Thursday, April 21, 2016

Way Too Early Blue Jays Observations

It's been 16 games so let's have some fun overreacting to small sample sizes!

1. Marcus Stroman is not an ace

I've felt this way since he came back last season and just wasn't really striking guys out the way he used to despite pitching pretty effectively. His ground ball % remains elite, north of 60%, which is certainly impressive, but ultimately the bar to qualify as a true ace is set awfully high (which is a problem in particular for Mr. HDMH). It's very hard to be a truly dominant pitcher without a healthy dose of Ks, and Marcus currently sits at a paltry 4.76K/9IP on the season. He wasn't much better between the end of last season and the playoffs, where he still averaged fewer than 6K/9IP. He's a really good pitcher, and I certainly expect his numbers to improve as the season goes on. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all currently above 4.00, which is not indicative of his true ability. But he's not an ace, and it's becoming harder to imagine him ever truly being one. And that is totally fine because...

2. The Jays rotation is still a lot better than you thought it was

Admittedly the small sample size caveats apply a lot more here than to my analysis of Stroman, but the starting pitching has really carried this team while the offence has struggled to score the way they did last season. Much maligned for not being named David Price when they were signed in the offseason, Marco Estrada and JA Happ continue to offer more than merely serviceable production. It's still much too early to assume this will continue all season long, but at the very least it seems like they will be able to give this offence a chance to win most nights they take the mound, which is all the team should really need. RA Dickey has been shaky to start the season but his peripherals suggest that should improve, as does his history of pitching 200 pretty good innings every season. He's actually striking out almost a batter per inning so far this season, which is a stat worth keeping an eye on.

Finally, Aaron Sanchez has been amazing. It's incredibly unlikely he can keep this up all season, but on the other hand: he was even more dominant as a reliever, he has elite stuff that has always given him a truly high ceiling, and he trained with Stroman and put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason, which he claims is helping him repeat his delivery more easily and pitch deeper into games. It sure is the kind of narrative that you feel you can buy into, isn't it? It's exciting to realize there are legitimately good reasons to think the rotation can keep this up, and even if they regress they should still be more than good enough for this team to win a lot of games. In addition, both Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez have pitched well out of the pen, poorly-timed grand slam aside, so the team should be able to overcome an injury in the rotation, possibly even two.

3. I'm legitimately worried about Tulo's offence

Not just because he has been bad for 15 games, that would be highly irrational. Tulo had a down season last year at the plate and each game he struggles to start the season makes it a bit more likely that was not an aberration he will bounce back from, but legitimate decline due to age and all the injuries he has suffered over his career. He won't be as bad as he has been so far, and he continues to be excellent in the field, but it's time to be at least a little concerned that he might not even match the league average production he put up last season. It'd be nice if Russell Martin started hitting again soon too.

4. Gregg Zaun knows which relief pitchers are feeling good enough to pitch on a given night better than the coaching staff

Just fuck off with this bit, seriously. The coaches talk to these guys every day. They know how their arms are feeling better than anyone besides the pitchers themselves. It's their job. You simply have to give Gibby and the pitchers the benefit of the doubt here.  Am I supposed to believe Drew Storen comes to Zaun before the game and says "man, I feel great but Gibby isn't gonna let me pitch in a close game tonight! It's like he doesn't even want to win!"? Or is it that Drew Storen shows up to the park and decides he doesn't feel like pitching that night even though he's perfectly healthy and tells the coaches he feels sore? But Zaun somehow knows the truth!

