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Posts Tagged ‘JP Ricciardi’

With The Jays collapsing this year, and the dangling of Roy Halladay on the trade block, it appears that JP Ricciardi’s days in Toronto could be numbered.  Hailed as one of Billy Beane’s golden boys, expectations were high in Toronto when he was hired following the 2001 campaign.  Since then, the Jays have had only once finished above third place in the American League East, and most fans consider his tenure a failure.  I am one of the few who disagree, but unfortunately did not really have any numbers to back myself up. 

I decided to undertake a small project to put some numbers behind my claim. As I was working through the data, I became unsure that I was going to be able to find a solution.  However, the end product gave me the results I wanted.  Given the financial resources relative to their division, the Toronto Blue Jays under JP Ricciardi were outperformed in terms of winning percentage compared to their division only by Billy Beane’s Oakland Athletics and depending on your point of view, Terry Ryan’s Minnesota Twins.  These are arguably the top two GM’s in baseball over this time frame, so I would say JP is in pretty good company.  Now to the data.

Ricciardi was hired following the 2001 season, so I plugged the records of every team in the American League from 2002-2008 into Excel.  I then tabulated each team’s winning percentage over this time period, as well as the winning percentage of the other team’s in the division.  For example, the “Division Winning Percentage” box for the Tampa Bay Rays would include the records of the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles, but NOT the Rays.  I then calculated how much each team had spent on payroll (information from Cot’s MLB Contracts), and figured out what percentage of the division’s total payroll was spent by each team.  The results for the three AL divisions are as follows:

 AL East

 AL Central

AL West

 *Because the AL West only has four teams, I added a hypothetical fifth team that has a payroll that is the average of the other four teams.  This helps make the Percentage of Payroll constant across all divisions.

The numbers are not perfect, and could be refined further, but I think the general point I am trying to make is apparent.  Given his financial resources, JP Ricciardi did very well with the Jays.  He achieved a winning percentage only .010 lower than the rest of the division, while playing in the toughest division in baseball with the two best teams in the league.  You might be saying, well that is not very good, he was below average.  However, if you take a closer look, he did this while spending only 14.39% of his division’s total payroll.  The only other teams to spend similar or less were Baltimore (.087 lower winning % than division), Tampa Bay (.107 lower), Kansas City (.095 lower) and Oakland (.039 higher).  Among these teams, only Oakland was better.  With regards to Minnesota, they did spend 3.5% more than Toronto, but I would argue the .088 boost in winning percentage relative to the division is greater than the financial surplus.   

The two big failures were Detroit and Seattle.  Detroit spent 24.10% of their division’s payroll to be .058 below the rest of their division, while Seattle spent 23.18% to be .053 worse. 

So there you have it.  In my opinion, the JP Ricciardi era in Toronto has not been a failure, and he has actually done very well.  Other than a brutal 2004 season, the Jays have remained extremely competitive with the Red Sox and the Yankees despite financial limitations.  A lot of this depends on how you label success.  Some would argue that Tampa Bay has done a better job because they won a division title and a pennant with even smaller resources than Toronto.  To that I would say, “oh really, how did you enjoy the six 90+ loss seasons prior to 2008?”  I do not think success can be attributed to one good year, so overall, I think the top three general managers in the American League from 2002-2008 were Billy Beane, Terry Ryan and JP Ricciardi.

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The top story in baseball over the last couple of weeks has been the potential destination of trade block member Roy Halladay.  Doc is by far the best player currently available, and the suitors are many.  I would like to comment on some of the rumors and trade proposals thrown around in the media.  These are not necessarily reflective of what is going on behind closed doors, simply what I have read on the Internet.

St. Louis Cardinals

At first glance, this seems like it is a match made in heaven.  Halladay is a very private player, I think his wife gets more camera time than he does, and would fit perfectly in St. Louis.  It is a baseball crazy city, but the media is not overpowering like in New York or Boston.  The Cardinals are also currently leading the NL Central, and Halladay would push them over the top.  Imagine a rotation of Halladay, Carpenter, Wainwright, Pineiro and Lohse.  However, that is where the dream ends.

The most common rumor I have heard is a package headlined by Colby Rasmus and Brett Wallace headed to Toronto.  First of all, giving up Rasmus would leave an enormous hole in the Cardinals outfield THIS year.  They would be forced to start Ludwick, Ankiel and then Duncan or Glaus, if they do indeed decide to move him into the outfield.  I am sorry but that is not a championship calibre outfield.  I also think Rasmus’ value has increased exponentially over the last four months.  He has gone from top prospect to bona fide MLB player.  It is a big thing for a prospect to prove he can handle major league pitching, and Rasmus has made the transition almost seamlessly. 

