Q: Do you think the other pitchers will pick up their game now that Doc is gone? They will all want to be the no. 1 pitcher on the Jays' staff. They are one year older. Their arms may be stronger if they push themselves to pitch more innings. Who do you think will have the greatest number of complete games on the Jays' staff this year?
Bruce Hutchison, Winnipeg
A: That's easier said than done, picking one's game up at will. It will be very difficult for a first-year pitching coach in Bruce Walton, with a bunch of pitchers going through the process without their daily role model, Roy Halladay. Every morning when the young pitchers arrived in the clubhouse at the Mattick Training Center or at Dunedin Stadium, Halladay would already be there either in the weight room or out running. How could a young pitcher not try a little harder and stay a little longer when his best, most established teammate is working harder than he is? That's not to say these guys without Doc won't work hard, but spring training and the regular season become a grind and that's the fatigue that wears a young pitcher down as much as arm fatigue. Who will take over as the leader among the starting pitchers? We'll have to pay attention this spring, but Shaun Marcum, as long as he is completely healthy, would be a good bet. As for the leader in complete games, the last Jays' pitcher other than Roy Halladay to record more than two complete games in a season was Esteban Loaiza in 2002. He went the distance three times. The Jays' leader in CG this year will likely have two. That means a lot of work for the bullpen.
Q: Hi Richard:
I have been a huge fan of yours since your days with the Expos. After all, you were deemed the best PR guy in baseball back then and we are very fortunate to have you here. My question is this. The Jays will have a new surface this year and I hope they they studied the Tampa field. I like the idea of a complete dirt infield and not the cut outs at the bases. I think dirt all around would cut down on injuries, what's your assessment on this?
Marty Greenberg, Toronto
A: I agree with you that the Jays should have the dirt infield if for nothing else but the aesthetics of baseball. But it's not going to happen. They are going to have the cutouts at the bases as they always have in the Dome because of their desire to have more “other” events in the building that require the transformation from baseball to concerts and back in as short a time as possible. Whenever I fly during the season, wherever we are landing, I always look out the windows to find baseball diamonds on the ground in whatever glide path we are on. There's something comforting about an empty ball field – and, yes, invariably they all have dirt infields. The Jays and Rays are the only artificial turfs left in the majors. Jays are the only ones without a dirt infield.
Q: Since the Jays acquired Dana Eveland, they've had 41 players on their 40 man roster (according to their website). What's going on here? Is there some sort of loophole allowing the Jays to carry the extra man? Otherwise, who's going to get cut?
Mike Patton, Edmonton
A: I have noticed the 41-man listing on the website. I will check on it, but there is the possibility that they have not done the paperwork on one of their newcomers yet and they may be waiting until they can put Dirk Hayhurst on the 60-day disabled list, which would effectively remove him from the 40-man roster. There are certain key dates when all teams must refresh their 40-man rosters and baseball may be in one of those in-between times right now.
Q: Hi Richard,
I'm a huge fan, keep up the good work. I always thought Vernon Wells was a somewhat solid Centre Fielder based on fielding percentage and watching at least 80 games a year on TV. But I have come across the UZR (ultimate zone ratings) stat which places Wells in the bottom quartile for CF's when looking at the 3 year number. Do you put any stock in the UZR stat? Do you look at any specific stat when placing value on a fielder's defence? I did notice last year that Wells' path to the ball was suspect at best sometimes and the UZR stat seems to put a value to this. I guess you can't make an error on a ball that you don't put yourself in the best position possible to catch.
Cam Runte, Vancouver
A: The Ultimate Zone Rating is an interesting new statistic that attempts to compare outfielders defensively in terms of identifying batted balls that they either reach or do not reach to make a play on that are deemed to be in their area. It's an interesting concept, but unless the same person is charting every major-league game then the variance on subtle subjectivity makes it difficult for UZR to be definitive. Take Vernon Wells as an example, since that's who we're talking about here. Over the past decade, the horse in the Jays' rotation has been Roy Halladay, a groundball machine. In addition, the corners, especially in left field, have not had the greatest range and batted balls that drop in for hits may actually have been in their “area” but Wells is the one that pulls up and comes closest to making thre play, so it looks like it was his ball and people then say he's slowed down. Players can have bad seasons at the plate and they can have bad seasons in the field. Wells in 2009 had both, but when a ball leaves an opponent's bat, to my mind, Wells still gets amazing reads and jumps and still has the ability to be an above average major-league centre fielder UZR results or not.
