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"Don't you know how hard all this is?"
-- Ted Williams

During these recent difficult days, I thought it might be helpful if we reflected upon the words of some older, wiser head. Much older than even my own, and much, much wiser:


Because it's a fine line indeed between success and failure. As we've all seen in the past week. And the most maddeningly minor and trivial things mark decisive points along that line. If Jack Hannahan and Tony Pena don't make a couple of plays... if David Eckstein and Aaron Hill do make a couple of plays... if Joe Inglett gets a bunt down.... But that's baseball. Shoulda woulda coulda.

But it is a fine line, and that's why it's also useful to remember that anything that puts a team off its game can have an utterly disproportionate effect on the results. The flu was travelling through the clubhouse at the beginning of last week. It's true that hardly anybody actually missed any action. But I promise you, it had an impact on those who played. I know when I've got the flu, I don't even do as good a job at watching television as I normally would. It's a fine line between being at the top of your game and being just a little below it; but at this level of endeavour, and at this level alone, that extremely fine distinction shows up on the scoreboard. Remember how the Red Sox looked when they stumbled into town at the end of their Road Trip from Hell? Remember what happened to them when they got here?

That's baseball. This is a bell curve.

The bell curve is a graphic representation of how human talent is normally distributed. We're thinking of any basic human talent, from playing baseball to playing chess. The vast majority of the population is smack dab in the middle. There are people to the left of the centre point who are below average, dwindling to an ever smaller number of people who cannot carry out these endeavours in any form at all. At the other end, we have the people to the right of the centre line who are better than most, and that number dwindles and dwindles until we get to the extreme right end of the curve, where we find those very few human beings who are really, really, really good at these things: Gary Kasparov and Albert Pujols. The differences between people like this and an ordinary enough human being like myself are enormous.

Here's what you always have to remember about the people who inhabit the far right end of the bell curve. They're all freaks. They have a gift that is so far in excess of what the vast majority of human beings inherit... well, it's almost impossible to even make sense of the gulf between us. I know how to play chess, as many of us do. But I know a lot more besides. I understand the theory of the opening, how to create and exploit the smallest weaknesses - an isolated pawn, a bad bishop - but the gap between my understanding of the game and that of a grandmaster like John Nunn is about as deep and profound as the gap between my understanding of physics and Roy Glauber's.

Grandmaster Nunn, like Professor Glauber, like Marco Scutaro, is a freak. Nunn is one of my favourite players, partially because he writes so well and partially because he loves to play a very sharp and attacking game. He's an interesting and attractive freak (in other words, not at all like Bobby Fischer) - he was a mathematics prodigy who graduated from Oxford when he was 18, had his doctorate five years later, and lectured in mathematics at Oxford until he started playing chess professionally. Mario Scutaro we know about. And as for Professor Glauber, his current research is in the field of quantum optics, and includes:

the quantum mechanical behavior of trapped wave packets; interactions of light with trapped ions; atom counting-the statistical properties of free atom beams and their measurement; algebraic methods for dealing with fermion statistics; coherence and correlations of bosonic atoms near the Bose-Einstein condensation; the theory of continuously monitored photon counting-and its reaction on quantum sources; the fundamental nature of “quantum jumps”; resonant transport of particles produced multiply in high-energy collisions; the multiple diffraction model of proton-proton and proton-antiproton scattering.

There are far more people walking around in the world whom you would allow to perform surgery on your brain than there are who can do what these people can do.

However, while the differences between these people and ourselves are enormous, the differences amongst themselves are vanishingly small. In ordinary human terms, these differences are literally microscopic.Look at that picture again! You can't see any difference at the far right end of that curve! There's effectively no difference between them at all.

But maybe if we limit their competitive activity so that they only play amongst themselves, some slight shadings, some small degrees of difference will emerge. For example, if we play baseball every day for six months, and if we keep track of absolutely everything, and if we calculate everything to at least three decimal points - we may begin to tell them apart. But even so - when the real differences between them are so small, on a given day, anything can happen. Really. Marco Scutaro can beat Mariano Rivera.

And it will all happen in this little, tiny part of the extreme right end of the curve. Which we can only see, by the way, after we haul out the microscope:

And in this tiny fragment of the human population - that little fragment that is capable of playing world class chess or major league baseball - the most typical performer is the worst fellow out there. As the line moves rightwards to even higher levels of skill, the numbers of people fall and fall and fall until we find no one left except Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera. But even someone from the far left of this little picture - Marco Scutaro, say - is still far, far closer to Alex Rodriguez than he is to any of us. And again, don't even mention Marco's name to Mariano.

It's simpler with chess players. We just have them play each other. On those occasions when they did meet in tournament play, John Nunn couldn't beat Kasparov. Not even once. Nunn is now retired from competitive chess. At his peak in the mid 1980s (for chess players reach their peak and decline, just like the rest of us), Nunn briefly cracked the World's Top 10. He came close, but he never did qualify to play in a World Championship Candidates Tournament. By 2005, his ranking had slipped to 98th in the world. At which point, he decided it was time to pack it in, write some more of his excellent books, and use computers and data mining to put endgame theory on a truly scientific basis.

There are six billion people on this planet. Imagine being one of the 100 best in the world, at anything. Just imagine such a thing.

Then imagine that being nowhere near good enough to even bother continuing with it.

That's baseball, too.

In fact, now that I consider the matter, it's a fine line between the 1927 New York Yankees and the 1962 New York Mets.

