Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine Batter's Box Interactive Magazine
What happened? it happened, that's all. It happened like a car wreck or a rape or an aneurysm in the brain, an arbitrary punishment selected by an unseen God for an unknown reason which could have happened to John or Joe or George Bush or the St. Louis Cardinals, but which sought out the Toronto Blue Jays and sat upon their shoulders with wings of iron.
  --- Bill James, The 1988 Baseball Abstract


Sometimes stories come to a sudden ending, before you're ready for it to be over. Sometimes it's pretty painful. The nature of Saturday's ending will likely inspire a revival of that same epithet - "Blow Jays" - that hung around the necks of the teams of a generation past, after 1985 and 1987 and 1989 and 1991 (and the years in between) like a bad and persistent smell. Until it got blown away.

But only the 1987 collapse was as painful, as shocking, as embarrassing, as this. That was a very different kind of pain - a week of daily torture that got worse and worse and worse. Trust me, it was a horrible thing to go through. This was more like someone bashing you about the head and body with a heavy object for an hour or so. Which is similarly awful, but at least it was over quickly.

I have, as you can perhaps imagine, been thinking about what happened in that last week of 1987 and how the team responded to it. Seven straight losses to blow a 3.5 game lead -  a stunning collapse indeed. And yet - four of those losses, including the final three, were one-run games. And they came after season-ending injuries at the two most important positions on the field, shortstop and catcher. It was a random, evil fate. It was just One of Those Things. What the team needed to be told was "You guys got screwed. That was wrong. You deserved better."

But one automatically looks for something or someone to blame. It was one thing to say goodbye to a couple of longtime veterans, Willie Upshaw and Garth Iorg, who had outlived their usefulness. But there was more. And so we were treated to the whole Bell-Campusano-Moseby follies. More than anything else, it felt like an attempt to assign blame for the disaster. Something to scapegoat. In retrospect, that was probably the wrong way forward. And I think the temptation - and it's going to be there, how can it not? - to do that again needs to be resisted. So can only hope that the current group - players and management - responds better than the 1988 Jays. That's not a difficult bar to clear. But clear it they must.

And as brutal as this ending was, one might even wonder - what difference did it really make? Maybe it merely advanced the date of the season's inevitable end by a week or so. To the surprise of just about everyone - team management, the players, the fans, and Our Gang - this team simply wasn't good enough to hang with the real big boys of Houston and Los Angeles and New York and Atlanta. This is a good team. It's just not that good. Everyone got high on their own supply. Again. And everyone was wrong. Again. Remember how everyone picked the 2013 team to crush the opposition and cruise into the World Series? That team went 74-88. That was pretty disappointing, too, and it provided a lot less entertainment than this group did while they were at it. We had to make our own fun. We did our best to amuse ourselves. We spent a lot of time talking about Emilio Bonifacio and Munenori Kawasaki.

Oh well. C'est la guerre. It's that time again.

As always, I ask you, I beseech you, to remember that these grades are extracted from somewhere in the vicinity of my nether regions. There is not, there never has been, there never will be, anything even remotely scientific about it. That's just the way it goes. I'm in it for the wisecracks.

Here's what they mean, more or less:
 
A  Outstanding (could be in the Awards discussion)
B  Good (might even receive All-Star consideration, who knows)
C  Average (generic regular)
D  Below Average (replacement level, bench part, something like that)
E  Fail (probably belongs in the minors)
F  Epic Fail (may need to think about alternative career paths)

The cutoff, as is my custom, was 50 Plate Appearances for the hitters and 50 Batters Faced for the pitchers. So I have nothing to say about Tyler Heineman, Vinny Capra, Gosuke Katoh, Otto Lopez, Ryan Borucki, Andrew Vasquez, Anthony Banda, Thomas Hatch, Tayler Saucedo, Sergio Romo, Anthony Kay, Foster Griffin, Shaun Anderson and Bowden Francis.

Non-Players

Charlie Montoyo D / John Schneider A
Changing managers in mid-season is never a preferred strategy, but for the third time in franchise history it appears to have made a decisive difference (and for the first time, it wasn't Cito Gaston riding to the rescue!).  What was different? Everything - the team was significantly better on both sides of the ball. They scored 4.56 runs per game with Montoyo in charge - that jumped up to 5.05 after Schneider took over. They had been allowing 4.44 runs per game before the change; they cut that down to 3.89 afterwards. Only twice before in franchise history has the team played .600 ball for the man in charge - once for Bobby Cox in 1985 (.615) and once for Cito Gaston, like Schneider a mid-season replacement, in 1989 (.611). They played .622 ball for Schneider. It's hard to argue with that, even if he did bring in the wrong reliever in a playoff game. It's worth noting that 12 of his games were started by Yusei Kikuchi or Mitch White (the team went 3-9) and one can hope he has some better options in 2023.

Was it you, Charlie? Could we have been a contendah? I don't know if Charlie Montoyo actually lost the team. He might have been in the process of losing them, I don't know. It may not even have had much to do with him. When a team is underachieving, knows it's underachieving, and doesn't know why it's underachieving - the mirror is seldom the first place anyone looks. Every player knows how hard he's working, and every player believes he's doing his best. They generally believe the same thing about the guy next to him. They believe they're good. They don't know why this is happening to them. The only place left to look is at the decision-makers. That's how John Gibbons lost the room in 2008 - it's probably how Jimy Williams lost the room in 1989 - and when it happens, there's no choice. A change has to be made, if only to demonstrate to the players that the real problems lie elsewhere.

Ross Atkins C+
The real problems lay elsewhere. But it was hard to anticipate that what I regard as the two major problems that afflicted the 2022 team would loom as large as they ended up looming. If any team looked prepared to call on a third catcher if circumstances required, surely it was the Toronto Blue Jays with their bright, shiny catching prospect lurking in the minors. And Yusei Kikuchi looked like a far better bet in the spring of 2022 than the man he replaced, Steven Matz, had looked in the spring in 2021. But Danny Jansen made two trips to the Injured List and the third catchers - Collins, Heineman, Moreno - were an utter disaster. And Kikuchi went completely off the rails. I think Atkins had trouble understanding his own team. They simply weren't as good as he thought they were, as he thought they would be. I think Atkins was confused and puzzled and disappointed by his own team, and he wasn't sure what to make of it or what to do about it. It made him somewhat tentative in responding to the situation, although he ended up making about as decisive a move as a GM can make - he replaced his manager. His minor moves at the deadline were certainly tentative - a modest upgrade to the bullpen, a couple of bodies for the bench. It's not clear what difference a big flashy move would have made anyway - the division was already pretty much out of reach at that point. He also didn't have the particular type of prospect resources teams like Cincinnati and Oakland were looking for. Still, Atkins needs to sit down this winter and have a good long think about his ball club - what he has, what he needs.  He's built a good team, one that can sustain this level of success for longer than five minutes. That was always the professed goal. But is that good enough? Not really. There is, of course, a not insignificant portion of the fanbase that will never, ever forgive Atkins for replacing the sainted local boy who preceded him. So let's note that the team he's built has just posted consecutive 90 win seasons, and the only other time that happened in franchise history was 1991-93. But the bar has been raised, and for that he has only himself to blame.

Players

Alek Manoah A+
I confess I am simply fascinated by the frequency with which Manoah hits batters with pitches. Why wouldn't I be? He hits batters more frequently than anyone in the history of baseball, or at least since they moved the mound back to 60 feet in 1893. By this time next year, he'll have hit more batters in his career than Clayton Kershaw. He can do this with a kind of impunity - not too many hitters are going to charge the mound when he's out there. It would be like charging a building. Or a mountain. In his first full season - his first full season! - Manoah pitched as well as any starter has in franchise history. The only reason his season wasn't as valuable as the best work of Stieb, Clemens, or Halladay is because the old-timers provided this level of goodness over so many more innings.

