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Unless you're a Jays fan, of course. Then you might want to forget him.

Orioles 1, Jays 0

This is another one for the youneverknow column. Good teams don't always beat up on bad teams, and pitching duels aren't always of the Carlton-Seaver variety. Given the peripherals, though, this doesn't really look like much of a pitching duel. Bush went all 8 innings, walking nobody and striking out 3. Maine went 5, walking three and striking out three. The game wasn't a pitching duel so much as a lot of hits finding gloves. These things happen.

The Jays are now 7 games back of a playoff spot with 46 left to go. According to BP they have about a 5% shot at making the playoffs. Things aren't looking too good right about now.

The Jays have surprised me this year. I thought they'd win about 73 games, given that they lost Delgado and I thought they botched the off-season rather royally. They've surprised me, but it hasn't been because of their off-season signings. Well, other than Hillenbrand. He's been pretty good. But Koskie and Schoeneweis haven't looked too spectacular this season.

Is it time to start calling the Koskie contract an albatross? Joe Sheehan of Prospectus would seem to think so. He recently wrote:

"There's some self-immolation going on here. Because of the disastrous decision to sign Corey Koskie last winter, the Jays are virtually incapable of playing their best nine guys on any given day, forced to sit someone like Aaron Hill (.274 EqA), Russ Adams (.280) or Eric Hinske (.266) so that Koskie's contract (.240) can play. Since being so rude as to come off the DL on July 26, Koskie is 11-for-48 with a double, a homer and four walks. Hill, who lost his regular status so the contract could play, is 6-for-28 with no extra-base hits or walks since Koskie's return. He recently went almost a week without getting an at-bat in a game."

I've got to agree with Sheehan. I thought the Koskie signing was bad at the time and it's looking worse and worse with the great play of Aaron Hill this season. This off-season should be interesting, since there doesn't appear to be room for both Koskie and Hinske on the roster. Everybody and their brother seems to think Hinske is gone at the end of the year. I'm not so sure.

What do you think?
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the mick - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 11:55 AM EDT (#125499) #
BP has been down on the Koskie signing from moment go. After the lousy season the Jays had last year, the thinking seemed to be that they needed two bats, Koskie and Hillenbrand, to replace Delgado's. Even BP projected Koskie to have a VORP about 18.0 higher than Hill for this year. JP has shown that he understands the notion of sunk costs and I don't think he'll be afraid to do what he needs to do in the off-season. It's a bit of a luxury that we're upset about the Jays being close to the playoffs in a year when .500 would have been an achievement. I rarely agree with Bob Elliot but he did recently note, sometimes you can to compete before you can contend. And the Jays most definteily compete these days.
Pistol - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 12:01 PM EDT (#125500) #
That Sheenan quote bothered me at the time I read it earlier this week. It seemed he was stretching things to support an earlier opinion (that signing Koskie was a bad move) just to say 'Look, we were right!'.

First, Hill was in a huge slump the week before and the week after Koskie came back. Was anyone objecting to Koskie playing when he came back when the Jays still were within 5 games?

Second, I think Koskie playing isn't putting Hill on the bench. It's Hinske playing that is keeping Hill on the bench.

I realize that Koskie hasn't hit well this year, and slightly worse than Hinske, but who would you rather have playing right now?

Year      OBP   SLG
2002     .365  .481
2003     .329  .437
2004     .312  .375
2005     .333  .409

Year      OBP   SLG
2002     .368  .447
2003     .393  .452
2004     .342  .495
2005     .319  .413
I think it's pretty clear that Hinske's level of play is probably right around what he's done this year. On the other hand, I think Koskie right now is well below where he should be (which I'd put at something like .360/.460). Aaron Hill is currently at .356/.433.

Vernon Wells got off to an awful start and is right back where you'd expect. Hudson wasn't looking all that great at the plate in the middle of June and is right at a level you'd expect now. Koskie's only played 2 months. I don't think his 200 or so ABs have established a new level of performance, considerably below what he's hit in the past. His numbers will pull up the more he plays.