Let's run with this for a moment. After all, if the players on that Mets team had been assembled at different moments in their careers, you might have a pretty decent club. Batting leadoff and playing centre field, you've got Richie Ashburn - a Hall of Famer, one of the greatest leadoff hitters in NL history and a brilliant defensive player. Beside Richie in the outfield, we've got the original Frank Thomas, a fine slugging outfielder for many years (three 30 homer seasons, 286 in his career) and Gus Bell, patriarch of three generations of fine ballplayers, and a four-time All Star. Gil Hodges isn't in the Hall of Fame, but he was a very good player, the first baseman for several championship teams, a great defensive player, a powerful hitter. You've got a two time All Star at second base (Charlie Neal) and another All Star in the infield (Felix Mantilla.) Even one of the catchers (Chris Cannizzaro) would make it to an All Star Game eventually. There's nothing good happening at shortstop, but the rest of those guys would put a few runs on the board.

OK, the pitching is pretty shallow, but there are some decent arms around - some solid starters in Roger Craig, Vinegar Bend Mizell, and Al Jackson. Bob Miller was a pretty good major league reliever for seventeen seasons. There was a lot of talent there, and a Hall of Fame manager - but it was all lined up at the wrong moment in their careers, when they had either slipped from the level of their best performance or hadn't reached it yet. At this extreme end of the spectrum of baseball ability, that's all it took. It worked out to 40 wins and 120 losses. A very fine line indeed.

But happily, the losing streak stopped before I started bringing out the Jean-Luc Picard ("the line must be drawn here!"), and before John Gibbons walked the plank. I'm especially happy about that, because I've been working on a Manager's Box for Gibbons, and it would really suck if he got canned before I got finished. All the same, perhaps I'd best not dawdle...

I realize that second guessing and criticizing the manager is a basic human right, like food and shelter. But I just can't pay any attention - it's the white noise of the baseball world, residue left over from some far-off primeval event, constant and meaningless, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. As always, it focuses 95% of its attention on the smallest part of a manager's job, and does so while being based on information that is always sketchy and incomplete. Still any time a team goes through a patch like what the Jays have been going through, the pitch intensifies. I noticed that.

In fact, I'd go far as to say that the criticism directed at Gibbons on this site during the last week, at moments here and there, actually began to approach the criticism I regularly read of Tito Francona from Red Sox fans. It wasn't that bad, I hasten to add - and we were nowhere near the way Yankees fans used to talk about Joe Torre - but it was getting there. It really was. It was kind of impressive, in a weird sort of way.

And hey - by the way - it seems to me that there's been just a little too much love for John McDonald in the air lately. Just a little. I like Johnny Mac my own self, but I always try to remember what he is. He is a glove. And if you shake the nearest tree, a dozen gloves will come dropping out. That's a piece of ancient baseball wisdom, handed down through the ages, but it's supported by the bit of quasi-science practised by myself (hey, it's the best that I can manage!) and cherry-picked for this particular occasion. Players like McDonald come from the far left of that second graphic, where such talent is plentiful.

There are indeed times when you need to shake the glove tree and pick up what comes dropping out, but in the Great Scheme of Things David Eckstein will do more to help this team win than John McDonald.
28 April 2008: A Fine Line | 74 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
brent - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 05:04 AM EDT (#183901) #

Nice work, Magpie.

In regards to the three decimal places- game 26 WPA heroes Litsch, Rios (7), Rolen (2), Ryan (4)       WPA let downs Lind (2)

Mike Green - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 09:32 AM EDT (#183905) #
Dear John,

That was a nicely managed game, right there.  Creative yet sensible lineup. and thoughtful and wise use of a returning ace reliever.  I was all set to forgive, until Jeff Blair told me in my morning paper that you plan to install David Eckstein as your everyday #2 hitter.  That would be one helluva mistake.

Why?  The #2 hitter on an American League team which has 9 hitters with an expected on-base percentage of over .325 (as the Blue Jays are) is going to be at-bat often with runners on base.  Having #2 hitter with no power at all is a significant loss to the club when there are other much better options (as you demonstrated yesterday). The Book tells us generally how important the overall hitting ability of the #2 hitter is (it is more important than the #3 hitter).  This is doubly so in the kind of lineup the Jays possess.  Here is the Jays club, ordered by GPA. When the club fields a lineup of Rios, Wells, Lind, Rolen, Eckstein, Hill, Overbay, Zaun and Stairs, David will have the lowest expected GPA of the lot, and noticeably so.  Ideally, he hits in the 9th spot, but batting him second is inexcusable (given the current understanding of the importance of this slot in the order). So, tell me that Jeff Blair was mistaken.  That you said 9th instead of 2nd. 

And while we're at it,  I have a deal for you.  I will be patient with you if you are patient with Adam Lind. 


Mike Green

jmoney - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 09:52 AM EDT (#183907) #
I know BJ is being brought along slowly. However, Gibbons use of the bullpen has been pretty decent. For the time being he seems to be using the best pitcher for the given situation rather then defacto "roles"
Ryeguy - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 09:56 AM EDT (#183908) #
If Eckstein hits second, I'm on the fire Gibby bandwagon as well. How much do they have to coddle this guy? They won't replace him defensively in late innings and they insist on hitting him at the top of the order. Does Eckstein have that fragile of an ego?
zeppelinkm - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 10:54 AM EDT (#183909) #

Really? Eckstein 2nd? What happened to Hill...

This is depressing. Just when the Jays get a 9 man team together that actually looks good they go and come up with a creative way to make the team worse.

I know Eckstein is a gritty SOB who "get's er done". And I CAN live with him hitting #1 in the lineup. But if he isn't going to hit #1 for you, he surely shouldn't be hitting #9. He's a 2 options kind of guy. He's 1 or 9 in the lineup.

If this comes true, I really hope the experiment is short lived. Especially on this team, which has a number of guys who seem much more ideally built for the #2 spot then they are lead off.

And um, what pitchers was Scott Rolen facing in A ball? I'm thinking we should make a deal for a couple of those guys.... (it's a joke...) 

vw_fan17 - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 10:55 AM EDT (#183910) #
Nice piece to make you think and reflect on one's own abilities, the range of abilities of people in general, etc..

