Blue Jays mailbag: No love for Adam Lind and Francisco Cordero
The sleazy and ultimately disappointing Roger Clemens perjury case is in full swing in Washington D.C. The star witness for the prosecution, former Jays strength and conditioning coach Brian McNamee is suggesting that he first administered steroids to the Rocket in his SkyDome Hotel apartment back in '98.
Clemens won consecutive Cy Youngs with the Jays and earned consecutive pitching Triple Crowns -- wins, strikeouts and ERA in both '97 and '98. The case seems weak. There are no other witnesses than McNamee, the former New York City cop, to say that they saw Clemens actually take steroids. A couple of Coke cans and old syringes with Rocket DNA are all that exists. Ryan Braun walked with more compelling and current evidence.
Andy Pettitte, whose memory of a conversation with Clemens in which his friend admitted taking performance enhancers has conveniently faded over the past 12 months to the point where the Yankee left-hander said he's only 50-50 sure of the conversation. That is not making the prosecution's case any easier.
McNamee's reputation and truthfulness will be easily questioned by the defence team led by lawyer Rusty Hardin, a real-life Matlock. The verdict in this trial will be all-important to Clemens in terms of his Hall-of-Fame candidacy. The Rocket's name will be on the ballot for the first time this December. The fact is Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers of all time, not necessarily so as a human being, but that should not matter. Cooperstown is full of scoundrels. In the late '90s it seems to me that using steroids stemmed from a character weakness for the purpose building strength. I am voting for Clemens to the Hall-of-Fame...and Barry Bonds and Jeff Bagwell.
On to the Mailbag.
Q-I like John Farrell but sometimes I question his ability to manage this ball club. I was at the game on Tuesday against Oakland. Thames on third, Rasmus on first with one out and Arencibia up. Why did he pull JP out for Omar Vizquel? I can understand the desire to stay out of a double play, but Rasmus has speed and the infield was in. Why not send Rasmus and let JP who has been hot of late hit. Also, it backfired two ways: Omar tried to bunt and popped out but more importantly Jeff Mathis had to come in to play catcher in the 9th. The pitch selection was off and Francisco Cordero threw a 2-2 slider to Michael Taylor who had been late all game on the fastball. We all know what happened after that. Why not show confidence in JP, or is the organization getting tired of his low OBP. Adam Lind is also not playing well, so why not have Ben Francisco playing more against LH pitching as the DH, while Edwin plays first.
Jason Sinnarajah, San Francisco
A-I agreed with what you are saying now at the time and still can't figure out that John Farrell move to pinch-hit for Arencibia. By the way, neither can Arencibia. As you point out, the infield was in meaning that they were going to try and cut the run down at the plate, less likely to go for the double play. Although that A's infield alignment was with Vizquel batting and everyone thinking squeeze. With J.P. up they may have had corners in, middle at DP depth, but nevertheless.
With Vizquel up and the safety squeeze on instead of the suicide squeeze, even if that bunt had not hung in the air and been caught, but had dropped in front of Brandon Inge, Rajai Davis, who had run for Thames, would not have been able to score because he had to wait and see if the ball was going to be caught. If Farrell had been going to hit for Arencibia on that situation, how about if he had pinch-run with Vizquel, who is a veteran with decent speed and good instincts, and pinch-hit with Davis. The A's would have had to play the infield in because of Rajai's speed not being able to count on the double play and even if the plan was to bunt and he got to two strikes, he'd be a better option to swing away.
Arencibia had a difficult time with that decision and that's not just as an ego thing. The fact is that you talk up the catcher as a big part of the team moving forward and then, when push comes to shove and the game is on the line in a great RBI situation, you call him back as he's settling into the batter's box. That's a huge slap. Right after the game, with his emotions still high, I went over to talk to J.P. about the decision and as he started to speak, a teammate suggested to him that he not speak. He stopped and chose to speak the next day after he had a meeting with Farrell before the day game. Even though he was more controlled then, you could still hear the hurt. Maybe it was a reeling in the ego type of move by the manager, but even though Mathis is a good catcher, there were two balls that got by him in the ninth, one of them moving the winning run from second to third on a passed ball. Not good.
