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Let's begin with a Blue Jays Trivia Question, the answer to which seems unlikely to change in 2006.

Toronto has played 41 post-season games in their history. Who is the only Blue Jay to pitch a Complete Game in the post-season?

The Jays are on the road this week, in Cleveland and Boston. They find themselves just two games behind the Red Sox as the week begins.

The Jays get the Indians first, and Cleveland are this season's poster boys for Pythagorean Underachivement, a mantle the Blue Jays are happy to shed to some other unfortunate squad. Cleveland has scored more runs than Boston (707 to 700) and given up fewer (646 to 669). You certainly wouldn't expect them to be more than 10 games behind the Red Sox, anymore than you'd expect them to be 9 games below .500.

And then Boston. What happened there, anyway? The Second Boston Massacre has naturally attracted most of the attention, in the same way we might gawk at a spectacular car accident, or Tom Cruise. But the whole month has been terrible. The Sox have spent most of August playing teams with losing records and getting beat by them. They were swept by Seattle and Kansas City; they lost two of three against Tampa Bay and Cleveland. Was there a turning point, when it all went bad for Boston?

Well, who knows. But let us flash back to July 31, when David Ortiz hit a three run homer in the ninth inning to give Boston yet another dramatic come from behind victory over the Indians. In the third inning, Jason Varitek had twisted his left knee while running the bases. He had surgery three days later. Boston has won just 8 of 26 games without him. No doubt they miss his bat, but the Red Sox have run into more serious issues on the other side of the ball. They have has been giving up more than 6 runs a game in August, with Javy Lopez and Doug Mirabelli handling the pitching staff. Prior to Varitek's injury, they were allowing 4.9 runs per game.

Those of us who were skeptical about Boston's chances heading into the season were wondering mostly about the age and health of their pitching staff. And, sure enough, Tim Wakefield and David Wells have missed great chunks of the season. Of the the other elderly and/or health-challenged hurlers, Curt Schilling has had a very fine campaign. But Keith Foulke has yet to recover from the enormous workload he shouldered in the 2004 post-season. And Mike Timlin, after a fine first half (4-0, 2.59 at the Break) seems to have either run out of gas or suddenly grown old (1-4, 6.36 since the break.)

Meanwhile In the NL (which I assume stands for Not-so-good League), Cincinnati had a lousy weekend, getting swept by the Giants. But the Reds are still just 2.5 games back of St.Louis in the Central division, and they lead the way in the hunt for the the NL Wild Card.

This seems like a fine opportunity to review some of the comments made back in mid-July when they sent Felipe Lopez to Washington. This trade did not receive universal applause. Keith Law wrote that Jim Bowden had fleeced his old employers and sent cincinnati to the back of the NL playoff queue. Dan Symborski wrote that the Reds had "tanked the 2006 season:"

If I were a Reds fans, I’d be choking back the vomit right about now. The Reds, a team in contention, have just given up two of their most important position players to pick up 2 good relievers, a horrible SS, a waiver-wire 3B, and a decent pitching prospect with some injury problems.

The Transaction Guy
didn't think too much of the trade either:

...a potential 30 HR outfielder, an All-Star shortstop, and a former #1 draft pick pitcher? Not a bad haul for a washed up infielder, an infielder who wishes he was good enough to someday be washed up, a decent reliever, and a couple of young pitchers who don’t project. I’m certainly not breaking any new ground when I write that this looks like a terrible trade for the Reds.

However, one or two of the folks here - not me - at Batter's Box had a different perspective. And why not? After all, we've actually seen Felipe Lopez play shortstop. Bruce Wrigley bravely asserted that:

To many people, it's an absurd deal but I think that on the contrary, it may be a season-saving move for the Reds. Leaving aside the fact that Clayton is hitting almost as well as Lopez is when you take their home parks into account, there is a vast gulf between the two players defensively.

