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Friday, October 08, 2021

As Blue Jays ponder off-season moves, focus should be on closing gap to Rays

To that end, Atkins pointed to creating more diversity on offence as a way to complement the current group, noting the difference when Corey Dickerson and Cavan Biggio were in the lineup and contributing.

“It’s not just that they’re left-handed, but how we are attacked and potentially the pitchers that are used is different,” he explained. “Secondarily, we feel it’s important to have balance and not just the same type of hitters up and down your lineup. So some players that are more batting average driven and some players that are more on-base driven with plate discipline. Having both is exceptionally powerful.”

Getting there is, obviously, the tricky part, and worth noting is that before the trade deadline, the Blue Jays took a run at Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez and Detroit outfielder Robbie Grossman, a hint at the type of players they think can address those issues.

Whether or not those talks can be rekindled this winter is uncertain, but clear is that the Blue Jays are facing significant subtractions in Marcus Semien, Robbie Ray and Steven Matz…

Atkins suggested such a boost from the estimated $140 million spent this year is coming – “that is our desire and that is our understanding,” he said – and how high it goes will determine how deep in the lake the Blue Jays get to fish.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 08, 2021 at 10:37 AM | 6 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays

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   1. Rough Carrigan Posted: October 08, 2021 at 01:09 PM (#6044794)
Is the difference between the Jays and the Rays really the diversity of the offense? The Jays actually had an expected record of 99-63 by their runs scored and allowed. But they ran up some huge totals against the Red Sox and others when they faced bad pitching. Maybe they had more routs than typical so they're not really as good as their pythagorean record would suggest but finishing 8 games below it is a lot. That's often a bad bullpen.
   2. Darren Posted: October 08, 2021 at 02:27 PM (#6044820)
It seems like the takea season, for the Jays, is that they did a really great job building their team. Keep doing that.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: October 08, 2021 at 06:56 PM (#6044900)
I can't imagine the solid but unspectacular Dickerson (99 OPS+, 110 with Tor) and Biggio (who struggled in 2021 at 86 OPS+) influence pitching decisions much at all. Especially with the 3-batter rule, unless they are batting 1st and 3rd in an inning, it still would make no sense to bring in a LHR. FWIW, Biggio's platoon split is trivial; Dickerson's is large, in line with most LHB. Obviously having some LHB who hit RHP around is a good thing to make sure the opps pay some price for gaining the platoon advantage against your best hitters.

And, this may be me not Atkins, but I took him as implying that they needed more BA, less walks to match the Rays. But that's not the Rays' offense at all. It is a mystery why they Rays barely outscored the Jays given the Jays have higher BA, OBP and SLG. Sometimes that's RISP performance but the Rays did nothing special there -- their RISP performance was very TTO line of 250/340/450 with a ton of walks; The Jayw were 270/340/470 -- same OBP, same ISO, higher BA, fewer walks.

Which isn't to say the Jays couldn't improve and, most importantly, they have to replace Semien's production (possibly with Semien who's not likely to be that productive again). They could use more production at C, 3B and CF but nearly every team could use more production at C and CF.

As #1 notes, a +183 differential shows they basically did everything right except win 2 more games than they did. Repeat that run differential next year (unlikely) and they'll be fine. Semien and Ray decistions need to be made, I suspect both end up overpaid by somebody.

Wow, Ray led the league in IP with just 193. That's the first time in a non-strike year that the leader has been under 200 ... and in 1981 and 1994, one of the leaders was over 200 and Fernando was just one inning shy of Ray in 1981. I suppose we gotta get used to that.
   4. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 10, 2021 at 11:04 AM (#6045128)
To Walt's point: At what point will the price point for starting pitchers begin to reflect the diminishing role they are playing in the outcome of games?

I saw the 2015-2019 stats for the average number of innings pitched by starters in MLB recently:
2015: 5.81
2016: 5.65
2017: 5.51
2018: 5.36
2019: 5.18
I believe 2020 was even lower, but it was such an odd year for athletes across sports that I think it's tough to fairly use it in an apples-to-apples way...

Logically, more of the money should be going to where the innings are going (the bullpen), right?
   5. Walt Davis Posted: October 10, 2021 at 05:05 PM (#6045156)
#4 ... maybe/probably. The big money is going to truly dominant starters (or at least guys who were dominant). The Dodgers aren't dumb (they are stupid rich though) and they were willing to pay Bauer 2/$85 for (they hoped) 360 innings. While that might have been an overpay, it's hard to believe the Dodgers would overpay by more than 25%.

But also it has gotten closer. Again the fithy rich Dodgers -- their 3 highest-paid relievers totalled $32 M in salary** and 185 IP. Three years ago, the Yanks added Britton's 3/$39 to Chapman's 5/$80. The White Sox committed 3/$54 to Hendricks and traded for what's left of Kimbrel's $16 M this year (plus option). Before they got cheap, the Cubs would usually have a closer making about $16 and two setup guys making $6 each. Why they're still paying extra for closers I'm not sure but "proven" elite relief is expensive.

Teams mainly care about their top 4-5 relievers (I've taken to calling them their "leveraged" relievers) and, if you have to buy your top 3 off the FA market, you're gonna spend $25-30 M for about 180 innings with a pretty big risk that one will be hurt and one will start sucking.

It was going to be interesting to see what Hader was gonna get paid but the Brewers have used him as a standard closer in 2020-21.

** technically $36 this year because Jansen's 5/$80 is back-loaded.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: October 10, 2021 at 05:43 PM (#6045160)
So to add, the emphasis has shifted to leveraged innings and the utility of the bullpen churn. We might like complete games but, really, it never made sense to have your starter pitching the 7th with a 4-run lead, it almost never makes sense to let them bat in the 6th down 1 or tied and, we now know, your top 3-5 relievers are generally going to be more effective in the 7th-9th when the game is close. So let the starters go all out for 5-6, make your bullpen decisions from there, use the bullpen churn to manage the overall pen load as best you can to ensure you have 3 good relievers available in the 60 games you need them. That was probably the sensible approach in 1972 as well. That will cost you some position player bench spots of course, reduce platooning, etc. but teams clearly decided long ago the bullpen depth is worth the tradeoff.

No surprise, the Rays have been at the forefront of this, really taking it to an extreme this year. They had 753 innings by "starters" (including openers) and 703 from "relievers" (including any starters in relief of openers). That starters were credited with just 42 wins, the relievers 58. I'll admit I didn't think we'd ever get to a near 50/50 split and it looks like they had "Just" 16 openers this year, maybe a couple more hidden in there. They averaged only 73 pitches per start but the league averaged only 83.

They used 38 pitchers (and 3 position players) to get through it all. Yarbrough led with just 155 innings and only 4 guys over 100, another 4 over 60. So that was 8 guys to get through 800 innings ... and 30 guys to get through the other 655. That seems absurd but if Louis Head, Ryan Thompson and Matt Wisler can combine for 98 innings of about a 2.30 ERA, it's hard to say it's a bad idea. Or maybe you'd prefer JT Chargois, Dietrich Enss and Adam Conley combining for 66 innings of 2.35?

700 relief innings with a collective ERA of 3.24 in a 4.32 league -- starters can't compete against that.

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