Q-Jays starters have won 15 of the 36 games played so far translating to a 42% rate. Applying this percentage through 162 games yields a 67 game win amount for the starters. If a 60 game minimum win amount for starters is the benchmark for playoff contention (according to some baseball analysts), does that statistic carry profound weight in playoff prediction?
Jan Bortoski, Belleville
A-What's been amazing about the Jays starting pitching is that 35 of the 36 starts have been made by the same five pitchers and the other one by Joel Carreno was a manager's decision and not an injury issue. The Jays over the past three seasons have averaged 12 different starting pitchers per season, so at some point there will be some injury issues that will cut into the very high 42-percent starter-win ratio.
I believe that a bullpen in many seasons will win around 25 games under normal circumstances, which means that to win 90 games and contend, a Jays' starting staff should win 65 games. Even though they are on pace for that now, the bullpen has posted four wins, which projects to just 18 for the year. The two together, at this pace add up to 85 Jays victories, which sounds about right for this team.
Wow, still can't believe I just watched another blown save opportunity for the Jays in the opener versus Oakland. As much as I'm thinking Cordero's days as closer are thankfully close to the end, I'm wondering why the manager left him in the game when he clearly couldn't throw anywhere near the strike zone? And his decision to lift Arencibia, one of your best and clutch, run producers in favour of an over-the-hill bench player was, well, dumb. Omar, as great as career as he's had, didn't help by popping up a bunt on a 3-1 count. It was sad, but again, it was the manager's decision. On the bright side, Kelly Johnson is playing all-star calibre ball right now. Hope he keeps it up. Of course, I always appreciate your point of view, once you stop retching after watching that hideous ending.
Paul Rudan, Campbell River, B.C.
A-I can't second guess the manager on that one. When the closer for any team comes into a tie game to start an ultimate inning you cannot have another pitcher warming up in the pen as he warms up on the main mound. You just can't. So when the inning started to unravel, you can't have someone run down to the pen and get ready. Things move too quickly. It was in Cordero's hands and he dropped the ball and the decision was made that he move back into middle relief with Casey Janssen the closer for now, until Sergio Santos returns to the team. They needed to find out about Cordero...and did. As for Kelly Johnson, he and Edwin Encarnacion are the unlikely leaders for team MVP.
Q-Love the Q&A and am always interested to see it up when you are able to squeeze it in. The hard work is much appreciated. I have noticed over the past decade or so bullpens have increased from 5 to 7 people. As the major league rosters have remained stable at 25 this cuts down on the number of role players available, especially as every team carries an extra catcher, you end up with space for three (AL) or four (NL) position players. Inevitably the players chosen end up being 'super-subs' able to play multiple positions. Without the extra bench players some of the strategies of the past have disappeared, such as platooning (except for catcher), grabbing a Rule 5 player and sitting him on the bench (except for pitcher) or having a uni-dimensional player available for late inning situations, such as a speedster. Has there been any discussions about increasing the size of the roster? The union would be for it for obvious reasons, and teams should be interested as it would drastically increase their options and end of bench players should in most cases be pretty low cost. If nothing else it would help situations like that for the Jays next year when hard decisions over Snider/Thames will be needed solely because Snider is out of options and there are no bench spots available.
Neil Somers, Thornhill
A-I agree with you on all your points. The ultimate Jays' bench of the '00s that reflects the expanded pitching roster was last season, early, when the Jays had John McDonald, Jayson Nix, Mike McCoy and Jose Molina, more super subs than Quizno's.
I would love to see the Jays cut back to 11 pitchers and five bench players. All that would mean is that a couple of guys like Luis Perez and Carlos Villanueva would have to go two or more innings more often and that middle relievers like Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver would have to pitch back-to-back games more often, which they would welcome. Sometimes when the starters for a team are going deep into games every night, certain pitchers are buried for a week.
Every time the CBA comes up for renewal, I look for the owners to use a 27-man roster as a bargaining chip to trade off with the union and make the game better. The Jays need a big bat, a uni-dimensional player to hit late in a game, not named Ben Francisco. How about if each team had 27 active players but had to designate 25 to be active at the start of every game. That would allow teams to carry a player with a strained hamstring for a week, instead of having to disable him for 15 days because their bench is too short, down to three players when one of them is hobbled. It surprises me they haven't.