Q: Who gets traded first? Jeremy Accardo or Lyle Overbay? Both seem to have issues with Jays management, Accardo with upper management, Overbay with Cito. Could we package them together and get a SS/3B prospect?
Jason Sinnarajah, Sydney, Australia
A: Overbay is signed for one more season at a relatively reasonable $7 million. In addition, he would likely be a Type B free agent after the 2010 season meaning a team would receive an extra draft pick when someone else signed him. The Jays came close to trading Overbay already this off-season and I think he will go before Accardo. There will be many teams at the end of camp that find out they need help in the bullpen. That will be when GM Alex Anthopoulos receives the most calls for guys like Accardo,. Jeremy still has an option left, meaning he can be sent to the minors at the end of camp, but given the chain of events surrounding Accardo's displeasure with the organization, Anthopoulos would likely try to trade him to another major-league club at that point. I say Overbay goes first. But I've been wrong before.
Q: Hi Richard,
The subject of pitch count and overwork comes up just about every time a Jays pitcher goes down and it seems nothing is done about it. I read a Baseball America article a while back about Nolan Ryan's long toss programme in Texas and I'm wondering whether he's had any measurable results a year later. I've read other people-most notably David Wells-are supporters of more and longer long toss. Have you heard anything about this?
John Sault, Winnipeg
A: I don't think that any of the Jays' arm problems have been the result of pitch count. I don't think that has ever been the major issue as much as between start regimens, the type of pitches that a guy throws in his repertoire and any history of arm problems. The Jays have been forced to take chances on guys with histories of surgery or arm problems just in order to compete by catching lightning in a bottle. Therefore a re-occurences with pitchers of that type are more likely, making the Jays' pitching programs seem suspect. Injuries are so highly individual pitcher-to-pitcher because the act of throwing a baseball is so unnatural to the human body. As for long-toss, it is an integral part of every starting pitcher's between-starts throwing. Ryan and the Rangers may have a slightly different view, placing more emphasis on it, but one year is not going to gie you much of a read. It's done by all.
Q: Pitching related: What are the chances of Robert Ray making the team this year? I don't have his statistics in front of me but it seems to me that whenever he was given the chance to start he always kept his team in the game. Also, what's the latest news on David Purcey? There was a bit of hype a few years back and now we hear almost next to nothing about him.
Darrell Holtze, Guelph
A: As long as Cito Gaston is managing, it's unlikely that Robert Ray will be able to fight his way through the sea of similar-type starters in the organization to reach the major-league level in 2010. I recall the disappointment expressed by the manager in the wake of Ray's failed start at Fenway Park on May 21. Gaston was frustrated by his pitch selection and his perceived sense of panic. It was his last start for the Jays and Gaston and whoever has been the GM have barely mentioned Ray's name since.
Q: Hi Richard
27 pitchers....Ever see that before with any team in MLB? Can never have too many pitchers. I'll buy that but 27 on the protected list? Jays had overabundance of SS's recently too but are still scratching at this position.
Ray Stockus, Bend, Oregon
A: Last season the Jays listed 27 pitchers on the 40-man roster as spring training approached. They invited six more non-roster hurlers, so the actual number is not as interesting as is the number of those pitchers that are all in the same situation – in their mid to late 20s, with mixed pasts and not much major-league experience but with a chance to win a job. In terms of turnover to the roster, consider that from last year's 27 roster pitchers heading to camp, 12 are no longer even with the organization – T.J. Beam, Bryan Bullington, Brian Burres, Matt Bush, Fabio Castro, Bill Murphy, Davis Romero, B.J. Ryan, Reid Santos, Brian Wolfe, Brandon League and Roy Halladay. As for shortstop, this season will mark the eighth different opening day shortstop for the Jays in the past 10 years – Alex Gonzalez ('01), Felipe Lopez ('02), Chris Woodward ('03-04), Russ Adams ('05-'06), Royce Clayton ('07), David Eckstein ('08) and Marco Scutaro ('09). They are scratching at this position, as you put it.