Scoops at First-August 29th

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The goal of every blog on the internet is to deliver the best content to you, the reader, at all times. However, in the blogosphere, many articles get written that might get missed and lost in the shuffle of the eternally updating internet. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some of the best articles of the last week, let’s get to some baseball links!

Blue Jays Links
Drew Fairservice of FanGraphs has a solid piece on Colby Rasmus, and trying to figure out who he is and will be as a hitter. He’s been extremely inconsistent as a hitter, from being a star in 2010 and 2013 to hitting rock bottom in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He’s a free agent after this year, and Drew tries to figure out the best comp for him. He compares him to six guys, and he’s similar to all them, but in different ways. With his performance being so bi-polar, it’s very difficult to project him and comp him, but the best comp looks like it would be Michael Saunders, as Drew notes.  It’s difficult to know whether Rasmus and the Jays will part ways, as it depends on if Alex Anthopoulos wants to stay internal for his outfield next year, or look for reinforcements on the free agent market. Melky Cabrera seems like a preference over Rasmus, which makes it even unlikelier that he’ll stay, unless AA really believes in Rasmus’ ability to produce(consistently) and stay healthy. We’ll see.

Shi Davidi at Sportsnet has a good article on the Jays’ lack of depth that keeps hurting them year in, year out, and this year is no exception. The Jays limited depth has caused players like Cole Gillespie, Chris Getz, Jonathan Diaz and Steve Tolleson to get playing time. He mentions this as to one of the reasons why the Jays have been so poor in August. It’s inevitable that players will get injured, yet the Jays still seemingly haven’t learned that it might be a good idea  to shore up on some positions, instead of relying on replacement players when an injury arises.

Sean Cunningham has a great piece at Amazin’ Avenue on rooting for your team when they are out of a playoff spot and extremely close to being in a position for a protected pick. While the piece is Mets-centered and not really a “Blue Jays link”, it very much applies to the Jays, as they are in the exact same situation as the Mets. They are all but eliminated from the playoffs after a horrible month of August, and are relatively close to a protected pick(2.5% chance of making the playoffs according to FanGraphs, and 5.5 games ahead of a protected pick). I come away with the same conclusion as Sean(read the article to see!), but then again Rogers refuses to spend money(see: last year when they had a protected pick and did absolutely nothing with it). So I’d love a protected pick, but with the way the Jays and Rogers work, I don’t know if it will be put to good use, or any use at all.

Jamie Ross of MLB.com has a cool piece on Marcus Stroman, as he interviews Stroman, and looks at his pitch mix, getting inside his head about how he uses each pitch. It’s interesting to hear how he uses each of his 6 pitches, which are all accompanied by GIFs. A very well written piece, with GIFs and a video at the top of Stroman showing grips is pretty great.

MLB Links
Scott Lindholm of Beyond the Box Score has an interesting piece on player performance based on their pace. He finds that players with a slower pace tend to perform better, whereas players with a faster pace are collectively below-average. It’s new and thought-provoking research, and definitely something MLB should take into consideration when they look at adding a pitch clock, something the Internet has been talking about lot about lately.

Great stuff at Grantland, where Ben Lindbergh writes about situational hitting and beating the shift.  He looks at different cases where situational hitting commonly takes place, and sees how hitters adjust. He then looks at how hitters adjust to the shift and finds something very eye-catching. Hitters actually pull the ball more when the shift is on than not. He finds that it’s because pitchers change location and pitch usage in effort to get the batter to pull the ball into the shift. So it’s really the pitchers adjusting to the shift, not the hitters. That makes Lindbergh (and readers) wonder if hitters will try and adjust and use the whole field more when placed against a shift. As the shift gets more popular, you’d have to think so, but as Lindbergh notes, it’s getting harder. Definitely go ahead and read the piece, as it’s very well done.

David Laurila of FanGraphs has a terrific interview with C.J Wilson of the Angels. Wilson sheds light on many things about pitching. You will learn a whole lot about pitching from this interview, as Wilson goes a to z on pitching. Definitely check that out.

That will end this week’s edition of Scoops at First. If you have any links that you think deserve to be in next week’s edition of Scoops at First, just tweet me them @dshemie8 or email them to us at contact@bluejaysplus.com!

Under The Hood: Brett Lawrie and Oblique Injuries

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On August 5th Brett Lawrie made his return to the Blue Jays lineup after missing 36 games with a broken finger, but before he could take his second at bat, he was removed from the game. Fans hearts were crushed yet again. He had suffered an oblique injury; the third in his short career and second in as many seasons. Since Lawrie hit the DL for a second time, I’ve stumbled across hundreds of conversations regarding the oblique’s and theories around his injury history. What I’ve discovered is that there is a vast misconception about oblique injuries, in how they occur, and how they can be prevented through training.

The “core” has multiple responsibilities. It not only controls all movement in the body, it also protects the hips, spine, shoulders etc. from injury. Additionally, it acts as an absorber of tremendous forces. When a player is swinging and the front leg lands, it halts the tremendous rotational velocity in the hips. The hips rotate at an incredible 714 degrees per second. Lawrie is both a right-handed hitter and thrower. We all know that he hurls his body with full force into almost everything he does. Let’s consider the extreme internal rotation during a swing such as Lawrie’s.

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Scoops at First- August 22nd

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The goal of every blog on the internet is to deliver the best content to you, the reader, at all times. However, in the blogosphere, many articles get written that might get missed and lost in the shuffle of the eternally updating internet. With that in mind, I’ve compiled some of the best articles of the last week, let’s get to some baseball links!

Blue Jays Links
Marc Normandin of SB Nation looks at the Jays horrendous month of August ( the losing streak ended on Wednedsay, finally), and how it was the worst time to start losing, as they were right in the thick of the second wildcard race. Though a comeback isn’t impossible, the team has itself dug a pretty big hole, and with their current crop of players, it won’t be easy, to say the least. Through Thursday, FanGraphs gives the Jays a 7.3% chance to make the playoffs. In other words, they have a very tough road to climb.

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An In Depth Look at Batted Balls and the Blue Jays Pitching Staff

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In the offseason I wrote a pair of pieces that reviewed the 2013 Blue Jays pitching staff using the advanced metric bbFIP.  If you click either of the two links above, you’ll get a good picture of what bbFIP is and why it’s important, but I’ve also included a brief synopsis of what bbFIP includes…taken from the two aforementioned pieces.

For those of you who have read my work before, either at runsbattedout.com or Halo Hangout on the Fansided network, you are likely aware of bbFIP and the methodology behind the new metric. For those of you who aren’t aware, here is a link to a more detailed breakdown. For now, here is a simple breakdown: bbFIP is predicated on the belief that not all pitchers induce the same type of contact that other fielding independent pitching metrics tend to infer by regressing BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play). Regular FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) looks at unintentional free bases, strikeouts and homeruns to evaluate a pitchers performance, bbFIP uses 6: unintentional free bases, strikeouts, groundballs, linedrives, flyballs and popups.

Fairly obvious is that strikeouts and popups are good results and that free bases and linedrives are bad results. In the middle are groundballs and flyballs. These are taken into account, but not with the same severity as the previously mentioned results, with groundballs being good and flyballs being evil. The one problem with bbFIP is that even though groundballs and flyballs are viewed correctly in a general sense, it doesn’t work perfectly for all pitchers. Pitchers who induce lots of lazy flyballs are penalized for something that isn’t necessarily a bad result, while the inverse is true for groundballs. With groundballs, some pitchers get good credit for hard hit groundballs that actually go for hits. Unfortunately, at the moment there is no good way around this as the public does not have access to Hit F/x.