While I agree with your thesis: people who can PLAY baseball at the MLB level are very few and very far between.. Now, let's do a little "hand-waving" and quantify it: there are, roughly, 750 major leaguers at any one point in time (25 man roster). Times 30 teams = 750. Let's assume that this group came, roughly speaking from a talent pool of 750 million (US, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, Australia, Japan, a few others - no real baseball system in China, India, Russia, middle-east, Europe, etc AFAIK). I haven't done the math to make sure I'm 100% correct (i.e. that those population numbers add up to ~750 million), but I'm sure I'm "in the ballpark". That makes a major leaguer literally, one in a million.

Again roughly speaking, if you were able to fairly evaluate ALL the world, there might be 6000 people capable of playing MLB at the current level. BUT - there are only 750 spots. So, now you have to cut 5250 of those 6000. Doing a little number crunching: 750 - ((6000-750)/6000 * 750) = 94. That means, take the top 94 players from MLB, pair them with the top 656 players from the rest of the world, and you have the 750 best players in the world. What's the size of an All-Star roster? 25 players? So, if you had four all-star teams instead of two (and not necessarily two from each league due to talent distribution), that's the level of play "the earth" is capable of. You'd have all-star caliber games everyday!

Anyway, finally getting to my point: while I agree that PLAYING MLB is literally one-in-a-million, IMHO, MANAGING is not. First, the (almost) total lack of physical skill required: all you really need (theoretically) is a way to communicate to someone else what moves to make. You could be in a hospital bed with a phone headset hooked up, and you could still (in theory) run the team - just have your bench coach make all the changes.

So, all you need are mental abilities. However, the set of people chosen are USUALLY former players - and usually former MLB players. Those have already proven they are "1-in-a-million" in terms of PHYSICAL abilities and hand-eye co-ordination. The fact that they have this physical ability often means that they are NOT necessarily especially mentally gifted. Some are, and that's how they made MLB (someone like a Mulliniks - IMHO, if he's not as savvy, he doesn't make MLB). But, most of them simply have freakish hand-eye co-ordination and athleticism. That alone says that, most likely, they are NOT freakishly gifted mentally. I'm sure some are, but the majority - not so much, IMHO.

So, most managers are (IMHO) of around average IQ (nothing to be ashamed of!) but that is supplemented by lots of baseball experience/wisdom, which probably helps sometimes. So, let's equate this as the average manage having an IQ of 120 overall. I pulled that number out of the air, but, I would bet that MOST mlb managers do NOT have an IQ of 120 or above. Likewise, I'm sure that many people who obsess about baseball, play roto/fantasy, etc have an IQ above 120. So, while the average player has skills most of us here could never dream of equalling, I think many "armchair managers" would probably be as good or better of a manager than the guys currently there - IF intelligence/IQ is the only factor. Obviously, personality and communication skills, mutual respect, motivational ablities and such also factor in. However, the fan rarely sees those factors, except for when they fail, such as Hillenbrand/Gibby, Lilly/Gibby, etc.

To the fan, the manager's decisions (in the absence of behind-the-scenes knowledge) seem to be 95% of his input. And, the decisions alone are not always "optimal". In fact, I would bet that many times they ARE sub-optimal. And they are probably "provably" sub-optimal - like batting Eckstein 2nd. I think THAT's what gets people and makes the dislike certain managers so much: they feel that they could do a PROVABLY better job, and it's all right there in the numbers. Mind you, there's a large difference between "I understand the theory of running (any) organization" and being able to do it. Just ask the Ontario NDP party, ca 1990...

Wow, I thought I'd write 5 lines when I started. Anyway - to summarize: most of us realize that our physical talents are no match for the players. But, we (like to) think our intelligence is at least the equal of many if not most MLB managers, which is why it's easy to criticize them.

ayjackson - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:00 AM EDT (#183911) #

I don't advocate Eckstein hitting second long-term, but right now I have no problem with it.  In fact, right now, for a team that can't score, the line-up makes sense.  We have one guy getting on base consistently in Rios.  Follow him up with someone who can advance that runner to be driven in by Rolen and Stairs who are the two other guys that are actually hitting the ball with any authority. 

I commend Gibby for refitting the lineup to suit the current performance of the hitters.  I'm sure he'll do it in the future as well - regardless of his comments that this will be the lineup going forward.

Mike Green - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:09 AM EDT (#183912) #
I missed the D-Rays/Sox highlights until this morning.  If you didn't see it yesterday, check out how the Rays' first run scored.  Bartlett on first, Beckett tries to pick him off and is wild down the right-field line.  Drew picks up the ball as Bartlett is heading toward third, but unleashes the worst throw I have ever seen by a major leaguer.  As it bounces towards the infield, Bartlett scoots home easily.  You'd think that Drew had torn his achilles or strained his groin by the way he threw, but he stayed in the game and later threw out Crawford trying to stretch a double into a triple.

Damn, Longoria can play.  He looks great out in the field and at bat too.  It sure looks like at least one of the young third basemen (Gordon, Longoria, Zimmerman, Wright) is going to be great.  In 1975, Schmidt was 25 and Brett was 22, and both were just emerging; this crop has that kind of promise.

zeppelinkm - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:21 AM EDT (#183913) #

VW I agree with the main theme of your point (although not necessarily the numbers used to support it), but your main point stands - you don't need to be physically gifted to manage, although time and time again this seems to be a requirement (as you indicated, most managers being former players).

Although as a manager, you absolutely, you must have control of your team. Like when you read about Cito Gaston, and guys saying they are willing to run through a wall for him.

You must earn their respect. To be really blunt, it would be extremely challenging for a player making $15,000,000 a year to take a his manager seriously if that managers resume consisted of dominating "online fantasy leagues".

