The Future is in Milwaukee

I have, for a few years now, referred to Shaun Marcum as The Future. I just realized that somehow never made it into this blog until now. About 30 minutes ago, I got a text that said simply “The future is over” and I knew immediately what it meant.

I’m going to miss Marcum’s dirty hat and wicked changeup. It should be fun to see him tear through the National League (and he will be great in Quadruple-A) but I’d much rather him make hitters looks foolish while he’s sporting the Jays uniform.

But things change, the Torontos still have a great group of pitchers and I have faith in The Plan, so I’m not going to freak out about losing a guy I can honestly say was my favourite Blue Jay.

So — what’s Toronto getting in return for North of Steeles? A minor league second baseman and nothing else. Sounds bad, but appearances may not be what they seem. I’m no scout and I won’t pretend that I am, so I don’t know much about Brett Lawrie’s game, but I do know some things about him:

  • Dude is Canadian. Shouldn’t matter, but I know it does to some people. If you care, you might like to know that he’s from Langley, B.C. (If you’re not from Canada, please know that Lawrie is not a local Toronto kid. There are thousands of miles between Toronto and Langley.)
  • Fangraphs had him listed as the No. 2 prospect in the Brewers system last year.
  • He was on the roster for Team Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic as a 19-year-old. He got into one game as a catcher, but didn’t get any at bats.
  • His aunt won a bronze medal in curling at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
  • His sister Danielle can throw a softball like nobody’s business.

That don’t tell us much to be sure, but maybe those good curling genes will come in handy at some point.

Pitch like a man? Not on long rest

Shaun Marcum has no patience for being patient. After his somewhat disastrous start yesterday against Boston, he had some things to say about the Blue Jays’ new 6-man rotation:

If it were up to Marcum he’d stick to the five-man rotation that yielded four starters with double-digit wins, pitching roughly every fifth game through the end of the season, because that stable routine has bred comfort and success. But after surrendering nine hits, six earned runs and two homers to the Red Sox, Marcum conceded that he lacks the clout to influence the coaching staff’s handling of the team’s young pitchers.

“I’m not Roy Halladay, so I don’t get what I want,” Marcum said with a laugh after Sunday’s game.

The fact the Roy Halladay keeps coming up like this makes me think that there might be something to those early season comments about feeling more comfortable in the dressing room without the Doc there than just trying to make themselves feel better about his departure. Nobody likes working with someone who gets to dictate how the office runs, even if that person is Doc.

But the question at hand is one of rest, or rather performance after too much rest. Is Marcum right?

A quick look at Baseball Reference suggests that he is, but only partially. Toronto starters haven’t performed very differently this year when going on 4 days of rest as compared to 5. The numbers:

4 days’ rest: 417.1 IP, 1.347 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 2.22 K/BB and an opponent OPS of .729
5 days’ rest: 258 IP, 1.333 WHIP, 7.9 K/9, , 2.32 K/BB and an opponent OPS of .711

So the pitchers don’t seem to be affected by pitching in a 6-man rotation as opposed to a 5-man. But the start that led to Marcum’s comments was on 6 days’ rest — the equivalent of pitching in an 7-man rotation. How are the Jays pitchers doing on 6+ days of rest?

6+ days’ rest: 196 IP, 1.393 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 2.11 K/BB, OPS of .780

So it looks like there’s a drop off at the magical number of 6 days’ rest in general, but what about Marcum specifically?

4 days’ rest: 98.1 IP, 1.108 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 3.76 K/BB, .674 OPS
5 days’ rest: 57.2 IP, 1.075 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, 3.73 K/BB, .623 OPS
6+ days’ rest: 25.1 IP, 1.658 WHIP, 6.8 K/9, 3.8 K/BB, .982 OPS

The stats for 6+ days admittedly come with a small sample size, but there seems to be something to his complaint. Maybe Marcum’s a guy who needs routine and suffers when it’s broken. Who knows.