And a pet peeve of mine is the casual use of 'albatross' to describe certain contracts. No contract on the Jays is a large web-footed bird constituting the family Diomedeidae, chiefly of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and having a hooked beak and long narrow wings.
Dave Till - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 12:56 PM EDT (#125502) #
BP makes a fundamental assumption that I'm not sure I buy into: they believe that when a rookie is ready, the veteran should be moved to make way for him.

There are two problems with this:

- Teams that keep as many good players as possible are covered when somebody gets hurt. When Koskie went down, Hill stepped in and played great; when the league started to adjust to Hill, Koskie was back.

- During the Ash era, the Jays handed jobs to rookies all the time. Some of the players handed jobs were given no incentive to improve, as they knew that their playing time was safe. One of the main reasons the Fighting Jays fight is because there's somebody ready on the bench if a regular falters. How many former Ash-era Jays can you think of that are doing much better with their new teams?

BP also tends to grossly overvalue prospects, and always has. They once claimed that the 1997 (or so) Jays would have made it to the post-season if they had put Jeff Patzke at second and Tom Evans at third.

And: the Koskie signing can only be classified as bad if it prevented the Jays from signing a player that better met the team's needs. But I doubt such a player existed - Toronto was not exactly a prime free-agent destination in the off-season, as they were coming off 94 losses and the departure of their best hitter. (Recall that the Jays made a financially competitive offer to Matt Clement.) And Koskie's signing didn't exhaust the budget, either.

The Jays' biggest problems right now, IMHO:

- Not enough hitting from the 1B/DH slots. Other teams have big bombers at those positions. The Jays have Hillenbrand (sorta OK) and Hinske (Hinske).

- Their #1 and #3 starters went down with injuries. That's hard to overcome.

The difference in performance between Koskie and Hill is a drop in the bucket compared to these two problems.

The biggest problem going forward: the Jays have a bunch of slightly above-average players and only a couple of real stars. To make it to the next level, Halladay will have to return and be Doc again, Wells will have stay at peak form, and the Jays will have to go out and find a couple more star players, if such players can be found. It's going to be tough: it's about 10 times easier to get from 75 wins to 85 than it is to get from 85 wins to 95. It's not a linear progression.
John Northey - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#125503) #
I was one of those who felt the Koskie contract was too long (few third basemen retain much value past 32 for whatever reason). However, he did not look like a terrible signing. Signing Wells and Hinske after just one season in the majors, now that looked bad in many ways. It worked out for one, not the other. That is the risk of long term contracts.

So, what should JP & Gibbons do? Lets assume no one wants Hinske's or Koskie's contract (reasonable assumption). So either the Jays eat a contract (possible, but with 2+ years on both of theirs it is doubtful) or they figure out how to use what they got.

We have Hinske/Hill/Hillenbrand/Koskie sharing 3 slots. All 3 can play all 3 positions reasonable well. Other options include moving Hill to SS or 2B but those two slots are well manned and I don't see JP trading Adams or O-Dog at this point unless someone offers a silly package (ie: A-Rod plus money for O-Dog - I did say silly remember). All 4 are under contract with the Jays for 2006 (Hinske=$4.3, Koskie=$5.25, Hill=$minimum, Hillenbrand=arbitration) thus we have this problem in 2006 baring a trade of Hillenbrand (who JP says he won't trade). So the dividing line is offense.

vs LH in 2005 (Avg/OBP/Slg-AB)
Hill 350/409/517 - 60
Hillenbrand 330/375/527 - 112
Hinske 147/194/353 - 68
Koskie 197/258/344 - 61

3 year split vs LH (Hill is in 1st season)
Does not include 2005 (2002-2004)
Hillenbrand 299/342/475 - 438
Hinske 245/309/395 - 425
Koskie 237/330/381 - 465

Against lefties it seems clear that Hinske should be benched. Koskie would be 2nd in line for the bench against lefties. No shock, but it really shows that Hinske should not be anywhere near the plate if it is a leftie on the mound.

