Sunday, July 5, 2009

Cutting Vernon Wells Some Slack

Vernon Wells has been a common target of some Jays’ followers – I refuse to call them fans – for few years now. It seems that there is an expectation that he should put up the type of numbers he did in 2003 every year.

Now I am not about to suggest that this year, so far, has not been bad for V-Dub. It has been. But let’s look at the whole record.

After reading a blog entry about David Ortiz,, I decided to see if there was a similar trend with Vernon Wells. Here’s my graph for VW, although without the convenient year references:

The red line is the moving average of home runs per 162 games, while the blue line is the number of plate appearances per homer over a 162 span. Higher is better on the red line; lower is better on the blue. The first peak on the red line, corresponds to the 2003 season, while the plateau in the middle is 2005-2006. Since bottoming out near in May 2008, his HR production has been steadily returning closer to his career average of 26 HR/162 games.

How about Total Bases? The graph below of the total bases per 162 games tells a similar story: A peak near the end of 2003, with some lower value in 2004 followed by a pick up in 2005-06, followed by a sub-par performance in 2007, Since, the start of 2008, he’s been improving, where he is near his career average of 204 TB/162 games.
Another criticism of Wells is his RBI production. Below is a graph of his production since his first full season. The green line is his RBIs per plate appearance with runners in scoring position, while the orange line is RBIs per plate appearance with runners on base. The blue line is RBIs per runner on base while the red line is RBIs per runner on base weighted by the base runners’ location: 3 for third, 2 for second and 1 for first. The latter assumes that a base runner on third is three times more likely to score than a runner on first, which is not quite the case, but is a decent approximation.
All the lines tell a similar story: 2004 was a slump and 2007 was less of a slump, but otherwise, Wells has been quite consistent. How bad is 2009? Each of the three measures is 30% below his 2002-09 career average.

Except for 2004 and this year, Wells has been above the major league average for RBIs per plate appearance:
To all you Wells-bashers over the past few years, 2008 was his best season relative to the league at 47% more RBIs per plate appearance above the major league average!

However, while doing that, in 2008 he did increase his rate of grounding into double plays:
The red line is his rate of GIDP with runners on first, while the blue line is the rate with any runners on base. His current values are only marginally above his career numbers. Compared to other Jays with 50 or more GIDP opportunities, Wells rate of 14% is lower that both Lind and Scutaro and only slightly higher than Hill.

Yes, Wells has been having a poor year, but we shouldn’t be writing him off for a two-month slump.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Jays Through 80 Games

The Jays went 9-11 through the past 20 game stretch that included 15 inter-league games (7-8) and the first three meetings with the Rays. Over that period, they scored 93 runs and allowed 85; the Pythagorean Expectation record would be 11-9, but they did lose all three one-run games and both extra-inning games. There was a blow-out by the road team in each direction: The Jays took a 9-0 game in Texas, but the Phillies humiliated the Jays 0-10 in the Dome. The Jays were also shut out for the second and third time this season.

93 runs in 20 games is 4.65 runs per game (rpg), close to the league average, but hardly the sizzling pace they were on at the start of the season: 6.25 during the first 20 games and 5.35 during the second 20. The pitching has been remarkably consistent allowing and average of 4.25 rpg in games 1-20 and 61-80 and 4.35 in games 21-40. In games 41-60 the offense dropped off to 3.6 rpg and the pitching allowed 4.95 rpg.


So the Jays are scoring fewer runs. Who’s producing and who’s not?

Let’s start with everyone’s favourite targets, Rios and Wells. Rios left more runners on base than anyone on the team, but he has also had the most baserunners. But to be fair, is numbers are only marginally worse than Hill’s. With the most runners on base, Rios has had the most opportunity to ground into double plays, which he has done more than any Jay. Again, to be fair, his GIDP rate is actually slightly less than Scutaro’s. Rios isn’t all that bad; it’s just that we expect more from him because we’ve seen what he can do and he does have a very lucrative contract.

Is Wells okay, just not living up to his contract or our expectations? There has been a remarkable improvement over the last 39 games on two stats that the anti-Wells forces love to point out: left on base (LOB) and ground into DP (GIDP). During the first 41 games, he led the Jays with 96 LOB, but reduced this to 60 in the most recent 39 games, fewer than Rios (81), Hill (72) and Lind (68). His GIDP dropped from 7 to 3 over the same two intervals. That’s the good news. His batting average slipped from 0.263 after 40 games to 0.248, although he’s hit 0.290 with a SLG of .468 in the past 14 games. Hopefully, this is the VW we’ll see for the rest of the season.

Lind, Rolen and Overbay have all improved over the past 39 games! Their Runs Created (RC) are up and their OPS’s are 0.946, 0.885 and 0.878, respectively. Overbay is getting on base via the walk more, and Rolen has been hitting in high leverage situations. These three were the only three regulars to have positive cumulative WPAs during the most recent 39 games, when the team went 15-24.

A lot of the cooling off of run production is attributable to mean reversion on the part of Scutaro and Hill. Scutaro’s batting average is only slightly lower in the past 40 games, despite his current 1-for-19 slump, but his walks are away down from 35 in the first 41 games to 18 in the most recent 39 games. Hill had 62 hits in the first 41 games and only 42 in the most recent 39 games. Total bases was down from 101 to 73 in the same period, mostly due to having only 3 extra-base hits in games 41-60, That has picked up in the past 20 games to 12. Could we really expect these two to produce at the pace they did over the first 41 games, all season?

The Russ Adams experiment is not working, similar to Joe Inglett’s poor showing before that. During the next month, the Jays will have the opportunity to pick up a proven left-handed bat. Washington is probably shopping Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn while there is a rumour that KC will trade Mark Teahen. While Teahen’s batting numbers are not as strong as Johnson’s and Dunn’s, Teahen would not be a rent-a-player, as he would be under contract until 2011, and he is as versatile as Bautista in the field.


Halladay was on the DL during most of the recent 20 game stretch yet the Jays managed 11 quality starts: 5 from Romero, 3 from Richmond, 2 from Tallet and 1 each from Cecil and Halladay. Romero has only two starts that were not QS, the first two after his DL stint, and his past two starts were the best back-to-back starts by any Jay starter this season based on Game Score. In my mind, the top three starters on the staff right now are Halladay, Romero and Richmond. Tallet’s been great, exceeding all expectations as a starter and one could argue he’s the number 3 guy. Cecil’s had 4 QS but two disasters, so we’ll see how he is going forward.

