Blue Jays News & Notes | August 24th
(Title photo courtesy James G, https://www.flickr.com/photos/james_in_to/)
Breaking Blue hasn’t really covered this 2015 season from a game-to-game point of view, for a few reasons. We’re not going to be the ones providing the news (for that, there is Shi Davidi and the Sportsnet crew), or the ones quickly providing a forum for analysis and discussion of that news like bloggers such as Andrew Stoeten and fansites like Bluebird Banter are, and of course we’re usually doing other stuff during the day. We’re interested in stepping back and writing about larger trends while doing original research about the Blue Jays and baseball as a whole.
With that said, it makes sense to introduce a feature in which we can comment on current Blue Jays news stories and offer bits of opinion from an analytically-oriented point of view. I’d like to do these weekly but the door is open for more frequent updates. The idea is that they are points that aren’t developed enough to deserve their own post. So here is the Blue Jays News & Notes for the week starting today, August 24th.
– If Marcus Stroman is ready to re-enter the starting rotation in mid-September (as is the plan, apparently), the team should consider moving RA Dickey or Marco Estrada to the bullpen instead of the much-maligned Drew Hutchison (who is currently sitting in Buffalo). Obviously, there is much that will unfold between now and the point at which Stroman is ready and the team may find it easier to move Hutch to the bullpen because of his profile and for clubhouse reasons. But, Hutchison’s peripherals this year and his projections going forward suggest that he is the best bet out of the three.
Marco Estrada cannot be expected to continue suppressing home runs at the rate he has. His 7.7% HR/FB is well below his career rate of 11.1% and pitchers in general do not have true talent HR/FB rates that stray far from the league average (usually around 10%). RA Dickey’s knuckleball may allow him to maintain low BABIPs and that along with his good defense likely allows him to beat defense-independent estimates. However, his defense-independent numbers still matter and this year they have not been pretty. His actual runs allowed totals have not been great, either. Drew Hutchison’s .339 BABIP does not remotely describe his true talent BABIP allowed skill and we should not expect his poor performance with runners on base to continue.
The Steamer projection system believes Hutchison is a 4.05 ERA pitcher going forward, Dickey is a 4.32 ERA pitcher, and Estrada 4.40. Steamer uses relevant historical data to evaluate the outlooks of players, and does a good job at that. These projections back up the defense-independent numbers (e.g. xFIP).
– Following the games of August 23rd, the Blue Jays sit first in Baseball Prospectus’s World Series odds, with an 14.5% chance. BP projects the team to win 90.2 games, having a 60.2% chance of edging the Yankees for the division crown. Fangraphs has similar rates, saying the Jays have a 58.4% chance of winning the AL East.
– Josh Donaldson now leads the American League in Wins Above Replacement, according to Fangraphs, at 7.2. This means that the events he has created at the plate and on the bases, and the plays he has been a part of with the glove, can be expected to have contributed 7.2 wins over a replacement player.
This does not necessarily mean that Donaldson deserves the MVP or has passed Mike Trout — baseball analytics expert Mitchel Lichtman notes that WAR isn’t specifically geared for answering MVP questions and so isn’t particularly relevant.
– Blue Jays fans can stop asking themselves how the team would look if Edwin Encarnacion was hitting. With a big weekend, he is now up to a 135 wRC+ on the season, exactly what projections have him at going forward and only a tick below what was expected of him by projections pre-season. Edwin is having a typical season for him.
– Devon Travis’ injuries this season will prevent us from having a firm grip on who he actually is. Entering the season, opinions on Travis were divided and while he has produced very well this season and kept second base from being such a negative for the team as it had been in years past, Travis has only recorded 238 PA and Steamer and ZiPS don’t believe he is a league-average bat. They still project him very well for a second baseman and the team is fine to enter 2016 with him manning the keystone. Still, what he’ll produce in 2016 is very much up in the air.
– Russell Martin’s season has cooled greatly, coinciding with nagging injuries. Martin is a great catcher and the Jays should be happy to have him around and in the lineup, but having Thole in the majors (especially with expanded September rosters coming up) to catch RA Dickey is probably the right idea.