Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How to Go About "Going For It"

Photo Courtesy of Reuters Pictures via DayLife
On Saturday Jon Morosi had an interesting column over at Fox Sports that included a couple key quotes from Blue Jays superstar Jose Bautista.  The quote that was most notable (and most tweeted (over and over and over)) was the one in which the star player of a baseball team urges his front office to and I quote "go for it". Shocker. 

You may think this is going to be some angry blog post talking about how much I disagree with Jose Bautista, but actually for once I agree with a player's belief that the Jays should "go for it". Depending on your fandom and optimism levels you might think I'm A) A Homer or B) An Idiot, but I can assure you that I am neither.

The subset reasoning behind such a belief is that as stupid as it may sound the Jays need to appease the fan base. In most cases the blogger and sabrmetrician in me would scoff at such a statement and probably tell myself to throw away such a cockamamy idea never to be gazed upon again. However in this particular case there is a couple of things I would like to point out. 

The Blue Jays average attendance this year sits firmly at 27,285 people per game. Last year the Blue Jays average attendence going in to the 40th home game of the season was only 21,152 people per game and that number only rose to 22,446 by the end of the 2011 season. The Blue Jays attendance this year is the highest it has been since 2008.

As well not only has the attendance been better, but so too has the influence. There were a couple of stories at the beginning of the year highlighting the fact that the Blue Jays were the talk of the town and to at least my surprise that interest has seemed to have carried through thus far. People are coming down to the ballpark once again and even if the Blue Jays don't make the playoffs this year, then at the very least they should make it seem like they tried.

You see attendance to any form of ongoing entertainment is like a plant. The interest that there has been in the Blue Jays this year is like a seed and in order to grow that seed into a plant that seed must be cultured and grown. In order to continue the positive trends in attendance the Blue Jays need to win and at this point in order to win they are going to need to do something at the deadline.

One direction to take could be similar to that of the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates who last year remained within 5 games of a playoff throughout the course of July. Seeing their position and their team the Pirates stayed away from names like Beltran, Pence, Bourn and instead settled for a couple of lower key free agents in Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee.

Another possibility is to do something similar to the 2008 Brewers who remained within 3 games of a playoff spot throughout July of 2008. Come deadline time they made a couple of big moves to get C.C. Sabathia and Ray Durham. Their trade deadline acquisitions along with their already potent team pushed them to their first playoff berth in 26 years.

In the Pirates case they assessed that their team was probably over performing. In response they made a couple of moves to appease the fans' interest, but didn't put the interest over the importance of retaining their top prospects. In the Brewers case they assessed that their team was playing to their potential, made the moves necessary to push them into the playoffs, then reaped the rewards of a playoff birth.

Now where do the Jays fit into all of this? Well for starters the Jays sure aren't the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates and probably lie much much closer to the '08 Brewers on a talent level. The thing that sets the Jays apart is on an ease of a path to the playoffs level, the Jays have a lot more to overcome.

Not only do they have to overcome a 2.5 game deficit in the always tough AL East, but after what happened in June it looks like they will have to do without Hutchison and Drabek for most if not all of the season. As well they'll be without Brandon Morrow, who was pitching quite brilliantly, for a few more starts at the very least. On top of all that as we saw on Monday, Ricky Romero simply isn't Ricky Romero anymore. Or at least he hasn't been thus far and isn't really showing any signs of improvement.

That leaves the Jays with no starters that they can "trust" until Morrow comes back and that assumes that he comes back the same as he left, which probably isn't the most realistic possibility. As well Including Romero, none of the current Blue Jays starters has a career FIP below 4.00 and the staff as a whole has a 15.8 K% which ranks 4th last in the league.

On top of all that the bullpen that many praised for its depth and quality in the preseason hasn't really performed up to par. Part of that is due to the fact that "Capital C Closer" and really good relief pitcher Sergio Santos has only pitched 5 innings this year, but the fact that the Blue Jays bullpen has given up the most home runs per nine innings of any team in the league sure hasn't helped.

That is why despite my homeristic inclination to say that the Jays should go all out and trade for Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels or whoever else is available, I am reluctant because I can see the potential road blocks and risks that could very easily outweigh the slim potential for the reward of a playoff spot.

That doesn't mean that the Jays should stand pat at the deadline, instead why not go the same route that the Pirates took last year. Trade for a starting pitcher in the ilk of Jeremy Guthrie and maybe a couple bullpen pieces. Make a push for the playoffs, but don't sacrifice the future. It is easier said than done, but with Anthopoulos at the helm it can happen.

Sources: Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com, The Sports Network

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