Q-I was watching game recaps of other teams today (which I don't normally do) and I kept saying to myself "our infield would have made that DP" and "our outfield would have run that down." When you look at the defensive abilities of this team, we're pretty solid. Leading the league in double plays allows our young pitchers to not worry about getting hit. Our pitching is also holding other teams to less points (RUNS 108), compared to our hitting (RUNS 133). On the plus side, we're not hitting as well as we could. This is a good sign of a balanced team going in the right direction. We're not that far from a playoff team and it’s exciting. GO JAYS GO!
Chris Read, Beamsville
A-The biggest improvement on this Jays' starting pitching staff has been the team defence. For every 2011 ball that dropped in between Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera or sailed over Corey Patterson's head landing on the warning track; for every 2011 ball that left a bat and your first instinct as a pitcher is “that's an out” while your second instinct is “oh crap, I better back up third”; for every 2011 grounder that was fielded cleanly by Edwin at third and then rifled off the first-base stands, for every non-error miscue that extended a 2011 inning and added pitches to their outings, those have mostly been replaced by balls run down and caught by Rasmus on the warning track and rockets on the ground turned into double-plays or outs at first base by Lawrie.
There are still some areas of the defence that could be improved, but by and large the difference in D has made the Jays' starting staff a 6-inning-plus contender. Only the Rangers and the Yankees in the AL have a better run differential than the Jays. They are not playing well, however, since the third game in Anaheim. A true contender would have been better than 4-4 on the recent road trip. When you speak of being “not far from a contender” you're right. The Rays will be just across the field on Tuesday...
Absolutely great blog, great commentary, great mailbags (which I look forward to every week -- or so!). Please keep them all coming. Okay, here's the question: Adam Lind said in an article recently that he did his best under Cito, and that going up there aggressively and putting a good swing on the first pitch if it looked good really worked for him. Now, however, he's trying to fit in with the new team philosophy, which is make the other team's pitcher throw you as many pitches as possible to get to the supposedly weaker middle relievers faster. And now he can't hit his sock size.
So, why don't they get Cito in, let Lind go back to the old way that worked for him, and just let the others keep on working the opposing pitchers deep? Is Farrell so inflexible that he'd rather have Lind hit once a week than to let the guy loose on the first pitch and get a hit or two a game? Is he worried that the others will ask to be allowed to swing at good first pitches, too? Is baseball really so one-size-fits-all in its strategies that it can't adapt when the anointed strategy doesn't work for a player? Last time I looked, getting lots of hits against a starter usually got you to middle relief early, too.
Free Adam Lind!
Allan Lane, Cincinnati, OH
A-Lind has, in fact, been told lately to be more aggressive, to return to his roots, to not look for walks and to not work the count because it's not working for him. I think that if this loosening of the coaching reins does not work, then the Jays will have exhausted all of their ideas to get Lind going and by the time Vladimir Guerrero arrives they may go in a different direction at first base, with Edwin Encarnacion at first and Vlad DH'ing, even if it means losing a left-handed bat in the starting lineup. It's up to Lind to earn his playing time moving forward. Even his defence seems to be suffering as he goes through this extended period of batting confusion. Lind says he's thinking too much, he's changing things from at-bat to at-bat and his “socks-up, socks-down” is a reflection of that confusion. The Jays would rather have Lind hitting the ball hard early in the count than working a six-pitch out.
Long-time reader, first-time question. The recent 2HR game for Jose Bautista is great and I hope it symbolizes the beginning of the end for his slump. But I think the fact that the Jays hit 4HR in that game and still lost (despite the iffy pitching) our problem is a lack of consistent hitting i.e. hitting for average...I know you've discussed the Batting Coach situation in the past, and that running the count high is the Manager's approach, but hitting for power is just not enough or does not seem to be enough. Our BA is too low throughout the lineup. I'd rather see more RBIs off of a few .300 hitters rather than scattered HR from the likes of .200-.250 hitters, especially in a 2-on, 2-out situation. A .300 hitter will more likely keep an inning going. Why aren't the Jays hitters hitting? Seems to be a copy of the situation from Cito's last year at the helm, is it the batting coach or the manager's approach that is not allowing players to hit for average? I find it hard to blame the whole lineup with the exception of our DH and 3B?
