Monday, February 28, 2011

Case of the Mondays Musings


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Originally this had intended to be post fueling the fires of the hype machine that were building up the Kyle Drabek/Roy Halladay pitching matchup later today.

However, the Baseball Injury Gods had other plans as Drabek is suffering from a sore neck. He claims it was due to sleeping on it wrong, but I think it's because he was rubbernecking to see the pictures of the girls from the Tilted Kilt on the outfield wall.

Kyle Drabek's setback has opened a door for Jo-Jo Reyes now, who will "start" today against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Blue Jays have a very interesting scenario with Reyes because he doesn't have any options remaining on his contract.

Which means the Blue Jays either have to put him on the Opening Day roster or cut him loose and put him on waivers. Jo-Jo Reyes is a starting pitcher by trade, but several injuries over the past few seasons likely lead to the Braves converting him into a reliever.

This could bode well for the Blue Jays as not only do they need a left-handed companion for David Purcey in the bullpen, but they could benefit from someone like Reyes who could be stretched out to a long relief man.

Depending on how he performs in his outings during Spring Training, you have to think the Blue Jays will at least give Jo-Jo Reyes a shot to be the token LOOGY on the roster.

Now the Blue Jays are coming off back to back shutouts at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, but I don't think it's a cause for concern. Ultimately, these games have no bearing whatsoever and are more about player development and the manager's experimentation than anything else.

It's only two games into the Grapefruit League schedule, but Anthony Gose has quickly become the speedster on the team. He picked up his second stolen base and was clocked in at 3.24 seconds making the jump from first to second.

A member of the Detroit Tigers coaching staff was even quoted as saying "that's Rickey Henderson territory".

Mike Wilner has said he believes Rajai Davis could very well break the team record of 60 stolen bases this year, but I think we might have to wait for Anthony Gose to be the one to supplant Dave Collins as the new single-season stolen base record holder.

One one final musing for the day, I was scouring Twitter for any Jose Bautista news and came across this Twitpic from @JennBirmlee of him doing the iconic crane pose from The Karate Kid.

From this photo it's very apparent that fear does not exist in Bautista's dojo.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Let the Spring Training Games Begin


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
It's been 145 days since the Toronto Blue Jays took the field against an opponent. Not that I've been counting or anything.

Not that I've been dreaming for any semblance of Blue Jays baseball whatsoever since October 3rd 2010. Not that I've been yearning about any morsel of the Blue Jays on the radio, television, telegraph, or any sort of broadcasting device.

If you're like me, it's baseball or bust ... and that drought will finally come to an end tomorrow when the Blue Jays take on the Detroit Tigers in their first Spring Training game of the Grapefruit League schedule.

Not that these intrasquad games aren't great, but following the play by play on Twitter is one thing and watching or hearing it unfold live is another. And once pitchers and catchers report, it's neat to see all the workout photos, but now it's time to get down to business.

The Fan590 will have the broadcast of the game on Saturday, but unfortunately for those outside of the Greater Toronto Area, you may not have the luxury of hearing those games on the Fan. And due to legalities, radio stations aren't allowed to broadcast Jays games online either.

Depending where you are, your local sports talk station may be an affiliate and carry the game. Here's a full list of Blue Jays network affiliates where  you may be able to pick up the game on the AM (and in some cases) FM dial.

Another workaround is listening to the game on your TV via your digital cable box or satellite. Depending on where you live in Canada, I believe the Fan is channel 958 on Bell and channel 904 on Rogers.

And if all else fails, of course there's the good old reliable MLB GameDay Audio. For just $19.99, you can to listen to most of the Blue Jays Spring Training games online, plus you also have access to all the regular season broadcasts, as well as access to the audio archives.

Honestly, I'm not trying to sound like I'm endorsing GameDay Audio here but it's arguably the best $20 bucks I've ever spent. GameDay Audio definitely helps make the month of March fly by when you know there's a game to listen to every weekday afternoon at the office.

And once you just put it on your credit card, you forget all about it anyway. So happy listening and let the Spring Training games begin!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Silent Assassin Shirts Now On Sale


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Well it took a little longer than anticipated, but the AA7 Silent Assassin shirts are now on sale at The Blue Jay Hunter T-Shirt Shop. Above are just a few examples of the shirts available, as they come in a bevvy of styles and sizes.

One of the exclusive features of the Silent Assassin shirt is it increases your stealth and ability to pull off blind-sided trades by at least 43%.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Name That Blue Jays Prospect


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After perusing through the 27 pages of pictures from Blue Jays photo day, I realized something very quickly; I can't tell a Blue Jays prospect apart from a Justin Bieber look-alike.

I thought it was a fun game to see how many of them I actually recognized, and decided to turn it into a little game that's sweeping the nation, it's ... "Name That Prospect!"

Remember, no cheating! But for you easily swayed contestants, just highlight the text next to the answer to discover the name of the Blue Jays prospect.

Feel free to put your guesses in the adjoining answer box to see how well you know your prospects.

This one's pretty easy. He's the only player in the Blue Jays organization with an Eminiem lyric tattooed on his arm ... as far as I know. Maybe check and see if Shawn Camp's has verse one of "Ass Like That" on his bicep.

Your Answer:
Answer: Brett Lawrie
This guy could end up being one Hech of a ballplayer for the Blue Jays. Since he's just getting acclimatized to the English language, coach Luis Rivera is bridging the gap by being a translator.

Your Answer:
Answer: Adeiny Hechavarria












He hasn't had a taste of the major leagues yet, but Blue Jays fans have Scott Rolen's desire to play closer to home to thank for the acquisition of this prospect.

And although he shares the same name as a famous Bayside High alumni member, he does not share the same spelling.

Your Answer:
Answer: Zach Stewart
You may not recognize him without his signature moustache, but that's not to say he won't bring it back playing in the minors this year.

Your Answer:
Answer: Eric Thames





I don't know if he will eventually supersede J.P. Arencibia as the catcher for the Blue Jays. I only say that because his last name sounds like "don't know".

Your Answer:
Answer: Travis d'Arnaud






This guy was selected 115th overall in the 2007 draft, and could be the next great reliever for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Your Answer:
Answer: Alan Farina

What's good for the Gose is good for the gander. He was acquired by the Blue Jays last season by way of trade which sent another prospect to the Houston Astros.

Your Answer:
Answer: Anthony Gose

He may or may not be related to former Blue Jays catching prospect Robizon Diaz. This prospect may not have much in the way of power, but he certainly has a great eye and draws plenty of walks.

Your Answer:
Answer: Jon Diaz

In a very short span of time, he has amassed a total of 166 stolen bases in his four-year minor league career. He receives bonus points since his favourite movie is "The Sandlot".

Your Answer:
Answer: Darin Mastroianni

Jays Journal has him ranked as the Blue Jays 49th best prospect. He's also featured here in what possibly might be the saddest/strangest baseball photo I've ever seen.

Your Answer:
Answer: John Tolisano

Interestingly enough, he was drafted immediately after Brett Lawrie in the first round of the 2008 draft. Now the Blue Jays lay claim to both prospects taken 16th and 17th overall from 2008. 

Your Answer:
Answer: David Cooper

Put both the player above and this young man side by side, and I would say they were separated at birth. If he worked at the Home Depot, he would definitely be a deck designer.

Your Answer:
Answer: Deck McGuire

This switch-hitter spent the majority of the season as the starting first baseman for the Dunedin Blue Jays last season.

Your Answer:
Answer: Michael McDade

Baseball America listed him as having the best changeup in the Blue Jays minor league system.

Your Answer:
Answer: Henderson Alvarez


He was under the wing of Sal Fasano in Lansing last year, and if things go according to plan, he could also be under the wing of Fasano in New Hampshire this season.

Your Answer:
Answer: Chad Jenkins

Not only does this prospect share the same homeland as Jose Bautista, but he also shares the same affinity for patrolling right field.

Your Answer:
Answer: Moises Sierra














Don't feel bad if you didn't fare very well, I myself failed miserably and only scored 37.5% identifying 6 of the 16 photos above: Lawrie, Hechavarria, Thames, d'Arnaud, Gose and Jenkins.

Hopefully in the next five years or so, we will all become very familiar with this core of Blue Jays prospects as they grow into big league players.

