Here it is, Blue Jays fans, the first edition of the Blue Jays from Away Mailbag, which I’m sure you’ve all been awaiting with baited breath. In it, Shaun Doyle and I will answer your burning questions about the Blue Jays, their minor league teams and baseball in general, serious or otherwise!
Question #1 comes from @Pierce_Jenn:
What is the most ridiculous stat that is tracked in baseball?
In an era of “Moneyball” and Sabermetrics, we are overwhelmed with numbers. Our society has become (or so we think) so good at quantifying everything. And, can you blame us? If a player is going to make $25M per season, we want to know if it is actually worth it. As such, we also want to know if we can better spend our money. Or, not spend it at all. So, we use math to evaluate a player’s value and compare it to the potential return. Baseball is unique in that it is next to impossible to get this down to an exact science. There has yet to be a 100% fool proof way of predicting success. Which is why it is so much fun to debate numbers.
Having said that, I think the most over-rated stat in baseball might be one of the most common. The pitchers’ earned run average (ERA) might just be my pick for most ridiculous stat. Given that we’ve evolved into a point where we can isolate specific numbers for pitchers, why do we still use the oversimplified ERA? Though complicated (at least for me), we can see where a pitcher stands against the average pitcher and the runs he allows (RA9), the wins he generates (WAA), etc. There are so many factors that play into the ERA that it cannot be really taken seriously. We can even adjust for ballpark factors. For hitters, we can see how much better they are versus their replacement. In fact with WAA, WL% (Win-Loss % with average team) we can see a players value if he were on an “average” team. What winning percentage does he add?
After looking at all of this, though perhaps it is not ERA that is ridiculous. Maybe we’ve gone so far into stats that we’ve created an over complicated examination of a beautiful game. Maybe we should just enjoy it for what it is and leave the calculators out of it.
In case you’re wondering, Baseball-Almanac.com has a page about baseball stats, their definitions and formulas.
While doing some research for this question, I did come across some “odd” stats. Over at Buzz Feed Sports, Summer Anne Burton gives a list of odd baseball facts. It is worth a look. It includes tidbits like Babe Ruth‘s (whom many consider to be the greatest player of all time) highest salary was the equivelant of $1.1M, or roughly 1/4 that of J.A. Happ. Yikes. You should see the “catcher’s aparatus” on Burton’s list.
Which Jay holds the weirdest stat/record?
Our friends at Wikipedia.com provide a list of Toronto Blue Jays Records. On it you will find team and individual stats throughout the Blue Jays’ history. Of note are:
–Tony Fernandez played the most games as a Blue Jay- 1450. He also has the most hits- 1583
–Carlos Delgado holds the top spot in a number of areas. Some surprises- total bases-2786, strike outs- 1242, runs created- 1077, times on base-2362, hit by pitch-122.
–Vernon Wells grounded into the most double plays- 146
–Dave Stieb has the most complete games- 103!
–Juan Guzman threw the most wild pitches- 88
–A.J. Burnett allowed the most stolen bases- 71! From 2006-2008.
-In 1982, Jim Clancy made the most starts in Blue Jays history- 40! That same year Stieb pitched an amazing 19 complete games! The 2014 Blue Jays would kill for that kind of pitching stability.
-In 1993, Duane Ward finished an incredible 70 games.
– The Blue Jays hold the record for longest Opening Day game in MLB history: 16 innings vs Cleveland (April 5, 2012)
One “odd” (and by “odd” I mean “surprisingly unusual”) record the Blue Jays hold is one they set just this season. On April 27, they started 6 players from the Dominican Republic- Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Juan Francisco, Moises Sierra were all in the lineup to face Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox.
Well, I’m not a huge historian but if you ever want to find obscure stats and weird info, check out Baseball Reference’s Play Index and you can find all kinds of wacky things but for most of them, you have to subscribe to their service.
