2010.....Destined To FAIL?

When thinking about the upcoming season, numerous things keep me up late at night.  There are quite a few issues that will undoubtedly contribute to our losing record.  I have decided to pinpoint one that seems particularly hopeless considering the circumstances.             

These are the ground ball figures in percentages of the potential starting pitchers for your 2010 Toronto Blue Jays.  These stats represent the number of times a ball was hit on the ground as opposed to in the air or on a line. 

Romero: 54% 6th overall in MLB
Rzepczynski: 51.2%
Ray: 48.1%
McGowan: 2007 53%  2008 41.4%
Hill: 2008 46.3%  2009 30.2%
Marcum: 2008 43.1%
Cecil: 42.6%
Morrow: 2008 33.1%  2009 37.3%
Tallet: 36.3%
Litsch: 2009 34.4%  2008 48.5%  2007 48.1% 
Richmond: 33.6%
Purcey: 31.5%
Mills: 14.8%

From this I can conclude there will be quite a few balls going up in the air off the opposing teams bats next year, most likely toward the outfielders.  Now let's take a look at those projected outfielders Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) for the 2009 season:

Adam Lind, LF: -8.1 
Travis Snider, RF: -2.4
Travis Snider, LF: 0.0
Jose Bautista, RF: 5.1
Jose Bautista, CF: 0.6
Jose Bautista, LF: -1.9
Joey Gathright, CF: -0.9
Joey Gathright, LF: 0.7
Joey Gathright, RF: 0.4
Jeremy Reed, LF: 3.7
Jeremy Reed, CF: -0.8
Jeremy Reed, RF: -1.3

Which brings me to the 3 time gold glove outfielder.
Here is our savior's career UZR:

2009: -18.2
2008: -14.3
2007: -1.1
2006: 7.5
2005: 3.2
2004: 9.9
2003: -18.3
2002: -8.8

Anybody want to take a guess at which three years he won the award?
What worries me the most is the steady decline.  

Not pretty.  Although there is one combo that doesn't look as bad as the others.  Snider in LF, Vernon in CF and Bautista in RF provides average to above average defense in two of the three outfield positions.  Look for these guys to be on the field when anybody named other than Romero or Rzepczynski is starting.

After discussing this with The Human Rain Delay, we decided that maybe we could try a rover out there.  Let the shortstop play up the middle alone. 

Or we could ask the commissioner's office if it would be OK if we played four across like they do in slopitch and kill the DH.  That might help with the black hole / void space that is Vernon Wells in center.

I am a big believer in matching your strengths to other strengths as a team.  Over the 162 game season, your weakness will be magnified for all to see and exploited by other teams.  You can help minimize them by acquiring players that fit into your team vision.  Check into what the Mariners are doing.....can you say pitching and defense?

For example, if you have a couple of guys on your roster that can run, group them together in the line up and turn em loose on the base paths.  That way they are not caught behind a slow runner thus neutralizing their speed.  If your team has a few guys that can slug, group them together and put a couple of on base guys, lead off type guys, in front of the them so that there will be runners on when it is their turn to hit.  If your pitching staff throws a lot of ground balls, go get some vacuums / human walls to play the infield positions.  And if your pitchers can't keep the ball on the ground, find some rabbits to play the outfield that can go deep into the alleys and make plays for them.  This type of stuff only makes sense.

 The brain trust has done none of this this off season.  

All they have done is plug holes and brought in players that are cheap.  We have made no attempt to match our strengths as a team.  We traded for a fly ball pitcher, re-signed a slick fielding shortstop that can't hit, then signed another slick fielding shortstop that can't hit, a catcher that can't throw anybody out, yet another right handed reliever and a bunch of stiffs on minor league deals that can't do anything.

What good does it do to sign players that bolster your already average infield defense, if you know that most of the balls that are going to be put in play are going to go to your well below average outfield defense?


  1. Usually when you try to use stats to prove something, it's a good idea to add some context. Now, you must be at least somewhat familiar with the idea, since you mentioned Romero's ranking (it being an AMAZING 6th place overall in his rookie year). But then you kinda go silent on the matter... Rzep at 51.2% would have placed 12th, had he pitched enough to qualify. Ray would be 16th overall, one spot behind the Good Doctor himself. Marcum and McGowan (the 2008 version) are 41st (tied) and 52nd, respectively. That's 4 of 5 in the top 50, and one more on the fringe. You have Litsch at 34.4%, but I'm not sure why you chose to use the year he pitched 9 innings, as opposed to the two previous seasons, where he put up 48.5% and 48.1% over a combined 287 IP. Oh look, Cecil also would have ranked in the top 50! I think it would probably be a good idea to understand how these numbers actually stack up to Major League competition, instead of just listing them in a (somewhat) descending order, and claiming that the sky is falling.