vs RH in 2005 (Avg/OBP/Slg-AB)
Hill 283/337/406 - 180
Hillenbrand 286/353/450 - 329
Hinske 273/359/422 - 289
Koskie 270/343/441 - 152

3 year split vs RH
Hillenbrand 293/327/460 - 1273
Hinske 261/346/443 - 1160
Koskie 288/388/505 - 916

This is closer, as Hill is weakest this year, just behind Koskie. Mixing in 3 year splits though Hillenbrand and Hinske both look closer to the bench with Hill still probably the best choice to sit.

In the end the numbers suggest that Hinske is the weakest of the group as he is the #1 bench choice vs LH and is close to the bench vs RH when using a 3 year split. Again, no shock.

So, what do the Jays do? Hinske is owed $9.95 million over the next two years which is more than I suspect they would be willing to eat. Hinske isn't a bad bench player (back up 1B/DH/3B with a better bat than most for the bench) but, again, it is hard to leave a guy making $5 million a year on the bench. His contract is equal to about 6% of the Jays budget for the next two seasons (average player should get $3.2 million over the next 2 years based on $80 million budget).

I'm thinking letting him play out the year while mixing in Hill wherever you can is a good idea. See if he can get on a hot streak like he was on in April and get his value high enough that someone might take him without forcing the Jays to eat 50% of his contract. I'd get him a game or two at third to prove he can still play it. Try to send him through waivers and see if someone is willing to claim him.

Right now it is hard to see where to improve the Jays in 2006. Most positions are either set (CF/2B/SS) or have too many players (1B/3B/DH and LF are examples) plus the 'potential' slot (RF). CA has an old vet plus a hot shot injury prone rookie. So how to improve? One or both of the log jams at LF and 3B/DH/1B must be cleared out. Hinske seems the obvious choice to go, but will he or can he?

A reason to be happy to not be a GM.
JayFan0912 - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#125504) #
Did anyone notice:

Koskie's contract +
Hinke's contract +
Schoenweiss's contract +
~12 Million Dollars next year

And an argument could be made that each of these players could be replaced by propspects on the farm, performing just as well, or better than these guys. Hill could replace koskie, Hinske could be replaced by a number of players at syracuse( gross and griffin come to mind), and Scott downs is pitching better than scho this year.

I just can't understand this ... why waste money on depth, when you have depth in your farm system. 12 Million dollars could be spent on slugger, or a real #2 starter.
Maldoff - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:07 PM EDT (#125505) #
I'm going to throw this one out there, and people may not agree, but what about trading Hill in the offseason? I know it's a crazy thought, but does anyone actually think he will produce enough offensively for a third baseman? IMO, he's going to be a .300 hitter, with a good amount of doubles, and 10-15 home runs. Not exactly what you want from a corner infielder.

I would think that the best move might be a trade of Hill and a pitcher, say Josh Banks, for a bopping first baseman, a la Richie Sexon. Then you have Hillenbrand playing the DH/swing 1B-3B role, Koskie at third, and a big bat at first.

I love Hill, and think he can be a solid player, but just not an elite third baseman, in today's game.
Jim - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:28 PM EDT (#125507) #
'Try to send him through waivers and see if someone is willing to claim him.'

I would imagine that Hinske clears waivers during every waiver period.

The Koskie contract wasn't just bad because Hill was ready, it was bad on it's own merits. An injury prone player who didn't really break in until he was 26 isn't a great bet for ages 32-34. It was just 19 million dollars that didn't need to be spent. It's not the end of the world, and it's not an 'albatross', but it's the difference between a 7MM and a 12MM dollar player in the next offseason.

