Category: Ricky Romero

What Morrow may bring

Brandon Morrow, Seattle Mariners, development hampered, Toronto Blue Jays, What Morrow may bringThe common wisdom within the Blue Jays organization and Toronto sports media suggests the Seattle Mariners rushed Brandon Morrow to the big leagues, then further hampered his development by using him inconsistently as both a starter and closer. For that reason, Morrow, who is only in his second uninterrupted season as a starter, will only improve on his success.

Ghostrunner on First refers to an article in the Bellingham Herald, in which Brandon Morrow (he of the glowing FIP) espouses his preference for SABR stats.

Drunk Jays Fans takes exception to a Bleacher Report post that ranks Ricky Romero in the top five for the AL Cy Young award.  According to DJF, Morrow’s superior fWAR makes him a far better candidate than RR Cool Jay (he of the knock-you-out ERA).

Concerning the Morrow-for-League-swap, even though Brandon League has had an all-star season, I would rather have Morrow. A good starter trumps a good closer, in my mind, because he would pitch about three or four times as many innings. The 162-game season is a marathon, and a good team requires three or four long-distance runners. League did flirt with dominance in 2006 and 2008, but he failed to put it together in consecutive seasons. We gave him five. We’ll see in two years how the Morrow for League trade looks.

Hopefully Casper Wells, drilled in the face by a Brandon Morrow fastball, suffers no serious damage. The Ghostrunnner post links to Morrow’s immediate apology tweeted to Wells.

Brandon Morrow better than Brandon League, What Morrow may bringA professional in the twittersphere and on the pitcher’s mound, Morrow did get in some hot water loading the bases in the sixth inning Wednesday. But he managed to get out of the inning, allowing just one run.

The Morrow line – 6 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 12 SO

“Morrow is a fireballer,” I typed on MLB Gameday.

In response, a frustrated Blue Jays fan wrote:

“Morrow is nothing more at this point than a #3-4 starter, League is already an elite closer. Morrow is very frustrating to watch, he is like AJ Burnett.”

I replied:

Morrow is a #2 starter on a good AL East team that’s getting better. He’s also 27 and improving. As for Burnett, sure, he’s frustrating to watch (34 and past his prime), but don’t forget he’s a former *18-game winner, who made a significant contribution to the Yankees 2009 World Series championship. Having said that, Morrow’s ceiling is higher than Burnett’s because Morrow doesn’t throw emotionally, he pitches with resolve. As for League, he’s had a good season, but MLB is littered with the carcasses of closers, who had one good season. I’ll take Morrow over League any day.

*Wins, as per AJ Burnett’s 18 of them, are not the best measure of a pitcher’s contribution. To say wins mean nothing, however, ignores far too much data, on winning and losing teams alike, correlating strong ERA (in various incarnations) with positive W-L records. Likewise, poor ERA often correlates with negative W-L records. I have yet to determine which combination of traditional and SABR statistics provides the most accurate overall picture of a pitcher’s contribution. If one employs traditional stats, Romero is our ace. If one is purely sabermetric, then perhaps Morrow becomes our ace. No matter the case, they make a fine one-two punch.

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The fortune of Brad Mills

Brad Mills makes the rotation, Brad Mills(er) time, starting rotation sweepstakes Jo Jo Reyes is out. Brad Mills is in, at least for today. Jesse Litsch, also called up, will work out of the bullpen, in the wake of the departure of Mark Rzepcynski, Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel.

Welcome Colby Rasmus. Hopefully, he and Travis Snider will push each other to meet their ubiquitously spoken of potential.

As of Wednesday July 27, GM Alex Anthopolous, video seen at Getting Blanked, had only stated that Brad Mills was called up for temporary bullpen depth, until the Blue Jays new pitchers (P.J. Walters and Trevor Miller) arrived. A decision had not yet been made on who would start Saturday’s game. How quickly things change in these starting rotation sweepstakes. Brad Mills is our #5.

According to Mike Wilner on the Jays Talk, Mills is likely getting the start today as a way of showing him off as potential trade bait, before the deadline strikes Sunday. The following John Farrell quote from bluejays. com, provides some context:

“The fact that Brad has thrown the ball exceptionally well in Las Vegas, I think he’s earned the spot,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s got the opportunity to take this start and run with it.”

Whatever the case may be, Mills deserves at least a 10 game stint in some major league ball club’s starting rotation.

He’s dominated in Triple-A, unlike Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Kyle Drabek. He’s got a lot to prove at the big league level, and I think he’s about ready to do it.

Zach Stewart is out, no longer part of the puzzle. Our depth of starting rotation makes losing Zach a moot point, (in the modern sense of the term).

I don’t think Luis Perez has earned his shot in the rotation, though look for him to rejoin the big club’s bullpen soon.