The bullpen is stronger with Accardo. Downs should be back soon, so Frasor Downs and Accardo given them three reliable relievers. Camp, Carlson and League have all been capable in the past, but have had their struggles this year. There was an interesting analysis of League on another blog suggesting that he’s much better in the first inning of an appearance than in subsequent innings. Ryan worries me. I think Cito will continue to use him in low leverage situations and see if his performance improves. Maybe some team desperate for a closer will trade for him in the next month.

Next 20 Games

The next 20 games include 16 against AL East rivals, three against Cleveland and the first game in Seattle on a 6 game west coast road trip. I see them going 12-8 over this stretch, splitting the road trip 5-5 and going 6-3 on the home stand.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All Star Considerations

To me, the All Star Game should be played by the best players at their positions in the year. Career stats, reputations, and other sentimentalities do not belong here. Using the logic that "it's up to the fans who they want to see" would also suggest that McDonald's makes the best hamburger.

Marco Scutaro deserves to be the starting SS. First, Scutaro has made only one error this year, and it was a questionable one at that, meaning that among regular shortstops, he is the only one with a fielding percentage above 0.990. Second, he leads all shortstops in assists and double-plays. Offensively, he leads the AL in Runs Scored and Times on Base and is in the top 10 in singles, doubles, bases on balls and hits.

Hill faces much tougher competition at 2B. While he has some excellent numbers, the AL is rich in fantastic second basemen. Any of the starters in the AL East plus a few of the others could make a leguitimate argument to be there, depending on waht aspect of the game you want to emphasize. Power (ISO)? Kinsler, Zobrist, Cano, Hill and Lopez, in that order. Average? Cabrerra, Callaspo, Cano, Hill and Zobrist, in that order. Fielding? Polanco, Kendrick, Kinsler, Pedroia, Hill and Roberts, in that order (using UZR/150). Hmm, the only one in the top 5 of each of those lists is Hill.

Rolen at third? Among third basemen, he's first in BA, second in OBP, and third in OPS. On the other side of the play, despite making many highlight real plays, his defensive numbers are very average, and not among the elite defenders such as Crede, Inga, Beltre and Longoria. Nevertheless, if he's in the top 5 for batting average when the rosters are finalized, he could get an invite.

Others that merit at least a mention:

Lyle Overbay is right up there with Paul Konerko, Kevin Youkilis and Chris Davis defensively at first and he has one of the highest OBPs in the AL, but we aren't watching the All Star Game to watch a guy walk. His offensive numbers are comparable to Konerko's, and offense DQs Davis. Bringing offense into the discussion adds Martinez, Cabrera, Morneau and Teixeira to the equation. Tough, but Lyle gets lost in the crowd.

Adam Lind is in the top 10 in a number of offensive categories, hits (10T), Total Bases (5T), doubles (3T), RBI (8T), Extra base hits (6) and times on base (7T). Hurting him is the fact that he's been mostly a DH, but there will be plenty of pinch hitting opportunities.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Resurgence of Lyle Overbay

For the past two season, Lyle Overbay has been a favourite target of the Jay-bashing “fans.” You’d read him referred to as Lyle Double-Play or Lyle Overpaid. After he came over from the Brewers in 2006, Overbay posted his best season ever, 0.312/0.372/0.508, with 46 doubles – his second best season in that category after his 53 in ’04 – and his only season with over 20 HR. He had 92 RBI that year and his OPS+ was 125.

So far this season, Lyle has posted 0.282/0.399/0.540, which results in an OPS of 0.939, compared to 2006’s 0.880, and his OPS+ is 146, highest on the team. He is on pace for 37 doubles, 21 HR and 94 RBI, and over half of his RBI have been with 2 out.

Even better is his performance with runners on base. He is the only Jay with more 2-out RBI than Runners Left in Scoring Position with 2 Out. He is third on the team cashing in base runners with 32 out of a possible 112. Only Lind (34 out of 163) and Hill (33 out of 186) have driven in more. His rate of cashing in 28.6% of base runners is by far the best on the team with Rod Barajas second at 22.3%. (Note: Runners on base when the batter walks are not counted in this analysis.)

In 2006, his best season as a Jay, Overbay’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was just under 2, meaning that in aggregate, he added 4 wins to the Jay’s record. This year, he’s on pace to better that by 50%.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

After 60 games

My post-60 game analysis is a bit late – we’re at 64 games now – but I was trying to get a better source for the data that I am using for this analysis.

Specifically, the data I am referring to is Win Probability Added (WPA). What is WPA? When the game starts between two equally matched teams on a neutral field, each team has a 50% chance to win the game. (This is referred to as the Win Expectancy) If the visiting team’s leadoff hitter, Lyle Leadoff, hits a home run, now the probabilities of winning have changed. The visiting team now would have a better than 50% chance of winning and the home team’s chances are now less than 50%. The change in probabilities is the WPA. The increase in the visiting team’s winning probability is credited to Lyle Leadoff, while at the home team’s pitcher, Sherman Shagwell, is credited with the home team’s decrease in their probability of winning. This is repeated for every play. At the end of the game, the total of the individual WPA’s for the winning team will be 50% - since they started with a 50% chance of winning the highest the probability can go is 100%, when the game is over. Likewise, the sum of the individual WPA’s on the losing team is -50%, as their probability of winning dropped from 50% at the outset to 0% at the end of the game.

If you are watching or listening to the game and have Internet access, you might want to follow the live scoreboard with the evolving graph of the Win Expectancy. A particularly interesting graph is the extra inning 10-12 loss to the Orioles, May 27.

When Roy Halladay got Nick Markakis to hit a foul ball fly out with the bases loaded to end the seventh inning, the Blue Jays’ Win Expectation was 97.8%. By the time Aubrey Hull open the ninth with a single, the Jays’ probability of wining was down to 27.3%, but it was back to 90.2% when Aaron Hill homered to give the Jays a 10-8 lead in the eleventh. Even in the bottom of the eleventh, when Nolan Reimold came to the plate with two on, the Jays still had a 52% chance of winning the game. Three pitches later, the Orioles had won the game.

One limitation of the data that I am using is that only the pitcher and the hitter are credited with the WPA. Imagine the bases loaded with one out and Halladay pitching. The batter nails a screaming liner down the third base line that appears destined to drive in three runs, which miraculously gets knocked down by Scott Rolen, who grabs it and fires to Hill at second, who leaps to avoid the runner and gets it to Overbay who digs it out of the dirt just before the lumbering 38-year-old DH hits the bag, for the double play. There is a lot of WPA on that play which gets awarded to the pitcher. Certainly, Halladay deserves some credit for keeping the ball in play, but does he deserve as much as he would have received if it had been a routine two hop grounder DP ball to Scutaro? Rolen deserves a huge amount of credit, since if he had not kept the ball in the infield, three runs would have scored. Likewise, Hill and Overbay each deserve some credit as well. I will keep looking for WPA data that does a better job of attributing WPA to defense and other facets of the game.