On another note, even with the excuse of the bunt execution option, the move just doesn't add up to pinch hitting for JPA?? Seems to be one of those trigger happy situations decision handling like the closers last year by Farrell. I would say this even if it would have worked out.
O.S., Tel Aviv
A-The Jays' batting numbers are nothing if not confusing. Fourth in AL runs scored, but 10th in batting average. A .302 team batting average with runners in scoring position heading into this home stand. Seventh in slugging percentage and eighth in AL on-base. A .713 OPS that ranks seventh and is ahead of both the Albert Pujols Angels and Prince Fielder Tigers. Only Edwin, Brett Lawrie, Jeff Mathis and Kelly Johnson could be said to be performing to expectations or above, offensively.
Do you think a team with actual and realistic hopes for a playoff run can afford to have a Thames or a Lind (far less both) at a power position without them producing, well, you know...power? Or (in the case of Thames) a modicum of defence? How long before you see the Jays demoting them both to the minors (can't imagine anyone picks up Lind at his salary) and calling up Snider and Coop? Do you think that Thames has anything close to a high ceiling? I see a guy with very limited speed, zero defence, and no particular game plan at the plate, who tantalizes with the occasional mammoth home run but is as soft a .290 hitter as you'll ever see. And how long do you let Lind try and magically recreate his one excellent season?
Lee Zimmerman, Ottawa
A-I don't think the Jays are the only AL team with holes and question marks in the lineup. On Monday night, the Rays 6-9 in the batting order featured Sean Rodriguez, Will Rhymes, Chris Gimenez and Elliot Johnson. Not quite Murderer's Row. The Red Sox lineup has Cody Ross, Mike Aviles, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Sweeney and sometimes even Nick Punto. That's not the Red Sox we have come to know and hate. The Yankees and Rangers have the only really deep AL lineups. As for Lind and Thames, I think that the defensive aspect is more of an immediate concern. But Thames has certainly not lost the starting job he earned – or at least defended -- at spring training. As for Lind, he may have until about the time that Vlad is ready to hit in the majors to prove that he deserves to remain in the Jays' lineup.
Q-The last time I checked the Jays lead The Majors, not the American League, but THE MAJORS in blown saves again (T3rd most last year). Is this another example of AA undervaluing higher priced closers that went to other teams in the off season? Was he hoping to get a "deal" on the closers that were left on the market in the off season?
The fact that AA brought in two closers (even though they stated that Cordero was going to be a set-up man) maybe indicates that they weren't 100 per cent convinced that Santos (a position player converted to pitcher) could handle the position. I thought this was the one area that they addressed in the offseason after not acquiring a big bat or starting pitcher. Watching the Jays blow late leads has got to be one of the most frustrating things. Your thoughts??
Also, a stats question, does the game that Lawrie hit the walk off home run on Tuesday count as a blown save even though the Jays won the game?
-From a lifetime Jays Fan,
Shan Manocha, Detroit
A-No, I don't think AA undervalued high-priced closers. I just think he got his man, Sergio Santos, early in the off-season then saw an unsigned bargain – relatively – available later in the winter in Francisco Cordero. It helped that AA had successful dealing previously with Cordero's agent Bean Stringfellow. I do agree with you that the reasons he got the second proven closer in Cordero is that he was not certain of Santos right now but likes him for the length of his six-year contract.
As for the blown saves stat, not all blown saves are created equal. A middle reliever can be given a blown save for surrendering a one-run lead in the sixth inning. A reliever can be given a blown save for coming in with the bases loaded and nobody out with a one-run lead and giving up a sac-fly with three strikeouts. On the other hand a guy can enter in the ninth with a four run lead and give up a game-tying grand slam and not have a blown save because he was not eligible for a save in the first place. Crazy. There was three times in 2011 in which the Jays had two blown saves in the same game. Blown saves is not really a black-and-white indicator of the quality of a team's closer, although they are frustrating. As for the Lawrie game-winning homer, it does not wipe out the blown save. Once blown, always blown.
