays were gonna move Speier into the cloer role, they would have traded Batista before removing all his value.
Lefty - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 01:10 PM EDT (#124565) #
Excellent bonus coverage Gerry. The essay serves as a great analyses and reminder of "the plan".

Unforunately this period of history makes it difficult to move toward the completion of the roster re-construction. The team may have to wait and see whether this steriod issue is running through the core of major league talent generally. I am sure the team braintrust has a handle on this, but are hesitant in the aquisition of the final pieces of the puzzle.

My hope is that MLB is stepping up their random testing so that teams, players and fans can really know if it is a few or if this is a rampant problem.

There would be nothing worse than signing some slugger to a four or five year fifty million dollar contract and see him popped for dirty blood or watch him put in performance say at the level of .256/.296/.428 as opposed to something like .300/.391/.570

With that said, this waiver period could have been interesting. With better than 20 teams more or less in one race or another, I think GM's and owners were loathed to admit the truth and admit their team did not have enough to make the final playoff push. With the spotlight of every media on the trade deadline and on the basis of fan expectation teams were hesitant to sell, thus driving up the market for avg. players.

We might see a more normalized market through the waiver period. And as there is so very little available free agent talent on the market this offseason and as that talent will cost extrordinary amounts of money, I would not be suprised at all that JP still makes a trade to secure a player or two with an eye toward next season.

But extreme caution will have to be excerised because of this taint on the game.

Pistol - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 02:28 PM EDT (#124568) #
My hope is that MLB is stepping up their random testing so that teams, players and fans can really know if it is a few or if this is a rampant problem.

They've been testing for 2 years now and about 1% have tested positive, most of who are fringe players. I don't think there's anywhere near the problem that everyone thinks there is and/or was.

Mike Green - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 02:52 PM EDT (#124571) #
In my view, it's impossible to arrive at any conclusions about the prevalence of steroid use. If we don't know what steroids are being found on the positive tests, how is it possible to even guess at what is being used and hidden on negative ones?

Rob - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 02:59 PM EDT (#124572) #
I didn't see the first part of this game until just now on tape, and I cannot believe that Rod Black not only imitated that insipid homerun call from Hawk Harrelson, but he repeated it immediately after.

It was the bottom of the fifth when a foul ball was hit back into the White Sox booth. Tabler chimed in on the first "YES" but wisely remained silent the second time.

I give Rod Black a lot of grief here, but that was the most annoying thing he's ever done on-air.
Magpie - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 03:07 PM EDT (#124574) #
Gibbons won't change the closer. But Speier might get to be the 8th inning guy, or close when Batista is tired.

Agreed, and that's just fine by me. Speier is more likely to work when the game is tied, or when it's close in the 7th and 8th innings. Which is kind of when I'd want my best reliever on the mound anyway.

rtcaino - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 03:45 PM EDT (#124580) #
I think this has been mentioned a while back but was unable to track it down. Does anybody know how much money is coming off contracts for both the BoSox and the Yanks?

I seem to recall the Yanks having about 40 mill coming off the books. If that is the case, comparing rosters, prospects, and cash allocated for free agent spending, the Blue Jays compare very favorably against NYY for next year.

I see this as interesting, because a lot of fans were anxious for J.P. to make a trade for this year with the assumption that we will never again be in a better position to compete with these teams as we are now. I for one see the Blue Jays in a position where they can compete with any team in the Majors next year.
Mike Green - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 04:14 PM EDT (#124583) #
There's not really much to choose between Speier and Batista this year. Speier gives up many more flyballs and homers, strikes out more and issues fewer walks than Batista. In the result, his lower ERA results primarily from the team's amazing .807 DER behind him. Here's the handy THT summary. The nice thing is that Gibbons can afford to have Speier or Batista go more than an inning in an appearance, and thereby avoid the serial relief changes that are death to the overall effectiveness of the pen.
jvictor - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 04:35 PM EDT (#124585) #
I have been tinkering with a graph which illustrates what Gerry is talking about. I would like to run it by Pepper some time, but I aint got the know how, gumtion or computer savy to draw a graph - especially on the outdated thing I use now. Time to get busy.
A - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 05:49 PM EDT (#124593) #
ESPN's standings show the Yankees in first place (3.5GB of no one) and the Jays in second and third places, 2.5GB of the Yankees.
Named For Hank - Wednesday, August 03 2005 @ 07:22 PM EDT (#124602) #
Maybe the Red Sox have been suspended under MLB's drug testing program?
Blue Jays 7 White Sox 3 - Towers and Power | 18 comments | Create New Account
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