Maybe Scott Boras Was Right?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014  |  by 

Who ever thought Scott Boras would be the voice of reason in a situation involving free agents? I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe he's right.

The Toronto Blue Jays and Scott Boras don't exactly have the best history, but the two find themselves at a crossroads; Boras has clients that are still unsigned, and the Blue Jays have needs on their roster.

After comments made earlier this week to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Boras appeared on both the Fan 590 and TSN Radio and backtracked a bit on his remarks that took the organization to task for being inactive this offseason.

He may have ulterior motives, but Scott Boras actually provided some solutions for the Blue Jays and offered many valid points during his interviews with Jeff Blair and Bryan Hayes. Perhaps the Blue Jays should pounce on the remaining free agents.

Who ever guessed Scott Boras would use anything other than strong-arm tactics to get his players signed? It's almost as if Boras has the Blue Jays best interest at heart ... almost. He did what agents do best, and that's create a sell job for their clients.

Unique Opportunity to Draft a Protected Pick

When ever are the Blue Jays going to get a chance like this to sign a free agent without having to give up a pick? That's the main point Scott Boras hammered home during these interviews.

The Blue Jays are in a very unique position where they finished in the bottom 10 last year, and hopefully that won't happen again this year. If you're a team like the Blue Jays designed to compete now, ideally you don't want to be in that position two years in a row.

So not only could the Blue Jays still sign an Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales, but their first two picks are protected regardless.

Unless Alex Anthopoulos covets a 49th overall pick as much as a first rounder, this offseason would have been the opportune time to improve the Blue Jays via free agency. Because odds are they won't get this opportunity again for a very long time.

Backloading Contracts Allows for Financial Flexibility

Not surprisingly, Scott Boras advocated towards the Blue Jays back-loading contracts. Heck, money is money ... whether it's all up front or it comes at the end of a contract.

His clients get paid either way, but structuring a contract with incremental value could prove beneficial for the Blue Jays.

Payroll is dropping close to $40 million in 2015 with $96.2 million on the books next year, and close to $70 million in 2016 with only $27.6 million on the books for 2016. As a comparison, the Yankees nearly have $160 million committed to their 2016 payroll.

The Blue Jays payroll commitments next year and beyond are actually in okay shape, so taking on another one or two contracts wouldn't push them into luxury tax territory, if that's what Alex Anthopoulos and company are truly worried about.

Sign Drew to Play Second Base

Scott Boras reiterated that the Blue Jays don't have any prominent second base prospects in their system, which is absolutely true. There aren't any on the horizon, which is perhaps why the Blue Jays experimented with Brett Lawrie at second for a brief period last year.

Boras also stated Stephen Drew would be willing to play second base, but it came with a caveat; only if the Blue Jays made it a long-term position for him. Key phrase there ... "long-term". So does that mean 3-4 years?

I'd be okay with the Blue Jays going with Stephen Drew at second base in the foreseeable future, because there really is nobody coming down the pipeline in regards to second baseman. Shoring up the position would certainly be a wise decision.

Trade Lind for Pitching, sign Morales

He also suggested the Blue Jays could improve their roster by trading Adam Lind for starting pitching and subsequently sign his client, Kendrys Morales to DH. Lind is under contract for $7 million this season, so one assumes Morales could be had for around that mark.

Scott Boras hinted that some teams see Adam Lind as a desirable asset because of his years of control, but truthfully I don't know what he'd fetch in return. The Blue Jays certainly couldn't trade Lind to the Pirates in exchange for Gerrit Cole.

If flipping Adam Lind nets the Blue Jays any sort of starting pitching whatsoever and they signed Kendrys Morales, they'd already have improved at 1B/DH and they'd have a starting pitcher to boot.

Lind and Morales are relatively the same player, with the difference being Morales can hit lefties and Adam Lind can't. Kendrys Morales is also a switch-hitter and hits from both sides of the plate equally well. Surprisingly, both players are also the same age.

Boras also mentioned signing Drew and Morales would net the Blue Jays a draft pick after the fact, so long as those players stay on the roster the entire season and the Blue Jays extend them a qualifying offer.

Image courtesy of Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

The Blue Jays Underwhelming Offseason

Monday, February 24, 2014  |  by 

What a difference one year makes. In 2013, the Toronto Blue Jays spared no expense to ensure a winning team. This year, they have spared every expense. Passive and pensive; two words that describe the Blue Jays offseason in a nutshell.