Q-At what point do we give up on Lind? Do you foresee any scenario where we could send Lind thru waivers and call up Snider w/ a 3 way DH/LF/1B rotation between Snider, Encarnacion and Thames?
Tony Baer, Baraboo
A-It's been a long time since I have seen so many fans down on one player as people are on Adam Lind. Last year it was Edwin when he was playing third base. I don't think it's possible or necessary for a DH/LF/1B rotation with those three players. I believe if Lind is not going to play that it will be Encarnacion as the everyday first baseman. When Vlad enters the picture it will not be to ever play a position so his DH time for the Jays will be dictated by his own performance. That leaves left field and a portion of the DH role to be divvied up...assuming that Vlad's arrival impacts Lind the most. They have no intention to try Snider at first base, otherwise he would be there right now in Vegas.
A couple comments/questions: About Jose Bautista and his reaction to umpires, in last week's mailbag you and the mailer seemed to imply that this was new behaviour this year. But I noticed him doing this all of last year as well, even when he was hot (only difference is after making a big scene of the call he didn't like, he'd hit a homer). In fact, it seemed to be contagious (Escobar started doing it too). I don't think this is about the slump. And it’s not about being unhappy with a call. It’s about showing up the ump when you're unhappy. And Bautista could surely use from friends in the umpiring ranks about now.
Next, you have mentioned the possibility of Brett Lawrie hitting second, but how about leadoff? I realize he has his hitting issues this season, too, but leadoff hitters with power are no longer taboo, he's as good for on-base as just about every other Jay, and we could use the distraction on the base paths. I know last year Davis would steal and then they'd walk Bautista, but if any manager wants to walk Bautista right now I'll send him flowers. If this overall batting slump lasts much longer the Jays will need to start manufacturing runs, and that means speed at the top of the order.
Mark Acheson, London
A-I can easily see what you're talking about with Joey Bats a year ago. But last year his reaction seemed to be momentary disgust followed by a glare and some flair. This year it's been lingering Jose frustration with a negative trickle-down to teammates via thoroughly p.o.'d arbiters who look at the entire Jays' lineup as being a pain-in-the-butt reflection of Bautista. It needs to stop. If Johnny Rodgers was the Ordinary Superstar, Bats has become the Ornery Superstar.
In terms of Lawrie, I think second or third would be his best role even by the second half of this season. He has a huge burst home-to-first that would allow him to stay out of double plays. He can hit the ball to all fields with extra-base pop. He can score from first base on a ball in the gap. He can steal a bag and disrupt a pitcher when on base. Farrell has long talked about Escobar in the middle of his batting order and a Lawrie move to two would allow for that. I also have noticed as you mention that Farrell is no longer reluctant to open up first base with Bautista up and fewer pitchers are pitching around Bats.
Q-Too many of the Blue Jays hitters are taking the first pitch for a strike. They are then behind in the count and swinging at bad pitches. Appreciate your comments.
Clary MacDonald, Merigomish, Nova Scotia
A-Nobody is asking Jays hitters to swing at all first-pitch strikes, but sometimes, if the first pitch strike is a pitch that you were looking for and in the spot that you were looking for and you didn't pull the trigger, that's what we're talking about. That was the best pitch you were going to see in that sequence. A bunch of hits can be as effective at getting to the bullpen as building the pitch count.
In the chat, you mentioned that Brandon Morrow would be more dangerous if he went back to pitching for strike outs in lieu of ground balls. This will max him out at about 6 or 7 innings per start. Is that enough from their No. 2 hurler and is it more taxing on the arm to throw a strikeout pitch (reaching back for a little extra for that 3rd strike)?
I do believe it is less of a problem because B. Morrow pitches behind Ricky Romero, who is going to throw deep into the ball games, so it wouldn't be as taxing on the relief corps. If Henderson Alvarez pitches behind B. Morrow and keeps his pitch count low and throws deep into the games, it would be even better for the pen. Is it realistic to expect Alvarez to consistently pitch 7 innings each start to put less stress on the pen? This is my favourite edition of the Jays since the glory years. Thanks for your continued insight,
Alex Henriquez, Toronto
A-I believe Morrow is settling in on a happy compromise between max effort and pacing. Morrow's 102-pitch complete game in Anaheim was what should be his ideal. Nobody is asking him to throw his 100 pitches in 6-7 innings, but pitching to contact as the be-all and end-all as he was doing at spring training was not the answer either. Morrow pitched well on Monday against the Rays but was betrayed by his defence. If you worry about power pitchers having shorter careers because of the extra effort of striking people out check with Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton and others.