Danny Jansen A
I've had a lot of fun mocking Jansen over the years, in particular his ongoing quest to merely hit his weight. So let me say right here and now that I am completely sold on his value to the team. If it's a catcher that has to go to bring in something needful, let it please be someone else. Anyone else, I don't care. Danny Jansen is untouchable, and you can't have him. The next person who suggests trading him - I will fight you. I will come to your house. He was fabulous. No catcher in franchise history has played better, ever, and if he could do this for a full season and stay off the IL, he's an MVP candidate. This team is simply so much better when he's behind the dish, as the team's 40-18 record - that's .690 ball - when he was the starting catcher suggests, loud and clear. I ask you to also ponder the fact that they posted that 40-18 record despite Jansen catching just one start by the team's best pitcher. I'm penalizing him a little here here for going on the Injured List twice. But the very fact that he was unavailable for 64 of the team's first 87 games hurt the team enormously, which in turn probably cost Charlie Montoyo his job. Which hardly seems fair to poor Charlie, but fair never has entered into it.

Jordan Romano A
Schneider went to the bullpen more frequently than Montoyo. The addition of Bass and Pop obviously gave him more quality relievers to work with, but he also used the good ones already on hand just a bit more often. It definitely agreed with Romano, who was perfectly fine for Montoyo but absolutely brilliant for the new guy.

Bo Bichette A-
Things weren't going his way for the longest time, but he kept playing, he kept working, and in the end he was rewarded. But even before he went utterly berserk in September, you were still going to have a 24 year old shortstop who hit more than 40 doubles and more than 20 home runs. That's just who he is, no matter what. He's obviously the best hitting shortstop in franchise history - it's not even close, folks - and Blue Jays fans should be counting their blessings. Bichette is one of those quiet, intense guys and I think he's occasionally had a tendency to get too self-critical and too self-analytical. But I also think that he's beginning to learn that about himself, let things go a little bit, and trust his talent. I think he could have used a few DH days - his play in the field, especially late in the year, looked like that of a guy who was running down a little bit. No one in the AL played as many innings at shortstop, and it's a hard position that wears on one, mentally as much as physically. Struck out 155 times, which sure seems like a lot - but it was actually exactly on the league average (22.2%). That's modern baseball. Something else that I think we all picked up on just watching him extend at bats over the course of the year - he really does hit an absurd number of foul balls. More than anyone else in the majors, in fact.

Vladimir Guerrero A-
Sometimes players have a unique ability to take advantage of certain ball parks, that other players simply don't have. Not even their own teammates. In 2021, Guerrero hit .294/.368/.566 with 10 HRs in 35 games at the Rogers Centre, which is outstanding. But he hit .364/.464/.827 with 21 HRs in his 44 games in Dunedin and Buffalo, which is from some other dimension altogether. I think it gave the team, the fans, and maybe even Guerrero himself a completely unrealistic idea as to what should be expected from him. So let's pro-rate his 2021 Rogers Centre numbers to 79 games, and see what kind of 2021 season he would have had without the minor league parks goosing his numbers. And voila! - his 2021 season would have looked something like .292/.369/.533 with 39 HRs and about 90 RBIs. That, and the fact that league-wide offense was down almost ten percent this year, creates an entirely new context for his work in 2022 and I don't think people, and Guerrero himself probably, would be anywhere near as disappointed by it. He's still absurdly young to be doing this in the major leagues, and he's still something of a big kid out there, having fun playing ball. Like most things in life, this works for him some of the time and works against him some of the time.

Alejandro Kirk A-
A weird player, one I've always had various reasons to be skeptical about, some of which may even be proving to have been justified. I will always be skeptical about the wisdom of putting a contender's pitching staff in the hands of anyone as inexperienced as Kirk - but he did just fine, folks. He's not very mobile back there (and that down-on-one-knee stance that Buck Martinez is always complaining about really doesn't help), but he was still better defensively than I think we had any right to expect. He's an unusual hitter - no one on the team swings and misses less often; only Biggio takes more called strikes; only Guerrero (and Tapia) hit more ground balls. I was, and I remain, skeptical that this particular type of physical specimen is built for 162 games and six months. His bat got very, very quiet - .246/.340/.320 - over the second half. And if this is what happened to him when he caught just half  the games on the schedule, having him catch even more often seems extremely unwise to me. But he's a smart young ballplayer, he's alert, and he does hustle as best he can. And when you absolutely tear the league apart in the season's first half, a bit of latitude is called for. And granted. So less catching, and more DHing, if you please.

Anthony Bass A-
He didn't much resemble the pitcher I remember from 2020. That guy was a perfectly serviceable bullpen arm. This one was something else, until his disastrous outing against the Mariners in the post-season. Well, most batters hit right-handed, and Bass turns them into light-hitting pitchers (.161/.222/.245). The team has an option on him for 2023, and I suppose they'll exercise it.

Matt Gage A-
Finally got his chance this June, and pitched very well for an entire month. So they sent him back to Buffalo so the team could find out why the Pirates didn't want Anthony Banda. Baseball teams, man. They sure do dumb things. All of them. Even Tampa Bay.

Ross Stripling B+
There's nothing quite like having the best season of your career just as you head into free agency. Stripling will be 33 in a couple of months, and having never earned any really big baseball money, he's going to need to get paid. I also think he'd like to be assured that he's being signed to be part of someone's starting rotation, that his swingman days are behind him. In other words, he's exactly where Marco Estrada was after the 2015 season. Somehow, I think it'll take more than $26 million over two years to bring Stripling back. I hope they work it out. As I grew so fond of saying, he pitches like a grownup. It's almost refreshing.

Kevin Gausman B+
As you probably know, Gausman had the most impressive FIP in the league this past season. This is an excellent reason to believe he could be much more effective in 2023 than he was in 2022, when he was still pretty good. But in the meantime, that shiny FIP is meaningless. It doesn't matter. It's exactly like knowing how often a batter hit the ball hard. They're like style points. Because sometimes the line drives all go straight into the fielders gloves. Of course, Gausman never should have allowed 188 hits in 174.2 innings. The opposition never should have hit .364 against him on their Balls In Play. But they did. That's what happened. It was random and weird, but it happened. It turned what should have been an outstanding season into merely a pretty good one. Them's the breaks.  You think this is supposed to be fair?

George Springer B+
This was not an especially good year by his own standards, but those standards are really, really high. He's still awfully good. Plays very hard, and it would sure be nice if he could cut that out just a little, now that he's 33 years old. I doubt he's built any other way.

Matt Chapman B+
He sometimes takes his sweet time getting the ball out of his glove, and often it looks like he's just teasing the batter - go ahead, fool, run as hard as you like, it's not going to do you any good. The team's three true outcomes king - he led the team in Ks and walks, and only Vlad hit more homers. He sure loves that high fastball - he swings and misses it plenty, but he gets right on to enough of them to make it worth his while. Was called out on strikes almost as frequently as Biggio, and because Chapman plays every day he took a called third strike more often than any hitter in the AL. The Blue Jays as a team do not strike out very often - only Houston and Cleveland's hitters fanned less often. Chapman and Hernandez are the only guys in the lineup who are above league average in Ks (along with Biggio, Bradley, and Zimmer off the bench.) Chapman, Jansen, and Biggio are the three hitters who shun the ground ball and hit everything in the air. As you would expect, they're also the three hitters with the worst BABiPs on the team as well, but that's just the cost of doing business.