What we do know is that there’s nobody really knows whether limiting innings pitched saves arms or not. Since nobody can say for sure and since the Jays are playing “meaningless” baseball right now (not true, but not the point) it’s better to not take chances. If giving guys extra rest is going to help keep them healthy next year and beyond, there’s no reason not to give them extra rest.

And if Marcum continues to pitch like a little boy instead of a man when he’s he had 6+ days of rest, hopefully the Jays will have a manager who recognizes and works with that kind of thing when they are in a position to compete again.

The summer’s just began and it’s already half over

If you ever find yourself driving through New Brunswick, you’ve got two options: Take the Trans Canada and weave up and down through the province; or you can take the Plaster Rock Highway.

The Plaster Rock Highway is basically a two-lane road that cuts through the wilds of northern New Brunswick. It’s got very little traffic and you can pretty much go as fast as you’d like — as long as you keep an eye out for wildlife roaming out in front of you.

The first time I travelled up that highway, I was probably about 10. And I was bored. All I had to look at on that long drive were trees and the occasional oncoming truck. Then, standing alone in the forest, I saw the Halfway Inn. I thought it was just about the funniest thing ever. I was pretty lame.

The Toronto Blue Jays have reached the halfway point of their season. With a record of 41-40, the team has outperformed almost all predictions of what it’d be all able to achieve this season.

But looking back on the last few seasons, the Jays are pretty much where their recent history suggests they’d be. The following are the team’s records at the halfway point for the last little while:

  • 2009: 42-39
  • 2008: 38-43
  • 2007: 39-42
  • 2006: 46-35
  • 2005: 41-40

So Toronto’s got a history of hovering around the .500 mark at the season’s halfway point. What does that mean? Apart from the fact we’re all a little lucky to back a team that can play at such a level in such a division as the AL East, not much.

What can Jays fans expect in the second half of this season?

The pessimistic answer: As the innings pile up, the talented young starting pitchers get hurt (see: Marcum, Shaun) and/or start getting tired and losing a bit of their mojo. The “OBP is overrated, just grip it and rip it” approach that the manager and the hitting coach have with the offence leads to the team scoring next to no runs as the opposing pitchers adjust and the power all but disappears. Cito continues to piss away games with his poor decision making.

The optimistic answer: The Jays manage to sell high on guys like Bautista and Gonzalez. Trades and the eventual injuries open up spots for the young guys and we get an even better look at the team’s future. Snider returns and doesn’t show any signs of lingering wrist trouble. Hill and Lind finally turn it around and help offset the inevitable slides of most other people on the team. Cito continues to piss away games with his poor decision making.

The bright side of death

The Blue Jays offence is sputtering. Aaron Hill and Adam Lind don’t appear to be snapping out of their funks to save it, either.

Cito Gaston continues to demonstrate what managers are not supposed to do, while the manager of a team the Jays are chasing in the A.L. East may have figured out how to beat Shaun Marcum.

Toronto has lost 6 of its last 7 games. Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox seem to be picking up their games.

Add this up and you get a pretty ugly picture of where the Jays are headed. But who wants to look at that kind of stuff?

I know I’d normally be all doom and gloom in a post like this but, like the song says, “always look on the bright side of death.” So that’s what I’m doing and it’s surprisingly easy.

First off, the Jays weren’t supposed to contend this year. The fact that they’re playing better than .500 is a nice sweet little bonus. So there’s that, but that’s not why I’m excited.

I am excited because over the next three games we get to see Shaun Marcum, Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero pitch. In San Diego. Pitcher’s park of pitcher’s parks. These are guys who usually dominate no matter where they go, but in San Diego? It promises to be an embarrassment of riches.

Sure San Diego is playing really, really well. Sure, the Jays have a history of losing to tonight’s Padres starter — Jon Garland’s got a career record of 11-2 against Toronto. None of that matters. You know why? Because this Jays team is not supposed to win.

Sure, I like to see them win; I’ll likely continued to get aggravated with Cito for his ridiculous decisions; and I’ll likely to continue to complain about lost games that the Jays should have won.