Although how do we overcome this? How do we get John Gibbons (I must say, I laugh pretty good whenever I read someone say "freak of nature" with respect to the athletic abilities required to play MLB and with respect to just HIM in general) to realize that despite whatever intangiables he sees in Eckstein, that Eckstein in no way shape or form should EVER be hitting 2nd for a team that wants the win. Maybe the Giants, but not these Jays.

General point: I think you guys are way underestimating the number of people who are capable of playing MLB. The guys that get there are one thing. But I bet you there are lots of football, basketball, hockey, etc, players who have the physical skillset and athletic ability to play and succeed in the Majors, but by virtue of never having played the sport growing up (and playing other sports instead), will never play MLB.




Barry Bonnell - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:39 AM EDT (#183914) #

Nice article here on Roy Halladay and the "lost art" of the complete game.

Geoff - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:50 AM EDT (#183915) #
Mario Scutaro we know about.

We do? Is that Marco's brother who cheers for him at all the games?

I'm still hoping for some sort of quantum physics explanation for how both Florida teams can be in first place after four weeks of regular season play.

The Bay Rays and the Marlins in first place in their divisions? Impossible.
Mylegacy - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 12:05 PM EDT (#183917) #

Magpie, excellent article - very insightful, very Stephen Hawking(ish) of you. As to Nunn, I coulda beat him... I know I woulda...I'm sure I shoulda.

Excellent article on Halladay.

Eckstein batting second? I HATE Eckstein - I want him cut! If not, I want him batting 10th! However, I prefer him batting 2nd more than I do him batting 1st. He'll be hard to double up - I hear he hustles down the line. He'll scratch and scrap to advance the runner. Put down the perfect bunt every time. Oh gosh I wish he'd go back to St Louis! Hill has played himself OUT of batting 2nd. Eck for King! Well maybe not, but he just might be an OK(ish) 2nd batter. 


Geoff - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 12:08 PM EDT (#183918) #
Roy Halladay, the meth of the mound. Kind of a disturbing image.

Notice Passan came up with this story after writing one about pitch counts yesterday.

It included this interesting data table:

Number of starts with at least 125 pitches

2007: 14
2006: 26
2005: 31
2004: 46
2003: 70
2002: 69
2001: 74
2000: 160
1999: 179
1998: 212
1997: 141
1996: 195

John Northey - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 12:55 PM EDT (#183919) #
Ah, good ol' lineup analysis.  Generally lineups don't make that big a difference, not compared to deciding who should/should not play or pitcher usage.

Checking I get the following...

Gibbons lineup using ZIPS for 2008 stats (since it is too early for '08 real stats to mean much)
4.827 runs per game

Optimal lineup = 4.921 runs per game
Zaun Rios Rolen Wells Overbay Lind Stairs Hill Eckstein

Worst lineup = 4.674 runs per game
Lind Hill Stairs Eckstein Rolen Zaun Overbay Rios Wells

So, from best to Gibbons is 0.094 runs a game.  Gibbons vs the worst is 0.153 runs a game.  And we all know Zaun is not going to hit leadoff anytime soon.

Over the course of a season Gibbons lineup would cost about 15.228 runs, or 1 1/2 wins vs the 'ideal' lineup.  The difference between Gibbons and the worst possible lineup is 24.786 runs, or about 2 1/2 wins.

Of course, this all assumes that ZIPS is the best projection.  If we used 2008 stats so far (time for big, big grains of salt as Lind is now a 000/125/000 hitter and Rolen has a 818 Slg%) you get...
GIbbons: 4.955
Best: 5.391
Overbay Rios Zaun Rolen Stairs Wells Hill Lind Eck

Worst: 4.323
Lind Eck Hill Zaun Wells Overbay Rios Rolen Stairs

Spread from Gibbons to best = 0.436 = 70.632 runs a season = 7 wins
Spread from Gibbons to worst = 0.632 = 102.384 runs a season = 10.2 wins

Somehow I doubt anyone thinks Zaun should be #3 and Lind #8, nor is it likely that current stats will hold.  Still, it is fun to look at and really points out that Hill as #2 does not make any more sense than Eckstein as the #2 hitter no matter how we juggle it.
Thomas - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 01:22 PM EDT (#183921) #
Optimal lineup = 4.921 runs per game Zaun Rios Rolen Wells Overbay Lind Stairs Hill Eckstein

This is why lineup optimizing tools are useful, but like almost anything in baseball, have to balanced by some common sense. I have a hard time believing the most optimal Jays lineup has our three left-handed hitters hitting in a row, making the opposing manager's bullpen management incredibly simple.

Anders - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 01:35 PM EDT (#183922) #
Reed Johnson eat your heart out - this might be as good a play as any made by a pitcher ever.
John Northey - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 01:58 PM EDT (#183923) #
Good point Thomas.  The program doesn't factor in left or right handed just OBP and Slg.  Still, it is interesting seeing how little a spread it sees for projected numbers (which would be closer to reality than 2008 so far numbers) and what a difference placement of a hole in the lineup can make (as Lind is so far over 2 games).
John Northey - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 02:02 PM EDT (#183924) #
Just checked the real numbers so far...
Jays runs per game = 4.4 - about 1/2 a run a game less than projected based on ZIPS ideal and a run a game less than what the stats say is possible, but still ahead (just) of the worst lineup possible.  Of course, that doesn't factor in Thomas or Scutaro or others who have played.

Also of note: the Jays are the only negative 'luck' team in the east right now.  3 wins fewer than they should have based on runs for/runs against.  The Jays should be in 2nd, 1/2 a game behind Tampa Bay rather than last, 3 1/2 behind Baltimore/Tampa/Boston.

Magpie - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 02:50 PM EDT (#183925) #
Anyone else find this weird? Will Carroll, at BP, while briefly discussing Liriano's troubles, writes: "I’m going to quibble with O’Leary’s assertion that the slider is a harder pitch on the elbow. Studies have shown that, thrown properly, the “cost” of a slider is not significantly higher than a fastball. (You can check for yourself at this link.)"