As far as stats that I think are ridiculous, I think some of the old-school counting stats can be overused in this new era of understanding baseball. I think saves are pretty useless to tell you much more than how a pitcher was used and in which situations. Likewise with pitcher wins. A guy can pitch horribly but get through five innings and pick up a win because he has a big lead and the manager keeps him in the game. Likewise a pitcher can be brilliant, only allow a run due to fielders’ errors and still get the loss because the bats didn’t come through for him.
While some might disagree, I think that RBI is a useful stat, mainly because it is descriptive: it tells you what happened (as opposed to predictive stats which are designed to tell you what is likely to happen). Some players are able to make a conscious effort to hit the ball with the goal of bringing a run in when they’re in RBI situations and the most successful ones have a knack of driving in runs. Using RBI, we can look back at a game, a season or a career and see if players were able to help their team by producing runs when they had the opportunities. An RBI machine might not be the best hitter, objectively, but they are certainly taking advantage of opportunities when presented which is not an easy thing to do.
Our second question comes to us from John Anderson, pitcher for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats:
Youch! There’s a controversial question if I’ve ever seen one. Have you ever noticed how people who are particularly athletically gifted are also gifted in the looks category? Hang around a minor league baseball team and it’s no wonder that most of these gents have hit the genetic lottery. I’ll throw out a name from the past though. Otis Nixon. ‘Nuff said.
Wow. It would be easy to answer, but I’m going to keep positive. Telling people they’re ugly is like telling water it’s wet. Trust me, they know. So, I’m not going near that one….However, I will go the opposite direction: I think there are a lot of “charmers” in the Blue Jays organization. Here are a few: Jose Reyes. His smile is all it takes. He could be stealing my car, as long as he’s smiling, I’d give him the keys. Sergio Santos has a very strong looking jaw, if you’re into that sort of thing. Kevin Pillar has very nice eyes. But, none of them even come close to the Canadian Bacon, Brett Lawrie. That guy, he’s got it all: looks, physique and personality.
[Ed. Note: Sounds like Shaun’s got a man-crush . . . ]
Question #3 is a great one from Toronto Media Guy:
Great question, TMG. Short answer: No. Shameless Plug: I just talked to Tyler Murray, the Dunedin Blue Jays’ radio announcer (check out the interview on the next podcast coming up this week) and we definitely touched on Daniel Norris. So, if you’re looking for some D. Norris love, check it out, probably on Monday.
Even if Aaron Sanchez doesn’t completely harness his command, his stuff is the kind you dream on and that’s what watching and projecting prospects is all about: potential. Sanchez’s stuff is downright filthy and if he learns to command his pitches, he has, by far, the highest upside in the organization. Even if he’s still walking four batters per nine innings, he’s going to be an effective big league starter because he’s so tough to hit. He has so much movement on his pitches that it’s incredibly difficult for hitters at any level to square up his pitches. For Sanchez, it’s a matter of throwing enough quality strikes to get the hitters to swing.
Norris looks like he’s turned a big corner, reining in his previously wilder mechanics and finding his fastball command. He’s posting his lowest walk rate of his career (2.5 BB/9) and the highest strikeout rate (10.8 K/9), showing four big league calibre pitches in the process. Having seen Norris’s development first-hand over the past calendar year, I think that he looks like he’s in complete control on the mound even if he’s got runners on. He’s very confident and collected and it looks to me like he’s putting everything together. I think Norris gets another month of Dunedin innings under his belt and moves up to New Hampshire at the mid-season break (in mid-June).
That said, Sanchez’s upside is so high that most prospect watchers will give him the top spot on the virtue of that alone. He’s still very young (21 until July 1) and if he doesn’t figure out his command this year, it’s definitely not too late. I think that Sanchez will still be more highly regarded than Norris no matter what happens this season.
Who are these players? Find out in The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com for $7.99 US. It’s coming soon to Amazon, Apple iBooks, Kobo and other fine retailers. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page! If you like us here,“like” us on Facebook!
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