On the state of the season

By: Aaron Percival

30 April 2013

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I debated putting this post up with no text; the above image pretty much conveys my thoughts on the season so far.

My thoughts after the jump.

Listen, I enjoy watching baseball. Win or lose. I enjoying watching the game. It’s a game where best hitters fail 70% of the time. It’s a game where the best teams loose 72 games in a season. Sweating each loss, each frozen rope hit right to the other team’s defence, each strike out, and on, and on, will make for a very long and frustrating season.

To be completely honest, I’d have to guess at the Jays’ record: 9-16? I just checked. It’s actually 9-17. I couldn’t tell you how many games the Jays are out of the division lead (9 games? actually 9.5) or a wildcard (6.5 games? actually 6). The numbers really don’t matter at this point.

But, I’ll admit it: I’m disappointed. Repeating the words, “Don’t worry, it’s only been [insert early season time-frame]” is getting awfully tiring. We’re now a month into the season. Things aren’t looking very good, are they? Even the always sensible Andrew Stoeten is starting to believe what April’s record means. Over at ESPN ($), FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron tells us about the difficult (but not unprecedented) next five months. Verdict: The Jays are going to have to play very good baseball, especially against the division.

Baseball Prospectus compiles season results based on runs for, runs against, and quality of competition.  It releases updated rankings in their daily Hit List ($). The Jays currently rank 26th, ahead for only the Cubs, Padres, Astros, and Marlins.

What’s going on? Let’s have a look at how the hitting and pitching has been thus far…

I’ve created the following three plots to give a visual representation of where the Jays are sitting compared to the other thirty teams. In each, being at the top (close to one) is better for the particular stat. For the stats that indicate luck, like BABIP, being at the top means lucky and being at the bottom means unlucky.

(click any to biggify!)

Batters:

Batter-April30-13

For those who have watched more than 25 innings of the Jays this season, a few things on this plot are obvious: The Jays aren’t getting on base; most of the offence is coming from the long-ball. The team is not scoring runs. They are ranked 23rd in runs per game and 27th in wRC+—which measures run production adjusted for league.  This leaves a lot of room for improvement. The team is striking out a lot (25th in the league) and not walking (21st). More still, the team has been near the bottom of the league in fielding (26th). The all encompassing WAR ranks them third worst overall.

Positives? Sure! I was surprised to see that they ranked 7th in pitches per plate appearance. They’re also ranked dead last—dead last!—in BABIP. Anecdotally, it’s true. It has seemed like they haven’t been able to catch a break: hard  balls hit right at fielders, bloopers just within reach…

Starting Pitchers:

SP-April30-13

….not good.

The starters are ranked at the bottom in a lot of categories. Being ERA (28th) and FIP (25) doesn’t paint a great picture. They’ve given up a lot of hits, home runs, and walks, while not striking out many of batters. They’re also not making it far into games, being ranked 25th in innings pitched per start. BABIP is a little unlucky, which could be offset by a high LOB% (left on base).

Relief Pitchers:

RP-April30-13
The bullpen was the big question mark going into the season, but as you can see is the only part of the team playing above league average. The only sore point is seen in the first few data points above;  The Pen ranks highly in usage: 8th in appearances, 8th in innings, and 9th in total pitches.  As we saw above, starters aren’t going deep into games and this is translating into more work for the relief corps.  Hopefully this doesn’t translate into fatigue (or worse, injury) later in the season.

There you have it.  The new look lineup?  Vastly underperforming.  The new look rotation?  Vastly underperforming.   It’s not all doom and gloom.  There’s talent on this team.  The next five months will be all uphill.  The three plots above?  Those data point are going to have to move significantly higher—with haste.

Could it start tonight?  Absolutely.  Look at the schedule over the next two week:  Boston twice, The Rays (and the Mariners).  I, for one, won’t be piling on the coaches or the players.

Go-Jays-Go.

My advice: Grab a beer (or soda), sit back, and enjoy the game they call baseball.

References and Resources:

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