Images courtesy of Daylife

Monday, February 21, 2011

Burning Questions at Spring Training Camp


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Image courtesy of Daylife via AP
The onset of Blue Jays Spring Training camp has almost been overshadowed this past week by the Jose Bautista contract news, but now that the dust has settled it's time to get ready for what the 2011 season has to bring.

There isn't quite as much uncertainty surrounding this year as there was last year, but there are still quite a few pressing issues which will need to be resolved by the time April 1st rolls around.

Who will be the fourth/fifth starters?

This is probably the most burning question that has yet to be determined before camp closes up show before Opening Day. As it currently stands, it looks like a three horse race between Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski for the final two starting spots.

There are three possible combinations here: Drabek/Litsch, Drabek/Rzep or Listch/Rzep. One of those spots is definitely Kyle Drabek's to lose, but I can understand why the Blue Jays might want to hold him back in the minors to avoid him from obtaining Super Two status.

I believe Jesse Litsch will definitely command one of those two spots. At this point, the Blue Jays have a lot invested in Jesse Litsch, and I honestly don't think they would have let him go on the Winter Tour if they didn't think he had a shot at cracking the roster.

Will the Blue Jays go with an eight man bullpen/three man bench, 
or a seven man bullpen/four man bench?

This one was spurred on by the 25 Man Roster Challenge over at 1 Blue Jays Way. I'm convinced the Blue Jays will go with the eight man bullpen/three man bench for a couple of reasons.

For one, Edwin Encarnacion will be the team's designated hitter, but his abilities to play at both corners of the diamond essentially makes him a backup infielder as well. So it seems a little redundant to then have three bench infielders (EE, McDonald and McCoy).

Secondly, John Farrell and Alex Anthopoulos have already commented how the nucleus of the starting staff is fairly young and could use some support in the way of bullpen help. Having an extra arm in the 'pen is certainly one way of providing a little more veteran support to the young starting rotation.

Who will win the closer's job?

Back in January, I actually threw my hat into the ring for Jon Rauch to be the closer and Frank Francisco to be the setup man. By the time Opening Day rolls around, I actually think it's going to end up being the other way around.

Francisco appears to be the better man when it comes to high leverage situations, considering his career percentage for allowing inherited runners to score is a stellar 19 percent. All of this evidence aside, my gut tells me the Jays will go with Frankie as the closer anyway.

Which player will surprise the most at Spring Training?

In 2010 it was Chris Lubanksi. The year before that it was Jason Lane. So who will be the dark horse candidate in Dunedin this year?

Two candidates that stand out in my mind are Brett Lawrie and Adeiny Hechavarria. This will be the first opportunity most fans will have to see these up-and-comers put their skills in display, and hopefully they won't disappoint.

Brett Lawrie seems like a man on a mission and it sounds like he's determined to break camp with the Blue Jays. The team likely has other plans for him, but hopefully his determination and skills won't keep him in the minors for too long.

I'm really interested to see what Adeiny Hechavarria is like on the diamond, the basepaths and in the batter's box. Up until this point, all we've really had to go on is scouting reports, and now we can somewhat gauge what Hechavarria's timetable will be like before he hits Toronto.

Is there anything John McDonald can't do?

There's something very cool about seeing Johnny Mac strap on the catcher's gear and get some work behind the plate. Better yet, John Farrell said John McDonald will be the team's third catcher and could get some work during interleague games in June.

John McDonald is like the wise old sage of the roster or the Obi Wan Kenobi of the Blue Jays. *Waves hand*  This isn't the pitch you're looking for.

What's with Travis Snider's moustache?

Of course, you had to know that any facial hair developments from Blue Jays Spring Training camp was going to be mentioned in some capacity on this list.

A few weeks ago, we saw a picture on Travis Snider's Twitter account where he was sporting a cookie duster. I assumed it was just part of his special birthday outfit, but low and behold ... Snider is still rocking the 'stache to this day.

The only request I have is that if Travis Snider is going to sport a 'stache, that he see it through the best of his ability.I just don't want to see him abruptly abort the moustache mission like Jose Bautista, Brandon Morrow or Lyle Overbay.

I suppose his tribute moustache on "Thank You Cito" night must have inspired Travis to take up the art of facial hair full-time.

