Saturday, August 4, 2012

Alex Anthopoulos: Jedi or Jabba?

Jedi knight, show us the force

With the Jays in their worst position in the season, the blame game has begun. Why aren't the Jays going to make the post-season this year? Why are they doing poorly? Some fans point at Alex Anthopoulos.

Is it Alex' fault that the Jays are not at the top of the wild card standings? Is Alex truly a Jedi knight, or is he Jabba the Hut?

The answer is kind of complex, having to do with grouping of poor individual performances, alot of injuries, and a couple of key pieces missing from the Jays puzzle that put the Jays behind the curve as the season began.

No one really stepped up to fill the left-field role. You can cry for the return of Eric Thames, but look at his stats for May when he bat .193. You can cry for the return of Travis Snider, but really, the Jays really never saw eye-to-eye with him, and the timing was off, and I think there were alot of issues with Travis and the Jays that we probably never found out about.

And Adam Lind failed to perform at 1B, forcing Edwin to play the position and leave the team short a DH, leaving 1B / DH short. Those two key positional players who are supposed to hit a ton were missing from the season. You can't blame AA for not using Lind at 1B -- he had a terrific spring training. And all of the fandom was pretty comfortable with Thames in left with Snider waiting in the wings, and Ben Francisco and the speedy Rajai Davis as backups. And the Jays scored Omar Visquel, a very strong hall of fame veteran presence. Jeff Mathis finished the bench as the backup catcher.

And finally, the starting pitching didn't hold out. Morrow and Romero started off looking decent. Romero never really was an ace this year, but Morrow started to really bring his best game starting in May. Drabek and Hutchinson were never very good, but Hutchinson was improving, and Alverez was doing as expeted. Cecil wasn't performing, Litsch got insured, and so did McGowan, so a promising pitching staff in spring training didn't pan out, at all. Then came the injuries that decimating the Jays pitching staff.

This year is supposed to be a development year for JP Arencibia and Brett Lawrie, and fans accepted that. And absolutely, it was supposed to be developmental years for Henderson Alvarez, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchinson. The Jays tried to replace Rauch / Francisco with Cordero / Santos.

You can't get upset at AA's procurement of Cordero. His last year with Cincinnati was great, sporting a WHIP of 1.029 over 68 starts and an ERA of 2.45. And you really can't fault him for getting Santos either who had 30 saves (6 blown) for the White Sox last year. Only a crystal ball would tell you that Santos would end up hurt and Cordero would end up as a completely ineffetive closer. Since he was taken out of the closer role in early May, he did okay until the end of June with an ERA of 1.75 but a WHIP over 1.3. Still, not as advertised.

The Jays had a need for a centerfielder last year, and they got that with Colby Rasmus. An excellent defender, his bat has been pretty inconsistent. In the last half of July since the all star break, he hit a paltry .152 / .194 / .242 yet managed to hit 11 RBIs in that time (over 10 hits). The trade price for Rasmus was Octavio Dotel who is pitching well for Detroit and Mark Rzepczynski who is pitching not-so-well for St. Louis. We could have used Edwin Jackson.

The #2 for #2 (Hill for Johnson) trade in which the Jays also lost Johnny Mac I think turned out lousy. I think that Aaron Hill is just as good a defender as Johnson, and both Johnny Mac and Hill are hitting very well for Arizona this year. I guess if you have the question of whether you would rather have Johnny McDonald or Omar Visquel here, the sentimental choice is Johnny Mac every time.

Then you look at the Brett Wallace for Anthony Gose trade. Brett Wallace was more MLB ready than Gose, but Anthopoulos was looking for talent in center field, thinking that Lind would be the every day 1B or that Encarnacion or even Cooper could play 1st. Gose is lightning fast however, and probably Gose's value is higher than Wallace, as the positional demands of CF are much higher than 1B, and there was no room on the team for all three of Lind, Encarnacion and Wallace. The strategy was to let Gose brew in AAA for 2012 and have him come in as an outfielder in 2013, perhaps replacing Rajai Davis, perhaps moving Colby to left. But with Bautista hurt and the trade of Snider and Thames, Gose is playing in the outfield, but he isn't completely cooked yet, I think.

Finally, you look at the moves made this year to acquire JA Happ, Carpenter and Brandon Lyon trading away minor prospects, Cordero and Francisco. I think it was the right move to make to shore up a bullpen that is short Santos, Perez, and Villanueva. Cordero simply wasn't working out. Lyon is a good reliever and JA Happ is a candidate for a #5 starter (#5 only) should one of the starters really fail. And you look at the trade deadline to deal Snider and Thames for two more relievers, thus shoring up the bullpen and making it look significantly better and different than the rest of the season. Janssen is now the closer. You have a starting pitcher in Happ, who was not good this year but could be very good again.

The trades for Thames and Snider have been analyzed quite fully in the media. We saw Brad Lincoln last night throw four shutout frames, and if this is what we get from him in the bullpen (and according to him, that's where he wants to be), I think the fandom will be happy indeed. Delabar hasn't pitched very well yet, but most analysts think that Thames would be an average left-field, at best.

If you want to criticize Anthopoulos, then you gotta criticize the entire organization. Anthopoulos is forced to be smart and thrifty in his contracts and his trades because frankly, Rogers Communications doesn't want to deal with a contract like Vernon Wells or Alex Rios (though Rios is having a great year this year, he stunk last year). Anthopoulos can't go out and make 7 year $120 million dollar deals and that puts him at a disadvantage in the AL East (except Tampa). Bautista, who is a marquee player, is the most expensive player on the team with a 5 year, $65 million dollar contract that expires in 2015, and that is extremely cheap. Encarnacions 3 year $29 million deal -- also cheap.

One thing that we can fault Anthopoulos for is the gamble he made to not get a veteran starter in his rotation in the off season. One thing that we can probably guess on is that he tried. The gamble didn't pay off. Dustin McGowan, the club's projected #3 or #4 starter, never made a start. But still, most fans and analysts felt that the pitching staff was a gamble, too young, and not ready. If the Jays are not to make the post season this year, that choice can be pinned on Anthopoulos. But really, everything else he has done (under the conditions he could have done it) has been great. And you can't blame the Jays woes now on Anthopoulos -- that is purely a function of injuries.

So, I'm going to go with guru. When he gets players, the deal is never expected, really. The deals come literally at you from left field. The deals are thrifty and fulfills long term needs. Alex' failure to get a great starter is probably due to Rogers not wanting to pay the money for a long term contract that might turn out to be an albatross combined with him not wanting to rent a player who won't get the team into the post-season anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment