Tag Archives: Edwin Encarnacion

WPA: A stat for everyone (except Francisco Cordero)

I understand a lot of the resistance from old-school baseball people and fans to advanced stats. I really do. Advanced stats can be confusing and, because of both their naming and the math that goes into them, intimidating. There’s also the problem that, dammit, I just want to talk baseball and not what somebody might theoretically do over the next so many years, especially considering this or that park factor.

Can’t we just talk about what happened last night?

Can’t we just talk about where our team is in the standings and how they got there?

If the above describes how you feel, I sympathize. I’m not in total agreement, but I do share your feelings to a certain degree. And I have good news — if you’re like me and seeking a middle ground, at least — there is an advanced stat just for you! Continue reading

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Fight or flight: Impaling Lind’s spirit?

I know it’s en vogue to analyze teams and players strictly by the statistics available about them. There is definitely something to do be said for the value of statistics and basing organizational decisions on as much information as humanly possible. Math(!) is a good thing.

But, as much as I value math and people who are really, really good at it, I do think some people have a tendency to take the numbers too far. Baseball players are human beings and there’s a definite human element to their performance — unless the player in question is a Roy Halladay-like cyborg, of course.

Except for 2009 and a brief period of last season, Adam Lind has proven that he is not a good MLB hitter. Despite that, the team keeps running him out to first base everyday and, until very recently, he was batting cleanup on a daily basis.

Why does the team keep running Sleepy out there despite his obvious deficiencies? Well, he has shown that he has the potential to crush MLB pitching and he’s currently signed to a very team-friendly contract, so why not give him the chance to figure things out?

And, even if he didn’t have those things going for him, who would the team replace him with? David Cooper? Ha!

The only legitimate internal option is the trifecta of moves oft-mentioned by fans: Travis Snider promoted and installed in left field; Eric Thames moved to DH; and Edwin Encarnacion taking over first. In theory, I like those moves. In reality, it doesn’t seem likely as team management seems committed to finally giving Snider some stability and leaving him at one level (Triple-A) for an extended period.

Human beings, when threatened, generally go into fight or flight mode. Confront the problem head on or run away from it and hope for the best. Some, but not all, lapse into a sort of contentment when they’re not really threatened.

I won’t pretend to know what goes on in Lind’s head, but given his previous comments about how much he hates working out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tends to feel content when he’s not pushed. Struggling at the plate? “Big whoop, what are they going to do? Call up Cooper?”

If that’s his attitude — and it may well not be, but hear me out — maybe he needs a push.

The team may have given him that push on Thursday.

At 37, Vladimir Guerrero is a shell of his former self. But the shell of a likely Hall of Famer is better than what Lind’s been doing lately. That Toronto signed the Impaler to a minor-league deal can only be viewed by Lind as a threat to his job security.

If Guerrero can prove in the minors that he’s got anything left in the tank, the team could easily improve its offence by moving Encarnacion to first and letting Vladdy DH while Lind rides the pine. Not only would it be a good move in terms of improving the offence, it’d have to be a PR score, too. Employing the services of a Montreal Expos legend isn’t exactly going to hurt.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Lind, sensing that he’s threatened, fights for his job and does whatever it takes to get as close to his 2009 form as he possibly can. If he does, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero ends up making the Jays a better team, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero doesn’t have anything left to contribute, well, Vladdy’s deal is for peanuts, relatively speaking, so the team doesn’t lose on this deal with Vladdy.

It’s a win-win-draw deal if I’ve ever seen one!

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Kelly Johnson? Yes, please

Oh man. There are a lot of things for Jays fans to be excited about so far this season: Colby Rasmus looks like he’s figuring it out; Edwin Encarnacion has figured it out to the point that he’s been officially handed the cleanup hitter’s role; Brett Lawrie is being Brett Lawrie and that gets people excited even if he’s not yet playing as well as he’s capable of playing; the pitching!