Second, a year and a half of Doc is not worth six and a half years of Rasmus and seven years of Wallace, not by a long shot.  It does not make sense in terms of finances or on-field product.  I do not see this deal happening in a million years.

Los Angeles Dodgers  

This seems like another great fit for Halladay.  The Dodgers have the best record in the Majors, and are the odds on favourite in the National League, even without Halladay.  However, the Dodgers would most likely have to give up either Clayton Kershaw or Matt Kemp. 

Let’s start with Kershaw.  In his second season, he has a 2.95 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in nineteen starts to go along with a 3.42 FIP.  Halladay’s numbers, on the other hand, are 2.73, 1.07 and 2.75.  Granted, Halladay pitches in a much more difficult division, but Kershaw is an excellent pitcher in his own right.  Teams are winning with young, cheap star players, and Kershaw fits that description perfectly.  The Dodgers have his rights for the next five and a half years, and will probably not pay him much more over that time frame than they would Halladay over the remaining year and a half on his contract.

Kemp has an OPS of .885 and is leading NL center fielders with a VORP of 34.7.  He also has a very respectable UZR/150 of 15.8.  While he would be easier to replace than Kershaw because they have Juan Pierre on the bench, I still do not think it is a smart move by the Dodgers.  Kemp is a star in the making, and will be an important part of the Dodgers core over the next 3-4 years.  He brings almost as much to the table as Halladay.  I also do not know if the Blue Jays are in the market for another outfielder.  They have much more pressing needs at first base, catcher, and shortstop if they lose Scutaro this off-season. 

Philadelphia Phillies

This is actually the consensus landing spot if Halladay does get traded.  While Philadelphia needs him the most, I do not think that this is the best package for the Jays considering that the Phillies do not have a top prospect ranked in the top 50 by Baseball America.  They Jays need to get at least one impact player for Halladay, and these Phillies players, other than Happ, just do not seem like they are those type of guys.  I am sure many people disagree with this statement but that is my opinion.

San Francisco Giants

I know it is a bit of a darkhorse pick, but I think this is where Halladay will end up if he does indeed get traded.  The Giants have surprised a lot of people this year, and I believe there window is in the next two years, which is exactly the same as the Halladay window.  Lincecum and Cain are healthy and dominant, Zito seems to have regained a bit of his former ability, Sandoval has emerged as a superstar, and Buster Posey could be ready to replace Bengie Molina behind the player next year.  Even though the Giants have scored the third least runs in the National League, they would have to be favourites with a rotation consisting of Lincecum, Cain and Halladay.

The Giants also have the prospects to appease JP Ricciardi’s appetite.  Madison Bumgarner was ranked as the ninth best prospect by Baseball America this year, giving the Blue Jays the impact pitcher they need to replace Halladay.  He would also probably be ready to go for 2010.  This is very important for Toronto as Ricciardi is running out of time, and the Blue Jays are only giving up on this year, not next.

Conclusion

I honestly do not know if Halladay will even be traded.  Teams are holding on to their prospects tighter than ever, and it is not the end of the world if JP does not get the package he wants and decides to hold on to Halladay.  He still has another year to trade him.

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With the return of closer Scott Downs, former Blue Jays closer BJ Ryan found himself expendable today.  Ryan was part of a big off-season for the Blue Jays following the 2005 season, inking a five year, $47 million contract, giving the Jays the lockdown closer they had been missing.  Ryan was coming off a 36 save season as a the closer of the Orioles, and it was at the time, the largest contract ever given to a relief pitcher. 

Ryan rewarded the Jays in 2006 with an all-star appearance, 38 saves and a microscopic 1.37 ERA.  However, injuries derailed him the next season as he pitched only 4.1 innings, and his WHIP was almost double his previous seasons ERA.  He rebounded in 2008 with a 2.95 ERA and 32 saves, but was far from the Blue Jays most effective reliever.  This year, the lights-out Downs, a product of former AGM Bart Given, seized the closer role after Ryan struggled with more injuries and inconsistency.  Limited to mop-up duty and unhappy with his role, Ryan now finds himself without a job.