It's a strange departure from a team that went all-in with a flurry of offseason moves last winter, to a team that has sat on their proverbial hands this time around.

Rather than address the glaring holes on the roster, Alex Anthopoulos has decided to sit back and take the internal approach. Aside from signing a new catcher, the Blue Jays will more or less will be relying on the same roster as last year to turn their fate around.

Up until about a week ago, the Blue Jays and the Orioles were two teams who drew the very same criticism for lack of moves this offseason. But by inking both Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz, the O's have suddenly vaulted the Blue Jays in transactions.

For me, I look at the Blue Jays and the Orioles and see two teams going in two completely directions. For all the questionable moves the O's have made the past few years, at least they took a proactive approach this offseason and signed some players.

The Los Angeles Angels were also in a very similar position as the Blue Jays, but they addressed their weaknesses via trade and free agency. The Angels did so in a relatively cheap fashion, proving it doesn't take Yankees-type money to plug holes on the roster.

Teams like the Orioles and Angels were aggressive this offseason while the Blue Jays remained completely passive. If given the choice, I'd rather the Blue Jays go for it like they did last year and fail miserably than do nothing and fail miserably.

For all the criticism J.P. Ricciardi took during his tenure as Blue Jays GM, at least he was aggressive. His moves may not have always been the right ones, but at least he did something in an attempt to better the team.

The Blue Jays may have overpaid for the services of A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan, but they can't be faulted them for signing some of the best players on the market at the time. They may have been big contracts, but they weren't bad deals for the Blue Jays by any means.

If the Blue Jays went out tomorrow and signed Ervin Santana and Stephen Drew, most would laud them for at least trying to make another run at it ... rather than just hoping an inordinate amount of scenarios break in their favour this year.

Stoeten brought up a lot of great points at DJF last week which were fleshed out in his "Ubaldo to Orioles" post, which best describes the frustration that has boiled over from the Blue Jays fan base at the lack of activity this offseason.

Judging by how the club failed to bring in any reinforcements this winter, you'd never know the Blue Jays were in year two of their massive push for the postseason. So it's no shock why experts like Johah Keri have stated the Blue Jays "look like a last-place team".

Nearly nobody is praising the Blue Jays for their penny-pinching ways this winter. It's almost as if Alex Anthopoulos is worried about signing free agents to a multi-year contract because he doesn't want to leave the burden of that contract to the next Blue Jays GM.

To me, that signals one of either two things; the organization is actually confident this team can contend with the roster constructed as is, or AA's hands are tied when it comes to free agent spending due to budget constraints.

If you asked people at the beginning of the offseason, most would have pegged the Blue Jays to sign at least one free agent starting pitcher and perhaps bring in another starter via trade. But they did neither of those things.

The sense of urgency to win simply isn't there, which is completely frustrating for any fan ... let alone one that hasn't seen their team make the playoffs in over 20 years.

It's almost as if we've gone back in time three or four years and expectations have reverted back to simply finishing with a .500 record. After they failed to live up to expectations last year, it's like the Blue Jays are perfectly content remaining the little brother of the AL East.

I don't know if Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston are delusional, but they can't seriously think this Blue Jays team can contend the way it is constructed right now. And if they don't think the team is playoff worthy, they should remedy the situation immediately.

The best analogy I can use for the Blue Jays season borrows heavily from Shi Davidi's in "Great Expectations: The Lost Blue Jays Season".

There are a couple of ways to fix a house; one is to use the best materials possible and spare no expense to ensure the longevity of the project. Alternatively, you could repair your home simply using supplies from the dollar store.

In case you were wondering, the Yankees were the former in that analogy and the Blue Jays were the latter. On one end of the spectrum, the Yankees paid through the nose to ensure they return to the playoffs, while on the other end, the Blue Jays totally cheaped out.

With this in mind, it's no surprise as to why fans have become disenchanted with the Blue Jays this offseason.

It's alarming that they've been so incredibly passive in free agency and trade and yet somehow expect to compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays this year. And the Blue Jays are also expecting fans to "have faith" even though they've pretty much nothing.

If Alex Anthopoulos really thinks he can get away with it, then kudos to him. I will happily take it all back if it all pans out and the Blue Jays somehow miraculously make the playoffs this year. I will gladly admit I was wrong.