Images courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures and AP

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Betting $65 Million on Jose Bautista Could Pay Off


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Jose Bautista has about 65 million reasons to be grinning ear to ear right now.

Earlier this week, I solicited the Blue Jays to pay Jose Bautista, and they did ... big time; to the tune of five years and $65 million dollars, with a club option for a sixth year which could ultimately reach $79 million dollars.

On paper at this moment, I'll admit this contract scares me a little bit. There is a chance it could all blow up in the face of Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays, but the only way to find out whether or not it could work is to try.

As much as this decision smells of upper management, I won't pawn off the onus onto the front office for making the final decision on this one. I'm willing to give Anthopoulos the benefit of the doubt here. He believes in Jose Bautista the player, and the person ... and we should too.

It's easy to get hung up over the dollar amount because $65 million dollars is a lot of money. No matter if you're the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, or even the New York Yankees. At the end of the day though, it's just money.

Money can be spent frivolously or it can be used very wisely, but in the end it's just cash. Considering which media conglomerate owns this team, you know there will always be more cash in the piggy bank if needed.

It's great the organization managed to save the $59 million remaining on Alex Rios' contract and the $86 million remaining on the Vernon Wells contract, but do you think they were just saving it all for a rainy day? This spending shows the Blue Jays are ready to compete and they aren't afraid to fork out the cash to do it.

Within the last 18 months, the Blue Jays have traded away key players like Alex Rios, Roy Halladay, Shaun Marcum and Vernon Wells. Although those kind of moves signal a rebuild is in the process, what kind of message does that send to the fans?

More importantly, what kind of message does that send to players being brought up through the minor league system, or even prospective free agents? That if you're loyal to the organization, work hard and perform well that you'll be cast aside?

I suspect Alex Anthopoulos is well aware of that reputation, and the Jose Bautista contract is an attempt to repair that image turn the page to begin in new era. In order to make Toronto an attractive place to play for certain players, this organization has to prove they are willing to pay top dollar for top talent.

Honestly speaking as a fan, all I really care about is building a winner, and this is the first big step towards that. The gesture alone of the Jose Bautista contract speaks volumes about where the Blue Jays priorities lie.

These fans are hungry for a winner. The city of Toronto is yearning to see a team back in the playoffs. Obviously, the Blue Jays believe that window of opportunity is the present, and Bautista's contract is evidence of that.

Forget about all the statistics and all the tangibles for a moment and let's look at the bigger picture. Forget what the projections are for 2011 and beyond. This contract is a means to an end. And if the Blue Jays win a World Series (or even make the playoffs), then in the end it will all be worth it.

Many of you probably think Jose Bautista becomes grossly overpaid and there's no way he could ever possibly live up to the expectations that come with this dollar amount. Well, that's the inherent risk you take when you sign any player to a long-term contract.

Albert Pujols has been a stud his entire career, but who's to say he doesn't fall off the map once he signs his next big contract? These are all possibilities as nothing is ever for certain in the game of baseball.

We can all argue ad nauseam as to whether the Blue Jays made a smart move here, but let's not be so quick to judge the contract before Jose Bautista has even played a single game under his new deal. Talk to me in five years and then let's look back and discuss whether or not it was a good deal.

There's no question they're taking a big gamble by signing Jose Bautista to a five year/$65 million dollar contract, but sometimes you have to bet big to win big. Nobody said the road to glory was going to be easy, and nobody said it was going to be cheap either.

The Blue Jays have proven they want to go to bat with Jose Bautista, and they're willing to bet $65 million on number 19 to prove it. Now, only time will tell if it will pay off.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pay The Man


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Well, it turns out the Blue Jays 13 year streak of avoiding salary arbitration may not be in jeopardy after all.

In light of some new developments, Alex Anthopoulos announced the team has postponed their salary arbitration with Jose Bautista. That can only mean one thing; they are definitely working on signing Bautista to a multi-year deal.

It's a bit surprising because like many others, I expected the hearing would go down as planned. Then all of a sudden, there was word it had been postponed and that's when the floodgates opened.