Really? So I click on the link, and read:

Results for the slider were inconclusive because of small sample size.

Jdog - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 02:55 PM EDT (#183926) #
Blair's latest blog entry mentions that Scott Downs is suffering a shoulder issue. Hadn't seen it mentioned so i figured I'd give you all a heads up. Hopefully its not serious, but with Carlson on board it will soften the blow somewhat if it turns out being an issue.
Mike Green - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 03:32 PM EDT (#183927) #
There's also this from the summary:

"Shoulder horizontal adduction torque was greater in the fastball than in the curveball and slider. Shoulder proximal force was greater in the slider than in the curveball."

The biomechanics of shoulder and elbow injury (with all too much specificity for a squeamish layman) are summarized here. This is the stuff of multi-disciplinary work with doctors and engineers, and really requires a much, much more in-depth look. I wonder if any team has contracted with a major university's biomechanics lab. So far, it seems to be almost exclusively doctors...

John Northey - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 04:15 PM EDT (#183928) #
The slider has been known to be a potential career killer for a long, long time.  I'm figuring the big question is how 'off' can you be without hurting your elbow or shoulder.  From past baseball history it appears a slightly off slider is far more harmful than a slightly off fastball motion.  Much like driving.  If you drive at 20 KM/hour then a slight error in judgment will result in much less damage than a slight error in judgment when you are going at 120 KM/hour.  Or, for a closer to pitching analogy you could compare going at 120 KM/hr on the 401 at 3 AM vs going at 120 KM/hr on a city street at 8:30 AM.  Both could be safe if you do them perfectly but any slight error on that city street (slider) and you have a royal mess while on the 401 at 3 am (fastball) you can wiggle all over and rarely hit anything.
scottt - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 09:41 PM EDT (#183936) #
I'll just point out that the Jays were 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position in that last game. Pitching and defense won that one--along with some bad plays from the other team like a wild pitch or a missed cut off that led to a runner scoring from first. I'm still waiting for some clutch hitting.

Rolen has been impressive in his first 3 games: .364 .462 .818  with 4 RBI.  It's not going to last, of course, but hopefully some of the other guys will pick that up.

Can Stairs play every day or does he need a rest here and there? You'd think he'd would be fine as long as he's not playing the field, but his numbers seem better when he is rested.

Stewart will probably hit better the rest of the year, but it's kind of obvious that Johnson would have been more useful and that Stewart got the job just to save a bit of money.

timpinder - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 10:07 PM EDT (#183938) #

According to Jeff Blair, Downs has biceps tendinitis and won't be available for at least the first game of the Boston series, and Ortiz and Lowell will both be back in the lineup.

He also writes that Wells needs to step up.  In all fairness, in the first game of the series against Kansas City Wells hit the ball really well but went 0 for 4 because he laced some balls right at Royals players.  I still expect big years from Wells and Overbay.  I have a feeling that when they click, and Lind gets going, the Jays will go on a run and finally have the winning streak we haven't seen in years.

Jdog - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:01 PM EDT (#183939) #
Frank Thomas with a triple to start his day. 
katman - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:13 PM EDT (#183940) #
"There are indeed times when you need to shake the glove tree and pick up what comes dropping out, but in the Great Scheme of Things David Eckstein will do more to help this team win than John McDonald."

Unless it's the late innings, and you're protecting a close lead.
Geoff - Monday, April 28 2008 @ 11:30 PM EDT (#183942) #
Frank Thomas, the guy who has one triple in the last decade? I suppose he tripled based on a defensive miscue rather than his great speed?

Just now, Mr.Clutch delivered a single to cash in a run for his second RBI today.

The Big Hurt is going to enjoy making the Jays look bad. All he ever needed was proper motivation.

And freedom from silly promotional stunts.

Geoff - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 12:12 AM EDT (#183944) #
And now, having doubled, Thomas is 3-3 and just a home run short of the cycle.

But alas, he is lifted for a pinch runner with the A's leading 6-2. Thus revealing the secret for managing Thomas: respect his bedtime and let him rest for the next game whenever possible.

Emil Brown promptly homers the speedy pinch runner around half the diamond.

The_Game - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 12:13 AM EDT (#183945) #

Scott Downs is hurt?

Panic Time.

The_Game - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 12:15 AM EDT (#183946) #

Oh wait, we have Jesse Carlson. No worries.

China fan - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 07:17 AM EDT (#183950) #
   For everyone who is counting and celebrating every at-bat by Frank Thomas -- are you also going to count every at-bat by Adam Lind?   If a 3-for-3 day by Frank Thomas is regarded as proof that the Jays were stupid to release him, does an 0-for-3 day by Adam Lind serve as proof that the Jays were stupid to promote Lind to the majors?   Does sample size mean anything here? 
Leigh - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 08:06 AM EDT (#183952) #
Does sample size mean anything here?

Yes.  It means that you don't release your best hitter based on 72 plate appearances.
John Northey - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 08:07 AM EDT (#183953) #
Dang, guess the Jays should've given Thomas a real bat instead of a pillow to use :)

So, as an Oakland A Thomas has hit 313/476/500 so far.  Of course, that is just 5 for 16 with no home runs which, according to our local media, is just clogging up the bases thus of no use.

China fan - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 08:14 AM EDT (#183955) #
  Again, I'm puzzled by the argument that's being advanced here.  If 72 plate appearances is meaningless and the Jays shouldn't have made any decisions based on it, then why is 16 plate appearances good enough to judge that the Jays made a mistake?   To me it is very selective use of data.   We're supposed to disregard the 72 plate appearances (plus spring training) but we should give significance to the 16 plate appearances?

Leigh - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 08:48 AM EDT (#183958) #
why is 16 plate appearances good enough to judge that the Jays made a mistake?

