John Gibbons must go…

I myself am always amazed by life’s little quirks. Last year I was quite critical about how Blue Jays’ skipper John Gibbons was running the offense. This year, with a groundswell calling for his head, I find myself defending the man. As you no doubt are aware, the Blue Jays’ clutch numbers reveal that they are clutching both their bats and their throats far too firmly.

Their situational hitting appears to be causing localized (golden) showers in the vicinity of the batter’s box whenever men are in scoring position, and it’s causing (rain) delays in run scoring.

Due to my inherent masochistic tendencies, I thought I would focus on just one aspect of their current run of ineptitude—runner on third with fewer than two out. This is as close to a gimme in baseball as a team can get. There are a wide variety of weird and wonderful ways a runner can score in this situation: hit, walk (if bases are loaded), balk, passed ball, wild pitch, stolen base, error, fly ball, ground ball, suicide squeeze, pitcher taking a seizure, shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried, hot funk, cool punk, Fergie singing about her humps it‘s still rock and roll, uh err … well, you get the idea.

Yet the Jays strand more people per night than my dates throughout high school. How bad is it really? What I did is go through box score after box score to see how often the Jays had a man on third (often with other base runners) with fewer than two out. My totals may differ somewhat from Baseball Reference’s splits on the season—no idea why but I’m guessing it’s because I screwed up somewhere.

Ah well.

According to the box scores and play-by-play on Baseball Reference (as of April 28), the Jays have had 58 separate opportunities where they had a runner on third and myriad ways of bringing them home (read: less than two hump … er out). In all, 118 base runners were available to be cashed in (in those 58 stated chances). The Jays had the sacks juiced (in the non-Biblical way) nine times, second and third 17 times and for all that, only 30 times did they get the man home from third base.

Now, 30 out of 58 may not sound so bad, but we have to see how often the Jays came through as opposed to other circumstances bringing them home. Only twice (in 58 chances!) was an extra-base hit struck. Here’s the full (nervous) breakdown thus far in 2008…What makes it worse is that seven of the hits (including the home run) came in two games—one on April 5, the other on April 15. That left only five hits over the other 24 games.

12 hits: 10 singles, a double and a home run.
7 groundball outs (one, a fielder’s choice)
5 sac flies
2 errors
2 bases loaded walks
1 GIDP
1 wild pitch

Here’s the breakdown by player (cashed in = cashed in from third base only)…

Alex Rios: eight opportunities … three grounds outs, one home run, single, walk, RoE and sac fly—six runners cashed in
David Eckstein: eight opportunities … four singles, two ground outs, a pop up, and fly out—four runners cashed in
Marcos Scutaro: seven opportunities … three ground outs, two walks, two strikeouts, and a single—five runners cashed in
Aaron Hill: six opportunities … three strikeouts, a ground out, a sac fly and single—three runners cashed in
Lyle Overbay: five opportunities … three groundouts (one FC), one double and a wild pitch—three runners cashed in
Shannon Stewart: four opportunities … two groundouts, two pop ups—one runner cashed in
Vernon Wells: four opportunities … two groundouts, two strikeouts—one runner cashed in
Gregg Zaun: four opportunities … one GIDP, RoE, strike out and single—one runner cashed in
Matt Stairs: four opportunities … one single, strikeout, walk and sac fly—two runners cashed in
Joe Inglett: three opportunities … one sac fly, RoE and GIDP—two runners cashed in
Frank Thomas: one opportunity … one single—one runner cashed in
Rod Barajas: one opportunity … one ground out—no runners cashed in
Scott Rolen: one opportunity … one single—one runner cashed in
Buck Coats: one opportunity … one groundout (FC)—no runners cashed in
Scott Rolen: one opportunity … one strikeout—no runners cashed in

Clearly the Jays aren’t bunting enough.

That was a joke people … relax.

However, I don’t see how firing John Gibbons would turn this around. My biggest complaint about his handling of the offense last year was that he did little to keep the opposing defense on edge. For the most part, it was station-to-station baseball with little effort in trying to turn double-play balls into seeing-eye singles by keeping the opposing infield in motion.

Gibbons has been trying to ignite the offense—it’s the hitters that have failed to catch the spark.

Besides their futility with RISP, the Jays are hitting into an ungodly amount of double plays (which is a positive indicator that a lot of batters are reaching base) and not getting much in the way of extra-base hits.

Gibbons has tried to make things happen, but at the end of the day, the Jays have to get it done in the batter’s box, and no amount of motivational speech making or chair throwing will change that—regardless of who is chucking the furniture. The team already had a major shake-up by firing a future Hall of Famer, and I cannot see how canning Gibbons would shake up things any more.

J.P. Ricciardi has stated that the problem may be with the talent on the roster—putting the ball firmly in his court. The Jays have pitching and, despite recent pratfalls, a solid defensive unit, and are fourth in the AL in on-base percentage—all they need is some pop (cough cough).

Don’t look at Gibby for this—getting the Jays additional power isn’t his job; it is Ricciardi’s responsibility. There’s plenty of baseball to be played yet—more than enough time to regroup and upgrade.

If the Jays hit the rocks—it’s not Gibbons’ head that should roll.

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