Since the Silent Assassin is so tight-lipped about contract negotiations, we won't hear a peep about it until the ink dries on the new contract. The particulars of a contract extension are a little fuzzy, but I'm here to say that it's definitely a positive thing the Blue Jays are moving towards locking up Jose Bautista.

Worst case scenario is the Blue Jays sign Bautista to a multi-year deal and he ends up being a complete bust. That's why there are such things as club options and buyouts; so teams have an exit strategy just in case players turn out to be a huge flop.

Rest assured though, Alex Anthopoulos will not make the same mistake as previous regimes and be hand-cuffed by an outrageous deal. He's a very crafty cat and will find some way to make sure the team won't be on the hook for another Vernon Wells version 2.0 contract.

Even if Jose Bautista doesn't return to his preeminent self, it doesn't mean the Blue Jays will have to shell out money for the entire contract either. If AA7 can get the Vernon Wells contract off the books, he can get any contract off the books.

There are negative side effects of signing a player to a big contract, but there are also a lot of positives. For example, signing Jose Bautista now could end up working in favour of the Blue Jays if he continues to perform well above market value.

As talented as some of the Blue Jays prospects are, at this point they're still prospects. Guys like Anthony Gose, Brett Lawrie, Jake Marisnick and Adeiny Hechavarria still have a long way to go to make it to the show.

There are no guarantees they will become the stars we are hoping they will be. Proof of that was very evident when the Jays traded Brett Wallace. He was not the player they thought he was, and so they had to abandon ship and find another solution.

So in that sense, it makes perfect sense to ink Jose Bautista to a long-term deal because he has quantifiable major league experience and talent. We know he can play with the big boys, and he should be paid as such.

It's also in the best interest of Jose Bautista to sign a contract now because if he completely flops in 2011, then he could have an extremely tough time commanding a multi-year deal as a free agent.

If I'm Jose Bautista, I'd much rather take the security of a long-term contract than risk testing the free agent waters. It will likely mean taking a little less money now, but that's the price you pay when you commit to a long-term contract.

Even if Bautista inks a deal with the Blue Jays before his rescheduled arbitration hearing, remember that it doesn't mean he's untouchable. Another solid year on his part could make him an extremely valuable trade commodity, especially if his base salary is reasonable.

However, I don't think that's something Alex Anthopoulos and the Blue Jays are looking at doing right away; signing Jose Bautista to a multi-year contract, building up his value, and then trading him.

Although it's paramount for an assassin to be cold and calculated, that's just not the way the Blue Jays are doing business these days. If Bautista signs long-term, I'm certain he'll be sticking around for the long haul.

Like I alluded to earlier, there are no guarantees with prospects and the very same bodes for major league players. No one knows for certain what Jose Bautista is capable of in 2011 and beyond.  He could hit 50 home runs, or he could hit 5. Nonetheless, that's a risk I'd be willing to take.

Just pay the man, Alex.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Signs of Spring Training


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Hello palm trees, hello reasonable temperatures, hello beaches. The image above can only mean one thing; pitchers and catchers have officially reported for duty.

Although it's been another very active offseason for the Blue Jays front office, pitchers and catchers reporting means the end of a very long winter baseball drought.

Technically, they report today, but there was a plethora of photos released from Blue Jays camp over the weekend. Luckily, the fine folks at Daylife and Reuters Photos have it all covered.

Jesse Litsch looking like he just returned from a three month expedition at the North Pole. Maybe he thought growing a beard was his strategy to start being considered for more serious roles.

For some strange reason, when I look at this silhouette of Jose Bautista in the cage, it reminds me of Pedro Cerrano from Major League. Let's just hope the power of Jobu is on Bautista's side once again this year.

Here's Johnny Mac in fine form, and I can't tell exactly who the prospects are running the the background, but one of them may or may not be the cousin of Pauly D from Jersey Shore. Cabs are here!

Adam Lind with his new take home project, a first baseman's glove. Maybe one of the conditions of his new position is he has to take his glove home with him like one of those plastic babies from Family Studies class.

Wouldn't it be cool if pitchers were allowed to wear sunglasses? Ricky Romero proves that the future's so bright in Dunedin that you do in fact have to wear shades.

You can definitely tell some of these guys don't see the sun very often during the offseason. A suggestion to Aaron Hill; maybe ask Pauly D's cousin where the best suntanning salons are in Dunedin.