Adam Cimber B
He was merely solid and dependable for the 2022 team, as opposed to his outstanding work in 2021. He gave up three times as many home runs as the year before - but it was still far, far fewer than an average pitcher. He also walked quite a few more - but again, far fewer than an average pitcher. Mysteriously, to me anyway, the man still baffles LH batters - he actually had a reverse platoon split this past year. Go figure. I wasn't wild about how he was utilized. Cimber's an effective pitcher because he limits the walks and home runs. But he's also  the reliever who is the most likely (of the ones who are actually good) to allow a base hit. So he's not the man I would call on if there are already people on base. He's definitely not the man for extra innings, with the Zombie Runner already in scoring position. But only Mayza inherited more base runners than Cimber. Naturally, no one allowed as great a share of those inherited runners to score. They never listen to me.

David Phelps B
I started worrying about his workload about halfway through the year. I kept seeing a 35 year old who had lost all of 2018 and most of 2021 to injury. I was also seeing that same 35 year old on track to set a new career high in appearances, which he did indeed go on to do. Oh, I worried  but the old fellow held up just fine. Was generally used to keep the game from getting away - two thirds of his appearances came with the game tied or the team trailing. He's a free agent and if he wants to keep pitching I assume the team would like to have him back.

Yimi Garcia B
I still don't know what it was in this guy's history that made the team decide, before the season even began, that he was the eighth-inning guy. From the moment he signed, he was the chosen one, the guy who will set up Romano. He did just fine in the role, except when he was facing the Orioles, but it still mystifies me. Ross Atkins may simply have decided that if you're good enough to pitch for the Dodgers, you're probably good enough to pitch for the Blue Jays. He may be on to something - Ryu, Stripling, Garcia - so maybe there's still hope for Mitch White. (Let us not speak of Mike Bolsinger or Brock Stewart.)

Tim Mayza B
Not quite as impressive as his fine 2021 season, but a solid year. His control is much sharper since his surgery - only Cimber (and Pop) are more stingy with the walks among the bullpen crew.  Almost half of his appearances were for less than an inning.  He threw more than 20 pitches exactly three times, all in the first half, and never more than 22. The life of a modern LOOGY. Mayza is yet another member of the team's sinker-slider brigade, and no one on the staff gets more ground balls. That's great I suppose, if ground balls are what you want out of life.  Nobody knows what coaches really do, because no one really tells us, but doesn't this team's bullpen seem to have a lot of sinker-slider guys who don't strike out a lot of hitters? You know, guys who pitch the same way Pete Walker pitched back in the day?

Zach Pop B
There's something to like here. True, he didn't strike out very many as a Blue Jay, so he was probably getting a little lucky on the Balls In Play. But he doesn't walk anybody and he doesn't give up home runs. You can build on that. Ask Adam Cimber.

Teoscar Hernandez B
His strikeouts returned to a level closer to his career norms, but the rest of his offense was pretty much the same as always. He's always had a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, more than anyone else on the team (except Zimmer, of course.) He had some occasional troubles in the outfield - I suspect his confidence comes and goes out there, and when he makes a few misplays it gets in his head and he becomes a little tentative. He certainly has the tools to be adequate, at the very least, and he's much better than he was a few years ago. He turns 30 next week and he's one year away from free agency. I like him, but I wouldn't want to extend him - I think the shape of the lineup needs to change. Alas, there don't seem to be any credible replacements beating on the door.

Whit Merrifield B
Whit Merrifield made it to the majors the year after the Royals won the World Series. He was an All-Star twice, he led the league in doubles, triples, stolen bases (three times), and base hits (twice.) He played multiple positions, and he played every single day. He went four years (June 2018 to this July) without missing a game. And the Royals never had a winning record in the seven years he was there. Not once. Twice they lost more than 100 games. After a while, all that losing just gets to you. It has to. Given the chance to play for a contender, he got his shots and didn't complain about becoming a guy off the bench. He just felt bad that he hadn't been able to help his new team as much as he had wanted and hoped to do. Then an injury gave him an opportunity. And man, he ran with it.

Santiago Espinal B-
Everybody says Espinal and Bichette are the hardest working guys on the team, but Espinal's the one player who seemed to have worn down by the time we got to September. Well, him and Kirk, but catchers are supposed to get worn down. Espinal hit .258/.329/.315 in the second half, with just five extra-base hits, and that looks like a line out of 1908 or something. It's as if he no longer had the strength to swing hard. So while he's a good player, and one whose versatility makes him an extremely useful one, I'm not convinced that he's built for every day duty. I also can't understand why they have him try to steal bases.

Max Castillo B
Now with Kansas City. Pitched well for the Jays (and Buffalo, and New Hampshire), not nearly so well for the Royals (and Omaha.) He's been vulnerable to the home run in his brief bits of AL action and people are always going to worry about the 280 pounds.

Lourdes Gurriel C-
The only time Gurriel has ever made it through a season without getting hurt was the season that only lasted two months. He made into September this season before straining a hamstring trying to beat out a throw to first base. As always, his year was built around a hot streak - this year's lasted longer than usual and was also quite different from his previous reigns of terror at the plate.  He hit .368/.413/.489 in June and July, but with just 3 HRs, and the homer he hit on 1 July was the last he would hit all season.  What happened? His power stroke simply vanished, and if all you're going to hit are singles you pretty much need to hit .368 in the modern game. Very disappointing.

Jose Berrios C-
What a strange year he had. As I think we all observed, Berrios' numbers were skewed somewhat by how badly he pitched when he was losing (ERA of 14.14 over 28 IP in those seven games.) The Blue Jays did win 23 of his 32 starts. But the team won three of those games in spite of Berrios (who was busy allowing 14 runs in those 8.1 IP) by cleverly scoring lots and lots of runs. But in the grand scheme of things... Berrios did hold the opposition to three runs or less in 21 of his starts. That will always give you a chance to win, and the team did in fact go 20-1 in those games. He didn't pitch remotely like an ace, but he was generally a decent starting pitcher. Except on those days when he wasn't, and when he wasn't he had no chance at all.

Trevor Richards D+
He had a pretty strange season himself - he appeared in 62 games and literally half the runs he allowed came in just five of them. He got away to a decent enough start. He gave up 6 earned runs in his first 15 games (naturally, all but one of those runs came in one disastrous appearance.) Then everything went completely sideways on him in mid-May. In 20 appearances over 7 weeks, he posted an ERA of 8.85, which he achieved by being consistently bad -  the opposition hit .283/.385/.571 against him. Then he went on the IL for two weeks and presto! He was just fine when he came back, something which makes me wonder if maybe he should have gone on the IL a little sooner. He'd fallen pretty far in the bullpen pecking order by then, but he gave the team a 1.98 ERA over the next two months. A couple of rough September outings - once when he ran out of gas pitching on consecutive days and once when he'd only made one appearance in the previous ten days (probably not a good idea for someone who relies so much on a changeup) - spoiled any chance he had of making his season numbers look close to competent. But he was generally better than those raw numbers suggest.

Cavan Biggio D+
Got off to a dreadul start, went on the IL and didn't get back into the lineup until late May. Played well until the All-Star break, but didn't hit a lick (.183/.283/.333) in the second half. His playing time was reduced considerably after Schneider took over. Was it because he stopped hitting? Or did he stop hitting because he was no longer  playing regularly? The chicken, or the egg? I've always liked him, but this is two disappointing seasons in a row and I'm not really sure where he fits in going forward. The Jays appear to have three second-basemen/utility men on their roster, each of whom has one especially useful quality: Espinal can play shortstop, Biggio hits left-handed, Merrifield is a decent outfielder. But three seems a crowd.