But until then, there's nothing they can do to convince me that doing almost nothing was the right thing to do.

Image via  AP/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn

Would the Blue Jays do the R.A. Dickey Deal Again?

Friday, February 21, 2014  |  by 

Very rarely in life do you ever get a do-over; a chance to make a wrong a right.
A second opportunity to go back in time and change something.

Admittedly, playing revisionist is something that mostly only happens in the movies, but every so often it's kind of fun to ponder "what if". Like "what if the Blue Jays didn't pull the trigger on certain trades"- would that have shifted the landscape of the entire franchise?

The Blue Jays have certainly had their fair share of regrettable trades over the years, the Mike Sirotka one probably being the worst. But the one that sticks out in my mind most recently is the R.A. Dickey trade.

For some reason I've been wondering a lot lately ... if given the chance and knowing what we know now, would the Blue Jays go back and make the same trade for R.A. Dickey?

In case you need a refresher, here's a list of all the players exchanged below. It really was the anti-Anthopoulos trade, as the Blue Jays traded two of their top prospects for an established Major League pitcher.

To the Blue Jays To the Mets
R.A. DickeyTravis d'Arnaud
Josh TholeNoah Syndergaard
Mike NickeasJohn Buck
Wuilmer Becerra

This one was different from the blockbuster with the Miami Marlins because the Dickey deal was not deemed "necessary". The Dickey deal was merely an accessory to the Marlins blockbuster; without the prior trade, the R.A. Dickey trade probably doesn't even happen.

Before to the R.A. Dickey acquisition, the Blue Jays starting rotation already comprised of Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, J.A. Happ and Ricky Romero. Not exactly a starting rotation that strikes fear into the competition, but on paper it certainly seemed like a respectable starting five. At the very least, it was a welcome upgrade over what the Blue Jays already had.

The R.A. Dickey trade was a "win now" move designed to help push the Blue Jays over the top. In a perfect world it would have done just that, but the Blue Jays never even really came close enough to where one pitcher like Dickey would have made the difference.

It's very difficult to judge a trade of this magnitude just one year in, but at this point I'd say the Mets got the better of the trade. Currently they own MLB's 11th best prospect in the form of Noah Syndergaard, and Travis d'Arnaud isn't very far behind at number 22.

I'll admit, it kind of stings a little bit every time I read an article raving about Travis d'Arnaud's pitch framing or Noah Syndergaard's repertoire. Not surprisingly, d'Arnaud and Syndergaard rank one and two on the New York Mets top prospects list.

The latest praise came from Mets manager Terry Collins raving about Syndergaard's 97 MPH fastball, describing it as a "hook from hell". That's a pretty high compliment for a towering young right-hander who's currently ranked as the third best pitching prospect in all of baseball.

The New York Mets made a very wise decision to sell high on R.A. Dickey when they did. They cashed in at the perfect time, following Dickey's Cy Young season in 2012.

The Mets certainly got a good haul in return, similar to what the Blue Jays netted from the Phillies in Roy Halladay back in 2009. Oddly enough, the Phillies trade is what netted Travis d'Arnaud in the first place.

R.A. Dickey was the centrepiece of that trade, but there was another huge ripple effect of the deal; it set forth a very unique and unfortunate set of circumstances when it came to the Blue Jays catchers.

Not only did the Blue Jays trade away Travis d'Arnaud, but they also flipped Yan Gomes a month prior, essentially trading their number three and four catchers on the depth chart.

That move would ultimately come back to bite them following the non-tendering of J.P. Arencibia. To add insult to injury, Yan Gomes emerged as one of the top defensive catchers in all of baseball in 2013, and Travis d'Arnaud is currently poised to break camp as the Mets starting catcher.

Travis d'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard are still just prospects at this point, but even in just 31 games down the stretch last season, Travis d'Arnaud was worth more wins over replacement (-0.1 WAR) than J.P. Arencibia was the entire season (-0.6 WAR).

Travis d'Arnaud's injury history may come into play and Noah Syndergaard may very well never pitch above Triple A, but was three years of R.A. Dickey really worth it?

Sure, R.A. Dickey was a serviceable arm in the Blue Jays rotation last year. He did what they needed him to do, which was make 30-plus starts and log over 200 innings. But I'm still not convinced Dickey will ever recapture that magic from his 2012 Cinderella season.

