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The Blue Jays' season was on display in microcosm in last night's doubleheader. After a frustrating and dispiriting loss in the opener, Toronto fell behind 5-2 early and could easily have given up the ghost. But they battled back, first to tie it, and ever so gradually, to move ahead and eventually win it.

The last two innings in particular were illustrative. The Jays loaded the bases with fewer than two out in both the 8th and 9th, but in neither inning could they deliver a big hit: two sacrifice flies accounted for the difference in the ballgame. Much as the team's grind-it-out spirit was manifested in the comeback win, so too was this simple fact: this offence neither excites its fans nor intimidates its opponents.

The Jays have now played five games against the Yankees and Red Sox in the hottest heat of the pennant race, and although they've won two of those matches, both victories owed more to their opponent's shortcomings than to their own decisive actions. A number of things have to change, especially on offence, before the start of next season if this team wishes to be taken seriously in the AL East.

A few quick thoughts on three key Jays:

--> In the unlikely event that Gustavo Chacin had any designs on winning the AL Rookie of the Year award, last nightís start officially scotched them. Needing a dominant performance on national TV to keep up with the likes of Huston Street and various young Devil Rays, Chacin cratered and did not survive the fourth inning. However, the impression that Chacin has declined precipitously in the second half is not really justified by the numbers.

Pre-All-Star 	7-5, 3.57, 103 IP, 109 H, 36 BB, 61 K, 7 HR, .267 Opp BA
Post-All-Star	5-4, 3.77, 88 IP, 87 H, 33 BB, 57 K, 12 HR, .262 Opp BA
Chacinís post-ASB problem has been the gopher ball: after allowing just 7 in the first-half, he surrendered 9 dingers in August alone. His command has been less precise as well. But heís also increased his strikeout rate slightly and lowered his opponentsí batting average in the second half. Last nightís start aside, he has been pretty solid in September (zero homers allowed). So overall, heís been pretty consistent.

All the same, Chacinís performance this season should be considered to be pretty much his maximum output - he does not have a great deal of ceiling left to explore. His final numbers Ė 200 IP, 3.82 ERA Ė should be pretty much the best the Blue Jays should hope for from him going forward. Should his August homeritis recur, Chacin will have a tough time of it Ė his abilities to prevent baserunners are merely average, so he has to avoid long-ball mistakes that would maximize his damage. He may regress next season, and he may stay pretty much the same, but I doubt heís going to get a lot better. None of that should detract from a terrific rookie season from a pitcher who was on nobodyís prospect lists 18 months ago.

--> Another player who has seen his ROY chances drain away is Russ Adams, but in the shortstopís case, the numbers convincingly tell why:

April   .218/.295/.327
May     .254/.307/.507
June    .250/.274/.441
July    .329/.427/.380
Aug     .269/.361/.413
Sept    .187/.216/.242
After heating up in July and August, he slammed into a September wall and has seen his average free-fall back to the .250 range. It will come as no surprise to those who know me as an Adams booster that Iím not too worried about that. Most young players in their first full season (acknowledging that Adams was platooned through April and much of May) run out of gas around this time of year. An off-season of conditioning and a full season of experience should help Adams rediscover his groove, and assuming the Jays donít deal him as part of an effort to break up the infield logjam, he should be back leading off in 2006 looking to post the .350+ OBPs he produced in July and August.

--> Speaking of infield logjams, one infielder who was not jamming the basepaths last night was Shea Hillenbrand, who struck out an astounding 7 times in 8 at-bats. Whatís that, a jewel-encrusted double platinum sombrero? Itís been a solid year for Hillenbrand, but itís not ending the way heíd like. He has batted around .280 the last two months, and his power has remained fairly consistent (albeit only 1 round-tripper in September), but with his normal anemic walk rate and the return of his normal HBP rate (just 3 plunkings the last two months, following 19 in the first four), his OBP has been about .315 in that span.

Hillenbrandís nearly-complete season totals (.291/.343/.449) now mirror almost precisely his career numbers (.288/.327/.448); throw out the freak HBP numbers and Hillenbrand had a precisely normal season. Thatís what the Jays can count on if they invite Hillenbrand back for full-time work in 2006. Itís a decently solid line that compares pretty favourably to the production this season of other DH/infielders like Dmitri Young, Raul Ibanez and Ben Broussard. Thereís nothing wrong with any of these guys, but I think most people (including JP Ricciardi) would agree that theyíre the kinds of players a contending team acquires to bat 6th or 7th, not cleanup.