Trent Thornton D+
He was the Designated Long Man for the first couple of months, and he was more or less serviceable in the role. Pitched in blowouts, or when the team was losing. He was also the mobile body who could be optioned to Buffalo when circumstances required. Went completely to pieces after Schneider took over, for no apparent reason, and was banished to Buffalo for the fourth time, not to be seen again until the season finale.

Raimel Tapia D
Tapia reminded me a little of Rajai Davis in the outfield. Tapia doesn't make as many mistakes - who could? - but he does give off that same feeling when he's tracking a fly ball, that this activity is something he's never done before. He was, of course, the Designated Scapegoat. The Jays asked quite a bit of Tapia - they wanted to remake his approach at the plate, and because he arrived near the end of the abbreviated spring training, they were asking him to do this during games that actually counted. They also needed him to play RF in the absence of Hernandez, which is way too much to hope for from his defensive toolkit. None of it went very well and when Tapia hit badly for the first two months, all anybody wanted to do was take him out back and shoot him.  But then he hit quite well for two months. Did this improve how he was perceived? You bet it did. Now he was being offered a blindfold and a cigarette. Fun fact - he struck out 81 times (that's not a lot, actually, it's quite a bit less than the league average) but he was called out looking at strike three just four times all year. He was not going to get cheated. He hits more balls on the ground than anyone on the team, even more than Kirk and Guerrero, but not nearly as many as he'd been hitting in Colorado. He was actually hitting far more line drives instead. It didn't do him much good this past year, but it may suggest what they hope to achieve with him.

Yusei Kikuchi D-
It's worth remembering that after a shaky start, Kikuchi settled in and was just fine. In his five May starts, he went 2-0, 2.36; he struck out 31, walked 11, and allowed 17 hits in 26.2 innings. Two of those starts were against the Yankees, who went 19-9 that month. But I guess it wasn't good enough. I know some people have suggested that Pete Walker tried to make Kikuchi into a new version of Robbie Ray. I don't know if that's true, but we do know they couldn't leave him alone. They tinkered with this, they adjusted that, they had him modify this - and by the time they were done, the guy no longer knew how to throw a baseball.

Hyun-Jin Ryu D-
He seemed to be rounding into some kind of form after missing a month before he was shut down for the next year or so. He wasn't pitching all that well, but the team had won four of his six starts, so that didn't hurt very much. His injury helped the team in one sense - it got Stripling into the rotation right away. It probably would have taken at least another six weeks before everyone was sufficiently fed up with Kikuchi.

Jackie Bradley D-
There's not much left of his bat - there was never all that much there to start with - but he's still a wonderful outfielder. He's even better than Zimmer in CF, but his arm is so good - easily the best on this team - that it actually makes sense to play him in RF when the defensive caddies come out. He's a free agent and while his days as an every day player are surely past, there's probably a role for him on someone's bench.

Gabriel Moreno D-
He's got some tools, but he's got a lot of growing left to do. The pitchers went 4-13, 5.79 when he was catching, which is exactly what I would expect when a 22 year old rookie catcher, with less than 200 pro games on his resume, shows up in mid-season. Moreno's shown almost no power whatsoever, in the majors or minors. Which means that his BAVG represents a great big chunk of his offensive value, and he's going to have to hit a lot of singles to come out ahead. He's still very young, there's plenty of time.

Julian Merryweather D-
He's still got the big arm. He still doesn't know how to get hitters out with it.

Jeremy Beasley D-
Now with Pittsburgh. Was scored on in five of his nine appearances, which is no way for a relief pitcher to behave.

Zack Collins E
Now with Pittsburgh. Doesn't do much with the bat except hit the occasional home run, and he's never impressed anyone with his work behind the plate. The team did go 4-3 when he was catching, but we should note that the lights-out early season version of Gausman was the starter in four of those games, and three of those wins.

Mitch White F
Began his Blue Jays tenure with three semi-decent outings (0-1, 3.38) although he never managed to finish five innings in any of them. It's as if the team seemed to think he wasn't stretched out or something, despite the fact that he'd been in the Dodgers rotation for the previous two months, and had just worked six innings and thrown 98 pitches in his last game for them. But after that adequate beginning, he tossed up three absolute stinkers (0-3, 13.50). His final outings were somewhere in between, but generally trending in the direction of smelliness. The opposition hit .360 on their Balls In Play - it's hard for anyone to survive that unless you're Kevin Gausman, striking out twice as many hitters as White does. It was probably just One of Those Things. Nevertheless, it was a very, very bad thing.

Bradley Zimmer F
An outstanding outfielder and baserunner, but his bat appears to have been confiscated at the border, and his managers eventually assumed it was never going to clear customs. You have to think his struggles at the plate got into his head after a while. How could they not? Zimmer didn't merely hit like a pitcher - he was like one of those pitchers who are especially bad at hitting, like Jeff Fassero or Doug Davis or someone like that. It was inexplicable, and after a while it was just painful to watch him flailing away helplessly. I was so happy for him when he got that little bloop single to drive in two runs in what was sure to be his last at bat of the season. (Because we all knew that if he batted again in 2022, something had gone terribly, terribly wrong.)

Casey Lawrence F
By the time September rolled around, Ross Atkins was so confused that this was the first pitcher he added to the roster. Happily, the GM quickly came to his senses. We can at least be grateful for that.


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bpoz - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 09:48 AM EDT (#423667) #
Thanks Magpie.

Tapia got a decent enough grade.

Moreno missed ST and a lot of last year. He probably did not know the Jays pitchers well enough. He does have an incredible arm.
jerjapan - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 10:51 AM EDT (#423669) #
You know, even when baseball sucks, baseball is still the best.  The writing on this site in particular, but all over the place, the history, the individual nature of the match-ups.  I follow the writing in the offseason, and the playoffs even when we are out - can't say that about any other of the teams I love. 

Shout out to Raptor's Republic though - they go paywall soon, and I will be supporting them.
Magpie, you nailed the ebbs and flows of the season here.  It's interesting to me, the emergent narrative around this team and their failure to capitalize.  A few hot takes, some long-distance crystal ball psychology, but mostly, a reasonable, passionate fan base that understand the volatility of a three game series.  this is just a young team that still plays young at times.  You don't test your character in the good times the way you do in the bad times, and this year the team let themselves down.  Definitely want to see some leadership from the young stars though, beginning ASAP. 

100% agreed on Jansen.  Trade Moreno, build around Kirk and Jansen.  Jano could be the best ever behind the plate for us if he can channel his inner Ernie Whitt and keep healthy.  And he is a leader on the team right now, from where I sit.  The way the pitchers all talk about the guy.  management. 

And bring back Strip.  Perhaps I am guilty of the armchair psychology myself, but he does feel like a valuable veteran voice.  And he's just fun to watch pitch. 

Who could make more mistakes than Rajai Davis?  that line cracked me up. 

An F for Casey Lawrence, loyal org soldier / inning sponge?  Give the man a C+ for just going out every time to take a beating and soak up innings.  And bring him back as a coach when he hangs them up.  The guy is 34 after all, with just 44 career games in the bigs.  This is as good as baseball gets for your AAAA types, and I appreciate the org doing him a solid by using him in this role.  I mean, we need guys to come out of nowhere and help out.  Lawrence isn't that guy, but what a mentor in Buffalo for the guys who might be. 