One of the players I'm most stoked to see perform during Spring Training is Brett Lawrie. Of course, it's kind of tough to recognize him without a 40 duct taped to his hand.

Is it just me, or does John Farrell bear a certain resemblance to the Silent Assassin, Alex Anthopoulos?

I honestly have no clue what kind of shirt David Purcey is wearing here. The only thing I can think of is "Stay There!" takes over from "Hustle & Heart" as the new slogan for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Not much to say about this photo except it's beautiful.
Welcome back baseball ... we missed you.

Images courtesy of Daylife

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jose Bautista Hearts Salary Arbitration Day


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On Monday, some lovebirds will spend their Valentine's Day enjoying a romantic meal from the Pizza Hut buffet. Jose Bautista on the other hand, will likely be sitting in salary arbitration.

All of this without a single breadstick in sight or even the chance to peruse what delectable dessert pizzas are available? It's a damn shame, I tell you.

So what exactly happens in salary arbitration court? The Biz of Baseball has a great itinerary of a typical hearing, which is broken up into the following segments:
  • The hearings start with a one-hour argument for the player making the case for the asking figure they are seeking.
  • After arguments for the player, management then has an hour to make their case for their offering figure.
  • The one-hour arguments are then followed by 30 minute rebuttals for each side (player goes first, then club).
  • The panel of three arbitrators then rule, normally within 48 hours, as to which salary figure (player, or club) that the player will earn during the upcoming season.
So at the bare minimum we're talking about three hours in a stuffy courtroom listening to both sides argue back and forth and make their case for which submitted salary figure will be awarded.

Apparently attendance by the players themselves isn't mandatory, but I'm sure it doesn't hurt the player's case if they do in fact sit through the entire arbitration hearing.

Having never been through salary arbitration, I don't know for certain but I imagine it's likely a very emotionally draining experience. Here you are trying to convince your team you're deserving of a raise, and on the other side of the courtroom there's lawyers trying to prove otherwise.

Let's just say that unless Jose Bautista wins his salary arbitration case, I can't imagine he'd want to leap right into contract extension talks. Nobody wants to get punched in the gut after getting kicked in the nuts.

Even if Jose does win his case, I don't foresee him signing a contract extension with the Blue Jays anyway. Another solid year could net Bautista a gigantic payday, and the bright lights of free agency and $100 million dollar contracts could be very tempting for someone who battled through the first stage of his career just to gain some semblance of job security.

On the other hand, an off year from Jose Bautista could bring his expectations down a few notches as in what to expect in free agency. A single outlier season on its own means very little in a "what have you done for me lately" kind of business.

Don't get me wrong, I believe Jose Bautista deserves every penny that he's battling for. $10.5 million is chump change compared to the $27.8 million he was worth in 2010 according to FanGraphs. His offensive contributions alone were enough to bring folks to the ballpark.

It's just that delving long-term contracts out to 30+ year old players is a business that the Blue Jays appear to be getting out of. Unless they're saving up for Albert Pujols, no thirty-something player is going to garner a $100 million dollar contract from the Blue Jays any time soon.

That's the reason why they weren't in on the Adrian Beltre Sweepstakes, it's the reason why they aren't gunning for Michael Young, and it's the reason why Jose Bautista will either walk away a free agent or will be shipped at the trade deadline.

Regardless of what happens on Monday, it feels like the beginning of the end of Jose Bautista's time with the Toronto Blue Jays. Well ... at least we'll have the upcoming bobbleheads to remember him by.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Blue Jay Hunter Fantasy Baseball Is Back


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They say those who can, play ... and those who can't, manage.
Thus, fantasy baseball was born.

I'm happy to announce that Blue Jay Hunter Yahoo Fantasy Baseball is back once again. We'll be looking to assemble a myriad of managers from the blogosphere and Twittersphere for yet another year of fantasy baseball.