Nightcap: Three For The Show | 21 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 02:32 PM EDT (#129048) #
Today's BP Notebook has some interesting thoughts on the Jay infield situation. Jordan has nicely summarized Hillenbrand. The only additional points that are worth mentioning is that Hillenbrand grounds into a large number of double plays (21 this year), diminishing his offensive value, and that he earned $3.8 million last year, and would likely get an increase this year.
Pistol - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 02:51 PM EDT (#129053) #
Actually, the game wasn't on national TV last night. Tuesday is poker night on ESPN! Tonight's game is on ESPN.

Hillenbrand's 7 K's in the double header tied a ML record.
Wildrose - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 02:52 PM EDT (#129054) #
Here's what the baseball analysts think of some of our young players.
Tyler - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 02:59 PM EDT (#129055) #
The bit on Hill looking good at second fits with my impressions as well. I think he's looked excellent defensively, but as has been noted, it's a pretty small sample of games.

Anyone else thinking that Hudson is the one who's going to go? It makes no sense to trade either of Hill or Adams, IMO. Hinske is untradeable, Koskie is probably close to that. JP wouldn't want to move Koskie anyway, IMO and I think he intends to keep Hillenbrand. Hudson is the logical one to be traded. I'd be very interested to see what the offers for him are like-he strikes me as a guy where the offers might exceed his actual value because he looks so damn baseball-y.
Wildrose - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 03:20 PM EDT (#129058) #
This is a team that has 3 good second basemen.

Hudson-I agree with MG from the other thread, his defence is off the chart, and my guess his true value is understood by only the most savy , sabermetric type of G.M.

Adams-Looking at the BP FRAR numbers and my own very subjective observations, he's really better suited defensively due to arm strength at second.

Hill- I see him offensively/defensively fitting best at second. I have no concerns about his second half slide and would attribute it to lack of consistent playing time.

This is also a team of 3 guys whose best position, value wise is third base.(Koskie,Hinske and Hillenbrand.)

How J.P. deals with all this position overload, will determine to a large degree his legacy.
Ron - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 03:51 PM EDT (#129061) #
On a recent WWJP, Wilner brought up all the rumblings of Hudson being dealt and JP boldy stated "He will be here next season".

Out of the trio, I expect Adams to be dealt.
John Northey - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 04:37 PM EDT (#129064) #
Well, given we've had a Adams and a Hudson bet I'll go with Hill being the one who loses on the merry-go-round at SS/2B this winter. Hill has the ability to play at 3 positions, looks like a player, and could be viewed as a potential steal by an opposing GM. This gives JP a lot of potential trading partners vs Adams and Hudson who are proven at only one position and who both give the feel of 'what you see is what you get'. I don't see the Jays platooning Hill and Adams (as suggested by one website).

My personal preference would be to see if Hill can become the new Tony Phillips, a super-sub who plays almost everyday at an assortment of positions. However, I can't picture any team doing that with a kid unless they have a real unique manager (I think the Mets did something like this in the mid-80's with a rookie while Johnson managed).
Jonny German - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 05:01 PM EDT (#129067) #
There's a Chone Figgins on Line 1 demanding a little respect, John.
Pistol - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 05:32 PM EDT (#129070) #
"Adams-Looking at the BP FRAR numbers and my own very subjective observations, he's really better suited defensively due to arm strength at second"

Is arm strength really Adams' problem? Said another way, are the Jays giving up a number of hits because his throws aren't getting over to first in time? It seems pretty rare to me.

Or is Adams positioned closer to the plate to compensate for his arm which would cut down on his range and let more balls go through?
Pepper Moffatt - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 05:41 PM EDT (#129071) #
Why do any of them have to be dealt? Why not have Hill at 3B, Adams at SS, Hudson at 2B, and Koskie at 1B or DH?

If Koskie starts at 3B next season, I'd put even money that he's on the DL on/before June 1st.
Mick Doherty - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 06:17 PM EDT (#129073) #
Why not have Hill at 3B, Adams at SS, Hudson at 2B, and Koskie at 1B or DH?

Because status quo isn't good enough for this team, and it can't afford to run an infield out there, no matter how good defensively, that combines to hit fewer home runs than Alex Rodriguez.

Wildrose - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 06:38 PM EDT (#129074) #
Why do any of them have to be dealt? Why not have Hill at 3B, Adams at SS, Hudson at 2B, and Koskie at 1B or DH?

Well this is certainly an option, but on a team with very poor offence I think you need to look at maximizing value along the defensive spectrum. Hillenbrand/Koskie are sub-standard first basemen offensively (2005 Avg A.L. OPS for 1B is .801 , vs .756 for 3B.) Both are adequate defensively at third , Koskie has a.747 OPS and Hilly is at .792.

If you want to improve your team at DH/1B you have to deal from a position of strength within your organization, that is 2B/3B where we have excess talent. Also by keeping Adams at short your willing to accept his defensive shortcomings.