I said nothing at the time. Once bitten, twice shy. You see, in the spring of 2005, I had mercilessly ridiculed the Arizona Diamondbacks for many reasons that seemed excellent at the time. They had just lost more than 110 games, and part of their plan to get better involved bringing in Royce Clayton to play shortstop. I let them have it, and of course Arizona mysteriously improved by 25 games and finished second. I didn't want to repeat that experience. But I must admit, I'm coming around to the position that replacing a terrible defensive shortstop with a good one may actually be worth sacrificing what looks to be a disproportionate amount of offense. If I had to choose, I do think I'd rather have... oh, Mark Belanger at short than Felipe Lopez.

OK, sudden change of subject:

I've been plugging away at the next entry for the Lobby of Numbers, and because it's the Colorado Rockies, I've been thinking a little bit about home-road splits.

Here are two American League outfielders who began their careers in the 1960s and finished up in the 1980s.

              G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB IBB   SO HBP  GDP  SB CS  AVG  OBP  SLG
Player A 1410 5065 821 1358 267 26 283 876 713 82 1291 50 101 129 65 .268 .362 .499
Player B 1632 6040 822 1597 264 21 215 781 886 81 753 15 168 87 66 .264 .357 .422
As you can see, these are two quite similar offensive players. Player A is clearly a little better - he has significantly more power, and from the stolen base, triple, and GDP data we might infer that he is probably a little faster as well. They're about the same hitting for average, and while both draw plenty of walks, Player B draws a few more of them. Would anyone like to guess their names?

Wait, you're thinking. If these guys played in three decades - shouldn't they have played quite a few more games?

Indeed. This is just half of each player's career - the half spent playing on the road. This is what they did in neutral parks. But when they got home, each player encountered very different circumstances, and their numbers reflect it. Player A would maintain his advantage in hitting home runs, but that's about it. Player B suddenly has a whopping 50 point lead in batting average. He hit almost twice as many doubles, and increased his lead in drawing walks.
             G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB IBB   SO HBP GDP  SB CS  AVG  OBP  SLG
Player A 1410 4799 730 1226 196 23 280 826 663 82 1305 46 82 99 50 .255 .349 .481
Player B 1676 5948 994 1822 382 38 237 1063 959 109 642 25 157 81 49 .306 .402 .503
Player B had an enormous home park advantage. This obviously affects how we have come to think of these two players, not just in terms of both quality but also the kind of player that they each was. See, what I've been wondering a bit is how much this huge difference in home ball parks, beyond shaping the type of numbers these two players posted, affected each player's approach to the game.

Player A clearly played his home games in parks that discouraged hitting for average. But they don't seem to have affected his power too much, and so that was what he made into the focus of his offensive game. He became a slugger, who struck out a lot and didn't hit for impressive battting averages. Whereas the other guy won several batting titles...
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Anders - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 02:22 AM EDT (#154220) #
Chris Dial's AL defensive ratings are up for the season to date.

Of note - Aaron Hill is apparently the best defensive 2b in the AL by a considerable margin, and the Jays outfielders not name Cattolonatto are doing very well.

VBF - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 07:18 AM EDT (#154222) #

I'm thinking 85 or 89. (I'm going off memories of world series videos as I was two when such events took place).

I'm going to say Jim Clancy.

js_magloire - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 07:50 AM EDT (#154223) #
This article talks about how Phillips likes being a Blue Jay and the prospects of which catchers will return. I'd hate to say it, but even though baserunners have stolen a million bases off of Molina (and Zaun) this year, Molina has definitely been contributing the last few weeks with the bat. But since its unlikely he comes back, and Zaun and Phillips both want to return, I see that as a very pallatable combo of players to assume the catcher role for a cheap price, probably $2 million.

That only leaves 3 gaping holes in the rotation to fill for next year. And I think we'll see an Adams/Hill middle infield combo, but at least that will give a definitve answer to whether Adams can hit at the major league level, because after 3 plus years, it should be enough.
zeppelinkm - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 08:23 AM EDT (#154224) #

Vernon Wells, with 2 stolen bases in yestarday's win, now has 14 for the season, with an 80% + success rate (14/17). Maybe he runs wild and hits 20 before the season is out. He also hit his 30th HR. He really has been the total package this year.