Ultimately though, this is a year about developing players. Toronto’s got a trio of pitchers who are pretty amazing already and now we get to watch them go in Petco. Even if Toronto loses every game 1-0, enjoy it while you can. Marcum, Romero and Cecil should look even more amazing in San Diego.

Toronto fire services

When the Jays signed Kevin Gregg, I didn’t think it was a very good move. Overspending on a reliever who’s been declining for a couple years — in the N.L. Central no less — and counting on that guy to be your closer in the A.L. East? Seems like questionable decision making at the very least.

Then I read Tao’s great post about the Jays’ closer carousel. It reminded me of some thing I’ve said in the past about what teams should be doing with their best relievers — use them when the game’s on the line, not just in the ninth when the most useless of counting stats is at stake. Taking this view, the signing of Gregg is still not a great one, but it’s not as bad as I once thought.

Scott Downs and Jason Frasor free to pitch in high leverage situations that aren’t the ninth inning? Sign me up!

Some other stuff

In case it wasn’t obvious from the above, I don’t have a whole lot to add to the discussion right now. So here are some links!

• Roundtable time and I’m in two of them! Mop Up Duty’s got the first part of their massive 2010 preview roundtable up and Cardinals blog C70 At the Bat has a Jays roundtable up as well. Check them out and marvel at my inconsistency in picking a breakout player for this year!

• Shaun Marcum gets the nod for opening day and the fan club rejoices.

• Star investigative reporting guru does a nice little feature on Toronto’s sabermetrics adviser Tom Tango. It’s a good read and includes the opinion that it’s not always the worst thing in the world if a batter lays down a sac bunt. Heresy!

• Deadspin heaps some disgusting love on Cito, highlights a video of a man in a Cito mask snorting coke and gives some much deserved and undisgusting love to GROF.

Shaun Marcum signs, fan club rejoices

OK, so maybe the second part of the post title is a little bit of an exaggeration. The Shaun Marcum Fan Club is kind of quiet. But what can you expect when the dude’s missed an entire year?

Anyway, if there’s anybody left kicking around that group, you can bet they’re happy today. Shaun Marcum has signed! While it may be a little early to crown him as the Blue Jays’ new No. 1 pitcher, the move is one that fans should be happy with.

During his last full(ish) season with the Jays, North of Steeles was good for north of six innings per start and held opponents to a WHIP of 1.163 during those 25 starts.

While there seems to be a small movement to hand Marcum the opening day start, I don’t think he needs that kind of pressure this year. If I’m running the team, I slot Marcum into the middle of the rotation and let him work his back up to the top. He’s got the talent to do it.

Web design 101 (or why didn’t Janssen pitch last night?)

I’m certainly no expert on web design. If it wasn’t for WYSIWYG sites like wordpress, I wouldn’t have a website to call my own. But I can tell you what not to do if you’re designing a website: Don’t make it look like the site of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

It’s an incredibly ugly and difficult to navigate site, which is why I’m at a loss to explain why Casey Janssen didn’t pitch last night for the Fisher Cats, despite the Union Leader reporting yesterday that he was scheduled to.

As for Shaun Marcum — and the Tao really beat me to the punch on this — his line from last night (3 IP, 5 hits, 4 K, 1 ER) is a good one to remember if you ever feel like discussing why ERA isn’t the best stat on which to judge a pitcher.

Marcum gave up 5 runs on the night, 4 obviously unearned, but the only reason they were unearned is because there was an error committed by shortstop Luis Sanchez with two outs. In a ridiculous quirk of score keeping, any runs scored after a two-out error are considered unearned. So Marcum following the error by allowing an RBI single and then a three-run homer doesn’t add anything to his ERA.

I don’t bring this up to slag Marcum at all. The guy’s coming back from Tommy John surgery and I really, really want to see him succeed, but, as the Tao says, “Let’s not rest our hopes on Shaun Marcum just yet.”