If the coaches say a guy can't go a given night then he can't go. Even if they do coddle some of these guys a little early in the season who is Gregg Zaun to decide that's not in the pitcher's best interest long term? It's complete nonsense and it needs to stop. Sometimes your baseball team loses a close game in the late innings. It's painful enough without having to listen to this horseshit.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Raptors 2015-16 Trade Deadline

I've spent entirely too much time thinking about this subject so I'm going to go ahead and actually write something about it! If the Raptors think they have a chance to beat the Cavs in the Eastern Conference finals they probably will need an upgrade at the 3/4 to do so. This trade would also help them avoid yet another embarrassing first round playoff loss at the very least. With Kyrie seemingly playing better heading into the All-Star break perhaps our chances in an eventual series against the Cavs would not be as good as they appeared when he was really struggling in his return from his knee injury, but a healthy Demarre Carroll could really take this team to another level, and another similar player to help him guard the Lebron/Love pick and roll could perhaps be enough to make it a fair fight. I think that's the player the Raps want, so I will be focusing more on 3-and-D forwards who can guard both the 3 and 4. A true PF with less versatility defensively is still possible, as are certain offense-first wing players, and I'll try to consider all the potential options.

Ideal World But (Probably) Not Gonna Happen:

Al Horford (Hawks): Horford is a stud on both ends of the floor and would give the Raps everything they desire in a power forward, aside from elite 3-point shooting. I don't really think the Hawks are as eager to move him as the rumour mill wants you to believe though. His contract is expiring sure, but Atlanta will likely want to keep him and hold the trump card in resigning him unless a team is willing to drastically overpay, which Masai is too smart to do.

Danilo Gallinari (Nuggets): Perhaps not quite the defensive stopper they desire but the substantial upgrade on offense and having him for at least one extra year would be fantastic. This is also why he's going to cost too much since teams still overpay for offense, and I don't think Denver especially wants to move him. The player option in his contract for a 3rd year could really hurt if he gets injured again.

You Could Get Him, But Do You Really Want Him?:

Thaddeus Young (Nets): Thad is a pretty good basketball player but I don't see him as the fit the Raps want. He's not good enough defensively and while he'd be a nice boost to the offense his mediocre 3-point shooting doesn't really fit what the Raps seem to prefer doing on offense. Maybe if the price gets low enough.

Ryan Anderson (Pelicans): An elite offensive option but liability on defense, and on an expiring contract. I don't think the price is going to be right here, and I'm not sure he's as big an upgrade as people want to believe. If the price came down I'd take him over Thad.

Probably Not Available:

Jared Dudley (Wizards): It seems that Washington are set on trying to make a run at the playoffs to help their case in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes. If they are willing to move Dudley and his expiring deal he is exactly the type of under appreciated player the Raps might be able to get on the cheap to provide decent defense and elite 3 point shooting. He has already spent much of the season playing the stretch 4 for the injury plagued Wiz.

Omri Casspi (Kings): Who knows what the Kings are liable to do, his 3 point shooting could help and while the Kings are a train wreck on D it doesn't seem to be his fault. Could be a solid cheap addition.

Interesting But They Don't Help Right Now:

Terrence Jones (Rockets)/Markieff Morris (Suns): Both young PFs who show potential and are interesting buy low candidates. Neither is ready to step in and help a serious playoff team right now though and both have the issue of being inconsistent at best defensively. I'd probably rather gamble on Pat Pat going forward and he's the better fit right now too.

The Obvious Fit:

PJ Tucker (Suns): There have been plenty of rumours about the Raps being interested in Tucker and for good reason; he ticks a lot of boxes. A plus defender who could switch onto stretch 4s, he and Demarre Carroll would be an ideal combination to defend Lebron and Love. He's on a cheap contract that appears to have a team option for one more year, which would bring him back for the final year of Lowry's current contract next year as well. Compared to the current option for that role in James Johnson, Tucker gives you serviceable 3-point shooting: good enough that he must be guarded on the perimeter, which prevents him from being a negative on offense. As a defense first type we can perhaps be more optimistic that the price for Tucker would be right, but one wonders if the Suns would insist on moving Markieff Morris in a trade with Tucker, which could make things more difficult. Ultimately, I still think Tucker is the most likely of these players to be a Raptor by tomorrow evening.

The Raptors have the assets to land any of these players. However, in a year where even if you happen to sneak past the Cavs you will have to face an all-time great team in the finals, it doesn't make sense to pay too high a price. Here's hoping Masai finds the right move for now, while keeping the future bright.