Carlos Villanueva will have to pitch better than he did Thursday over his next three starts, especially if Mills hangs around, Litsch pitches well in long relief and Kyle Drabek continues to bring his ERA back down to Earth.

Exciting times, indeed.

Chad Beck made the jump to Las Vegas this week. Deck McGuire is now a New Hampshire Fisher Cat, and Dustin McGowan is now up to pitching three innings per start with Dunedin. Joel Carreno and Henderson Alvarez are knocking on the Blue Jays door. It will be interesting to see if either gets the chance to show his stuff when the roster expands to 40 come September.

The race is always on. The climb is great – the fall is depth.

  1. Ricky Romero (26)
  2. Brandon Morrow (27)
  3. Brett Cecil (25)
  4. Carlos Villanueva (27)
  5. ↑Brad Mills (26)
  6. ↑Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
  7. ↑Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
  8. ↑Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
  9. ↑Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
  10. ↑Luis Perez (26) – Las Vegas
  11. ↑Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
  12. Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
  13. ↑Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire
  14. ↑Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
  15. ↓Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
  16. ↓Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
  17. ↑Nestor Molina (22) -Dunedin
  18. ↑B.J. LaMura  (30) – New Hampshire
  19. ↑Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
  20. ↑Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin

Blue Jay puzzle pieces

1977 redux, Ricky Romero

Ricky Romero – leadership shown, all-star calibre, struggles with Red Sox

Kyle Drabek – demotion to Las Vegas, return to rotation a challenge

Brett Cecil – fastball up to 93 mph again, rotation mainstay rest of way

Jo Jo Reyes – unfocused, #5 spot in starting rotation, on the bubble

Jesse Litsch – rehab stint in Las Vegas, rotation spot in doubt

Brandon Morrow – shades of 2010, momentum, on verge of breakthrough

Carlos Villaneuva – exceeding expectations, #4 starter, trade bait

Sean Camp – Zen master of eliciting ground balls, hittable, 1 blown save

Jason Frasor – sure hand, candidate for closer role, 2 blown saves

John Rauch – hothead, very hittable, 7 saves in 9 tries

Mark Rzepczynski – reliable middle-relief, 3 blown saves, 3 extra base hits allowed

Casey Jannssen – placed on 15-day DL, retroactive to June 15

Octavio Dotel – improved effectiveness, innings eater

Frank Francisco – below average closer, 4 blown saves, unprofessional tendency

Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, unestablished rookie, 2 blown saves

Blue Jays offensive production

Aaron Hill – too cautious, shell of 2009 self, Blue Jay end near

Adam Lind – dialed in, future batting champion, all-star production

Travis Snider – 3 doubles in MLB return, deserving outfield starter

Jason Nix – below Mendoza line, designated for assignment July 2

Jose Molina – above-average backup catcher, effective place holder

Corey Patterson – horrendous decision-making on base paths + outfield, liability

Jose Bautista – constant development, all-star, MVP candidate

J.P. Arencibia – good rookie production, sunken BA

Rajai Davis – lightning speed, awful slump, too many SO, second half producer

Edwin Encarnacion – natural DH, streaky, on the bubble

Yunel Escobar – all-star calibre statistics, improved power + work ethic

Juan Rivera – place holder role over, DFA July 3

John McDonald – above Mendoza line again, unsung Toronto hero

Mike McCoy – down + up again, good OBP, useful professional

Eric Thames – spark plug, confident, room for improvement in SO/BB ratio

Zach Stewart’s day off

Ferris Bueller's Day off, Zach Stewart's day off

Braves 5, Jays 1

And the wheels go spin.

Zach Stewart handed over the car keys after 3.2 IP on this wild night out, but the Jays offense has been spinning its wheels the last five games, scoring only nine runs in that span.

I think Ricky Romero was right and respectful enough, given the circumstances, in his post-game interview yesterday when he called out the Jays offense for not stepping up. It’s true, Lind and Bautista cannot do it alone.

If the old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is true, surely a fine-tuning is appropriate, when the machine is sputtering, whether that be additional batting practice or a line-up shuffle or call-up.

But this organization’s depth of starting pitching is its greatest strength, and the vehicle to a successful future. As I alluded to in a June 17 post, Zach Stewart needs a few more lessons in Triple-A, like Brad Mills and Brett Cecil did.

He is not ready to handle this machine every five days.

I’m reminded of a popular movie, a coming-of-age tale that hit the screen the same year Zach Stewart was born.

In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Cameron is convinced to take out his Father’s 961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder SWB for a joy ride. Sure he lived a little, and team Ferris had some fun, but the car did get trashed.