So, the foregoing is an admission that the data is limited.

Since the Jays were 33-27 after game 60, the sum of the individual WPA’s has to be 6x50 = 300% = 3.00. Batters had an aggregate WPA of 4.80, Starting Pitching was at -0.45 and the Bullpen was at -1.36. This is a shocker, since some of the Pitching WPA should be rightly attributed to the defense, one of the Jays’ fortes.

Hitting (WPA = 4.80)

Which batters have been contributing to winning games? Are Rios and Wells costing us games? Here's a graph of the individual hitters' WPAs:

With the exception of Rios and Wells, the bats have been contributing. Rios has had a minimal positive contribution, while Wells has been a liability at the plate so far. Here is the cumulative performance of Rios and Wells:

These are graphs that should be trending upwards as a player's contribution to winning adds up over the season. The streakiness of these two is evident. Wells is in a 5-week+ slump, while Rios is bouncing all over the place. As Cito said, these two have to start contributing.

By comparison, Scutaro and Hill have been contributing:

You can see that Scutaro has leveled off somewhat after a great April, but the trend for both is upward as it should be.

The bottom of the order looks like this:

All have contributed, although Rolen, Like Scutaro, has leveled off since April. Lind and Overbay continue to contribute, while Barajas has tailed off a bit in the past couple of weeks.

Millar is overused, and the rest of the bench has been spotty. So far, Inglett does not appear to anywhere close to what he was last year.

Needs: Rios and Wells to live up to even a fraction of their expections and a dependable 9th bat to DH.

Starting Pitching (WPA = -0.45):

Here's the individual WPA data:

We knew that the Jays' rotation would be an issue this year, and the graph is not a pretty picture. Tallet has been better than his WPA suggests. Janssen has yet to rpove to me that he can keep the Jays in games and Richmond has to be more consistent.

Bullpen (WPA = -1.36)

There are really only two performers in the bullpen, Scott Downs and Jason Frasor. the rest of last year's best relief corp has just not been doing it:

League has been a enigma. About 70% of the time, he's been "lights out", but the rest of the time, he either makes me extremely nervous or he's shown us why I get nervous. His -0.659 in the May 4th 7-9 loss against Cleveland is the single-largest negative WPA this season.


I'm not about to make projects for this 20-game stretch. They could be 8-12 or 12-8. It's interleague play, too unpredictable.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Legacy of Manny Castillo

Call me a wimp, wuss, whatever, but I have never been a fan of outside-of-the-rules hits, fights, violence in any sport. Sports are inherently dangerous, with players being injured, maimed and scarred for life with terrible frequency, even playing within the rules. In baseball, the ball regularly travels in excess of 100 mph and pitchers, batters, base runners, coaches and fans can all be struck and injured, or even killed. Bats have broken and gone flying and catchers or umpires have been hit on the follow-through of a swing. In football, players are frequently on the receiving end of tackles or blocks they didn't see coming. Checking is an integral part of hockey and some clean checks injure. But when we participate in sports, there is an implicit contract that we know that these risks exist, and we accept them, within and along with the rules of the game.

What I am not willing to accept is what will happen outside of the rules. When things happen outside the rules, that's when the the contract has been violated. Insofar as there are no injuries, then the penalties prescribed within the rules should be sufficient to deal with the situation. When there are injuries, or worse, death, then the rules are not sufficient; the perpetrator has violated the contract to the extent that the law and the courts must step in.

Although I cannot ever recall it happening, if a baseball player were to use his bat to hit someone, how is that any different than a common assault outside the ballpark? Fights happen in hockey games, just like they will happen in parks, on the street, etc. But often the combatants end up setting their differences or others step in to end the fight the way referees do in hockey, without the need to waste the time of our constabulary or courts. In hockey, they're sent to the penalty box, or dressing room, depending on the penalties meted out.

There was a baseball player Manny Castillo, but that is not who this post refers to. Manny was a high school rugby player who was involved in an altercation with an opposing player who, according to reports, picked him up and drove him head-first into the ground in what one witness called a "pile-driver" maneuver. (Yes, professional wrestlers do that move, but remember, they're acting and have been trained how to execute and respond to this move.) Manny died.

Today, the perpetrator was found guilty of manslaughter.

Outfield Defensive Positioning

It seems to me that Vernon Wells and Alex Rios are playing too shallow. I know Vernon likes to play shallow as he thinks he can get back on well-hit balls, but there seem to be a lot of balls getting over both his and Rios' heads. I'd rather see them play a few steps further back if it would prevent a few doubles, particularly with runners on. On balls hit in front of them, base runners would have to respect their speed and hold up and if the ball dropped in with the arms on these guys, we probably hold them to a single base anyway.

The defensive positioning is not just up to the fielders. I recall hearing Jerry and Alan talking about the coaches having a responsibility in this regard, particularly Gene Tenace, if I remember correctly.

What can you say?

Loss #9 in a row has had been speechless for over 24 hours. I started to do a statistical analysis of these 9 games compared to the 41 that preceded them, but the stats were all just saying the obvious. They're not hitting, they're not hitting for power, they're not hitting with runners in scoring position, 3 through 5 in the batting order have been abysmal, with the aforementioned resulting in the Jays not scoring runs. the starting pitching was poor and the bullpen was worse. Even the defense wasn't up Blue Jays' standards.

Here is from an article on the Jays official MLB site:

Consider a few elements that led to the Blue Jays' recent slide:

• Prior to Wednesday's 10-run outburst, Toronto scored three runs or fewer in nine straight games to match the worst such stretch in franchise history -- first time since 1986.

• During the nine-game losing streak, the Jays hit at a .185 (15-for-81) clip with runners in scoring position, including a .154 mark in the first eight losses.

• Between loss No. 1 and loss No. 9, the Blue Jays endured a 77-inning homerless drought. That was Toronto's worst power outage since the 1997 season.

• The Jays scored just 13 runs over the first eight losses before plating 10 against Baltimore on Wednesday. In all nine losses, Toronto averaged 2.6 runs per game.

• Toronto's bullpen allowed just two runs over 12 innings (1.50 ERA) in the first five losses. In the next four games, the 'pen yielded 21 runs in 10 innings (18.90 ERA).

• The Blue Jays' Nos. 3-5 hitters (Alex Rios, Wells and Adam Lind, respectively) combined to hit .229 (25-for-109) with just four RBIs in the nine losses.

• Toronto used seven different starters (four rookies) in the nine games. That group combined for a 5.08 ERA, and the rookies averaged less than five innings per start.

• The Jays hit .254 with 81 hits, 77 left on base and a .653 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in the nine losses. Entering the trip, Toronto was batting .289 with an .821 OPS.