It isn't.  I'm basing the judgment on the 9,878 plate appearances that Thomas has amassed since 1990.
China fan - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:02 AM EDT (#183959) #
   Okay, Leigh, I'm glad you clarified that, because it seems that a number of other people are drawing conclusions from the 16 plate appearances of the past few days.  It's good that you're not among them.

Leigh - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:27 AM EDT (#183960) #
Okay, Leigh, I'm glad you clarified that, because it seems that a number of other people are drawing conclusions from the 16 plate appearances of the past few days.  It's good that you're not among them.

Those people are 4.5 times as crazy as JP (72/16).
Geoff - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:03 AM EDT (#183961) #
If we may direct attention to the wise words near the top of the page: Everyone will please not panic. Because it is a fine line between success and failure.

Sure, Frank Thomas seems to have passed that faint line in the moment. But he might still be on the failure side with us.

In time, he will prove he is inept. Too old. A had-been. These momentary chances at hitting for the cycle are mere mirages of fortune.

I never doubted Frank would tank the first couple months before rediscovering his blessed talents. I just hoped the Jays would be able to convince him to take a vacation until he was ready to be properly motivated, energized, warmed up. Which of course, would cut down on his ABs. Which makes Frank mad.

Frank Thomas will rake again. Oh yes. He will rake again. I believe this because I believe in Frank Thomas, the drama  queen. An enormous man who can not resist starring in a good plot. Quietly craving the attention.

So long as there's steam in the engine, Frank will keep on chugging every night, up until his bedtime.
greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 11:10 AM EDT (#183962) #
I like our lineup as currently constituted against RHP without Thomas. But there are two big issues that his departure raises: (1) who is going to DH if Stairs gets injured, and (2) who is going to DH against LHP?

The problem is one of depth. Stewart and Barajas are not adequate DHs (against either LHP or RHP). Stewart is really a fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter at this point. He doesn't have enough power to be a DH (I also wonder whether he's still a capable hitter overall). Barajas...well, look at his career numbers. That is all.

So I think we need another right-handed bat. Someone who does well against LHP and can hit 270/350/475 or thereabouts in a limited role. Wishful thinking? Maybe...but I think a preemptive depth move to avoid a regression to Scutaro/Inglett/Stewart/Barajas would be a good idea. Of course, JP might have to wait until closer to the trade deadline. Not many trades are made in May.
zeppelinkm - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 11:13 AM EDT (#183963) #

Halejon over at links to an interview with Thomas where he says  “I wouldn’t have had a problem with that (ripping up the vesting option) in spring training”.

Now... I'm at work so I can't actually clink ON the link to watch the interview (well, I can, but the cheapos here didn't give me speakers for my computer so I can't hear it, and I'm really bad at lip reading)...

Can someone confirm this? Did he say that? If so... um... if he did then why didn't...

argh. It's disheartening. I find something like that hard to believe - after the fact it is VERY easy for Thomas to say something like that, but I have a hard time believing that if Riccardi approached him in April and asked him to tear it up because the Jays want to give Thomas 450 - 500 at bats, that Thomas would have agreed to it.

Would it have made any difference in the grand theme of how the Jays do this year?

uglyone - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 11:58 AM EDT (#183964) #

(1) who is going to DH if Stairs gets injured, and (2) who is going to DH against LHP?

On the radio this morn, Gibber said that the plan was to have Lind get most all of the AB as the LF for the time being, against both RHP and LHP, and that Stewart would split DH duties with Stairs.

He even suggested that getting Stairs more time in LF was more of a priority than getting Stewart out there.

Timbuck2 - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 12:17 PM EDT (#183967) #
He even suggested that getting Stairs more time in LF was more of a priority than getting Stewart out there.

He probably is afraid Stewart's legs are going to fall off if he mans the outfield too much.

And I'm also very comfortable without a 'true DH' on the team. Having the DH position open as it is will allow Gibby to rest players without actually taking thier bat out of the lineup.
Magpie - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 02:35 PM EDT (#183970) #
According to Jeff Blair, Downs has biceps tendinitis

Well, that brings back memories. The Blue Jays spent three months in the spring of 1994 telling everyone that biceps tendinitis was bothering Duane Ward, right up until the day he had shoulder surgery.
Chuck - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 03:10 PM EDT (#183973) #

On a slow news day, I wonder what Frank Thomas has to say?

Here's a beaut: "I felt like I was never used properly there."  He must be referring to being asked to play shortstop and to lay down squeeze bunts.

John Northey - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 03:29 PM EDT (#183975) #
Wow, big Frank sure whines a lot.

Complains about hitting 5th and 6th this year - but I checked and every game he played he batted 5th, never 6th.
Complains that in 2007 he was hitting too low - he hit 4th 76 times, 5th 56 times, 6th 9 times (late July), 3rd 6 times
Complains about no protection - Overbay was almost always hitting after him this year, sometimes Hill, sometimes Stairs.  Last year it was Glaus and Hill.

I guess asking him to hit anywhere but 4th is a major insult to his ego.  As is asking him to platoon.  As is asking him to endure not having a big time hitter behind him in the order.

Wow.  I always thought the ChiSox were too hard on big Frank but the more I read what he has to say the more I understand.  If he is hitting 300/400/600 you shrug your shoulders and say 'thats Frank'.  If he is hitting 270/370/480 you roll your eyes at him but accept it.  If he is hitting 167/306/333 you dump him.
Timbuck2 - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 03:52 PM EDT (#183977) #
Wow.  Frank's gotta be the biggest baby in professional sports.  Instead of accepting any of the blame he's making excuses and pointing the finger at everyone else for his poor performance.

If the man really wanted to win a world series he'd understand that a big hulking black hole in the #4 spot of a ML lineup is NOT going to help the team win ballgames. It's a shame that all his early career success turned him into the Anti-Bonds.  He's just as self centered and whiny as Bonds but instead of hating the media seems to love having his ego stroked by them.  Oh and his biceps are all au-natural as opposed to Barry's hydroponically grown facsimilies...