Hey, bit thanks to Magpie and all you guys that write the content here.  You guys set the table for some pretty interesting conversations all year!




dalimon5 - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 11:00 AM EDT (#423670) #
Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts. I have to say Iím a bit disappointed in these scores. You really think Jansen and Guerrero along with Kirk were players who had award worthy seasons? John Schneiderís rating is way off the mark. Maybe if you pretend he didnít just manage the worst collapse in Baseball post season history in so many years. He took over a wild card team and delivered a wild card team that was eliminated.

I like to look at results for ratings and rankings. This evaluation posted seems to rely on counting stats which ignores important things like Vladdyís unproductive outs, non hustle and career worst batting in September Oct.
Magpie - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 11:12 AM EDT (#423671) #
They ended up winning 92 games. Only six of the 30 teams won more. Someone must have done something.
lexomatic - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 01:49 PM EDT (#423672) #

Who could make more mistakes than Rajai Davis?  that line cracked me up. 

Lonnie Smith
Gerry - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 02:40 PM EDT (#423673) #
I agree with most of that Magpie. I would probably be a shade lower on Jansen, mostly because of his limited playing time. But your love for him shines through and I don't need to fight you over it!

vw_fan17 - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 03:13 PM EDT (#423674) #
Seems like a lot of Ds, very few Cs.

I'm going to disagree with the Tapia ranking a little. Looking at his splits on B-R for 2022 tells a very interesting story.
He had an OPS of 844 when batting leadoff (sure, SSS with 32 PA). If not for one Springer, George, they should have kept him there a little longer, IMHO.

He helped the team through June/July and he was WAY better in road games (714 OPS) vs home (628 OPS) - I would say he helped us have a good road record.
He also had an OPS of 735 when playing LF (in 199 PA, so not quite so small SS). Compared to Zimmer or JBJ (with Gurriel hurt) that's reasonably competent. It seems that he has a hard time leaving the CF/RF defensive stuff out on the field: he hit 662 in CF and 585 in RF.

But the biggest stat that leaps out to me: with men on he hit 795 in 186 PA. With 2 outs, RISP, he hit 776 in 52 PA (Vlad: 747 in 75 PA). 2 out, bases loaded (10 PA), he had an OPS of 1900 (1 grand slam, a triple, 2 doubles and 2 singles) for 16 RBI. Vlad had 8 PA, 1 walk, 1 single and 3 RBI.

Not saying he's some kind of insane clutch hitter, but he definitely hits BETTER with men on that without, so he's at least a mildly-clutch hitter. If we could get him to focus more with nobody on base (or get the other team to pitch to him like there ARE runners on base :-), I think'd he'd be serviceable. Would I resign him for $5M+ (his arb value)? No. But I could be ok with $5/2 or something as insurance. There's some potential there, IMHO, and you can't teach speed.

All that to say: I think he deserved something beginning with a C. IMHO there's a huge gulf between what Tapia delivered and the disaster that was Kikuchi, and you have them at D/D-.
LouisvilleJayFan - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 03:23 PM EDT (#423675) #
Yikes, a D- is incredibly harsh on Gabriel Moreno. Even with the little power he showed, he still maintained above average bat to ball skills and flashed brilliance in other areas. He also seemingly rested every third game in Buffalo. I'd have liked to have seen him at least bat every day, but it has to make you wonder if he was still battling that injury from 2021. As has been said before, hand injuries can take an especially long time to fully recover from.

AWeb - Monday, October 10 2022 @ 06:10 PM EDT (#423678) #
Thanks Magpie, you've been doing this so well for so long I kind of take it for granted.

Guerrero appears to be a competent 1b-man, which is a nice bonus. Hoping he figures out the joys a 100 walks a season soon - that looks like his ticket to a sustainable superstar level to me. It took Delgado a while too.

Biggio has had just awful timing in his prolonged slumps - Espinal goes out, he can't hit. OF spot might be available? CAn't hit. Maybe he's just weirdly not cut out for full-time work.

Kirk has to play less, catcher or no, next year. He's rather obviously not in good enough shape to last through full-time play. One weird benefit of the new positioning rules next year might be him...all the IFers played so deep (because he's so slow), he ended up with of IF hits that would have just been regular ground ball hits, but he lost hits to that too. We'll see I guess.

Jansen was as we've been saying for years - a non-catastrophic BABIP makes him a very good hitter, and this was finally a year like that. Maybe he can teach a few of the other guys how to stop hitting grounders all the time...

No other good team had two guys as awful as Berrios and Kikuchi were. How the hell did the JAys go 23-9 when Berrios pitched? DId he keep drawing the 5th starter on the opposition? As Magpie has noted, his awful pitching couldn't have cost the team too much (they went 23-9!), but a weird year for him. Giving away his pitches with his mouth somehow (was he talking to himself out there), LEad the league in hits (just like Bichette!) and earned runs, strikeouts down...actually okay at home, but a .303/.350/.532 road away...seems fixable, but yeesh, what a year.

Sour ending to a weird year following a very good team. Thanks again!
John Northey - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 12:12 AM EDT (#423680) #
Always fun to read even when I disagree with a few.  I feel most grades were higher than I'd give, lower on Atkins (the team did win 90+ with a roster virtually 100% made by him). 
Looking up some defensive stats I was surprised...
  • Vlad was way up there on defense for 1B at FanGraphs at mid-season iirc but ended in 13th place out of 18.  Odd.  Cut down to AL only and he is 7th of 9 (no Trek jokes).  Of note though: the spread between Vlad and #8 is almost the same as between him and #2 in the AL (4.0 vs 4.1).  But by DRS he is #1 (Defensive Runs Saved) at 3 while Spencer Torkelson is rated ahead of Vlad in overall defense but in DRS he is at -4.  Very odd.  Defensive stats at 1B are always a big crapshoot as digging balls in the dirt has to be hard to measure.
  • At SS Bo is 10th in the AL out of 12 overall, by DRS he is dead last with -16 (next worst is -5).  Wonder if he could/would play CF instead?
  • At 3B Chapman was 3rd of 8 in the AL, well back of #2 Josh Donaldson (huh, go figure guess he still has it on d).
  • For C no Jay qualified but cut the innings to 500 and Kirk is 7 of 22, Jansen 16th.  FYI: Kirk was 2 notches ahead of Reese McGuire and a big factor for the Yankees was adding #1 Jose Trevino
  • CF I had to cut to 500 Innings again to get Springer on the list - 677 innings on defense for him - he comes in 10th (just ahead of Mike Trout) out of 15.  Siri in Tampa was 2nd despite playing over 500 fewer innings than #1 Straw in Cleveland - that matches the eye test I'd say, seems Tampa has another 'wow' in CF.  Need to go to 300 Innings to get Zimmer on the list - 14th , JBJ is 16th, Springer down to 17th.  Adjust to Def/1200 innings and Zimmer is 11th JBJ 12th, and shocking - Aaron Judge is 5th.  Sure didn't expect to see that given he is normally in RF.
  • In RF only 3 qualified for innings including Teoscar somehow.  and he was 3rd of 3 by a mile at -7.0 - his arm was positive but that was it, no shock to anyone here.  Expand to 500+ innings and he is11th of 12 (Gavin Sheets in Chicago was worse).
  • In LF with the 500 innings setup Gurriel was 9 out of 10 at -8.4 (Jesse Winkler in Seattle was a lot worse at -12.8).
  • 2B Espinal is 3rd qualified or 500+ Innings.  Very far back of #1 Jonathan Schoop (Detroit). Merrifield was 10th of 15 with the 500 inning minimum. For Biggio I had to go to 300 innings and he comes in 6th then, just ahead of Semien who played a LOT more innings at 2B.  So I guess Biggio's flexibility/bad bat didn't hurt him defensively at 2B.
  • FYI: Tapia had just shy of 250 innings in CF (0.1 Def), 459 innings in LF (-3.8 Def), and 226 in RF (-5.7).  Yeah, he stunk on defense which helps explain his non-plays in the final game.
  • Biggio in RF was 45 innings -0.6 (ugly for that little time, -16 if given 1200 innings), -2.2 over 262 innings at 1B (-10 over 1200 inn vs Vlad's -12.9 over 1200).
So yeah, defense is an issue with this team.  Overall on defense the Jays were at 1.4 which put them 14th in MLB, just ahead of the Rays (what? That can't be right can it?)  #1 is the Yankees at 42.8 while the Giants were dead last at -45.2 (worst AL was the White Sox -34.4, Red Sox worst in the AL East at -20.4).  Fun to look up.
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 01:42 AM EDT (#423681) #
In the end, this was a reality check.