Enough said.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wells - Streakiness

In the first 14 games of the season, there were 34 base runners when VW came to the plate, and he batting in 3 of them, and paltry 8.8% of them.

In the next 16 games, there were 58 base runners ahead of him, and he batted in 13 of them, a much better 22.4% of conversion rate.

In the most recent 15 games, there have been 35 runners on base and he's batted in none of them. I'll leave the percentage to the reader to calculate.

One hopes that Cito's patience pays off, because it is very difficult to watch the number 4 hitter convert only 3 base runners for two-thirds of the season.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Re-evaluating Cecil and Ray

After consecutive poor outings by Cecil and Ray, I decided to go back and see if I have been overlooking something.

For Brett Cecil, the only consistent item is that his expected ERA has been higher than his actual ERA in every game. In the first two games the expected values were very good values of 3.78 and 2.10 compared to the actual game ERAs of 1.50 and 0.00. In the second two games these were 5.76 and 29.25 versus the actual values of 4.50 and 15.43. Looking at his WHIP, OBA, SLG and OPS from the first games, there is nothing that predicted the result in Boston. One could also speculate that his fifth inning performance could be related to his 4th inning diving fielding play and maybe he got hurt.

Bobby Ray is a different story. He has had one good start, the 3-hit, 8-inning victory over Chicago, May 16. In his three other starts, his WHIP+ is over 1.5, his BF/O is over 1.4, his OPS ranges between 0.800 and 1.000 and his expected ERA has been above 5.00.

I’ve liked what I’ve heard when these kids have been interviewed and I think they have a future in the majors. Cecil deserves another couple of starts, if he is healthy. With Casey Janssen ready to join the Jays, I think Bobby Ray needs more seasoning in the minors.

Converting Base Runners

In response to a post by pablo on Mike Wilner’s blog, I looked at which of OBP, SLG or RC did the best job of predicting the winner of the Jays’ first 44 games. I’m not an enormous fan of the power game as too often it is feast or famine; I prefer teams and players that hit for average. I suppose that will be another analysis sometime in the future.

What surprised me was that the team with the higher OBP won 37 of the Jays first 44 games, whereas the higher SLG predicted 41 of the 44 game winners. Runs Created had a record of 36-8, differing from OBP on the outcome of three games. I was interesting to note that on the misclassified Jays losses the average Team LOB was 9.8 (9.2 for RC) and the total of the individual LOB averaged 20.7 (19.5 for RC). Conversely, in the games predicted as losses that the Jays actually won the averages were 4 for TLOB and 8 for the individual LOB. For the season, the Jays are averaging 7.7 and 16.4 on these measures, respectively.

When a player comes to the plate with runners on base, there are three principal things that can happen: he can drive them in, leave them on base, or erase them with a ground ball double play. (There can also be a run driven in with no RBI and there can also be double plays resulting from a runner being out after a fly ball. I don’t have the data on either of these, so I will ignore these. The Jays had scored 13 more runs than RBIs, so the first happens about once every 3.3 games)

I estimated the number of base runners (BR) by adding LOB, (RBI-HR) and GIDP. The base runners batted in (BR BI) is (RBI-HR).

Rod Barajas and Adam Lind have been cashing in the highest proportion of their base runners at 26.7% and 26.2%, respectively. Also over 20% are, in order, Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro. At the other extreme, among the regular starters Vernon Wells has batted in only 16 of his 126 base runners and Alex Rios only 16 of his 115 base rummers. Scott Rolen’s 12 of 78 is very low as well. The best OBP on the team belongs to Jose Bautista, but he has only batted-in 5 of 41 base runners.

What about erasing runners?

Not that he is a regular, but the worst on the team is Raul Chavez, who has 2 RBI and 2 GIDP, so he’s erased as many as he’s driven in, but he's not on the team for his bat. The others that have erased more than 5% of their base runners are Millar, Scutaro, Bautista, Hill, Wells and Rios. Snider, Lind, and Overbay are under 5%, while Rolen and Barajas has no GIDP to date.

Net Impact

The Net Impact can be computed by taking the difference between the number or percentage of base runners that scored and the number erased. Barajas stays on top with 26.7% followed by Lind, at 22.4% and Overbay at 19.7%. Rios and Wells are both under 10%, which is not what we should expect from the 3 and 4 hitters.

Two Outs

I didn’t do much analysis on the 2-out situation, but a few observations:
(1) Vernon Wells has left 23 runners in scoring position (RISP) with 2 out but has only 9 2-out RBIs.
(2) Rod Barajas – tops in the analysis above – is next worst with 15 RISP and 4 RBI with 2 outs.
(3) At the other extreme, Lyle Overbay has 11 2-out RBI and has stranded only 8 RISP with 2 outs and is the only Jay with more 2-out RBI than RISP with 2 out.
(4) Adam Lind is the team leader with 2-out RBI at 17, but he has also left 22 RISP with 2-out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pitchers Making Their MLB Debuts in 2009

In MLB this year, there have been 70 games started by 17 different pitchers making their MLB debut in 2009. While it is still early, only 5 have posted ERAs below 4.50: Baltimore’s Koji Uehara, Detroit’s Rick Porcello, and the Jays’ Ricky Romero, Robert Ray and Brett Cecil. Uehara is a 34-year-old “rookie” with 10 years on the staff of the Yomiuri Giants in Japan.

Excluding Porcello and the three Jays, the 2009 debut group has been averaging 5.38 innings per start with a WHIP of 1.59, ERA of 5.96, an average Game Score (GSc) of 42.2 and only 1/3 of their starts being Quality Starts, based on a Game Score of 50 or more as the definition of QS. Porcello has been averaging 5 2/3 innings with a WHIP of 1.24, ERA of 3.86, an average GSc of 51.9 and 5 of his 7 starts being QS. The three Jays have averaged 6 2/3 innings or more with WHIPs at 1.20 or lower, an average GSc of 58.8 and 6 of their 9 starts being quality starts. The three Jays have been throwing 64.4% of their pitches for strikes, while Porcello has thrown 60.2% and the rest 62.4%.

The three Jays have been lasting longer and pitching better. Sure it is early, and we may see the clock strike midnight and things return to being pumpkins and mice. I think Cito Gaston and JP Ricciardi will be quite happy if even two of these three settle in to posting sub-4 ERAs and averaging over 6.5 innings per outing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

162 Game Projections, after 40

This is not something I take seriously; projecting a full season based on a partial season is something that is fun, however.

The Jays have 6 players on pace for 20 home runs: Hill (45), Lind (28) and Overbay, Well, Rios and Scutaro, all on pace for 20.