Barry Bonnell - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 09:34 AM EDT (#154227) #
I think  it was Jack Morris who pitched the complete game...he may have lost the game as well.
Craig B - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 10:06 AM EDT (#154229) #
I thought that Barry was correct - Morris "sounded" right, and he was.  Morris lost the first game of the 1992 ALCS to the A's and lost the game in the ninth.
Craig B - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 10:08 AM EDT (#154230) #

I see that as a very pallatable combo of players to assume the catcher role for a cheap price, probably $2 million.

I think Zaun will be in line for a considerable raise this season and at least double his salary.  If I was a contending team that needed a platoon catcher, I'd have no problem offering Zaun $2.5 million.

Mike D - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 11:02 AM EDT (#154231) #

Don't feel too bad for Player A, Gentle Readers, because he's got a Cooperstown plaque every bit as shiny as Player B.  You may know them better as Reggie and Yaz.

Mags, I cannot wait for the next Lobby of Numbers.

Craig B - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 11:34 AM EDT (#154232) #

Well, it's an interesting theory that Reggie's career was shaped by his home parks.  I can see how one might draw that conclusion, but I have to say I don't really buy it.  Reggie was always, from day one, a swing-from-the-heels all-or-nothing slugger who disdained the lesser hits (unless there were RBIs to be collected).  In his rookie season, with plenty of sock in his bat and tremendous speed, Reggie hit the grand total of 13 doubles.  He just wanted to hit home runs, and that was pretty much all he ever wanted.

Wildrose - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 12:57 PM EDT (#154235) #
I must admit I'm a big fan of Dial's system that transforms zone rating  into runs above/below average ( I like it a lot more than BPro's Davenport translations which for me doesn't pass the basic smell test with Vernon Wells being -13, also  I prefer ball in play metrics like this one , and Pinto's and Dewan's, over methods based on putouts and assists.)

His numbers seem to match my subjective opinion on how the teams various players preform defensively. Basically I can live with all the results. The outfielders save Cattlatanno ( I'm not sure how Dial factors in throwing ability..Dewan gives Cat high marks for this), are all quite good ( is there a better MLB outfield defensively than Johnson,Wells and Rios?), Glaus is a little below average than his peers, Overbay and Macdonald  average ( I thought JMac would have been higher..). Hill's number however sticks out like a sore thumb. I don't think there's any way Hill is 29 runs better than average. Adam Kennedy who Dial has as the best second baseman in the last decade, averaged 12 runs above average in his career. I'm afraid while I think Hill is okay , sample size may be skewing the numbers. 

What do others think?

Magpie - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 02:34 PM EDT (#154236) #
He just wanted to hit home runs, and that was pretty much all he ever wanted.

Can't argue with that. You might also have mentioned that as a rookie, he struck out 171 times. Grip it and rip it. It's still shocking to me that if you take him and Yaz out of their home parks, Reggie hits for a higher average.
Craig B - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 03:41 PM EDT (#154243) #

It's still shocking to me that if you take him and Yaz out of their home parks, Reggie hits for a higher average.

Right, but don't forget, Yaz tore his game down right to the frame and custom-rebuilt it, offensively and defensively, for playing in Fenway Park.  Also, Yaz batted something like 5200 times after the age of 35, by which time his game was a shadow of what it was in his prime.  (Reggie's decline phase was about half that long).  It's worth noting that though Jackson was a much better road player, Yaz was a much better home player, even with the park factors taken out, because he only ever had one home park and played it like a violin. 

It's possible that no one will ever again use his home park to his advantage to a greater degree than Yaz did with Fenway.

Magpie - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 04:16 PM EDT (#154244) #
As much as anything, it's the contrast with the players received images that is so interesting - Jackson the low average slugger (when he went into the HoF, people grumbled about the low career average and the fact that he only hit .300 once) and Yaz the multiple batting champ.