PhilBlunt - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 04:56 PM EDT (#183979) #
Next he'll be saying the Jays dumped him cause he's black.  C'mon Frankie -- you're killing my he's favorite player memories 
brent - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 04:57 PM EDT (#183980) #

I have still been waiting for a quote from Denbo about Thomas. I wonder how much input he had on Gibbons and JP. Did he think Thomas was done or would come around?

Jdog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 05:30 PM EDT (#183984) #

It would be nice if the Jays could somehow pick up the recently DFA'd Jason Botts. A switch hitter who could supply some depth at DH, 1B, LF.  I imagine they won't be interested as his major leauge numbers aren't great.  I'd much rather have him on the lineup though then a JohnnyMac who is not getting used, I think I'd take him over Stewart as well.

greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 07:03 PM EDT (#183985) #
All right, bold prediction time: I think this is the series that sees the Jays get back on track in 2008. It's early, the playoff races are still close, and the Jays finally have the team they want (more or less intact and healthy) out there. The Thomas saga is over. Lind is up. Rolen is back. The pitching, defense and offense are in place. I'm calling winning baseball and contention from here on out.
greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 08:31 PM EDT (#183987) #
Two mid-game observations:

- John McDonald should be starting games started by Halladay. Youkilis's hit would have been a groundout to J-Mac.

- OK, Lester is 3rd in the league in walks. Overbay gets a leadoff hit. Stewart, who isn't hitting, swings at the first pitch and grounds into a DP. Shouldn't SS take a pitch or two or three, try to work Lester into a hit-and-run count...or maybe work him for a walk? Or bunt? Something, anything, to avoid the same-old, same-old?

Dave Till - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:33 PM EDT (#183990) #
If the Jays lose this one, you can chalk it up to bad luck. For those of you not watching: with two out in the 9th, and Jonathan Papelbon pitching, Scott Rolen turned on a fastball and hit it up the left centre field gap for a double. (Bat speed. Yay!) Then, Vernon Wells hit a line shot up the middle that nearly decapitated Papelbon - but Dustin Pedroia made an amazing diving grab and threw Vernon out.

You couldn't ask for anything more from Vernon - a line drive on a cold night, against a tough pitcher (that he had gone 0-9 against in his career), and in the ultimate clutch situation. Sometimes, you have to tip your hat to the opposition.

Skills - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:40 PM EDT (#183991) #
I am beginning to feel sorry for Roy Halladay. Watching the end of that one makes me feel like his talented is wasted on the Jays.
timpinder - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:49 PM EDT (#183992) #

Man, oh man, is this frustrating to watch.  Rolen on 2nd, Wells laces a ball, spectacular play by Pedroia saves the run.  To the bottom we go, walk, bloop, over.

I'm going to grow my hair out so I can pull it out of my head.  I can't watch the Jays anymore, I'm going to have a heart attack soon.  Is it ever hard to watch this anemic offense, too.  I have to keep telling myself that they're too good to be this bad (it makes sense in my head).

dalimon5 - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:49 PM EDT (#183993) #
This is absolutely disgusting. I am hoping Halladay is traded or released. Ricciardi and Gibbons should be fired. I don't care about an objective view point from here on in. Great teams win. There is no discussion of luck, no discussion of stats etc. They win. Win, win, win. And for the first time in a LONG time, this franchise has found a way not to win in the spot that they usually do (Halladay's games). An absolute stunner. Only a baseball city not having touched the playoffs for a decade will be able to look at the positives "down the road" from this demoralizing loss. Absolutely pitiful. You cannot lose this game on a play like that where a 126 million dollar gold glove fielder is asked to throw out a 300 pound DH with knee problems who couldn't even slide into home plate. I can't watch Halladay anymore. 4 complete games in a row and only 1 win? That speaks volumes...volumes about the guys he's fighting for.
Ryan Day - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:50 PM EDT (#183994) #
I think Gibbons tried to ride Halladay a bit too far tonight. Doc is tough, but I'd rather see a fresher pitcher facing the heart of the Sox order in the 9th inning. At the very least, I don't know how you don't go to a lefty for Ortiz.
IceCreamJonsey - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:51 PM EDT (#183995) #

I am beginning to feel sorry for Roy Halladay. Watching the end of that one makes me feel like his talented is wasted on the Jays.

Couldn't agree more. I was too young to catch Stieb's games regularly, so Roy is most likely going to be the best Blue Jay pitcher I'll ever see in my life. And his talents are completely wasted on a group of guys who can't manage more than two hits against a lefty at Fenway. Unbelievable. I don't know how anybody else on that team or on that staff can look him in the eye.

Sherrystar - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:57 PM EDT (#183997) #

I'm sure someone here will remind us that it's still early, only April, only 4.5 games out of 1st...

But I don't care. This is simply not acceptable. Something needs to happen NOW!

greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 09:59 PM EDT (#183998) #
Well I'm embarrassed. The stakes were huge in that game, and the Jays sunk to the occasion. The only Jays who seemed to have their heads in the game were Roy (of course), Overbay, Rolen and Eckstein (who played well on defense). Lester pitched very well, but the Jays looked listless and needed to step up more than they did.

Wells has to make that play. Not necessarily throw out Ortiz, but he has to field the ball cleanly and make a big-league throw to the plate.

grjas - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:00 PM EDT (#183999) #
I am beginning to feel sorry for Roy Halladay. Watching the end of that one makes me feel like his talented is wasted on the Jays.

Halladay record since 2002: 93-38 or .710
BJ record without a Halladay decision: 388-452 or .462

This year he is 2-4 despite 4 CG's.
Four Seamer - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:02 PM EDT (#184000) #

I am beginning to feel sorry for Roy Halladay. Watching the end of that one makes me feel like his talented is wasted on the Jays.