Doubles: Lind is on pace for 57 doubles, Barajas 45, Scuraro, Wells and Rolen each on pace for 41 and Rios (36) and Overbay (32) lagging a bit at 36 and 32, respectively. I expect both Overbay and Rios to pick up the pace a bit. The first base platoon of Overbay and Millar is on pace for 52 doubles and 24 HR.

RBI: 31% of the Jays RBIs are being produced by Lind (35) and Hill (33), which project to 142 and 134, respectively. No other Jay is on pace for 100, the closest being Barajas, on pace for 89.

By the way, the Jays high-water mark last year was 12 games above 0.500, which they reached after game 144 on September 9, an 8-2 vistory against Chicago. This year, they also got there after an 8-2 win over Chicago, but they did it in 104 fewer games. Their 0.650 winning pace projects to a 105-57 record. Cue up the Arrowsmith music! (Dream On)

My Analysis After 40 games

Defense - Overall

The Jays continue to have the best defense in the AL, having the highest Defensive Efficiency at 0.7276 (up slightly from 0.719 after 20 games), slightly ahead of Texas at 0.7255, with quite a drop to third (Detroit) and fourth (Seattle), both under 0.71. The league average is 0.701. This means that if there were no strikeouts and only balls in play, the league average requires 38.5 plate appearances to get through a game compared to the Jays 37.1 plate appearances. In effect, the combination of the Jays’ propensity to induce ground balls, combined with their strong defense, saves them nearly 1.5 opposition plate appearances per game, compared to the league average.

Defense - Fielding

The Jays are at or near the top in almost every fielding category. They are second (after Minnesota at 0.991) in fielding percentage at 0.987 and second to Oakland in chances per game. They have slipped to fourth in DPs. Also, they are slightly above the league average in caught stealing having caught about 26% of those attempting to steal.

Defense - Pitching

In the past 20 games, the Jays have remained about constant at 4.30 runs per game while all the other leaders have fallen back. Only KC remains ahead of the Jays at 4.08 overall, but have allowed an average of 4.55 over the past 20 games. The league average has lowered a bit over the Jays’ past 20 games from 5.10 to 5.01, which is still up about 1/3 of a run per game from last year's 4.68. The only teams with ERAs below 4.00 are KC (3.59) and the Jays at 3.90, with the league average of 4.67. The Jays have climbed to first in WHIP at 1.25, ahead of KC at 1.32.

In the second 20 games, the Jays have had 12 quality starts, bringing their total to 21 for the season. The bullpen has been effective 15 of the 18 times they have been called upon, with effective meaning they've only allowed half an earned run per inning pitched.

On my preferred metric of pitching effectiveness, batters faced per out (BF/O), Roy Halladay had one weak start, when he gave up 4 runs to Baltimore, but is effective 90% of the time this season. Richmond had his two blow-ups, but in the first, he settled down and was effective overall by the time he completed the game. However, given his last two starts and the abundance of good, healthy arms waiting to get back to the Jays’ rotation, he is probably on a very short leash. Since coming up, Robert Ray and Brett Cecil have very good identical WHIPs of 1.10 and BF/O of 1.33.

I’ve started to track Bill James’ Game Score (GSc) statistic for starters. Over 50 is a quality start and over 70 is a great start. In the past 12 days, we’ve witnessed the best five performances by Jays’ starters this year: Halladay’s starts against the Angels (GSc=70) and the Yankees (78), Tallet’s and Cecil’s starts in Oakland (both Game Scores of 74) and Ray’s start yesterday against the White Sox (GSc=76). Among active starters, Halliday leads with an average GSc of 63.6, followed by Cecil and Ray with 61 and 59 respectively. Without his one blow-up, Tallet would be averaging 60.6, with these five starts all being quality starts on the GSc metric. As I posted on Mike Wilner’s blog, I’d rather have a guy that gives quality starts 4 out of five times and blows up once than a guy that has the same average performance consistently.


On the Runs Created per plate appearance (RC/pa) metric, the Jays continue to do very well, but there has been some regression towards the mean. The team leader is still Aaron Hill at 0.209 (down from 0.225 after 20 games), followed by Lind at 0.201 (up from 0.191). Rolen has climbed to 0.165 from 0.154, while Scutaro has slipped very slightly to 0.153 from 0.157. Rios has climbed to 0.123 from 0.101, and his improvement has been quite steady in the past 20 games. Snider has gone into a serious offensive tailspin, falling to 0.105 from 0.182, and one wonders how long Cito and JP will continue to send him out. In 8 of the 14 games in which he played in the past 20, he’s contributed nothing offensively in 8 of those games. However, he has produced some highlight-reel defensive plays.

Except for Barajas, who has increased his RC/pa slightly to 0.148, the others have fallen off: Bautista to 0.140 from 0.177; Overbay to 0.147 from 0.166; Wells to 0.124 from 0.146; and Millar to 0.124 from 0.191. The team is averaging 0.148 with only Snider below the threshold of 0.120.

I now have data on pitches faced by each batter. What prompted me to get this data was the plate discipline shown by Adam Lind. It seemed to me that he had quite a number of high pitch-count at bats. (In fact, Lind has three at 10 or more.) Batting order positions 5 through 7 are tough on opposing pitchers, with Lind, Rolen and Overbay, averaging 4.44, 3.92 and 3.90 pitches per at bat, respectively. The platoon partners of Bautista and Millar also work the counts well at 4.09 and 3.76. Scutaro, at lead off and leading the majors in walks, also sees a lot of pitches and 3.84/pa. At the other extreme is Vernon Wells with only 3.24 pitches per at bat, which could be expected given that he has a reputation for swinging on the first pitch.


After 20 games, I wrote, “After a 14-6 start, the Jays have the best record in the AL. They have been hobbled at pitching, and the next 20-30 games could be quite a test.” Well, they’ve gone 12-8 in that stretch with pitching help that not anticipated. Purcey and Burres were sent down to Vegas and Burres is no longer on the 40 man roster, while Brett Cecil and Robert Ray have come up and pitched superbly. Tallet has pitched effectively as a starter in 5 of 6 starts. Richmond’s was Rookie of the Month for April, but that seems to have cursed him somewhat in his past two starts. With Janssen healthy and ready to be called up, Richmond should be on the bubble. I liked what I saw in his starts, except the last, but one must consider that he faced a Yankee lineup full of lefties, which have always hit well off him. Hopefully, he bounces back.

This brings me to a somewhat radical suggestion I made on Mike Wilner’s blog: keeping 6 starters with one LHP and one RHP swinging between the rotation and long relief, depending on the team their facing. For example, against the Yankees, I would want to start all lefties – possibly with the exception of Halladay – particularly with the wind-tunnel to right at the New Yankee Stadium. One drawback is that this might not be the wisest thing to do with young arms.