It's possible that no one will ever again use his home park to his advantage to a greater degree than Yaz did with Fenway.

Which brings me nicely to the most insane home-road career split I have ever encountered. Who is this man?

         G    AB    R    H  2B  3B  HR  RBI   BB IBB   SO HBP  GDP   SB  CS   AVG   OBP   SLG
Home   647  2326  582  871 203  17 168  565  410  71  273  21  53   22  10  .374  .468  .693
Away   632  2234  342  664 170   7 103  350  363  60  349  19   58   11  13  .297  .397  .518
Ah, probably too easy...
Magpie - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 04:30 PM EDT (#154245) #
Another thought about Reggie - he's one of the first big sluggers I remember who regularly hit homers to the opposite field. He had tremendous power to dead centre and left-centre (quite a bit like Fred McGriff, actually.)

Home run hitters used to be dead-pull hitters for the most part. They aren't anymore, of course. Can any of the other older fellas around here remember someone besides Reggie who used to go the other way frequently?

"Go the other way" as in hit the ball out of the park. The other way.

Mike D - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 04:53 PM EDT (#154250) #
That's gotta be Helton, right, Magpie? 
Magpie - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 05:02 PM EDT (#154252) #
Indeed it is, which is what sent me down the rabbit hole.

Helton's been a hell of a player any way you look at it. But his Coors numbers... yikes.

Wildrose - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 05:38 PM EDT (#154255) #
Latest Blair up, he talks about September callups.
Gerry - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 08:35 PM EDT (#154257) #
My guess for the four players, Lind, Towers, McGowan and Rosario.  The last two are out of options and need to be assessed for next season.
braden - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 08:47 PM EDT (#154258) #

As a follow-up to my post on 16 year-old Balbino Fuenmayor, see below for a Spanish language article which seems to confirm the signing.

Not sure if nobody's really interested or just skeptical, but if true, this signing is a pretty big deal.

Rob - Monday, August 28 2006 @ 10:01 PM EDT (#154259) #
For what it's worth, the agent says it's a done deal:

Attilio Ambrosio, agente del jugador, comentó que el documento del acuerdo ya está redactado. "Sólo falta la firma que cierre el negocio", aseguró. Un acto que se llevará a cabo en Venezuela, durante la última semana de agosto.

What, very few Spanish speakers here? Okay, fine -- in English, I think that's more or less:

Attilio Ambrosio, Fuenmayor's agent, commented that the agreement is already written up. "It only lacks the official signature of the Blue Jays," he assured. The signing will take place in Venezuela, during the last week of August.
Ryan C - Tuesday, August 29 2006 @ 12:36 AM EDT (#154268) #
I read on another site that the Jays signed Balbino Fuenmayorn

If this leads to some kind of "Curse of the Balbino" for the Jays I will be rather upset.

zeppelinkm - Tuesday, August 29 2006 @ 07:35 AM EDT (#154272) #
I've noticed Wells hasn't been nearly as good in the outfield this year. I've brought it up a few times in various threads - he just doesn't seem to be making quite as many plays as I'm used to. It is kind of unfair, I'm used to him getting everything, and never bobbling anything, but he has looked much more human this year. I've seen him bobble a ball making the transfer on a sac fly, take a poor dive at a ball that he shouldn't have dived at, and misplay a few shots over his head, all since the all star break. He's still great, but he's not inhuman, as he used to be. I am not surprised by those defence numbers.

Pistol - Tuesday, August 29 2006 @ 09:04 AM EDT (#154273) #

I threw the article in Babelfish and it looks like the Jays have signed Balbino Fuenmayor for $1.15 million.  That bonus is in the same range as a bonus for a late 1st round pick.  It's the first bonus over $1 million for a player from Venezuela since Quiroz.

Quote on Fuenmayor at BA"Fuenmayor takes a great BP--you just fall in love thinking what he might be," the scouting director said. "He's a thicker version of Chipper Jones for me."

I'd sign the guy just because his name is Balbino.

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