    Now, granted some of these guys haven't proven they can consistently put up these kind of numbers... but that's exactly why it's important to include context in your analysis. Otherwise, your gold-glove laden outfield would end up picking up a lot of ground balls that really should have been outs...

  2. Thanks for the comments.
    I obviously looked for the MLB average when researching this post. I couldn't find anything but if I had to guess it would be around 48%-45% if you included relievers. Most of our guys were either hurt or in their first year of pitching in the majors hence their sample size in very small. How much sense does it make comparing half a season of Ray to a ten plus years of Lowe or Carpenter equally.
    The point of the post was to show that our rotation will give up more than it's share of fly balls this year. Even Rzep and his near 50% ground ball rate means the other half is going up in the air. But I understand what you are saying about context. In this specific example without a median average the stats must speak for themselves.
    I will update Litsch.
    Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. I actually just looked at the 2009 stats, since it seemed fitting with the snapshot analysis (and I'm pretty lazy). But factor in that about 25% of the time they're going to give up a hit (which by and large are on balls that even the best outfield couldn't get to) and the % of fly balls that are either infield pop-ups or routine fly balls, and I'd imagine that a very small number of potential outs would be lost as a result of sub-standard outfielding. Routine ground balls are significantly harder to convert than routine fly balls... add in the potential for a double-play, and I don't really think there should be any question that improving infield defense should be a priority over the outfield. SS seems like the obvious place to improve the Jays defense, as anyone playing there isn't immediately blocking someone in the Jays system - the same cannot be said, however, for bringing in a defensive outfielder.

    Either way, I love reading your blog, and think it's important to bring up these kind of discussions (ok, not important... but interesting!)

  4. The most proven pitcher we have is Marcum and he only played 1.5seasons so all the starters numbers don't mean much yet. They need to be given a couple years in the bigs to really get a good idea of how they are going to pitch. One of the downfalls about trading Rios was that we lost our best defensive outfielder. It seems like we went from too many outfielders to not enough outfielders by ditching Rios.

  5. I think I'm just pissed that Vernon is still in CF. If we had even an average defensive player there then I think we could get away with it for this season.
    I'm not shitting on the fact we got a wizard at SS. It is one of the if not the most important defensive positions on the field. But I have to disagree with you statement:

    I don't really think there should be any question that improving infield defense should be a priority over the outfield.

    We have guys that can hit .230 and play great defense at that position. What we don't have, clearly, is anybody to play above average defense in the outfield. This is what bothers me more than anything especially considering the names just floating around out there.

  6. Yeah, the only thing that makes the thought of Wells playing CF bareable is that it can't stay that way forever. Unless he can bounce back into shape (he's 32 now, so he better do it soon!), he'll more than likely be moved to one of the corners in a year or two. I'm actually alright with Snider playing either of the corners, as he should some competence there, despite being somewhat overwhelmed by the level of play (and underwhelmed with Cito's coaching). Snider in left, Wells in right, and some toolsy stud making up for both of them with his range in CF... sounds a little better than what we're faced with in 2010.

  7. Furthermore,
    As an infielder you know that a ball that gets past you will likely be picked by the outfield most of the time for a base hit.
    As an outfielder you know that a ball that gets by you will be stopped only by the wall and ALL the time be good for extra bases. The opportunity to commit errors will always be greater on ground balls due to the fact that you have to pick up the ball AND throw it.
    Errors are bad. Errors prolong innings. They make the pitcher throw more pitches and keep the defense on the field longer increasing the opportunity to commit more errors. But I respectfully submit that errors in the outfield lead to more big innings, which has a greater impact on the outcome of the game.

  8. The thing about Wells is I think he can bounce back offensively in 2010, but I honestly think his defense might actually get worse. At times, he looks lost in CF and either doesn't read the ball properly or can't get a good jump on the ball.

  9. Hunter said:
    "but I honestly think his defense might actually get worse"

    Is that even possible? Jesus what is that going to look like?