You and me both.  When does his contract expire - 2010?  I hope he has some gas left in the tank by 2011, which figures to be his first real chance to pitch for a legitimate contender.

Look on the bright side though, if Vernon makes that play behind Dave Stieb, the Jays are looking for a new centre fielder, since their old one would be on the 60 day DL.

grjas - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:02 PM EDT (#184001) #
Halladay record since 2002: 93-38 or .710

PS JP- you owe Halladay half your salary as you wouldn't still be here without him.
Craig B - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:07 PM EDT (#184002) #

I'm adopting Shannon Stewart as my Official Scapegoat.  Join me, and revile him.

greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:13 PM EDT (#184004) #
A Proven Offensive Performer...turned official scapegoat? Say it ain't so!
Mike Forbes - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#184005) #
I'd be thrilled if Roy Halladay was traded tomorrow. Not because he did anything wrong, but because he deserves better than to be on a mediocre team the rest of his career. Hell, I wish we could all be traded to Cleveland or something too.
Mike T - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:30 PM EDT (#184009) #
Halladay brought his "A" game tonight and it was very enjoyable to watch.
I'm speechless though man, that was tough to see. Imagine how Halladay felt when he saw Wells bobble that ball, ahhhhhhhhhh! 100 times worse then how I felt.
To make it worse, it was Ortiz running home! screw the pinch runner, just wait for wells to crack under the pressure!

AWeb - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 10:33 PM EDT (#184010) #
What a joy to come home to! The Jays, looking at the play by play, managed to hit into a double play every time they had a chance, aside from Rios striking out (followed by an Eckstein double play). Every other baserunner was with two outs.

I disagree with Stewart as the scapegoat...I'd pick Wells. He's stunk - 1 XB hit in the last 16 games? Slow start, early homers, he'll come around, yadda yadda - he's been bad so far, and the season's getting older. This is getting awfully close to the earliest I've ever given up on a team. Only Rolen (did the team figure him showing up meant they could all stop hitting?), Rios, Stairs, and maybe Overbay (really high OBP) haven't been worse than expected so far, and no one, aside from maybe Marcum and a few relievers, have done better than what was expected of them. 27 games in, and not a single player on the Jays is off to a notably hot start. Something's gotta' change, and if it isn't the players, well, that leaves a few others I can think of.

greenfrog - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 11:16 PM EDT (#184019) #
A last comment. Why was Vernon playing Ramirez so deep in the 9th? I know the conventional wisdom is to have your outfielders play deep to avoid an extra-base hit (especially in Fenway's centerfield). But here's the thing: in none of the preceding 30-odd plate appearances had Boston hit a deep fly ball off Halladay, who was dominant. If Wells is at a more reasonable depth, he catches that hanging liner and the inning is over. I realize it's not an open-and-shut case, but in this instance I think Gibbons was too tentative (read: managing scared) instead of playing to the overall situation.
timpinder - Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 11:45 PM EDT (#184021) #

My scapegoat is the God of baseball.  Wells has smoked the ball at least three or four times during his recent slump, and it has either been hit right at someone or he has been robbed.  The Jays' opponents seem to bloop everything in.  Terrible timing on errors.  No hitting with runners in scoring position.  Ugh.

Stewart is in my bad book too, though.  He has no place on this team.  He hasn't had an OPS over .700 against LHP since 2004 and has had reverse splits since 2003.  He is not DH material, especially as a platoon DH partner with no power who can't hit lefties, but faces only lefties.  Scutaro should be the 4th outfielder, McDonald the depth infielder, and the Jays should get a lefty killing DH partner for Stairs.  The names of those available have been tossed around here before, so I won't mention them again.

This team had better start to play and soon because I have no doubt that as fans, we'll be enduring a re-building phase at the all-star break if the Jays are still below .500 or are out of the race.

timpinder - Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 02:35 AM EDT (#184024) #

Halladay's even getting American attention for being a horse:

What a waste.  A-Rod and Posada are on the DL, Hughes and Kennedy are struggling, the Tigers started off horribly and have bullpen issues, same with the Indians, and the Jays are getting great pitching and are finally healthy.  This is the window!  The Jays absolutely must take advantage now.  I couldn't be more frustrated and if this opportunity is wasted it will be tough to swallow.

RhyZa - Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 07:40 AM EDT (#184029) #

At this point, I wouldn't even be mad if he privately requested a trade.

Maybe that makes me a bad fan, but that's how much I feel he deserves better.  How much time has he given us to improve around him?

Pepper Moffatt - Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 08:22 AM EDT (#184032) #
"Maybe that makes me a bad fan, but that's how much I feel he deserves better.  How much time has he given us to improve around him?"

I've seen this movie before and I know how it ends.. he gets traded to the Expos for a young Randy Johnson.
Thomas - Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 09:29 AM EDT (#184034) #
I think Gibbons tried to ride Halladay a bit too far tonight. Doc is tough, but I'd rather see a fresher pitcher facing the heart of the Sox order in the 9th inning. At the very least, I don't know how you don't go to a lefty for Ortiz.

Because Halladay was absolutely cruising, as he looked good in the 8th and 9th and had retired the previous two hitters comfortably? Gibbons managed yesterday absolutely fine. I was going to fault him for not warming someone up, but if the Red Sox score they win and considering how well Doc was pitching they were going to leave him in until the Red Sox scored. You don't take Doc out of a shutout with 2 out in the ninth inning and his pitch count not in dangerous territory.

chips - Wednesday, April 30 2008 @ 09:41 AM EDT (#184036) #
Could it be a mindset that mediocrity is acceptable? Now that there is pressure to win, (based on J P's comments that this is the best team he has put together thus far)  I not sure how many players on this team realize that it takes even more focus than ever to compete and win more than not. On the other hand, maybe J P has overevaluated too many players.
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