The Blue Jays either overvalued the X factor of Dickey's knuckleball, or Alex Anthopoulos rode the high following the Marlins blockbuster trade and perhaps dove into the Dickey deal prematurely.

I think the biggest flaw in the entire deal was not overvaluing R.A. Dickey, but it was misjudging the importance of J.P. Arencibia. The organization's unwavering loyalty to Arencibia allowed them to deem not only Travis d'Arnaud as tradeable, but also Yan Gomes.

Clearly, the Blue Jays were confident J.P. Arencibia was going to be their starting catcher for the foreseeable future, which made them feel comfortable enough to deal away their two best catching prospects.

Knowing what we know now, I don't know if I'd still make that trade. The odd thing is it's not really because R.A. Dickey didn't perform to expectations last year; it's because the trade put the Blue Jays in a precarious situation at the catcher's position.

If the Blue Jays fail to make the playoffs in the next few years, most pundits will likely point to this deal as one that went sour for Toronto. On the flip side, if the Blue Jays end their 20 year playoff drought, all will be forgotten.

Image courtesy of AP/The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn

With Ubaldo off the Board, the Focus Shifts to Santana

Tuesday, February 18, 2014  |  by 

And then there was one.

After months of being linked to the Toronto Blue Jays, Ubaldo Jimenez is off the board. His name can officially be scratched off the board of potential starting pitcher upgrades, and the only man left is Ervin Santana.

MLB Trade Rumors has reported Ubaldo's deal with the Baltimore Orioles is four years long and worth $50 million dollars total. However, the focus seems to be that the Blue Jays weren't in on this deal.

Just add that to the long list of players Toronto should have been in on, but for one reason or another, they weren't: Doug Fister, Brett Anderson, Masahiro Tanaka, Omar Infante, Matt Garza, and now Ubaldo Jimenez.

It's sad, but this offseason has been more about what the Toronto Blue Jays haven't done rather than what they have.

The funny thing is Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana have been touted as the answer to all the Blue Jays problems. But the reality is these are two pitchers who are dependable for innings, but beyond that it's very questionable.

Ubaldo Jimenez himself has been somewhat of an enigma; piece together his first half from 2012 and second half from 2013 and you've easily got a Cy Young-worthy season. But unfortunately you just can't cherry pick the best portions of a season and forget the rest.

For most of his career, Ervin Santana has predominantly been a number four or number five starter, and last year he elevated to a number three in Kansas city. And yet he was also being heralded as the obvious answer for the Blue Jays.

In that respect, why would the Blue Jays go out and sign a number three or four starter when they already have a plethora of them already in the system? Jimenez or Santana would essentially be an insurance policy for the Blue Jays back end of the rotation.

Ubaldo Jimenez' contract with the Orioles seems like a good value. An average annual value of $12.5 million dollars is pretty reasonable, considering he turned down a $14 million dollar qualifying offer in November.

That's the kind of contract the Blue Jays certainly could have matched. But all indications point towards the front office remaining firm on any potential offers to Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana.

My estimation is that guaranteed fourth year was likely a sticking point for the Blue Jays. Four years is a long time for somebody like Ubaldo Jimenez who is entering his age 30 season. There is certainly a fear they'd be paying a premium for his second half success in 2013.

Not only did the Orioles feel comfortable going four years on Jimenez, they were also willing to surrender their first round draft pick (17th overall) in the process.

Judging by the Ubaldo Jimenez signing coupled with the Suk min-Yoon signing, it appears as though the Orioles have a much greater sense of urgency to solidify their starting pitching than the Toronto Blue Jays.

$12.5 million is a reasonable amount to pay for a starting pitcher, considering the Blue Jays were perfectly fine giving Josh Johnson close to $14 million dollars last year to start 16 games.

So does Ubaldo Jimenez' deal with the Orioles invariably drive up the asking price for Ervin Santana? Not the price per sae, but the duration; it all but guarantees that Santana will target a four-year deal, much like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez.

If the Blue Jays aren't willing to go beyond their rumoured three-year maximum, then surely another team like the Seattle Mariners or the Los Angeles Angels will swoop in and give Ervin Santana a guaranteed fourth year.