Yes, there’s a lot of to be excited about. But there’s one guy who seems to be flying under the radar. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t seem to have a personality that lights the world on fire. Perhaps it’s because his offensive production isn’t the flashiest. Perhaps it’s because your Toronto Blue Jays had to trade John McDonald and someone other scrub to get him. Continue reading

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No such thing as too many options

The news broke late last night: The Toronto Blue Jays have optioned Travis Snider to Triple A Las Vegas. My initial reaction was one of frustration. Snider has the highest upside! Snider’s been jerked around so much, he deserves a real shot! If Snider was on any other team, Alex Anthopoulos would trade three relievers and a bag of popcorn for him and then let him play every day! TRAVIS SNIDER HAS LIGHT-TOWER POWER, DAMN IT.

I’m sure most of you have seen it already, but if not, check the 40-second mark in the above video. That was 2008. Snider was 20. He’s still only 24 (math!) and anybody ready to write him off is, well… foolish is probably the nicest word to describe those people.

So yes, I’m frustrated that Snider’s not going to get his much-deserved shot at the start of this season, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

Eric Thames is not a bad player. Not even close. If you can against root against Eric Thames, I don’t know that we can be friends. He works hard, he plays hard, he always looks like he’s having fun AND he can hit. He’s not Snider, but he doesn’t have to be.

Thames put a .262/.313/.456 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) slash line last year and he did that over nearly 400 at-bats. He could learn to take a few more walks, but the power certainly seems real. If he can improve at getting on without sacrificing the power, he could be something special — or at least above average.

But where does that leave Snider? If he goes down to Vegas and mashes the minor-league pitching as he usually does, he’ll certainly be deserving of another shot in the bigs, but what position will he play?

I have a lot of hope for the 2012 Blue Jays, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding them. Particularly at first base. If Adam Lind and/or Edwin Encarnacion struggle at the plate again, the team can’t afford to give them endless opportunities.

It pains me to say it, but Lind’s been one of the worst hitters in MLB over the past two seasons. Sure, maybe he can regain something of his 2009 form but, without some form of improvement, he no longer deserves an everyday spot in the lineup.

Encarnacion, when he’s on his game, he’s one of the best hitters going. But when he’s off? It’s ugly. Maybe the DH/1B role will lift the weight of 3B and the E5 moniker and allow him to focus on hitting well. Or maybe he’s just another streaky player who’s a better fit for a bench role.

Both Lind and Encarnacion are going to get a shot to prove themselves worthy, but if either struggles and the team does something about it (as it should) that will open up the DH spot. Snider’s a better fielder than Thames, so it’d be a natural fit for Thames to DH while Snider patrols left.

And if everyone comes out swinging and no spots open up for Snider? That’s not a bad problem to have, especially for a GM who seems interested in adding pitching.

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Mind games

How do you spell roast?

R-O-A-S-T.

How do you spell coast?

C-O-A-S-T.

How do you spell what you put in a toaster?

The human brain is a funny thing. Prime it to give the wrong answer and it more than likely will. The end of last night’s Jays-Red Sox game is a pretty good example of this.

Toronto down 3-2, top of 9, two out and Edwin Encarnacion tries to beat a throw home to tie the game. He was called out. Replays show he was safe.

Why did the umpire blow the call?

Nobody can know for sure, but it does seem to be a case of home plate ump Brian Knight being primed for an outcome other than what happened: Jason Varitek had the plate blocked and the throw arrived before E5 did. In most cases, that’s a guaranteed out.

But Encarnacion executed a damn fine slide and beat the tag. Just watch he does with his right leg. I can be as hard as the next guy on E5, but he earned himself a bit of a pass there. Enough that I’m willing to consider dropping the E5 moniker, even.

But yeah, last night, it stings for sure. A game-deciding call blown — and against the Red Sox no less. Still these kinds of things happen, and the Jays will benefit from blown calls, too.