The bullpen has continued to perform very well with an ERA of 3.54 in the past 20 games and 3.49 overall. Ryan is back from the DL and pitched well in one, non-pressure situation. Scott Downs is the closer for now, something Ryan has publicly said he accepts. Of the remaining starters, only Camp and League have ERAs over 4.00, but neither is over 4.50.

After 20 games I said that I didn’t expect the offense “…to continue to average over 6 runs per game, although I think this squad will average over 5.5.” In the past 20, they have produced and average of 5.35, a bit below where I anticipated they would be. More concerning is that in 7 of those games, they produced 3 runs or less, accounting for 6 of their 8 losses.

After 20 games I posted, “Over the next 21 … I realistically see them going 13-8 or 12-9…” and they have gone 12-8, so they will be either 13-8 or 12-9 for that stretch after the White Sox leave town. It was great to see them return from a short West Coast swing with a winning (3-2) record, something that has been rare in the past few seasons.

The next 19 games include the last game against the White Sox and then a nine game road trip through Boston, Atlanta and Baltimore, followed by nine home games against Boston, the Angels and the Royals. Game 60 is scheduled to be the first of a road series in Texas. I see the Jays continuing to play 0.600 ball over this stretch winning 7 of their 10 home games and splitting on the road.

Season Projection:

This team has been remarkably consistent. There has not been any 10 game stretch where they have played below 0.500 or above 0.700.

Now that the Jays are 26-14, a 0.580 pace – their record last season under Cito – the rest of the way projects to a 97-65 record. Even if they slip back to 0.560 the rest of the way, they’ll finish with a 0.580 (94-68) overall.

Boston has slipped to 3 games behind, but I do see them staying with the Jays all season. The Yankees have started to pick up the pace lately, but neither the Yankees nor the Rays have picked up ground on the Jays since April 26, the date of game 20 for the Jays.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Not Baseball Stats, but Racial Attitudes

I was at the game Tuesday in which Halladay and the Jay defeated the Yankees in front of nearly 44,000 boisterous fans.

Before the game there was a presentation of a cheque to Child Find Ontario from a school (Holy Cross, St. Catharines, I think) that had raised some funds. Two students from the school sang the national anthems. The first, was a rather good rendition by a female student of the very difficult to sing U.S. Anthem. The Canadian anthem was sung by a Oriental student, who did not sing as well, yet it brought a tear to my eye. Here was an immigrant kid, whose family chose to be in Canada, singing "O Canada" in front of 44,000 people. How wonderful!

Unfortunately, the jerks in the 500 level where I was sitting, had to make fun of the kid and his accent. I wanted to say something, but decided not to since one never knows how much these idiots have had to drink. The irony is, that half these jerks behind me were non-white and probably kids of immigrants themselves.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Quality Starts

As of this morning, the Jays have the 8th best ERA (4.08) in MLB and the 4th best in the AL, a number inflated by a few starters such as Burres (no longer a Jay), Purcey (in LV trying to learn how to throw strikes) and Litsch (who ended up on the DL after just two starts). The starters have an overall ERA of 4.20, but without the three aforementioned, it is 3.18. We have been treated to a number of excellent pitching performances.

I like the Quality Start (QS) statistic, as it distils the starters’ performance down to a single number that determines whether they have kept their team in the game. 3 ER or less in 6 IP projects into an ERA of 4.50, which is close to both the mean and median numbers of runs scored per game. I make one modification to this statistic, in that I assess the QS at the end of the sixth inning, on the justification that it is a managerial decision to leave the starter in longer and if the starter gives up runs after that, he should not lose his QS. In my database I track both, and distinguish my definition from the widely-accepted definition as MQS (Modified Quality Start). In the Jays’ season to date, there has only been once that a pitcher has an MQS but not a QS: Opening night, when Halladay was allowed to continue with a big lead and gave up 4 runs in the 7th.

However, there are other measures I track as well.
• ERA in the appearance – which ignores the longevity of the start.
• Bill James’ Game Score
• WHIP+, which simply adds HBP to the on-base calculation
• BF/O, Batters faced per out which I’ve discussed before
• OPS against (OPSa)
• E(ERA), discussed below
• PQS, discussed below.

E(ERA) is Expected ERA, which is computed by determining the batting team’s Runs Created (RC) against the pitcher, which is Runs Allowed (RA). The RA are used instead of the actual ER to compute E(ERA).

PQS was developed by Ron Shandler and stands for Pure Quality Start, which assigns a 0 to 5 score based on five measures, provided the pitcher has lasted at least five innings:
• 1 if IP ≥ 6, measuring stamina.
• 1 if Hits ≤ IP
• 1 if (IP – SO) ≥ 2
• 1 if SO/BB ≥ 2
• 1 if HR ≤ 2
I have my reservations about this measure, as it is biased against pitch-to-contact pitchers that don’t strike out many, but I am going to reserve judgment until I have done more analysis.

So what have been the dominant pitching performances so far by the Jays’ starters this year?

Based on E(ERA), the top five and only sub-2.0 E(ERA) starts are
• Halladay vs NYY, May 12 – E(ERA) = 1.00
• Tallet at Oakland, May 9 – E(ERA) = 1.07
• Romero vs Oakland, April 19 – E(ERA) = 1.38
• Richmond at Minnesota, April 15 – E(ERA) = 1.84
• Cecil at Oakland, May 10 = E(ERA) = 1.85
Of course, a criticism of the E(ERA), and almost any metric, is that pitchers will get top ratings against weak-hitting teams. The OPSa metric also ranks these as the top five pitching performances.

Based on BF/O, the top five starts are:
• Halladay vs NYY, May 12 – BF/O = 1.11
• Tallet at Oakland, May 9 – BF/O = 1.14
• Romero vs Oakland, April 19 – BF/O = 1.24
• Cecil at Oakland, May 10 = BF/O = 1.25
• Romero at Minnesota, April 14 – BF/O = 1.25

There have been 10 starts with a WHIP+ of 1.00 or less. The four less than 1.00 are:
• Halladay vs NYY, May 12 – WHIP+ = 0.56
• Tallet at Oakland, May 9 – WHIP+ = 0.57
• Romero vs Oakland, April 19 – WHIP+ = 0.86
• Tallet vs Oakland, April 18 – WHIP+ = 0.94

There are 5 starts with a Games Score (GSc) of 70 or more:
• Halladay vs NYY, May 12 – GSc = 78
• Cecil at Oakland, May 10 – GSc = 74
• Tallet at Oakland, May 9 – GSc = 74
• Romero vs Oakland, April 19 – GSc = 73
• Richmond at LAA, May 6 – GSc = 70

There are 7 Pure Quality Starts with a score of 5:
• Cecil at Oakland, May 10
• Tallet at Oakland, May 9
• Romero vs Oakland, April 19
• Richmond at LAA, May 6
• Halladay at Cleveland, April 11
• Richmond vs Baltimore, May 3
• Cecil vs Cleveland, May 5

Halladay’s start last night was the best by E(ERA), BF/O, WHIP+ and GSc, yet because he only struck out 5 batters, to the chagrin of 43,737 fans hoping for a free pizza slice, his PQS is only 4. My skepticism about this measure has not waned.