Chuck - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 06:47 PM EDT (#129075) #
I think Monsieur Poivre has it: ain't none of them gonna be moved. I expect the same mixing and matching at 2B/SS/3B as this year, especially given the injury potential of Koskie and Hudson (who has yet to register a 500 AB season).

I think Hudson would never fetch fair return in a trade since his bat is only middling and his defense, the bulk of his worth, would go undercompensated. I think he's worth more to the Jays.

To my mind, the true test of the off-season will be the role Hinske will be asked to perform in 2006. He's untradeable, so the options are eating the rest of his contract and placing him in a support role. If he's a starter next year, either at 1B or DH, then not enough good things will have happened to make the offense stronger. The same could probably be said of Rios as well.
nicton - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 06:55 PM EDT (#129076) #
I agree with Mick. Sort of. Koskie was a horrible signing. Wasting a good money on middle of the road ( or in this case worse ) player is what kills teams without huge payrolls. Paying Hinske and Koskie $10 mil a year between the two is a waste of a $10 mil player...
Wildrose - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 06:57 PM EDT (#129077) #
I think injury concerns are a valid consideration, but so is improving the offence and not at the expense of defence. It should be a very interesting off-season.
Jonny German - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 07:05 PM EDT (#129078) #
Let's run this up the flagpole to see what people think of it... "Starts" are per week and "AB" are for the full season. Oh yes, that's Jonny Gomes, Austin Kearns, and Larry Walker.
           C  1B  2B  SS  3B  LF  CF  RF  DH   Starts  AB
L  Adams               5                          5    450
L  Gomes                       4           1      5    450
L  Gross                       1       1          2    200
R  Hill            1   1   2                      4    350
R  Hillen.     4                                  4    350
L  Hinske      2                                  2    200
S  Hudson          5                              5    450
R  Johnson                     1                  1    100
R  Kearns                              5          5    450
L  Koskie                  4               1      5    450
R  Quiroz  2                                      2    175
L  Walker                                  4      4    350
R  Wells                           6              6    500
S  Zaun    4                                      4    350
Gitz - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 07:43 PM EDT (#129079) #
Herm. You're suggesting the Jays are going to land Jonny Gomes? Admittedly the Rays are clueless, but that guy can flat-out rake.

Is it me or do the D-Rays appear that close to exploding on the league next year? They have so many front-line players, especially hitters, although a bit more plate discipline would go a long way. All they need is a pitcher or two to augment Scott Kazmir (who needs to find the strike zone more), and a manager who can get out of the way and let them develop.

Of course, many teams are a pitcher or two away, but really, the D-Rays are loaded with hitting talent.

nicton - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 08:12 PM EDT (#129080) #
Will the Jays have any one to pitch if they have to trade for J Gomes and A Kearns. I would guess, if they were available, their clubs would have many suitors...
Nigel - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 08:34 PM EDT (#129081) #
If you were going to trade one of the three middle infielders Adams/Hill or Hudson on talent alone, I think you would trade Adams, but I do think he's really the only one of them that will be able to play an average to above average defensive SS over the longer term. It's a tough problem. To me, the key with Adams always has been whether he'll be able to SLG over .400. If so, then he'll be a solid offensive contributor, if not then I think what you've seen this year is what you'll get.

JP's going to earn his money this year determining a) what portion of a surprising effective pitching staff (absent Halladay) will be able to sustain their performance and who will regress; and b) which of his youngsters Adams/Hill/Rios/Gross and Quiroz will be productive major league hitters.
greenfrog - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 09:24 PM EDT (#129082) #
The hard thing is figuring out Adams' and Hill's ceilings. It's pretty early to give up on them; too early, I think. Hudson, on the other hand, is a proven commodity: roughly .270/.330/.420 with stellar defense. What's a GM to do?

The frustrating thing about Hinske is that he's almost having a decent year (which might make him tradeable). A .270 BA, 20 HR, 80 RBI might get it done. Incidentally, anyone know his BA with runners in scoring position? He seems to miss a lot of opportunities to drive runners in (strikeouts, popups, and groundballs to the right side come to mind).

Koskie is a tough call. I wonder how much the broken thumb has affected him this year--both in terms of having to regain his batting stroke after a long hiatus, and hitting with a banged up thumb after his return.
Jim - Wednesday, September 28 2005 @ 10:50 PM EDT (#129093) #
'pretty favourably to the production this season of other DH/infielders like Dmitri Young, Raul Ibanez'

I think you forgot an 'un' in front of favourably. Unless you want to ignore the fact that Young and Ibanez play in Comerica and Safeco.
Nightcap: Three For The Show | 21 comments | Create New Account
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