Like a good joyride, there is instant gratification to be had in letting Zach Stewart take the wheel. Everybody loves him, or at least the idea of him. But if he needs a few more lessons in control, as I suspect he does, this team will be spinning its wheels, like Cameron and Ferris did with the Ferrari, right before it reversed off the edge, down into the ravine.

Putting the imperfect metaphor aside, Double-A does come before Triple-A. It hasn’t for Zach Stewart with the 2011 Jays.

And it should.

Let us mind our speed and handle the vehicle with care.

Let us give our more experienced young starters license to ride out this stretch.

2012.

The year of the Zach.

Blue Jay puzzle pieces

Toronto Blue Jays, workhorse, #1 starter
Ricky Romero – workhorse, solid, if not timely, settling into role as staff ace

Kyle Drabek – heart on sleeve, raging bull of emotion on the mound, wild

Brett Cecil – fastball down to 90 mph, 8 HRs allowed in 4 starts before demotion

Jo Jo Reyes – 26-game winless streak snapped, emotions in check, weak pick-off move

Jesse Litsch – fastball + compete-level return, rotation spot deserved when healthy

Brandon Morrow – slow start, potent arsenal, control a work in progress

Carlos Villaneuva – good stuff, reliable from bullpen, exceeding expectations as starter

Sean Camp – ground ball out master, outstanding April/ May, rocky June

Jason Frasor – painstakingly deliberate approach, sure hand, best season pace

John Rauch – shades of K-Gregg, less careful, Jays best closer not saying much

Mark Rzepczynski – odd man out, smooth transition to pen, control issues lately

Casey Jannssen – bullpen stud, return to 2007 form, confident presence

Octavio Dotel – ineffective, innings eater during big losses, oldest man in pen

Frank Francisco – power + unreliability, below average closer

Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, verdict still out, given small sample-size

Adam Lind, Jose Bautista,

Aaron Hill – stats split difference between 2009 and 2010 season, too cautious

Adam Lind – back in the saddle again, Indiana boy in perfect spot behind Bautista

Travis Snider – lack of confidence, swing kinks, walk to strikeout ratio improved

Jason Nix – clutch hitting in April, non-existent May, battling Mendoza line

Jose Molina –calm in eye of storm, excellent back-up catcher, hitting well

Corey Patterson – less than smart base running, seeing good pitches

Jose Bautista – BA + OBP + OPS off the charts, home run mastery

J.P. Arencibia – great rookie production, ability + rapport with pitchers improving

Rajai Davis – speed, nice addition, injury riddled, wait and see

Edwin Encarnacion – defensive liability, disappeared home run production

Yunel Escobar – great start overall, occasional odd no-throw decisions

Juan Rivera – horrendous start, rebounded offensively, first base fill-in admirable

John McDonald – decreased production, no fearful demeanour, usual infield brilliance

Mike McCoy – future John McDonald, reliable + energetic uber-utility man   

Sabermetrically-challenged

May 14, 2011 (pregame)

I am surprised by the continuing presence of Jo Jo Reyes in the starting rotation. The Jays were patient with Brandon Morrow, and that has paid off, but when a pitcher goes 25 straight starts without a victory, shouldn’t some sort of cut off date be established? If he fails to secure a win by the end of the month, wouldn’t it then be time to give someone else a go? My vote would go to for Brad Mills, although Brett Cecil has turned things around in Las Vegas since a disastrous first start there.

Jays 9, Twins 3 

May 14, 2011 (post-game)

While it’s true, he didn’t pitch badly tonight, and he’s pitched well enough to win on at least two occasions this year, the fact is that Jo Jo Reyes has not held his leads. What does it say about your mettle as a pitcher when your team stakes you a 1-0 lead, and you go out and immediately give up two runs in the 1st inning? He allowed five earned runs his last start.

How long do the Jays allow the winless streak to go on, 26 now and counting?

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Granted, it’s not so cut and dry when considering pitcher’s W-L record as a measure of his contribution. The example of Felix Hernandez: 9-11, 3.45 ERA (2008) and 13-12, 2.27 (2010) springs to mind, as an example of the this statistic’s limitation. But to dismiss it completely is impractical. For example,  W-L can suggest and confirm, in some cases, a pitcher’s ability to hold on to a lead. The Hernandez example is more of an exception than a rule. One sees on every pitching staff how solid ERA and W-L record so often correlate.

As for Felix Hernandez, he is a great pitcher, as is Ricky Romero, and peripheral stats quantify that. A pitcher needs his team to show up to notch a win, and a team needs its pitcher to show up to notch a win. Pitchers, and as a result their teams, often lose when they don’t pitch well. That simple fact of the game, imperfect statistically though it is, has a lot to do with how many losses a pitcher accumulates.