This has been a great week for Blue Jays fans of great pitching!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rookie Pitchers - as Mike Hogan would say, "WOW!"

This evening it was announced that Scott Richmond was named Rookie of the Month in the AL. The MLB Press release says Ricky Romero received votes as well. Add to that, Robert Ray coming one out shy of a quality start in his first ML game and today's debut by Brett Cecil (6.0 IP, 1 ER, 6 SO, 0 BB) and that is some amazing rookie pitching.

In 10 starts by rookies - 5 by Richmond, 3 by Romero and one each by Ray and Cecil - they have combined for:

  • a 6-0 record
  • 63 innings pitched
  • 8 Quality Starts
  • 47 strike-outs vs 20 walks
  • 2.43 ERA
  • 1.175 WHIP
  • 1.365 BF/O
  • and opposition hitters are batting 0.216/0.256/0.364
Do I expect them to stay this good? No, it really isn't realistic to think this will last. However, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Pitching is the most precious asset in baseball and JP deserves a lot of credit for having this much rookie talent.

Cito Vs Gibby & Mike WIlner's Blog

Out of respect for Mike Wilner, I'm going to try to refrain from posting on his blog about the Cito vs Gibbons issue. Mike is clearly growing weary from the numerous posts on the issue and I think that he is bothered by the distraction it has become there.

In a reply to a comment on my analysis posted here I compare the stats of Wells, Rios and Scutaro - the only three Jays with 450+ PA and not battling arm/should issues like Rolen and Overbay - and show that these three were underperforming under Gibby/Denbo and actually overperforming their career numbers under Gaston/Tenace. That not just mean reversion, since they have all swung past their "mean" (career numbers) and performed better than their career averages.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What's up with Aaron Hill?

Yes, his bat has been great. I'm not talking about offense.

In the past 10 games, Hill committed 3 errors late in the game, all of them 8th inning or later. So far, none have led to a earned run, but the first two were in close games.

For those of you into projecting and need an excuse to think that the Blue Jays' sky is falling, that projects to 22 errors for the season.

It won't happen. In his worst season, Hill only committed 14 errors. I think it's just couple of potholes on the road.

Scott Richmond's Start - and Remembering Steve Roger's Start

Nine and counting.

Sure, Scott Richmond has had nine starts in MLB. And while tonight's game was the deepest he's ever gone, 7 innings, he has also never allowed more than 3 runs in a game. Someone asked Mike Wilner on his blog - a must read, if you can wade through the sea of idiotic comments there - who held the record. Mike did not know but offered Brandon Webb, who Mike correctly recalled had 13 starts without giving up more than 3 runs. (In his first 24 starts, Webb only had one game giving up more than 3 runs and that was a win in which he gave up 4.)

I don't know either, but my candidate is Steve Rogers. My Dad and I used to watch the Wednesday night Expos games back in the 70's and it seemed like this kid Steve Rogers was on the tube a lot. His debut was on Wednesday, July 18, an 8 inning effort, and he pitched on two Wednesdays in August, the 4th and the 18th. What a phenomenal start: in his first 13 games, he pitched at least 8 innings in each, going 9-3 with 7 complete games, three of these shutouts. He didn't give up more than 3 runs in a game until his 19th game, the second game of the 1974 season, a 7-4 complete game victory over the Mets. 11 of those starts were on 3 days rest!

How times have changed. Roy Halladay is a phenom for having 9 CG in 2008, more than many teams, whereas Rogers was in double-digits for CGs in 8 of 10 years from 1974-1983 with a total of 120 CG in that span. I doubt we'll ever see numbers like that again.

So back to Scott Richmond. He's half-way to Steve Roger's streak. Don't get me wrong; I'm not trying to say Richmond's start is anything like Roger's. But slowly, Scott Richmond is starting to show that he belongs in the majors. This season, his WHIP is a respectable 1.286 and his ERA is 2.70. Three of his four starts have been quality starts, and the one that wasn't was the rain-delay game in Cleveland.

It's a great time to be a Jays fan. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Managerial Change - Did Cito, Gino, et al make a difference?

There has been a lot of discussion on Mike Wilner's blog

about whether the Managerial Changes made last June 20 had an impact. This will not answer this to the satisfaction of Mr. Wilner, as his explanation is that the changes are not due to Cito, Gino, et al, but simply due to the fact that the hitters finally got there act together. Fair enough. There is no way to test that assertion statistically, unless you were prepared to look at the hitting situational statistics to see if the batters were being more aggressive and swinging earlier in the count. One thing I can say, which is not in these slides is that bases-on-balls were down by more that one per game under Cito (p-value of 0.0005), without changing the OBP significantly, which suggests to me that the hitters were being more aggressive.


There is a typo in the above slide - it should be p = 0.0499 less than alpha = 5%. When I figure out how to replace the slide, I will do so. (I'm new to this blogging stuff.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Purcey's Short Leash

David Purcey has not been effective since his second-game of the season quality start. In his past 4 starts his BF/O have been 1.714, 1.818, 1.500 and 1.667. His WHIP is 1.792, which is not major league. He needs to learn to trust his stuff and throw strikes and let the defense do their thing. The question is, how much longer will the Jays allow him to try to learn this at the major league level?

The good news is that Jesse Litsch was cleared to pitch by Dr. Andrews and will start throwing off level ground in Florida. I'm guessing he'll be back in about a month. During the broadcast of tonight's game, it was reported that Casey Jansen had pitched well. His line was 4 IP, 2H, 2BB, 3SO and 0 runs. I expect the Jays to give him one more rehab start before calling him up to fill one of the two gaping holes in the rotation (Purcey & Burres).