It would have been hard for this team not to have been over-confient, to believe their ultimate success was inevitable. They had come so far and so fast.

This team didn't begin to appear until 2019, which was when Atkins finally - finally - got on with the long overdue task of clearing out the remnants of the last good Blue Jays team. Sanchez, Stroman, and Pillar were sent on their way. Jansen, Guerrero, Bichette, Biggio, Gurriel took their places in a new lineup. They were awful and they lost 95 games - but the process had finally begun.

And the very next year - it was only 60 games - they won more often than they lost. And then - despite Dunedin and Buffalo and four full months of having to be Road Warriors - they won 91 games and were one game short of the playoffs.

It would have been hard not to think that the next step would likewise come as smoothly. Even Ross Atkins may have come to think he had the Magic Touch. A year earlier, he picked up a couple of LH pitchers off the scrap heap. Steven Matz went 14-7, and they turned Robbie Ray into a Cy Young winner.

But of course it's never inevitable, and it seldom unfolds so smoothly and easily. That's the lesson here.

I've been around a long time, and I have absorbed those lessons. After the crushing disappointment of 1985, we got over the pain soon enough. We all knew the Blue Jays eventual championship was inevitable. That it would take another seven years was inconceivable.
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 03:50 AM EDT (#423682) #
And I'd like to dedicate the Danny Jansen comment to Mike Green, who has stoutly stood up for Jansen all these years, while I was mocking and ridiculing him.
Dave Till - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 04:48 AM EDT (#423683) #
I come here every year for this and I am never disappointed.

I've also come around on Jansen - they absolutely have to keep him - but he is amazingly streaky as a hitter. His OPS in August was .678; in September, it was 1.007. And am I the only one that thinks that he looks a lot like a right-handed version of Ernie Whitt at the plate? Same stance, same all-or-nothing pull swing that sometimes drops him to one knee when he misses.

I still bear scars from 1987, but one thing I realized when I looked back at the season: sure, the Jays were 3 1/2 up with seven games to play, but that margin was the largest it had been all summer. Between August 3 and September 24, the Jays and Tigers were always within two games of one another. They were basically two great teams who were identical in strength - after 160 games and 11 innings of game 161, they were in a flat tie.

Can someone with a better memory than mine tell me whether the home run in the final game of the 1987 season was on a ball that Bell could conceivably have caught if he had jumped for it? I know that the whole Bell to DH thing didn't start until next season. (Which was a stupid idea - he was the reigning MVP, even if maybe Trammell deserved it more. You leave the MVP alone and you go find somebody to cover all the ground in CF that he can't reach - like, say, Devon White. You don't push Bell out to make room for... Silvestre Campusano?? Anyway.)

No real disagreements with this year's rankings. I think that people expect way too much from Vlad. In his "off year", he was tied for third in total bases in the American League. He improved his defense and he was even 8 for 11 in stolen bases. And he's still very young - he's over a year younger than Adley Rutschman, the "youngster" that everyone is raving about in Baltimore.

I'd also add that I'm still a fan of Cavan Biggio, even though I don't think he'll ever be a regular again. There's got to be a place in the majors for somebody who bats left and can play either corner outfield, first, second, and even third or center field in an emergency. Perhaps I'm just rooting for him because he works so hard to overcome his lack of pure raw talent.
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 05:18 AM EDT (#423684) #
Can someone with a better memory than mine tell me whether the home run in the final game of the 1987 season was on a ball that Bell could conceivably have caught if he had jumped for it?

I couldn't remember but naturally the whole game is on the YouTube! The Herndon HR is about 34 minutes in. And Bell does jump, but there was no point whatsoever. The ball clears the fence and the screen above the fence. He would have needed a 12 foot vertical or something.
dalimon5 - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 07:57 AM EDT (#423685) #
Vlad improving defence and improving stolen bases is actually a good positive to look at. I still wouldnít have rated him higher than Bo and would have gone B+ mostly for his dipped numbers, lack of hustle, and low production when it counted (example .680 OPS in September and 1/8 in October).

I expect him to be his best when it counts. This year Bo did that and Vlad didnít. Iíd like that reflected in the grades.

If Iím the front office if aggressively try to sign him long term at a cheaper rate now and hope he lies somewhere in between 2021 and 2022 numbers with room to improve his work ethic and clutch performances. Right now if I had to choose two out of three to sign long term it would be Manoah and Bichette.
Paul D - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 08:52 AM EDT (#423686) #
Thanks Magpie, this, as always, was great.

I wonder if Manoah would consider a contract like Strider in Atlanta.
electric carrot - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 09:03 AM EDT (#423687) #
Thanks Magpie. I am with you on almost everything. I love the passion for Jansen. I hope you're right. I am a little concerned that we caught him in the midst of an upswing and that in a full season of at bats he would not look as strong as he did for this partial year. I'd give Moreno a better grade and maybe consider Vlad a B+. His defense impressed me but his plate discipline was disappointing. I want him to earn an A for next year by chasing less often and continued improvement on D.
lexomatic - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 10:14 AM EDT (#423689) #
I do think Biggio would be better served by robo umps, fewer blown calls leading to more pitches to hit. Do we have any time with him in league using them as part of a rehab even?
I haven't looked at his plate discipline stats or any visualization to back that up.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 10:20 AM EDT (#423690) #
Ugh. 1987 is always a painful memory - I was working at McDonald's as a teen and a guy I was friends with there was a Tigers fan.  You can imagine how that last went.

1987's team...
Just 3 regulars were 30+ in 1987, the entire OF had solid years (4-5 WAR each) and were just 27 each. Other regulars were 25 (Fernandez/Gruber) and 23 (McGriff) with a 23 year old slugger on the bench (Cecil Fielder with a 133 OPS+).  By the WS year of 1992 of that lineup only Gruber was still playing for the Jays.   Manuel Lee had been promoted from backup to everyday SS.  Otherwise no other hitters made it from 1987 to 1992.
Pitching wise we had a young ace in Jimmy Key (26), Stieb was just 29, a 24 year old David Wells in the pen/spot starting, a 23 year old Duane Ward had 1 start and 11 relief games (who knew?), and Henke was closing at age 29.  More of these guys got a ring in 1992 - Key, Stieb (barely), Wells, Ward, Henke all made it out of the 15 guys on the staff (yes, just 15 pitchers used all year - mind blowing isn't it?).