It will be a very similar format as last year's league, so here are all the details:

Head-to-Head League
  • 20 teams, 2 divisions, top 8 teams make playoffs
Roster Positions
  • C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, OF, OF, OF, Util, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, BN, BN, DL, DL
Batters Stat Categories
  • Runs, Hits, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Stolen Bases, OBP
Pitchers Stat Categories
  • Wins, Saves, Strikeouts, Earned Run Average, WHIP, Quality Starts
These positions and categories aren't necessarily set in stone and may be subject to change depending on how the majority of managers feel about them.

Update: Thanks very much to those who inquired, but unfortunately the BJH Fantasy Baseball league is now full.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Will Encarnacion Breakout or Break Down in 2011?


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters pictures
For those who have been privy to watching Edwin Encarnacion play these past two seasons in Toronto, you know there are basically two extremes to EE; he's either on the verge of breaking out or breaking down.

So which one will it be this year? Here's what Alex Anthopoulos said at the State of the Franchise in the way of expectations for Edwin Encarnacion in 2011:
"Not that I want to compare Edwin to Jose Bautista, but I do think (Encarnacion) is going to have a breakout year for us. I will not be surprised to see him hit 30 home runs or more. If he can get 500-600 plate appearances, he could have a very good year swinging the bat."
When I first heard AA say this, I thought might be a little delusional, but now I can see his rationale for expecting Encarnacion to hit 30 plus home runs this year.

In 2010, EE went yard 21 times in 332 at bats which translates into a home run every 15.8 at bats. If you pro-rate Encarnacion's at bats to 550 at bats for example, that translates into 34 home runs if Edwin Encarnacion stayed healthy.

Year AB HR AB/HR HR's Prorated at 550 AB
2007 556 16 31.4 -
2008 582 26 19.5 -
2009 338 13 22.5 24.4
2010 367 21 15.8 34.8

That's a very big if however, as Edwin Encarnacion has battled injuries for the past two seasons and has only played a total of 181 games combined since 2009. Over the course of his career, EE has missed playing time on seven occasions due to wrist-related injuries.

It's not for certain whether those injuries were sustained on the field or in the batter's box, but limiting Edwin Encarnacion to designated hitter and the odd game at first base can only help curb his trips to the DL (not to be confused with trips to the DR, which incidentally Encarnacion's native country).

If EE can actually get those 500-600 plate appearances this season, it's reasonable to expect him to hit somewhere around 30 dingers. The power has always been there, it's just that he hasn't been healthy enough these past two years to do any damage.

Can Edwin Encarnacion pick up where he left off and continue that pace of a home run every 15.8 at bats? It's definitely a possibility, but the biggest hurdle EE needs to overcome is avoiding time on the disabled list.

Personally, I've never envisioned Edwin Encarnacion as somebody who can hit more than 30 home runs in a season. Then again ... I never thought I'd see Jose Bautista hit more than 20 home runs in a season either.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stepping Up the Running Game


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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters
We all know chicks dig the long ball. Heck, who wouldn't be impressed by somebody with the ability to hit a bomb into the upper deck at the Rogers Centre?

There's another aspect of the game that's equally impressive, but just doesn't receive quite the attention it deserves. It's something that's been neglected by the Blue Jays these past few years ... and that's the running game.

Under new manager John Farrell, the free-swinging ways of the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays may be replaced by a more aggressive approach on the basepaths. Farrell has already indicated he wants to employ the running game more in 2011:
"My vision for this team is to be more aggressive on the basepaths, find other ways to score runs, rather than being so reliant and sitting back, waiting for the home run to make us an unpredictable offensive team."
Among the countless statistics available at Baseball Reference, perhaps one of the most interesting related to baserunning is XBT % (extra bases taken percentage).  This is defined as the percentage of times the runner advances more than one base on a single or two bases on a double when possible.

Obviously, not all situations are created equally and the window to go from first to third or second to home on certain plays will differ, but I think that aside from stolen bases, XBT is a pretty good indication of a player's overall speed.

Not surprisingly, the 2010 Blue Jays ranked second last in the American League when it came to squeezing out those extra bases. With a team total of 36 percent, they came in just above the Kansas City Royals.