Of the two starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, personally I would have preferred the Blue Jays went after Jimenez. The changed he's made indicate that he's turned the corner, and Ubaldo certainly has been durable dating back to 2009.

Santana is much more prone to the long ball, and pitching in a home run friendly park like the Rogers Centre doesn't play to Santana's strengths. But at this point, Ervin Santana is the only other external pitching option out there for the Blue Jays.

However, I don't Ubaldo Jimenez signing with the Orioles dictates that the Blue Jays necessarily need to sign Ervin Santana. They obviously feel confident about their depth, but that just may be posturing on the part of the front office.

If the Blue Jays played to the media like they were desperate for starting pitching, agents would exploit that to no end. Not only that, but other teams would bid up the Blue Jays free agent targets as well.

At this point, I've come to accept that the Blue Jays likely won't make any significant additions before Opening Day. It makes sense for them to sign Ervin Santana, but they clearly are not willing to deviate from their offer to Santana ... if there even is an offer.

Image courtesy of Yahoo

Preaching the Importance of Defense

Friday, February 14, 2014  |  by 

The past few years, the identity of the Toronto Blue Jays has been very clear; they hit a lot of home runs. They swing early and often which invariably leads to a lot of home runs, but it also leads to a lot of strikeouts.

One thing the Blue Jays have not been known for recent memory is their defense. In fact, you have to think back to the Scott Rolen/Marco Scutaro/John McDonald days to find a Toronto Blue Jays squad that had a reputation of being defensively solid.

Aside from staying healthy and of course pitching, defense has been the Blue Jays primary weakness in recent memory. Perhaps it's time they went about changing that perception.

Paul Beeston said something on Primetime Sports Wednesday night that really resonated with me:
"Strangely enough, with good defense it helps pitcher's ERA's, and if you're not giving up a lot of runs, you don't have to score as many yourself."
It's something that's been said time and time again; defense (or pitching) wins championships. But for whatever reason, Beeston's comment finally made sense to me.

Run prevention is just as important as run creation.

All these years, the Blue Jays have loaded up on power hitters and produced some pretty potent lineups. Even with guys like Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion coming off injuries, Toronto still possesses a formidable batting order going into this season.

But maybe it's time they went the opposite direction and starting preaching different aspects of the game ... namely, defense.

As we've all witnessed these past few years, hitting and pitching are two things that can greatly fluctuate over the duration of the year. Lineups can experience cold spells, and pitching staffs and bullpens can get overworked and tired.

However, defense is one of the few aspects of the game that seems somewhat controllable and sustainable over the course of a 162 game season.

In saying that, a solidly sound defensive team will likely produce similar on-field results year over year. On that same token, a shotty infield and questionable outfield will also probably be bad year over year.

I can't imagine the Toronto Blue Jays were happy with the on-field results last season, but not much has really been done in the way of ensuring the roster has been upgraded defensively.

Dioner Navarro might be a slight defensive improvement over J.P. Arencibia, but it's not by much. There are still questions about Melky Cabrera's mobility, but Anthony Gose could supplant Melky in left field if need be.

The real question that still needs to be answered is if the Blue Jays feel comfortable having Ryan Goins starting at second base this season. If they do, it will mark a huge shift in the overall philosophy of this team.

If the Blue Jays are willing to carry Ryan Goins' glove despite his offensive shortcomings, that will be the first indication they're finally beginning to place an overall importance on defense.

Perhaps the wheels were already set in motion for a defensive shift when Alex Anthopoulos acquired a handful of players who have a reputation as good defenders: Chris Getz, Erik Kratz and Brent Morel.

The odds of all three of them cracking the Opening Day roster are very slim, but even if one of them occupy one of the coveted bench spots, it would provide a defensive upgrade over what the Blue Jays currently have.

In signing these players to a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training, it makes them disposable if the experiment goes wrong. In that respect, I applaud Alex Anthopoulos' ability to bring in these players for relatively nothing.

I'm not completely sure whether the new additions to the coaching staff will make an impact on the defensive philosophy of the team, but it can't hurt to have Kevin Seitzer and Tim Leiper as a new set of eyes on the club.

There's a school of thought that an offensive juggernaut like the Blue Jays can negate any shortcomings in the pitching and defensive department. Even if their pitching staff gives up eight runs, so long as their lineup can score nine, all will be well.