2022's team...
Just 1 regular 30+ (Springer), with 2 23 year olds (Kirk & Vlad) as key parts, same for a 24 year old (Bo).  The OF was older than 1987's entirely (Springer & JBJ 32, Hernandez & Zimmer 29, Gurriel & Tapia both 28, was there a new rule that you had to pair up ages in the OF this year?).  2 hotshot kids on the bench in Moreno & Lopez - wonder if either will be a regular when the Jays win it all again?  Merrifield the geezer vet at 33.
Pitching wise we again had a young ace in Manoah (24).  Gausman 31, Berrios 28, Stripling the old man of the rotation at 32, Kikuchi at 31 is no spring chicken, and White at 27 needs to do a Stripling growth pattern.  Ryu at 35 is done.
The pen was old with Romano at 29 being younger than most (Richards also 29, 30+ for Cimber, Phelps, Mayza, Garcia, Bass, Merryweather).  Pop is a kid at 25.

So pitching wise this is an old team outside of Manoah.  Really need the farm to start producing pitchers soon beyond older guys for the pen mop up duty (Gage for example)  But for hitters it is super-young at the core with a few older there too.  I see similarities with the '87 team but hopefully more of this core can make it to a title game and quicker than the Jays did back then.  Gillick traded Mike Sharperson on Sept 22nd 1987 for Juan Guzman then didn't make another trade until March 9th 1989 (2 minor players who never did much) before a big deal of Jesse Barfield for Al Leiter on April 30th, 1989.  That long stretch with no trades led to a team that was in a fog as I recall (the mess with Bell/Moseby/Sil Campusano, lots of rebellion in the clubhouse iirc) and didn't look good on anyone.  Luckily I don't see Atkins as doing that full year of sleep like Gillick did back then.  Even HOF GM's have their bad stretches I guess.

In fact I'd be shocked if we don't see at least 2 significant trades this winter.  An OF being cleared out (Hernandez or Gurriel and hopefully Tapia) and a C as well (Jansen or Moreno most likely, but it could be Kirk depending on the offer) and a 2B (can't see Biggio, Espinal, and Merrifield all being on the team in 2023).
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 10:54 AM EDT (#423691) #
I wonder if Manoah would consider a contract like Strider in Atlanta

Not if I'm his agent.

My zeal for Jansen is surely that of a convert, after all my years of belittling him. But what really, really struck me is the team's 40-18 record when he was the starting catcher. This is who the starting pitchers were:
Gausman     13
Stripling 11
Berrios 10
Kikuchi 8
Ryu 5
White 5
Richards 2
Castillo 1
Phelps 1
Merryweather 1
Manoah 1

OK, I stuck Manoah at the bottom of the Group of Four for dramatic effect, but that was kind of my point!
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 11:02 AM EDT (#423692) #
So pitching wise this is an old team outside of Manoah.

Even more to the point - it's not a particularly good team. And it hasn't been for quite some time now. How has the staff done during the Pete Walker Years, anyway?

2013 - 12th (4.25)
2014 - 9th (4.00)
2015 - 5th (3.80)
2016 - 1st (3.78)
2017 - 7th (4.42)
2018 - 12th (4.85)
2019 - 8th (4.79)
2020 - 10th (4.60)
2021 - 5th (3.91)
2022 - 7th (3.87)

That's not good enough for where this team wants to go . Yes, 2016 was great but it was on the backs of three pitchers - Happ, Sanchez, Estrada - two of whom are now retired and one whose career is barely hanging on. I understand the coach can only work with the material he's been given. But I have questions.
Glevin - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 11:11 AM EDT (#423693) #
I'd have Chapman high and certainly higher than Vlad but these are just for fun and mostly reasonable. Jansen was great. Which catcher do you trade? Jays need to trade 1. Having 3 catchers just is horrible use of resources. For me, it would be very dependent on return. I'm open to trading any of them if the return is right.
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 11:20 AM EDT (#423694) #
We talk about the lineup more than anything else - well, there's more to talk about, I suppose - but the pitching, the pitching!

I remember back in July 2015, as the Jays were stumbling through yet another .500 season, and there was me and the uglyone (we surely weren't the only ones) yelling that the the team needed to improve the pitching staff. I mean, Felix Doubront was in the rotation.

So Anthopoulos traded for... Troy Tulowitzki. The uglyone was like a kid at Christmas. I said (and I quote!) "Meh" and we probably haven't agreed on a thing since. But I think we're in a similar place right now.
Dave Till - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 01:00 PM EDT (#423695) #
So Anthopoulos traded for... Troy Tulowitzki.

I wondered about that too at the time, but John Gibbons was quoted as saying years later that he wanted a different shortstop out there, as Reyes was not doing the job. And the difference shows up in Baseball Reference:

  • Reyes: -15 zone rating, -16 defensive runs saved, 3.78 range factor
  • Tulo: 35 zone rating, 7 defensive runs saved, 4.26 range factor

Defensive metrics are confusing, weird, and often ambiguous, but that's a difference that is visible from space. It would have made the entire pitching staff better.

I enjoyed watching Tulo at short, as he could throw accurately at first from any angle. But the trade from the Rockies totally discombobulated him (and was an extreme betrayal - I think they had promised to warn him about a potential trade and then didn't). So he was always a little bit grumpy when he was here as if, well, this isn't what he wanted but he had to make the best of it. (It was like when David Wells was traded back to Toronto - he really wanted to be a Yankee.)

Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 01:23 PM EDT (#423696) #
that's a difference that is visible from space

And it became just as visible to where I was sitting soon enough as well. I was initially pretty blase about it because I didn't think it was very much of an offensive upgrade, which the team didn't really need anyway. But he made the pitchers better all by himself, by an order of magnitude.
Mike Green - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 02:26 PM EDT (#423697) #
I felt that Cavan Biggio added as much to the club when he was out there as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did when he was out there (and Fangraphs WAR agrees, for what that's worth).  Obviously there's some value in being able to be a good first baseman/DH for 160 games rather than a utility player for 80-100.  But the value is less than one might think.  Most clubs have players who can fill parts of the 1B/DH role pretty well and the Blue Jays were no exception (Biggio, Gurriel Jr., Springer, Teoscar, Kirk).  If Guerrero Jr. had added the same total value (e.g. been a little better by grounding into fewer double plays and hitting for a little higher average) over 145 games, it would have been better for the club.

So, while I wouldn't have given Biggio and Guerrero Jr. the same grade, it would have been a lot closer than A- to D+.  And Espinal provided, in my view, about the same value to the club as Guerrero Jr.  I don't dig the long ball that much- what can I say?
 
As for the future, there are lots of ways to win, and this club has a fine base of major league talent.  But there isn't much talent coming up quickly to the majors, so the urgency to win has to be there and that means spending. 


John Northey - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 03:06 PM EDT (#423698) #
How about Berrios? If he had a quality start every time he got his butt kicked would it have changed anything? Obviously nothing in the playoffs but in the regular season would've it?