If the Jays' starting rotation averages six innings per game, that is not a taxing situation on a seven-man bullpen. Don't worry about the Jays' bullpen being overworked unless there is a series of extra inning games or starters are being knocked out in the third or fourth innings. Right now, Alvarez, despite critics that say he's not missing enough bats, is a solid Top 3 rotation pitcher.
When will Farrell wake up, smell the roses and actually make some lineup changes based on strengths and weaknesses and put people in a position to succeed? For example, Yunel has been a better hitter in his career with runners on base and in scoring position than with no one on. Thames, on the other hand, hits about .200 with runners on base and about .160 with runners in scoring position and .300 when no one is on base. Time to flip flop those guys in the lineup and at least guarantee Thames 1 AB per game when no one is on base.
A-Right now: Johnson-Lawrie-Bautista-Encarnacion-Escobar-Thames-Rasmus-Lind/Davis-Arencibia.
I've been a big fan of your Jay's mailbag and columns. That being said, I was extremely taken for a loop in regards to one of your comments. A reader of yours disagreed with one of your statements and you responded by saying "Why is it that stats aficionados universally seem to have absolutely no sense of humour or sense of the absurd or the ability to see the game as a game. They are like the Christian right. Everything must be black or white, right or wrong and if your opinion does not agree with my opinion then you are wrong...and an idiot to boot.
" I am a follower of Jesus Christ and I just can't understand why you would take such a cheap shot at Christians when the comment by your reader had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. You apparently just saw an opportunity to take a swipe at people who believe in something you apparently do not and you took it. I base my life around the principles and teachings of the Bible and I certainly won't apologize for that. I just wanted you to know that I won't be reading your work anymore.
Nathan Hoffman, St. Catharines
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." Romans 1:16
I have been reading your blogs and mailbags for a while now and to this point have enjoyed your views and comments on the Blue Jays. But due to one of your comments in your last mailbag, I will no longer be reading your work. Someone criticized your views on a Prince Fielder comment, and for some reason you decided to result my faith of Christianity in response? I really do not see how the two are related, or why you would make such an insulting remark to the Christian faith. The irony is we Christians are easy to pick on because we are told to turn the other cheek. I doubt you would make such a jab at Islam, I'll bet its adherents wouldn't be as forgiving. I am sure it means very little to you but you have lost this reader.
Eli Hoffman, Three Hills
A-I am sorry that some readers feel that way. But insisting my comment in a previous mailbag about the U.S. Christian Right and its well-documented rigidity in the interpretation of right and wrong is the same as criticizing all Christians is not right. It's like suggesting that my criticism of baseball's non-inclusive Stats-obsessed fans is a criticism of all baseball fans. Neither is true. Not that my own religious beliefs are significant to this discussion, but I am proudly Catholic and my children have all been brought up in the faith. Everything I write is with a respect for my late aunt Noreen from Scarborough. My bottom line is what would Noreen think of what I am writing. She was the strongest most flexible Christian spirit that I have known. It is in that light I am sorry you will no longer be reading, but do not feel the need to retract any comparison for literary purposes that I did make. In fact you no longer reading because of a comment you did not agree with may prove my point.
What are the special attributes of an outfielder that make him more suitable for right field than left field, or conversely, more suitable for left field than right field?
Stan the Man, Jr., Toronto
A-A right fielder usually needs to have a stronger arm than a left fielder because of the longer throw from right field to third base. A right fielder should have more speed because of the need to get to the foul line and cut off a ball before it gets to the corner and to intercept balls in the alley. A ball down the right field line or to the right-centre power alley that reaches the fence can often be a triple, while a ball to the left field corner is one the left fielder can still take his time on and it will be a two-base hit. That means that you can put a slower slugger type of hitter in left field. Using old-school references, think Greg Luzinski left field and Roberto Clemente right field.