The only way to avoid things like this is to bring in instant replay. I’m not necessarily opposed to that, but something has got to be done about game length before that’s even considered. I mean, does anybody want to see a 9-inning game stretch out to 5+ hours?

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5 errors for E5

If there’s anybody out there who still thinks that ERA is a good stat by which to assess the abilities of a given pitcher, last night’s outing by Jo-Jo Reyes should serve as a nice nail in ERA’s coffin.

He pitched 2-2/3 innings and didn’t give up an earned run. Sounds good, until you realize that he started the game, pitched horribly and gave up six runs which, because of the rule that states runs can’t be charged against a pitcher if an error is committed on what would be a third out, weren’t charged against him.

I know he doesn’t have any options left, but how many chances are the Jays going to give him to keep proving he can’t cut it at the major-league level?

But this post is not meant to be about Reyes. This post is meant to be about the guy who committed the error with two outs.

I know John Farrell said, near the end of spring training, that Edwin (E5) Encarnacion had worked hard over the off-season, improved his footwork and really picked up his defensive game and, because of all that, he’d be playing third base. But, as I said at the time, E5’s problem is not his glove, it’s his arm.

Again, let me reiterate that Texas’s 6-run third inning last night was almost entirely Reyes’s fault. But if E5 doesn’t make a poor throw to first to allow Texas to keep the inning going, none of those six runs score.

I am not a big believer in errors or fielding percentage as a method of evaluating a player’s defensive abilities, but sometimes it can be used a decent shorthand, so I’m going to do it right now:

So far this year, in 58 innings at 3B, Encarnacion has been charged with 5 errors and has a fielding percentage of .615.

I don’t care what you think about fielding percentage or sample sizes or whatever — that’s a horrendous number.

So what to do with E5?

His bat’s nice enough that it’s worth keeping in the lineup, so how about he be used in the manner he was intended to be used in when he was brought back? Wouldn’t the Jays’ lineup look a lot nicer with E5 as the DH and occasional first baseman?

Of course, such a move would open up a hole at third and with the way Juan Rivera’s been swinging the bat lately, we’d want to keep him going, so why not go with an alignment much more like what we saw in spring training?

Encarnacion as 1B/DH, Rivera in RF Jose Bautista at 3B?

That’s what I would do anyway. I know it’s not perfect, but I don’t know how much more of E5 at 3B I can handle. It’s kind of like watching Reyes holding a spot in the rotation.

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Nixing E5

Watching the Jays lose last night, I came to a realization. It’s probably not what you’d expect from someone watching a game like that. I didn’t realize that OHMYGODTHEBULLPENSUCKSWHAAAA or anything else alarmist that seems, based on my #Jays and #BlueJays searches on Twitter*, to be the common theme today.

(*And if you’re the sort who uses hashtags, I suggest you stick to #BlueJays, lest you get lost in all the chatter about Air Jordans.)

Bullpens are going to lose games, teams are going to blow big leads. It sucks, but it’s a 162-game season. These things happen and I can basically guarantee the Jays will be on the opposite end of games like this before the season comes to an end.

When Toronto bought Jayson Nix just before the season began, I wasn’t really moved in either direction. “It’s a depth move,” I thought. “Nix is just a warm body to provide some protection in case of injury/whatever.”

I don’t think I was wrong to think those things, but…

Nix has played pretty well so far this season. Small samples sizes to be sure, but his OPS is at 1.058 right now. According to Fangraphs, he’s amassed 0.4 WAR through just 8 games. Doesn’t seem like much, but extrapolate it over a whole season and he’s putting up goddamn superstar WAR numbers at that rate.

Now, obviously, Nix is incredibly unlikely to keep playing at this level throughout a whole season. And that’s why I’ve been skeptical of the amount of playing time he’s received so far.

But then it happened.

Leading off the bottom of the third inning, Ichiro (!) hit a weak grounder to third. Ichiro (!) specializes in turning hits like these into, well, hits.