Lets go worst to "best" of his bad games (over 3 runs, under 6 innings) and adjust them to 3 runs over 6 innings and assume what happened offensively would be the same, and the pen after the 6th was the same - big assumptions but you need to start somewhere.
  • June 26th: 3-10 loss, Berrios 2 2/3 8 runs. Switch to 6 IP 3 R and we'd have a tie game (the other 2 runs were given up by Mayza in the 6th).
  • August 17th: 8-0 shutout. Berrios 4 IP 8 R - 6 IP 3 R wouldn't change anything except 2 fewer relievers used.
  • May 5th: 6-5 loss. Berrios 4 2/3 IP 6 R - adjusting would remove a Casey Lawrence appearance and make it a 5-3 win.
  • May 29th: 11-10 win. Berrios 2 1/3 IP 6 R - adjusting would remove Borucki & Stripling from the game (3 more runs) making it a 11-4 win
  • June 20th: 8-7 loss. Berrios 4 IP 6 R - adjusting Phelps isn't used (2 more runs) and just 1 IP from Thornton = 7-3 win
  • Sept 22nd: 10-5 loss. Berrios 2 IP 6 R - adjusting 3 relievers removed (Pop, Richards, Phelps) along with 4 more runs = 5-3 win
  • May 11th: 5-3 loss. Berrios 5 1/3 IP 5 R - adjusted no Richards, 3-3 tie with Chapman (ptui) getting a blown save instead of a cheap save.
  • August 5th: 6-5 loss. Berrios 3 2/3 IP 5 R - adjusted no Pop or Richards. 5-4 win in regulation (actual game went 10 with Romano losing it in the 10th without getting an out despite a K and ground ball thrown home but unable to get the runner out).
  • Sept 27th: 5-2 loss. Berrios 5 1/3 5 R. Just saves Pop from pitching, 3-2 loss instead.
  • Aug 28th: 5-4 win. Berrios 5 2/3 IP 4 R - same end result but 5-3 instead with Mazya not facing a batter.
  • twice he didn't go a full 6 while allowing 3 runs - Jays won both games so just saving a bit of relief effort.
So net effect of Berrios never allowing more than 3 runs or going less than 5 innings? A few innings for relievers saved, 2 ties, 3 losses changed into wins. Not as big an effect as I expected. So the team instead of going 23-9 would've gone 26-6 in his starts and he'd be seen as a far better pitcher (that would shift his ER down by 29 runs while adding about 21 innings. Net effect on ERA from 5.23 over 172 IP to 71 R in 193 IP = 3.31 roughly a 116 ERA+ almost identical to Gausman. The team would've had 95 wins and still been behind the Yankees and needing to play the exact same playoff series they did play. So no difference at all in practical terms. And that is about as big an adjustment I can see doing to his season without going to super-silly extremes.

So what does that mean? Not much beyond really emphasizing how Berrios was Mr. Lucky for run support this year. Show up to all your starts and you can get years like this were W-L looks a LOT better than reality (12-7 vs Gausman 12-10 vs Manoah 16-7). You also will get weird years where your W-L looks bad despite pitching good (just ask Dave Stieb or Berrios 2018 who went 12-11 despite a 111 ERA+)
Magpie - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 03:34 PM EDT (#423699) #
Here's the team's record with each starter:

Berrios     23  9
Manoah 18 13
Gausman 18 13
Stripling 17 7
Kikuchi 6 14
Ryu 4 2
Richards 2 2
White 2 6
Phelps 1 0
Castillo 1 1
Banda 0 1
Hatch 0 1
Merryweather 0 1
Berrios obviously didn't deserve what happened, and Manoah and Gausman probably deserved somewhat better. But it's that 8-20 mark in the Kikuchi/White games that really jumps out at you.
Mike Green - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 05:17 PM EDT (#423701) #
The club was 35-31 when Berrios, Ryu, Kikuchi and White started, and 53-33 when Manoah, Gausman and Stripling started.  Don't let the records fool you.  The latter three pitched way, way better than the former four, and received less offensive, defensive and bullpen support. 

Berrios was, of course, the best of the bad four, and is here to stay.  But they need better 5, 6 and 7 pitchers, and Stripling isn't signed for next year.  Ricky Tiedemann is not a bad #7 option, and Kikuchi and White make better #8 and #9 options than Bowden Francis but they still need 3 pitchers including a Stripling replacement. 
Kasi - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 05:33 PM EDT (#423703) #
Youíre kidding yourself if you think the Jays are going to sign enough starting pitchers to make Ricky/White/Kikuchi 8/9. I think at best we get them as 6/7. I think the best we get is Stripling plus one other leaving Kikuchi/White/Ricky to fill that 6-8 hole. Itís quite possible they just get one and start with those three battling it out for the fifth spot. I think the chance of one starter is higher than 3. I just hope they go with 2.
Michael - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 06:17 PM EDT (#423704) #
I like Biggio (perhaps more than is rational or supported by this seasons numbers), and like others I want the league to go to robo-umps as I think that will immediately greatly improve Biggio's value as he gets more bad calls with balls called strikes than just about anyone.

I'd have Vlad and Jansen a little lower and Stripling a little higher. Stripling was the possible MVP of the team if you grade on a curve matching team need and pre-season expectations.
John Northey - Tuesday, October 11 2022 @ 07:33 PM EDT (#423710) #
I suspect the Jays will chase down a reclamation project for #5 and look for another #1 for the #4 slot. I hope they have learned not to spend money on mid-range starters like Kikuchi, Matz, and others. I remember looking up how that group did mid-season and it was ugly. Guys who signed for $10-19 mil a year for 3-4 years. All decent guys in 2021 who mostly sucked in 2022. Spend a lot (Verlander types) or bargain basement (like with Ray).

Hmm... who did sign for 3-4 years, no more than $19 mil, no less than $10 per?
  • Jon Gray - 4 $56 - 1.4 bWAR over 24 starts 99 ERA+
  • Anthony DeSclafani - 3 $36 - -0.8 bWAR over 5 starts
  • Steven Matz - 4 $44 - -0.4 bWAR - 48 IP 73 ERA+
  • Kikuchi - 3 $36 - -1.0 bWAR - 100 2/3 IP 75 ERA+
Yeah, I'd say those guys flopped. Gray the best at 1.4 bWAR, Kikuchi the worst at -1.0 bWAR. I'm sure all 4 who signed them would LOVE to be able to do an NFL and cut them without owing them the rest of their contracts.

I'll try to do an actual article covering more guys before we hit free agent frenzy time. The Jays will obviously be looking at the best of the best out there as they do every winter. Hopefully signing a guy worth $100+ mil who they want to sign to replace Ryu/Stripling in the 4 hole who is good enough for the #1 slot. They might just resign Stripling, but that is a big risk given his age (entering his age 33 season) and track record (4 times reaching 100 IP, but last years 134 was his highest ever as was his ERA+ at 129). He could be for real, and I'd risk $10 per for 3 on him (figuring worst case is very good #6 starter/long man) but $15+ ... the more I think about it the less I like it but I'd go to $15 per for 3 but that'd be the absolute limit. He is too much like the group of 4 above imo.

Another big question is 2B/SS - after looking up more defensive numbers Bo at SS does look like a bad long term idea and if he'd go to 2B it might be worth signing one of the many great SS's available this winter - Trea Turner (4.9 bWAR entering age 30 season 3 other times in the 4's), Carlos Correa (opt out clause 5.4 bWAR entering age 28 season has had 2 7's and a 6 in the past), Xander Bogaerts (5.7 bWAR peaked at 6.3 in 2019, entering age 30 season), Dansby Swanson (5.7 bWAR, first time over 3, entering age 29 season). All would be very expensive but all are better on defense than Bo and can hit about as well. Correa would easily be the best of the batch if available. Safe to say Correa would be $35 per over 7 to 10 years - a BIG risk to take. But shift Bo to 2B and the infield would have a shot at being the best in baseball with Escobar the backup and Biggio/Merrifield both at risk of being dumped somewhere. FYI: no big 'wow' guys at 2B this winter.

Brandon Nimmo and Aaron Judge are the only OF'ers worth looking at imo on the free agent market. Nimmo is a CF with speed (led the NL in triples even though he doesn't steal much) and bats left (130 OPS+ last year and career, 5.0 bWAR in 2022, 4.6 was his previous peak) entering his age 30 season. Judge is going to demand $300 mil over 10 years (probably spread out over 13-15 in order to help luxury tax situation) and will most likely stay in NY but with the Mets or Yankees? Or will the Dodgers or Angels lure him out west? I'd be very shocked if anyone outside of those 4 sign him.
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