Most fantasy baseball GMs, pundits and baseball fans predicted big things for the Toronto Blue Jays after their amazing off-season. The Blue Jays didnâ€™t rebuild. They reloaded. They brought in three new arms with several high priced bats to add to an already intriguing roster. By all accounts, they won the off-season.
Sadly, trophies arenâ€™t handed out for successful off-seasons. The Blue Jays actually had to play the games and thatâ€™s where everything has gone wrong for them.
The problems start with R.A. Dickey. Dickey was brought in to anchor the starting staff and continue his success after winning the 2012 NL Cy Young Award.
He made it out of an injury-plagued April only to get knocked around in his first start in May.
Dickey was due for some regression after a career year, but no one predicted he would have a 5.06 ERA after six weeks and itâ€™s doubtful that heâ€™ll end up there by the yearâ€™s end.
The problem with evaluating Dickey is that he throws a pitch that no one has ever thrown before. His Angry Knuckler is unique to him and him alone. Itâ€™s impossible to use similar players or past history to predict how Dickey will do because heâ€™s changed the way he throws. When he first started using the knuckler in 2005, he was lobbing it up there with an average velocity of 66.3 MPH. He averaged 77.1 MPH last year.
His velocity is down across the board this year, but itâ€™s more than likely due to the nagging neck and back injuries Dickey has dealt with since the WBC. Heâ€™s struggled with his command so far in 2013 and is walking batters at a 10.8% clip. That number is up from 5.8% during last yearâ€™s Cy Young award season.
Heâ€™s actually not getting killed by balls in play. His .259 BABIP is over 30 points below his career average. His 14.3% HR:FB ratio is only 3% higher than his 11.3% career average. Heâ€™s been a victim of bad timing with a 65.7% strand rate. Thatâ€™s almost 15% below last yearâ€™s career high 80.0%.
Dickeyâ€™s 4.55 xFIP indicates that he hasnâ€™t been good, but heâ€™s not 5.00+ ERA bad. His issues stem from his injuries and finding a â€œfeelâ€ for the Angry Knuckler. Youâ€™re probably saying, â€œFeel? Feel! Slow down there, Hawk Harrelson! Whatâ€™s next? Youâ€™re going to mention his TWTW? This is a sabrmetrics column, idiot.â€ All true, dear reader, even the idiot part, but we can look at Dickeyâ€™s pitch f/x data and see that heâ€™s not getting the same movement on his knuckler that he did last year. The batters have also let Dickey know. Heâ€™s getting fewer whiffs on the knuckler (14.49% last year vs. 11.79% this year) and fewer foul balls on his knuckler (19.38% last year vs. 15.24% this year). Batters are making better contact and having fewer missed swings.
History has told us that the modern R.A. Dickey isnâ€™t this bad. Heâ€™s a decent buy low option, if his health issues have cleared up. Heâ€™s shown the willingness to pitch through injuries before, but this is both a blessing and a curse. Heâ€™ll stay on the field, but his effectiveness may be limited. No word on his TWTW factor…yet.
The other issue surrounding the Blue Jays is their offense.
Melky Cabrera has regressed to bad Melky. Braves 2010 Melky. BABIP isnâ€™t an issue. He currently owns a .305 BABIP for 2013 and a .309 mark for his career. The problem is that his ISO has plunged to .076 and his HR:FB ratio is only 2.6%. His career average ISO is .127 and his career average HR:FB ratio is 7.2%, but what makes these numbers scary is that we have seen Melky be this bad over a full year as recently as 2010. He ended the 2010 season with a .098 ISO and a 3.1% HR:FB ratio. Heâ€™s not going to hit for much power, heâ€™s not going to steal bases. Heâ€™s empty batting average. Heâ€™s Marco Scutaro in the outfield. That’s not a compliment.
Colby Rasmus is playing like a guy who really wants to spend a couple years bouncing around the independent and/or Asian leagues. He owns a 41.5% K %. Heâ€™s making the walk of shame back to the dugout more often than Chris Carter and Adam Dunn. Should Rasmus keep his job for a full year, heâ€™s a legit threat to demolish Mark Reynolds single-season strikeout record by late August.
One of the few saving graces for the Blue Jaysâ€™ offense has been J.P. Arencibia,Â but Arencibia owns a limp .721 OPS. Sounds a little low for a guy with nine homers, right? The issue is that his walk rate has plunged from really mediocre (4.8% last year) to shockingly bad (1.4% this year). His swing metrics are about what would be expected for a guy with two walks in 142 PAâ€™s. Heâ€™s swinging more, making contact less and his swinging strike percentage is up. It basically confirms that heâ€™s in â€œI donâ€™t care if I end up in Syracuse Iâ€™m going out swinginâ€™!â€ mode. Thereâ€™s a very good chance that Arencibia could wind up being the â€œdo you believe this guy made an all-star teamâ€ (a.k.a, the Bryan Lahair award) guy for 2013 if he keeps hitting homers.
Meanwhile throughout all of this turmoil, Jose Bautista is continuing to mash. His run production numbers are down, but thatâ€™s caused by the guys around him. Joey Bats is putting together a solid/Joey Bats season. His K% and BB% are within a standard deviation of his career averages. Itâ€™s hard to find an advanced metric that indicates there are any concerns for Bautista. The only concern is that he starts to get the Barry Bonds treatment because the guys hitting around him have been so mediocre.
One of the few useful guys hitting behind Bautista has beenÂ Adam Lind. Lind is a fantasy baseball zombie. He’s been dead and buried for the past few seasons, but he’s baaaaa-aaaaaack. Lind isnâ€™t hitting for much power (only two homers in 89 PAâ€™s), but he is getting on base at an amazing rate. Lind owns an 18.0% BB%. Heâ€™s never posted a double digit total in any season at the major league level. Both his swinging strike % (6.3%) and his contact % (36.3%) are both career lows by wide margins. Heâ€™s making contact at about the same rate (83.3% contact rate this year vs. 81.1% for his career) and heâ€™s making the same kind of contact (1.17 GB:FB ratio this year vs. 1.19 for his career)
Why should fantasy GMs be interested in this guy? Heâ€™s shown better plate discipline and his HR:FB ratio is only 8.3%. Lind hasnâ€™t had a season under 10% since 2006. Lind has completely altered his approach and could be in for a boost in power numbers if a few more fly balls managed their way into the cheap seats.