Sifting Through The Wreckage

Once

John Brattain
Dorkis Canadianis

you’ve come to the realization that your team will not play October baseball you begin to revise your expectations somewhat. In some cases those same expectations are thrust upon you. When the team ahead of you in the standings goes 12-24, one would like to think that your team can overtake the slumping team in the standings. When that doesn’t happen you wonder why precisely that is the case. An unkind person would answer with, “Well they suck.”

While that might be true it’s hardly a satisfying answer. It’s kind of like when a doctor or coroner lists “cause of death” as “heart failure.”

Gee, ya think? His heart stopped and he died. Go figure. Well I’m here to try to understand what has caused the Jays’ heart to stop, so to speak. Yes, they’ve been mucking around since the All-Star break, and I thought I’d try to identify a culprit or six.

We’ll go through the heart of the offense, followed by the rotation and the bullpen. Quite frankly I found some pleasant surprises that bode well for 2007.

The Lineup
Player: 
Reed Johnson        Percentages    AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .365/.451/.507   203   4
Post ASB          .272/.330/.469   213   8 

At first, I thought the dropoff might be due to the fact that with Hinske being traded and Rios being sick, Johnson was facing righties on a regular basis. As it turns out, he’s actually hitting right-handed pitching better than southpaws. Looking at his numbers it looks like Johnson might be trying to sacrifice contact and patience for power (note the increased home run rate). I’m guessing what we’re watching is simple regression to the mean.

Player:
Frank Catalanotto  Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .327/.433/.500   208   6
Post ASB          .284/.324/.398   176   1

Catalanotto has faced righties way more than lefties this year (358 AB to 30). He was solid last year (115 OPS+), so he’s probably in a good old-fashioned slump.

Player: 
Vernon Wells       Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .311/.377/.594   325  21
Post ASB          .313/.343/.520   227  11

Despite the numbers, Wells had a .797 OPS in August and is .579 in September. He has had only two above-average seasons in his career: 2003 and 2006. Maybe he was simply hot in the first half and he’s playing closer to his true level. I hope not—unless he doesn’t stay in Toronto.

Player: 
Troy Glaus         Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .241/.342/.518   311  23
Post ASB          .264/.389/.500   174  11

Glaus is a streaky hitter. He’s slumping—soon he’ll be raking again.

Player: 
Lyle Overbay       Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .294/.363/.494   316  14
Post ASB          .327/.370/.517   205   5

About what I expected. His home runs are down, but his doubles indicate that the power is still there—hakuna matata. I like this kid.

Player: 
Alex Rios          Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .330/.383/.585   270  15
Post ASB          .214/.259/.321   131   1

No big surprise here. Rios’ staph infection knocked the stuffing out of him. I think he played a bit over his head in the first half, and I’ll only breathe easier when I see a .280/.360/.490-ish line from him on a consistent basis.

Player: 
Benjie Molina      Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .283/.329/.420   226   7
Post ASB          .283/.298/.482   116   8

He’s clearly been swinging for the fences more in the second half and it shows. Not keen on the OBP, but I’ll take that production from my catcher.

Player: 
Greg Zaun          Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .316/.392/.529   136   6
Post ASB          .202/.319/.336   119   3

Although Wednesday’s big game (2 HR 5 RBI) isn’t calculated here, Zaun is wearing down a bit. His walk rate is still constant. He’s not a full-time catcher, nor is he a backup. Ideally he catches 80-90 games a year to stay sharp. He needs regular rest to excel. However, when he’s hot, his is a tough bat to take out of the lineup. I’m glad he’s a Jay. I love what he brings to the table. Hopefully he’s got a season or two left in the tank.

Player: 
Aaron Hill         Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .297/.344/.390   290   2
Post ASB          .277/.344/.338   195   1

Steady, learning, a work in progress.

Player: 
John MacDonald     Percentages     AB   HR 
Pre ASB           .253/.288/.280    75   0
Post ASB          .196/.256/.297   158   3

Yeah he’s a terrific glove man, but it’s impossible to flash enough leather to make up for his offensive shortcomings. He gives up more with the bat than he gains with his glove. I’d be tinkering right now if I were the manager. Toss anybody and his grandmother between second and third and see what you get. It cannot possibly be any worse.

The offense as a whole went from a home run every 24.1 at-bats to one every 30.6 at-bats. A major culprit in the second-half malaise.