If you asked me a few years ago, I would have subscribed to that theory as well, but this Blue Jays team that fits the very same blueprint went 147-177 the past two seasons combined. The Blue Jays scored 1428 runs and gave up 1430 and still lost 30 more games than they won.

So in that case, I don't think an overpowering offense is enough to make up for lackluster defense and mediocre pitching.

It hearkens back to what Paul Beeston said in that interview; if the Blue Jays pitching and defense doesn't give up as many runs, their offense won't need to carry the brunt of the load.

In order to be a successful team, I think it's crucial to have solid defense up the middle of the diamond. If you take a look at teams that made the playoffs last year, there are very few instances with contenders where you'll find a black hole at shortstop or second base.

It's important to have good defense at short and second, and a combination of Jose Reyes and Ryan Goins would be a great start. Toss in Brett Lawrie at the hot corner, and you have potentially one of the best 5-6-4 defensive combinations in the American League.

And after watching an overall poor on-field product last year, I'd willingly trade some home runs for a few more defensive gems this year.

The Dome Effect: Does an Open or Closed Roof Impact Home Run Totals at the Rogers Centre?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014  |  by 

In the past few years, the Rogers Centre has developed a reputation around the Major League as a hitters' ballpark. A bit of a bandbox; a home run haven, if you will.

It certainly hasn't always been that way, but recently it seems like home run numbers have mysteriously and steadily increased within the confines of the Rogers Centre.

But is that reality, or is it just perception - has the Rogers Centre really evolved into one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in all of baseball? And does an open or closed roof really have an effect on the number of home runs hit inside the Rogers Centre?

Last week, I was watching a feature on the MLB Network which looked at the 50 longest home runs of the 2013 season. Not surprisingly, nine of the Top 50 were hit at the Rogers Centre; the most of any ballpark in MLB.

I also noticed the longest home runs in particular seemed to be when the Rogers Centre roof was closed. So I decided to crunch the numbers and investigate. Keep in mind these are only using results from the 2013 season. With 81 home dates every year, that's a lot of box scores to comb through.

First off, I decided to go into the longest home runs of the season hit at the Rogers Centre in 2013.  There were a fair share of tape measure shots in Toronto last year, many of them hit by the opposition, and most of them with the roof closed.

Of the 25 longest hit home runs at the Rogers Centre, 18 of them came with the roof closed and only seven of them came with the roof open. If we expand that to the top 50 longest home runs hit at the dome in 2013, 34 of 50 came with the lid closed.

For the most part, when players get a hold of one at the dome with the lid closed, they launch it well into the seats at the Rogers Centre. Next, we go into the home run number comparisons between the roof open and closed.

Of the 81 home games played in Toronto during the 2013 season, 41 of them had the roof closed and 39 of them with the roof open. With the lid closed, 113 home runs were hit compared to 101 with the roof open.

I was surprised to learn the difference between home runs with the roof closed and open was not incredibly out of balance. It ended up being 2.9 home runs per game with the roof open and 2.4 home runs per game with the roof closed.

There seems to be this perception that the baseball just flies out of the park at as astronomical rate when the Rogers Centre roof is closed, but in 2013 that wasn't quite the case. With the roof closed, it worked out to being just one extra home run every other home game.

I think the reason why people jumped to that conclusion was because for the first two months of the season, the Rogers Centre roof is predominately closed. Factor in a full 81 game home schedule and the numbers basically even out over the course of the season.

From there, we go a little further down the rabbit hole and do the splits between home runs hit by the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre versus home runs hit by visiting teams.

Quite surprisingly, the visiting teams in 2013 had the slight edge in the home run department; 119 home runs for the visitors as opposed to 95 for the Blue Jays.

That may be partially due to the fact that the Blue Jays pitching staff as a whole was awful in 2013; they gave up the second most home runs in all of baseball (195) and surrendered the most home runs at home of any team in the majors at 119.

R.A. Dickey himself was responsible for nearly 20% of all the home runs given up by the Blue Jays pitching staff at home in 2013. Dickey has stated his preference to pitch with the roof closed, and judging by the results below, it's for a very good reason.

In eight starts with the Rogers Centre roof closed, R.A. Dickey gave up seven home runs total last season which was less than one per game. But in 10 starts with the roof open, he gave up a total of 16 home runs, which works out to 1.6 home runs per start.