While Reyes contributes more than winless in 26 games would suggest, the streak does reflect, to some extent, an inability to contribute enough. Baseball includes both tangibles and intangibles, perfect and imperfect measurements. To say that Wins have no bearing on the nature of a pitcher’s contribution dismisses the importance of those games, especially when the season is on the line, where he is called upon to pitch with a lead, sometimes a slight one, and hold on to it. Peripheral stats be damned.

This by no means pretends to be an argument against sabermetrics, nor to trumpet the W-L stat above all others, far from it.

I would not argue that the Wins stat is more important than ERA. Those seasons when Nolan Ryan (1987) and Felix Hernandez posted excellent ERAs and weak .500 W-L records show us a limitation in measuring pitcher’s contribution by Wins alone, but they don’t disprove all relevance of the Wins stat. How could they?

Deeming the Wins stat relevant does not mean ignore everything else (ERA, IP, WHIP, SO and others). A number of stats should be taken as a whole to measure a pitcher’s contribution, wins included.

But back to Reyes: what is an acceptable point at which to remove a winless pitcher from a MLB starting rotation? Every general manager must have one. Even when he may not be completely responsible for every loss, the Reyes extreme does show an inability to contribute enough. 

And his peripheral stats reflect this losing record, like they do with so many other pitchers with losing records. More to come.

Fall Classic


Fernando  Valenzuela, Campeche, mayan, Fall ClassicCAMPECHE, Mexico – Across the street from El Estadio Nelson Barrera, where Fernando Valenzuela was thought to be discovered, from my bedroom in the Mexican family home I stay, through my laptop and the MLB online stream, it was a thing of beauty to watch the final home game of Cito Gaston and all the bells and whistles that came with it.

A speech from his old roommate Hank Aaron, glowing words from champion Blue Jays Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, along with a standing ovation from a packed “SkyDome” and a single tear from a grateful Gaston, conjured the collective joy last felt in 1993.

It was a thing of nostalgia to realize how his leadership of our dear ball club and his presence in our beloved city interconnected with so many great memories from childhood: like game 6 of the 1992 World Series when we leapt out of our seats and ran onto the field to celebrate via Jumbotron with our Jays in Atlanta. A friend had gotten overexcited as the gates opened earlier that night and disappeared in the crowd, charging up to the 500 level, never to be seen again.

It was a last call with Cito, the closing time on the last three seasons of ball games I attended or logged by TV in varying states of elation, frustration, and drunkeness . It was time for him to go, but as a hard man of steely nerve, he is a hard man not to respect, unless you get into the Bob McCowan v. Cito Gaston controversy of yesteryear.

In spite of the near incomprehensible fall from grace of both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill — see .305 and .286 BA. (2009) to .237 and .205 for Lind and Hill respectively, 2010 was the most exciting season of Blue Jays baseball since 1993. Motherload of slumps and all, Lind-Hill still managed to combine for49 dingers.

The team statistics speak for themselves in aesthetically pleasing fashion:

595 extra base hits (team record)

.454 slugging % (mlb leader)

257 team dingers (mlb leader)

54 Bautista dingers (mlb leader)

7 players with 20+ dingers

4 pitchers w/ 10+ wins

Had we maintained an above .500 W-L record through interleague play, as opposed to a dismal 9-17 mark, we would have fought for the wild in September. It was that close.

The bullpen often seemed shaky with a seeming inability to nail down saves i.e. preserving wins for our starters.

Consider:

0/2= 0%  Brian Tallet

0/2= 0% Scott Downs

2/4= 50% Sean Camp

4/8= 50% Jason Frasor

37/43= 86% Kevin Gregg

That’s 16 games the Jays led late in the game, almost all of which were lost. In an ideal baseball world, without an interleague meltdown, where our bullpen had been perfect, we would have amassed a dominant and best ever 100- 62 record, 1 win better than the 1985 squad with Tom Henke as closer. Not the most likely scenario since few teams have converted 100% of save opportunities.

What shocked me is that the Jays finished the season a respectable 5th place in MLB with 45 saves converted. But I would sooner tempt a 53-year-old Tom Henke out of retirement than endure the torture of another season of K-Gregg’s semi-calculated melodramatics: all those BB’s to go for the easiest possible outs.

Whoever next year’s closer, with three of our top four 2010 starters (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil) returning a year wiser, and Kyle Drabek, Mark Rzepczynski, Jesse Litsch and Brad Mills battling for spots, with Dustin McGowan just maybe on the mend, a full season of opportunity for T-Snyde, Arencibia, and Escobar, a return to form by Lind and Hill, and anything near a repeat season from Bautista; the future looks bright. Then again, the future always shines bright for the Toronto Blue Jays. Every year, we are one year closer to the next time we win another World Series.