The Rotation
Pitcher:
Roy Halladay    W-L   IP   ERA   WHIP
Pre ASB        12-2 129.3  2.92  1.03
Post ASB        4-3  78.3  3.68  1.21 

Halladay’s ERA is up a bit, but he’s fine. He pitched a complete game, giving up two runs, and took the loss against Kansas City. He had a costly miscue from Alex Rios at Fenway that ended up as a loss. Rios shouldn’t have gotten an error for his assisted home run. He had a blown save against the Tribe after giving up one run over seven. He’s still Roy Halladay.

Pitcher:
A.J. Burnett      W-L   IP   ERA   WHIP
Pre ASB         1-3  35.3  4.33  1.36
Post ASB        5-4  62.6  4.13  1.32 

Two rough August outings (Aug. 1 vs New York and Aug. 28 vs Cleveland) obscure how much better Burnett has been in the second half. He’s showing that if he’s healthy, he’ll earn his pay. I’m praying he’ll be earning it in 2007 and beyond.

Pitcher:
Ted Lilly       W-L   IP   ERA   WHIP
Pre ASB         8-8 101.6  4.07  1.49
Post ASB        5-4  78.3  5.31  1.40 

He was decent in July (4.45 ERA), awful in August (8.63 ERA), and has been terrific in three starts in September (2.79 ERA). I’ve given up trying to figure it out.

Pitcher:
Gustavo Chacin  W-L   IP   ERA   WHIP
Pre ASB         6-2  51.3  5.61  1.50
Post ASB        2-1  19.6  3.20  1.32 

A definite surprise. I’m still not sold on him because of his tendency to give up base runners and bombs, but I’ve got an open mind. He’s young, he’s a southpaw—he gets another chance.

For the most part these four aren’t responsible for recent struggles.

I limited myself to these four due to the sheer number of pitchers used to start in both halves of the season and their uneven distribution. For example, Casey Janssen started 14 games before the All-Star break and just three after. Ty Taubenheim started seven before, and none after, and Josh Towers had 12 starts pre-All-Star Game and none after. Meanwhile, Shaun Marcum didn’t make any starts before the break but has made 11 since. In fact, since the All-Star Break, the Jays have needed only seven starts aside from Halladay, Burnett, Lilly, Chacin and Marcum.

For the record, if you want to know why the Jays aren’t in the postseason hunt this year look no further than the fill-in starts made by Janssen, Taubenheim, Towers, Marcum, Francisco Rosario, Brian Tallet, and Scott Downs; they made 54 starts this year, averaged 4.2 IP and went a collective 10-31, 6.33 ERA.

Um … ouch.

Before we get to the bullpen I limited comparisons to B.J. Ryan, Justin Speier, Jason Frasor and Brian Tallet. Francisco Rosario hasn’t logged enough second-half innings in relief, and Vinny Chulk and Scott Schoeneweis are gone so they won’t be considered. However, we’ll look at the post-All-Star break numbers for Brandon League, Jeremy Accardo and Davis Romero.

The Bullpen
Reliever:
BJ Ryan         IP    H  ER  BB    K
Pre ASB        42.6  21   4   9   54
Post ASB       22.6  16   6  11   24 

Compare the walk rate. His home run rate has almost doubled as well. He gave up three in the first half and three so far since the All-Star Break. He’s cost the Jays a few games, but on the whole I’ve been happy with his performance.

Reliever:
Justin Speier   IP    H  ER  BB    K
Pre ASB        33.6  30  12  16   33
Post ASB       11.6  10   3   4   17 
Reliever:
Jason Frasor    IP    H  ER  BB    K
Pre ASB        33.0  35  19  14   34
Post ASB       13.6   8   3   3   14 
Reliever:
Brian Tallet    IP    H  ER  BB    K
Pre ASB        23.6  20  15  16   22
Post ASB       22.0  20   7  11    9 

All four have been much better since the break. Tallet’s walk rate is still a concern.

Reliever        IP    H  ER  BB    K
Brandon League 33.6  27  10   8   26
Davis Romero    7.0   5   2   2    3 
Jeremy Accardo 23.0  27  12   7   10

Accardo had one awful outing against Cleveland, which has skewered his numbers, but he looks to be part of the mix in 2007. I’m glad he’s on board. The setup corps, which was, quite frankly, abysmal before the All-Star Break, has posted a nifty 2.90 ERA since, largely from being stingier with the free passes.

It appears the pitching has been quite good since the break but the offense has sputtered. The Jays have had the best pitching in their division since the break, so you have to pin the blame on the offense for not being able to catch Boston. Regardless, I think the pieces are almost in place, but this offseason will define J.P. Ricciardi and his efforts in Toronto.

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