As ridiculous as it would be to have the roof closed on a hot summer day, it's almost imperative the Blue Jays keep the roof closed whenever R.A. Dickey is on the mound ... regardless of the weather forecast.

Lastly and perhaps most interestingly, it's the split of day games with the roof open compared to night games with the roof open.

39 home runs were hit during day games with the roof open (or 2.05 per game) versus 62 home runs hit during night games with the roof open (or 2.7 per game). That works out to 0.65 more home runs per game with the lid open at night.

This is also somewhat surprising because conventional wisdom leads us to believe that warmer temperatures during the day would make the ball travel further instead of cooler temperatures at night. However, the results here prove the exact opposite.

I fully admit a one year picture is a fairly small sample size in the 24 year history of the Rogers Centre, but it's interesting to see how things played out over 81 home games in 2013.

The numbers here didn't completely debunk the myth that home runs fly out of the Rogers Centre, but at the very least it was indicative home run rates aren't nearly as high with the roof open.

The real take away from all of this was the discovery that open roof night games produce 32% more home runs than open roof day games. Who knew?

Image courtesy of Rounding Third . Data courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information Group and RetroSheet.

One Last Time: Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014  |  by 

Will they or won't they sign a starting pitcher already?

That's the question which has been asked umpteen times this offseason about the Blue Jays and their need for pitching. So much so that I think the Blue Jays fan base is become numb towards any news of Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez coming to Toronto.

The latest reports suggest that Santana and Jimenez are essentially Toronto's for the taking, and as the days draw closer to Spring Training, the asking prices on Santana and Jimenez drop further and further.

The funny thing is it almost seems like everyone is waiting on the Blue Jays to make the first move, so they can make their move afterwards.

While any of those guys would be welcome additions to the Blue Jays starting rotation, it got me thinking ... Toronto's starting pitching is not only looking pretty thin this season, it's also looking really thin in 2015 and beyond.

Yesterday I came across this post on FanGraphs via MLB Trade Rumors in which Dave Cameron looks ahead to the 2015 crop of free agent starting pitchers. The big names include Max Scherzer, James Shields, Jon Lester, Homer Bailey and Justin Masterson.

Odds are half of them will likely sign contract extensions with their respective teams, which will leave the other teams to fight amongst themselves for three or four mid to top-tier starting pitchers.

Just looking ahead to next year, here is the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitching depth chart for players that are under contract or have club options for the 2015 season.

R.A. Dickey - final year of two-year contract ($12 million)
Mark Buehrle - final year of four-year contract ($19 million)
Brandon Morrow - club option for 2015 ($10 million)
J.A. Happ - club option for 2015 ($6.7 million)
Ricky Romero - final year of five-year contract ($7.5 million)

So not only do the Blue Jays have to worry about starting pitching this year, they also have to look ahead to 2015 and beyond.

Everyone seems very focused on this season and the increasingly short window the Blue Jays have for contention, but this list of pitchers just reiterates how uncertain their starting pitching really is.

If things go horribly once again for the Blue Jays when it comes to pitching, they'll have to dip into the free agent pitcher pool once again next offseason. And with the calibre of pitchers projected to be on the market and their likely astronomical asking price, that's not a very tenable situation for the Blue Jays.

However, that could all be fixed simply by signing one of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana, or perhaps even both. It wouldn't elevate the Blue Jays starting rotation as one of the best, but it would at least make their rotation respectable.

The other good thing about signing either of those two is it at least shores up part of the Blue Jays starting rotation for at least a few years.

The Santana vs. Jimenez thing has been done to death this offseason, and while both guys have their strengths and weaknesses, at this point either guy would provide an upgrade over what the Blue Jays already have.

I'm not really looking at the pitcher so much as I am the spot. It's kind of sad that it's come to this, but the only requirement I'm looking for right now is for someone to log 200 innings. If they can be above average while doing it, then that's a bonus.

Ideally, guys like Marcus Stroman, Drew Hutchison and maybe even Aaron Sanchez will contribute over the next few years, but it's nice to have at least some big league talent locked up in the starting pitching department.

Say if they sign Ubaldo Jimenez and he has a decent season and Marcus Stroman joins the club mid-season and has a decent run - that gives the Blue Jays a pitching surplus, which means they could afford to deal somebody like Mark Buehrle (as they were rumoured to in the past).