XBT% ▾ 1stS3 1stDH 2ndSH
Mike McCoy 80% 0 1 3
Vernon Wells 51% 8 5 6
Edwin Encarnacion 48% 3 1 6
Yunel Escobar 46% 5 2 3
Jose Bautista 42% 6 11 6
John Buck 42% 4 0 6
Aaron Hill 39% 8 2 6
Fred Lewis* 38% 5 1 9
John McDonald 30% 1 0 2
Dewayne Wise* 27% 0 1 2
Adam Lind* 26% 3 2 5
Lyle Overbay* 22% 6 2 4
Travis Snider* 21% 0 3 3
Jose Molina 13% 0 1 1
J. P. Arencibia 0% 0 0 0
Team Total 36% 54 33 67

Immediately, we can throw outliers out the window such as Mike McCoy and J.P. Arencibia because of their lack of on base opportunities. Those two aside, it's pretty obvious who the hares and who the tortoises are on the team.

Perhaps most surprising of them all is Travis Snider's lack of extra bases. I can't recall exactly when, but it was during a Jays Talk last season that Mike Wilner said something to the effect that Travis Snider was faster than Fred Lewis.

If it's a race to who can eat 30 hot dogs faster, then yes ... Travis Snider is faster. However, if there is any truth in the numbers above, it indicates Lewis was in fact the better player at advancing bases than Snider.

Keep in mind that extra bases taken percentage all depends on the context and not every opportunity to advance is created equal. There are many factors at work such as which part of the park the ball is hit to, fielding position, and the outfielder not hitting the cutoff man.

Anyway, that point aside, I think we can all agree the Blue Jays need to get out of this stalemate philosophy that home runs rule all ... and John Farrell will be instrumental in rolling out this new strategy in 2011.

There was a very telling quote from John Farrell during last week's State of the Franchise meeting which confirmed his intentions on stepping up the running game:
I'd like us to become a much more aggressive team on the basepaths. That doesn't mean we're going to try to make Jose Molina a base stealer. But it does mean that there are opportunities where we can turn guys loose ... to make us that much more unpredictable.
The inherent danger in developing a more aggressive running game is the possibility of creating more outs with runners on base. However, if the Blue Jays don't create chances by forcing the play, then they'll be just as predictable at the plate as they were in 2010.

If we're looking for a benchmark which to measure the Blue Jays running game against, I think there's no better comparison than arguably the fastest team in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2010, the Rays swiped extra bases 45 percent of the time compared to the Toronto Blue Jays 36 percent.

And it all starts from the bottom of the roster and goes up to the top. I realize you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but this applies from everyone to BengieJose Molina to Rajai Davis. If it takes extra baserunning drills in spring training, then so be it.

The Blue Jays played 52 one-run games in 2010, and lost 24 of them. Squeezing out those extra bases are paramount to scoring more runs and winning more ballgames in the ultra-competitive American League East.

The powerful yet pedestrian offensive style used by the Toronto Blue Jays just isn't going to cut it any more. The rest of the division is becoming harder, better, faster, stronger.

The old adage dictates the Blue Jays need to walk before they can run. Well, I hope they're ready to hustle this year because I have a feeling John Farrell isn't going to settle for a leisurely jaunt around the basepaths any longer.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day in Blue Jay Land


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For the odd baseball executive, I'm sure every day must feel like Groundhog Day. Despite their best efforts, sometimes they are just stuck in the endless loop of mediocrity and have no way of getting out of it.

Luckily for us Blue Jays fans, Alex Anthopoulos is not one of those people. AA has been furiously pursuing signings and trades this offseason in what has been one of the most active winters in recent memory.

After all, it wasn't all that long ago when the biggest offseason acquisition by the Blue Jays was the minor league signing of Kevin Millar. We were chomping at the bit for any morsel of Blue Jays news, and the only thing fed to us by the front office was Kevin Millar's Spring Training invite.

I'm thankful there's been a flurry of activity this offseason because the six months between the final game of the regular season and Opening Day can drag on longer than an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball matchup between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

With all the trades, free agent signings, and a new manager at the helm, I can't think of a better time to get excited about Blue Jays baseball again.

So however you chose to celebrate this obscure rodent-centric holiday, just be sure to remember this very recently constructed Groundhog Day baseball proverb:

If Alex Anthopoulos sees his shadow, then it's eight more weeks of the offseason. But if the Silent Assassin doesn't see his shadow, then a blindsided trade is surely on the horizon.

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