My speculation on what this means is that Purcey has at most one more start before there is a decision on him, as Jansen will be available for the start after that. After that, Purcey needs to work out his troubles in LV. Also, Purcey's next start is against the Orioles, a team that is third in OBP. They must be licking their chops at the prospect of facing Purcey. The one consolation is that Markakis - a perennial pain in the Jays' collective sides - has an OPS of nearly 1.200 against righties and about 0.700 against lefties

Hopefully, we'll see the following roster moves:
  • May 3, Jansen called up and Purcey sent down
  • Second week of May, Burres sent down and Romero reactivated. (With an off-day May 11, maybe Burres' turn in the rotation can be skipped.)
  • Last week of May, Litsch reactivated. Who knows how they will make room?
The bats were also disturbingly quiet tonight. This was only Bannister's second start, but in those starts he's only allowed 5 hits in 13 IP and has a WHIP of 1.00. This is a guy that went 9-16 with a 5.76 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and allowed a .279 BA last year! I like the Jays' chances tomorrow with Richmond against Meche; with Meche being a rightie, we'll likely see the opening day batting lineup. Wednesday, Tallet might have a hard-luck start against the hottest pitcher in baseball in Zack Greinke. However, he was hot last April as well, (3-0 1.25 ERA) and did not fare well against the Jays last year, (0-1, 2 starts with a 5.25 ERA and a 1.417 WHIP.)

By the way, in Purcey's 5 starts, the Jays have 5, 5, 6, 17 and 2 hits in support of Purcey. The start in Cleveland and tonight were cold nights and Purcey complained about the cold in Cleveland and tonight didn't seem much better. It certainly seemed to cool down the Jays' bats as well. The Royals didn't seem to be bothered by the cold and damp.

After Twenty Games

My Statistical Analysis After 20 Games

Defense - Overall

The Jays have arguably the best defense in the AL, having the highest Defensive Efficiency at 0.719, ahead of Oakland at 0.717, kc at 0.710 and TB at 0.709. (Defensive Efficiency is the percentage of balls in play turned into outs.) The league average is 0.694. This means that if there were no strikeouts and only balls in play, the league average requires 39 outs to get through a game compared to the Jays 37.6 outs

Defense - Fielding

The Jays are at or near the top in almost every fielding category. They lead the league in fielding percentage at 0.990 and with the most chances at 778 and are second to Oakland in chances per game. They have also turned the second most DPs behind Cleveland

Defense - Pitching

Only KC (3.56) and Seattle (3.95) have allowed fewer runs per game than the Jays (4.25), well below the league average (5.10) which is up nearly one-half a run per game from last year's 4.68. The team ERAs are KC: 3.47, SEA: 3.50 Jays: 3.90, well below the league average of 4.83. The Jays are second in WHIP at 1.262 behind, KC at 1.209.

In the first 20 games, the Jays have 10 quality starts, although 12 times the starting pitcher has ended the 6th inning having given up three or fewer runs. The bullpen has been effective 13 of 20 games, with effective meaning they've only allowed half an earned run per inning pitched.

I have a metric that I prefer to measure the effectiveness of a pitching performance, batters faced per out (BF/O), which correlates well with WHIP but factors in aspects of defense (errors and double plays) as well as pitching style, as ground ball pitchers are often able to erase runners with double plays. A WHIP of 1.0 would correspond to a BF/O of 1.333 (=4/3) while the league average WHIP of 1.4 corresponds to a BF/O of 4.4/3 = 1.467. I use a BF/O of 1.4 as the standard of a pitcher being effective, which corresponds to a WHIP of 1.2. BF/O gives me an appreciation of how much trouble a pitcher is facing with runners on base. (BJ Ryan had BF/O if 1.4 or more 38.3% of the times he pitched last season compared to Rivera 15.6%, Nathan 22.1%, Soria 23.8% and Papelbon 31.3%. FRod was somewhat shaky too at 35.5% of the time having a BF/O >1.4.)

On this measure, Roy Halladay and Ricky Romero have been 100% effective, accounting for 8 of the 11 effective starts the Jays have had, with Purcey, Richmond and Tallet having one each. Out of the bullpen, Jason Frasor has been effective 100% of the time and Scott Downs 90%. In the next tier Murphy, Carlson, Camp, League, Tallet and Ryan have been effective between 50% and 67% of the time. Only Bullington, in his two appearances, has yet to be effective.


My preferred metric for offensive effectiveness is to convert runs created (RC) into RC/pa. A league average WHIP of 1.4 implies about 40 at bats per game and with the AL averaging 4.68 runs/game in 2008, it means that the team must average nearly 0.12 runs per at bat to achieve the league average. This metric correlates extremely well with OPS, but has the advantage of measuring offensive production in runs.

On this metric, the Jays have been doing very well. The team leader is Aaron Hill at 0.225, followed by Lind and Millar (0.191), Snider (0.182), Bautista (0.177), Overbay (0.166), Scutaro (0.157), Rolen (0.154), Wells (0.146) and Barajas (0.140). The only regular who is under-performing is Alex Rios, at 0.101, but his numbers have been improving lately. The first base platoon of Overbay and Millar have an RC/pa of 0.175 and the LF platoon of Snider and Bautista have a RC/pa of 0.180, although this is based on all Bautista’s plate appearances, not just when he has played LF. (Note that I have not made any adjustment for position played. The conventional wisdom is that more run production is expected from corner infielders and outfielders whereas most teams will concede some runs production up the middle for stronger defense.)


After a 14-6 start, the Jays have the best record in the AL. They have been hobbled at pitching, and the next 20-30 games could be quite a test. Tallet will need to continue to fill a hole in the rotation effectively and Richmond must continue to battle to succeed despite allowing too many runners. Purcey has great stuff but needs to last longer and allow fewer base runners to be effective in the rotation. One start is not enough to gauge Burres. By the end of May we may have seen some new and returning arms in the rotation. The bullpen is solid, and is improved with Ryan on the DL. The offence should continue to produce a lot of runs, but don’t expect them to continue to continue to average over 6 runs per game, although I think this squad will average over 5.5. Over the next 21 games they have 9 road games including a much-improved KC and an always-tough 5-day west coast swing through LA and Oakland. At home, they host Baltimore (3), Cleveland (2), the Yankees (3) and the White Sox (4). I realistically see them going 13-8 or 12-9 in this stretch.

Season Projection:

I’m a firm believer in “A win in April is as important as a win in September”, although that’s not to minimize Cito’s philosophy of sacrificing a win now for 3 or 4 down the road. It’s great to have 14 wins in the bank after 20 games. I doubt many expect the Jays to maintain a 0.700 pace for the rest of the season. Under Cito in 2008, the Jays were a 0.580 team. The offence is improved with the platoon of Snider and Bautista in left and the return of Hill at 2B. While the pitching has taken some hits from injuries, they’ve managed to get the job done so far with several pitchers expected to return in the next month. I went into the season projecting that the Jays would contend in September, playing at about the same 0.580 pace (94-68) they did last year under Cito. A 0.580 pace the rest of the way projects to a 96-66 record. Even if they slip back to 0.560 the rest of the way, they’ll finish with a 0.580 (94-68) overall.