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One At-Bat: Brandon Kintzler vs. Jose Bautista

Now that the Blue Jays have won a game, and did so in comeback fashion, I feel like it’s time for another One At-Bat. If you would like to relive one of the many losses of the last two weeks, go read somebody else’s column. I’m here to talk about a time when things turned out the way I wanted, the rest of the week can be dismissed.

This week’s one at bat comes to us from the 6th inning of Wednesday August 20th. Is it August 20th already? Crap. Okay, well, this confrontation is from the last game of an abysmal road trip, and the Jays are trying to salvage a little pride or something. The previous night the Blue Jay offense managed two hits. In nine innings. Arf.

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The Blue Jays, Maple Leafs, & Adapting to Analytics in Sports

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Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs, long heralded as the Philadelphia Phillies of the National Hockey League when it comes to advanced statistics, by me at least, created a brand new analytics department, hiring 3 prominent advanced stats analysts from the interwebs. This series of moves comes almost one month after the Leafs hired Kyle Dubas, also known as a big #FancyStats guy, to be an AGM for the team. Don’t close this page yet, because this really isn’t about the Leafs. What I am writing about is how the Leafs, led by their new president Brendan Shanahan, have been able to adapt to the times. Instead of sticking to their old, pre-historic ways, they have basically cornered the market on advanced hockey statistics personnel. Do they still have a terrible GM and coach in Dave Nonis and Randy Carlye? Yes. But now they also have a foundation on which they can build a winning team the right way. This brings me to the Blue Jays…

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Has There Really Been a “Philosophy Change” in the Blue Jays Farm System?

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On Saturday, an article was published on JaysJournal by Ryan Mueller that talked about how the Blue Jays have been more aggressive with their minor league promotions this season, and came to the conclusion that there has been a shift in the philosophy change of the organization. Although the article was very well written, I tend to disagree with that conclusion.

Mueller states the following as the reason why Alex Anthopoulous and Co. have been so aggressive with the players this season:

I believe something WAS indeed said to Alex during trade talks that’s caused him to aggressively promote some of the Jays higher ceiling pitchers since.

Why would we assume that is the truth, when there are much clearer reasons as to why the prospects were promoted?

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Maybe Some of us Need a Break Too

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A little after the halfway point in the baseball season, baseball sends ninety percent of its players home. The other ten percent or so all travel to one MLB city as a showcase for the best the game has to offer. Those players are happy to be there, sure, but those who are left out, the journeymen and rookies, they are happy, too. In the middle of a stretch of six or seven months of work, it is their only chance to get consecutive days off. Announcers will joke around and say that the All-Star break ‘feels like a two week vacation’ for a player.

This makes sense to me. The daily grind of batting practice, fielding drills, bullpen sessions, time in the video room, and then three hours of intense concentration is bound to have its effects. Fatigue, lethargy, a loss of passion and desire. Leaving out the physical pounding of the everyday athlete, (American football offers a week or two of recovery after every ‘performance’), the mental monotony takes it’s toll. A vacation is a great way to break it up and come back refreshed.

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Can we Believe in Anthony Gose’s On Base Skills?

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The Blue Jays are in the midst of their best most magical season since 1993, and although the team on the field right now looks good, in just a year from now, it could be a whole different story. Colby Rasmus, the Blue Jays current centre fielder, will be a free agent after the season, and with every passing day it looks as if he will not be back in Toronto come April 2015. It isn’t because of salary restrictions or because he’s been so wildly inconsistent since being traded to the Blue Jays over 4 years ago, it’s because Anthony Gose has looked like the player Blue Jays fans were expecting to show up in 2012, when Gose was named the 39th best prospect in the game by Baseball America. Gose, who turned only 24 years old two days ago, isn’t hitting the cover off the ball, as his 82 wRC+ (which denotes that Anthony is producing offence at a rate 18% worse than the league average batter), but he is getting on base, and with his skillset, that is just fine.

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