Ryan is only one of several failed big free-agent deals of the last couple of years.  Jeff Suppan, recently listed on Ebay for the bargain price of $0.01, signed a four year, $42 million deal with the Brewers following his 2006 World Series season with St. Louis.  He has rewarded the Crew with a 27-28 record over two and a half seasons, and has yet to post a better than league average ERA.  I could go on and on with the likes of Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Jose Guillen, Matt Morris, and Barry Zito, but you get the picture.

These crippling contracts are a big reason for a dynamic shift in the way baseball teams are doing business.  Most teams are realizing that free agents should simply be compliments to a young, inexpensive core, not franchise saviours.  Teams are putting a vice grip on their top prospects as they understand that the bank for the buck they will get from these players is much greater than what they would find on the open market.  This really became seen by the public when both the Red Sox and Yankees refused to part with their top prospects in order to obtain Johan Santana prior to the 2008 season. 

It also has cooled the free agent market, as teams have realized that many Type A free agents are not worth the high draft picks that they would be giving up.  This led to solid players like Orlando Cabrera and Juan Cruz searching for jobs for the majority of this past off-season.  Five years ago, these guys would have been lavished with multi-year contracts. 

This topic is particularly interesting as Blue Jays GM JP Ricciardi has made it known that he will be listening to offers for Roy Halladay, who is signed through 2010 at a very reasonable $15.75 million.  It will be interesting to see what type of prospects the Blue Jays will be offered in return for the perennial Cy Young candidate.  It is my opinion that the Blue Jays will get an excellent package from a GM in win-now mode, but I do not think the offers will be as numerous or bountiful as in years past.

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A couple of weeks ago, Bart Given wrote an article for Sportsnet defending Blue Jays pitching coach Brad  Arnsberg and the number of arm injuries the Jays have incurred in recent years.  Going back to 2005, he found that the Blue Jays were in the middle of the pack when it came to DL placements and DL duration.  While I do not dispute his findings, I think people still have the right to be upset with the number of young pitchers have undergone serious procedures like Tommy John.

The first culprit is Dustin McGowan, a former first-round pick who underwent Tommy John in 2004 at age 23.  The next two years following the surgery, McGowan threw 101 and 111 innings respectively between the minors and majors.  In 2007, his workload jumped to 191 innings.  Unsurprisingly, he was shutdown in early July in 2008, and has not pitched since.  Both GM JP Ricciardi and AGM Alex Anthopolous are on record as saying they are not sure if he will ever pitch again.  Obviously McGowan suffered from arm troubles from an early age, but the Jays were asking for trouble when they nearly doubled his workload in 2007.

Next up is Gustavo Chacin, a personal favourite during his short-time in Toronto.  In 2004, Chacin enjoyed great success in the minors, going 18-2, and pitching 153.2 innings, a career high.  The next year he was promoted to the Majors and enjoyed a strong rookie campaign, with a 3.72 ERA.  He also threw 203 innings, which placed him in the top 50 in the league.  Since then, he has only thrown 114.2 innings in the major leagues.  Here are the other two players on that list who experienced huge jumps in their workloads that year:

Chris Capuano – 101.2 to 219, has not pitched since 2007

Josh Towers – 152 to 208.2, has not pitched in the majors since 2007

The Jays were two for three that year.

More recently, the Jays have two more Tommy John victims: Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch.  I am not sure the Blue Jays have learned their lesson.  They brought Marcum along slowly, limiting him to roughly a 25 IP per year increase from 2005-07.  Tough to blame them for that one.  However, Litsch was pretty much abused.  After throwing 75.2 innings in 2005 between rookie and short season A, he was increased to 158 and 187.2 the next two years.  Once again, unsurprisingly, he managed only one more full season before going under the knife.

While you cannot always predict the future, and even guys that are brought along slowly can experience problems, the Blue Jays are not without blame.  It is well documented that guys who experience huge jumps in workloads either see their performance decrease or experience serious injury.  Justin Verlander, Noah Lowry, Fausto Carmona, Zach Duke (who has rebounded nicely this year), Ian Snell, etc..  The only team that I could spot with a history of straining young arms more than the Jays is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and we can all see how successful that franchise has been.

While the Jays have an incredible talent for finding a surplus of skilled young arms, they are also burning through them at an astounding rate.  Here is to hoping that the Blue Jays do not repeat same mistake with their young arms like Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero.

As a final note, I remember reading somewhere, but do not quote me on this, that the only pitcher in recent years to throw over 200 innings in his rookie season and go on to have an even semi-successful career is Freddy Garcia.

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