Although it might not be the best business practice to sign and trade a player not long thereafter, the Blue Jays could ink Jimenez or Santana to a low-ball contract now and receive fair market value for them in return in a year or two.

Aside from the second round draft pick, the Blue Jays have nothing to lose by signing Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana. It really is a unique opportunity for them to grab a free agent starter without surrendering too much in the way of money and draft picks.

Are the Blue Jays Getting a New Turf This Season?

Monday, February 3, 2014  |  by 

The hot topic around these parts these past few weeks has been the possibility of installing a natural grass field at the Rogers Centre. What originally began as a pipe dream a few years ago is suddenly becoming more of an inevitability.

It's not really a question of if the Blue Jays will get a grass field at the Rogers Centre now, it's just a question of when. And when is obviously dependent on how quickly the Toronto Argos can vacate the facility and find a new home.

So what are the Blue Jays supposed to play on in the meantime?

I received an anonymous tip last week (and by anonymous I mean truly anonymous) that the Blue Jays may be in the process of modifying the current AstroTurf for the 2014 season.

This information should obviously be taken with a grain of salt considering the undisclosed origin, but there's a chance this person could be onto something.

While AstroTurf is no substitute for real grass, an improved playing surface at the Rogers Centre would at least bridge the gap until the proposed grass field installation in 2018.

This source claims that the Blue Jays are in the process of lightening the field by removing the sand layers of the AstroTurf and replacing it entirely with rubber (or something to that effect).

FieldTurf was the previous playing surface at the Rogers Centre, but according to their website their average sports field weighs approximately 720,000 pounds; the bulk of which is sand.

If you've ever wondered what exactly a FieldTurf is comprised of, here's the breakdown:
  • The bottom layer is comprised of several layers of clean, washed silica sand.
  • Up to 14 passes of a mix of cryogenic rubber and silica sand is then layered into the system. The rubber and sand particles are a similar size to stay in suspension.
  • Larger-sized cryogenic rubber top layers ensure that the rubber remains on top, providing a safe, forgiving surface.
  • Total infill exceeds 9 pounds per square foot on a typical sports field.
  • Over 720,000 pounds of infill is layered into a typical sports field.
With all this taken into account, it finally makes sense why you see the turf at Tropicana  Field behave the way it does during Blue Jays road trips to St. Petersburg.

Whenever ground balls skipped off the turf, it looked like sand kicked up off the field. I could never figure out exactly why, but it turns out there's multiple layers of sand within the typical artificial surface. This may have been common knowledge, but it's news to me.

As detailed by Minor Leaguer at Bluebird Banter, Paul Beeston was also chatting with some season ticket holders at last week's State of the Franchise, and he informed them that a new surface (or at least a modified one) would be going in this season.

This is all logical as the Rogers Centre turf was completely rolled up and on the field at last Wednesday's State of the Franchise event. The Blue Jays Home Opener is also just over two months away, which doesn't seem like much time to get a new surface ready.

I found that somewhat curious as the turf was down the previous weekend for the 'Round the Clock Slo-Pitch Tournament. And there aren't any events planned at the Rogers Centre until mid-March, so why would they pull up the turf so far in advance?

Again, I'm not 100% certain about all of this, but all indications point towards the Blue Jays installing at least some sort of modified artificial turf within the next few years. If not this year, then likely prior to the 2015 season.

My only fear is that a modified AstroTurf at the Rogers Centre may behave much differently than the previous version. Especially if as this anonymous source says, they would be removing the sand and replacing it with rubber.

Players that struggled on the turf last year like Maicer Izturis might have even more difficulty adjusting to the artificial playing surface.

Concurrently, guys like Brett Lawrie and Ryan Goins who performed quite well on the Rogers Centre AstroTurf may experience a slight learning curve on a modified turf.

However, this source claims removing the sand from the AstroTurf will actually soften the field. If that is in fact true, a softer field would ultimately react much more like real grass compared to its predecessor.

A dirt infield at the Rogers Centre would also be a good compromise for the Blue Jays in lieu of real grass. However, Paul Beeston has stated on multiple occasions a dirt infield just isn't feasible due to multi-purpose nature of the stadium.

Despite all the advances in technology over the years, there's simply no substitute for good old fashioned grass. 

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