Nix those, fielded the ball cleanly, turned and fired a bullet to first, beating Ichiro (!) to the bag.

It was a nice defensive play and the chances Edwin (E5) Encarnacion makes that throw cleanly are slim to none. Nix made it look easy.

And that’s when I realized that I’m more than happy to see Nix man third every day until he proves he can’t.

With Nix fielding and hitting well, E5 not fielding well and Juan Rivera playing like a turd, it seems pretty clear to me what needs to happen: Nix plays third, E5 DH’s and Rivera rides the pine.

I understand the argument that Rivera needs to play so he can raise his value and become possible trade bait. But just because I understand it, doesn’t mean I like it. I’d much rather see the Jays use a better lineup than handicap their chances at a win in the hopes that maybe someday somebody will take their unwanted player.

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Won’t somebody please think of Lind?

Despite constant reassurances since he was resigned that he’d be the DH and occasional first baseman, the Blue Jays today announced that Edwin (E5) Encarnacion will be the team’s everyday third baseman.

According to the above-linked article from the National Post’s stalwart Jays reporter John Lott, manager John Farrell, the decision was made based on E5’s defensive improvement — especially his footwork.

Now, yeah, from the little bit I’ve seen, read and heard out of the Jays camp, E5’s looked great at first. Good footwork, good reactions, everything. If all that’s true, sure, he might be great at third. But E5’s problem at third hasn’t been his glove, it’s been his arm.

You can kind of get away with a third baseman who can’t hit the side of the barn if you’ve got a great glove at first, but Toronto’s got Adam Lind. I guess management is pretty confident in his glove. They’d better be.

Couple of quick things

Travis Snider’s eating and tweeting habits are newsworthy.

Let’s all root for Adam Loewen.

It’s too bad Drew’s outfield preview is out of date already, but it’s still worth a read if appreciate fun and smart.

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So long, Lyle

See that picture right above these words? You know what that is? That’s a first baseman. A REAL first baseman. That’s a guy who can hit AND field.

Sure, maybe he doesn’t have the consistently huge numbers that certain mouth-breathing fans want from the guy who mans first base, but he gets on base like a champ and he makes everybody else in the infield look good defensively.

I know a lot of people look at first base as a position where teams hide guys who can hit but can’t field. That may be true, but when Edwin (E5) Encarnacion gets his inevitable start(s) at third, and he’s throwing the ball all over the place — basically anywhere except where he should be throwing it — you might find yourself longing for Lyle. Dude has an ability to take an errant throw and turn it into an out.

Ever wonder why E5 only had 18 errors last year?

Because Lyle Overbay was playing first.

Good luck in Pittsburgh, Lyle. Hope the fans there appreciate you.

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Re-Encarnacion*

Dudes! The moment you’ve all been waiting for has arrived! Edwin (E5) Encarnacion is back!

Yes, your Blue Jays have signed the amazingly awful defender to a one-year deal that will pay him $2.5 million. The team’s also got a club option for $3.5 million in 2012.

I was pretty happy when Oakland claimed E5 off waivers, but I really like this move to bring him back. Why would I be happy to welcome back a guy whose defence is so bad and whose lack of hustle actually got him demoted to Triple-A at one point last season? Simple: He’s not going to be playing third.

The vast majority of Encarnacion’s fielding problems have to do with his throwing accuracy, not so much with his glove. So what can you do with a guy who can handle the glove, but not the arm, required to play third? Move him to first! And that is just what the Jays are going to do. Well, first and DH anyway.

This makes me suspect E5 will see more time at DH than at 1B. Alex Anthopoulos seems determined to see if Adam Lind can hack it at first, and that’s ultimately the way I hope things shake out. But if Lind can’t do it, or if he can’t find his swing against left-handed pitching again, Encarnacion seems like a good backup option.

* I can’t take credit for this pun. But it was first put out there by someone calling themselves “Infield Fly,” so there’s that.

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