Smaj - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 01:46 PM EDT (#125508) #
Maldoff raises a very interesting point. Is Hill going to produce enough offensively to be an everyday 3rd baseman? I also say no he will not. Hill, IMHO is a 2nd baseman or possibly a SS (small MLB sample for Hill at SS thus far).
If you accept the thought that he is not a 3rd baseman then the questions become do you prefer Hill over Adams at SS long term? Or do you prefer Hill at 2nd Base over Hudson long term?
I prefer Adams & Hudson to Hill in the middle infield. Thus, the Jays have a highly desired tradeable commodity to be a centrepiece to acquire a true need (power hitter).

On the Koskie front, he has struggled this season, but lets remember he has a surgically repaired thumb, which will not be fully healed until next season. If healthy (becoming a major "if" each year for him) he will produce with power & soild defence at 3rd base. Intangibles are easily dismissed in stats based arguments, but Koskie brings a "dirt-bag" leadership quality to the Jays which is vital to any successful championship club. Given his contract & declining health, Koskie is probably untradeable at this point. Hill is very desirable to most organizations (given age, salary & ability) & his ideal playing position(s) allow the Jays to deal from a position of strength. This is a great conundrum for a GM to have!

I anticipate a major trade in the off season involving one of the three MLB calibre middle IF'ers. A nice testimonial to solid drafting by the Jays in successive first rounds with Adams & Hill creating this luxerious scenario in the middle of the diamond. May also be interesting to note the development of Rob Cosby in the system as well. His continued growth could cause this middle infield question to be revisited again in 2008.
Willy - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 02:57 PM EDT (#125510) #
And a pet peeve of mine is the casual use of 'albatross' to describe certain contracts. No contract on the Jays is a large web-footed bird constituting the family Diomedeidae, chiefly of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, and having a hooked beak and long narrow wings. [Pistol]

It’s not casual use. It’s an allusion, whether witting or not, to a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, in which, near the end of Part II, an albatross is tied around the neck of a sailor who had shot an albatross and thereby brought ill-fortune upon the entire ship and crew. So the allusion refers to the idea of an unthinking or ill-thought-out act which has apparently cursed the group, and for which penance is now required. A contract that is ‘dragging down’ or in some way impeding the whole team is, metaphorically, an albatross. Don’t be peeved.

What happened to the Yankees, I wonder, after Winfield killed the seagull? Hmmmn.
PeterG - Sunday, August 14 2005 @ 05:28 PM EDT (#125511) #
Downs is not better than Scho - not even close.
GeoffAtMac - Monday, August 15 2005 @ 11:37 AM EDT (#125569) #
I would agree with PeterG's comment, with the exception that I think Downs has shown flashes of brillance recently. Such as when he took down Baltimore the other day, or how his strikeout rate has been on the way up. I am thinking that maybe he might be worth retaining for next year -- he can eat up innings in blow-out games, or start in an emergency.

On the subject of the various logjams we have at various positions, I think LF is where we need to plug a hole. We need to keep Rios and Wells together, and move Cat to the bench. We should pick up a major power LF such as Hideki Matsui (who I believe should be a free agent soon), or we need to make a trade for someone huge like Adam Dunn (not saying this an easy, or feasible trade, just that we need someone like him). The Cat is a solid veteran who can fill in at LF occasionally, and DH the rest of the time. Or conversely, he holds enough trade value to move him if we think we would be okay with Rios / Wells / Acquired FA and Reed.

Keeping Hinske / Koskie / Hillenbrand / Adams / Hudson / Hill for the infield allows protection and depth to save us from injury hell, and allows Monsieurs Gibbons and Ricchardi to play the best / hottest four infielders every day. It's like having our own Chone Figgins situation.

The odd men out next year are either Reed Johnson and Frank Menechino. But since Menechino is under contract for next year, we keep him and either dump Reed, or make him and Reed both permanent bench men.

And on a final note, I think we should look at the runs scored by Hinske and note that he is a productive baserunner. He is on pace to score 87 runs according to the CBC Sports Forecaster as of July 15, 2005. Only Hillenbrand is projected to score more. For a guy who doesn't play everyday, and is often benched against LH-hitting, that seems pretty solid to me.
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