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Entries in Toronto Blue Jays (32)


Rasmus' Wrist, Plate Approach Hurt in Toronto

Over at ESPN's Sweetspot Blog, David Schoenfield examines the future of three outfielders taken in the first round of the 2005 amateur draft: Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce and Colby Rasmus. While McCutchen is coming off his best season yet and Bruce basically replicated his 2010 production, Rasmus is looking to put a lousy 2011 campaign behind him.

Rasmus hit just .225/.298/.391 and had an 89 OPS+ in 526 plate appearances with the Cardinals and the Blue Jays, whom he was traded to in July as part of an eight-player deal. The lefty hitter performed decently in St. Louis (110 OPS+), but he fell apart with the Jays (37 OPS+) and hit the DL in late August with a sprained right wrist. That wrist problem seemingly harmed his plate discipline and sapped his ability to drive the ball. He chased more pitches out of the strike zone, missed more often and saw his average fly ball distance drop nearly 40 feet:

TeamChase Pct.Miss Pct.Avg. Fly Ball Distance
Rasmus with Cardinals 27.3 23.3 269
Rasmus with Blue Jays 32.2 29.2 231


Most of Rasmus' extra chases came on pitches thrown below the knees. Check out his swing rate by pitch location with St. Louis, and then with Toronto:

Rasmus' swing rate by pitch location with Cardinals. 2011Rasmus' swing rate by pitch location with Blue Jays, 2011

His chase rate on low pitches increased from 32% with the Cards to 38% with the Jays. The average for lefty hitters is about 30%.

Rasmus surely didn't endear himself to Jays fans last year, but he still has three years of team control left and looked like a potential star as recently as 2010.  The batters he most resembles through age 24 include solid big leaguers and occasional stars like Jim Wynn, Roger Maris and Bobby Murcer, according to Baseball-Reference. That list includes Corey Patterson, too. To avoid that career path, Rasmus needs a healed wrist and decidedly un-Patterson-like plate approach.


Santos Returns to Toronto

Four years ago, Sergio Santos was flailing to the tune of a .183 average for the Toronto Blue Jays' then-Triple-A Affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. The 6-foot-2, 230 pound Santos, a former first-round pick of the Diamondbacks, was too slow for shortstop and clearly wasn't going to hit his way to the majors. His big league window appeared closed.

Yesterday, Santos returned to the Jays -- to close. The converted infielder, who has established himself as one of the game's great strikeout artists out of the 'pen, was traded from the White Sox to Toronto for another infield convert, Nestor Molina.

For Chicago, the Santos trade may signify the beginning of a painful rebuilding process that could also put the likes of Carlos Quentin, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Alexei Ramirez on the market (no one's touching Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy or Alex Rios). A fastball/splitter righty with sublime control (he had a 148-to-16 K-to-BB ratio in 130.1 innings between High-A and AA), Molina was recently graded as a B+ prospect by John Sickels. The soon-to-be 23-year-old doesn't have a great breaking ball, but he could be a nice mid-rotation starter. It's a start.

On the other side, credit Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and company for landing an elite reliever without paying the Papelbon premium in free agency -- Santos is signed through 2014 for a total of $8.25 million, and he has team options for the three seasons after that for a combined $22.75 million.  While Santos' control isn't great (4.3 BB/9 over the past two years), his power slider might be the nastiest pitch in the sport.

Santos has thrown the mid-to-high-80s breaker slightly less than a quarter of the time over the past two seasons. Hitters have whiffed at the pitch 60 percent of the time they have swung, trailing just the Angels' Jordan Walden and Atlanta's Jonny Venters in slider miss percentage. Santos buries the pitch out of the zone to his glove side...

Santos' slider location, 2010-2011

...And hitters don't have a prayer against those below-the-knees pitches. Check out opponents' contact rate by pitch location vs. Santos' slider, versus the league average:

Opponent contact rate by pitch location vs. Santos' slider, 2010-2011

Average contact rate by pitch location vs. sliders, 2010-2011

Santos' slider makes MLB athletes with Jedi-like coordination look like, well, Santos did as a hitter. Opponents have batted .101 against the pitch, with a .131 OBP and a .187 slugging percentage. By the way, pitchers hit a collective .141/.175/.182 this past year.

The 28-year-old loves to go to the slider with two strikes, throwing it half the time in such situations, and he has racked up 99 of his 148 Ks with the pitch. Santos couldn't hit the slider. Luckily for him, no one can hit his, either.


Morrow with Men On

Brandon Morrow of the Toronto Blue Jays generated a strange pitching line this season.  He strikes out a ton of batters, 10.4 per nine innings, and that usually leads to a low number of hits allowed.  The league is hitting .244 against him.  That's not great, but it seems a bit high for a pitcher with that many strikeouts.  Of the top ten pitchers in the major leagues in strikeout percentage, only two allow batting averages over .240 (Zack Greinke the other), and most are below .220.  Brandon's walks are a bit high at 3.4 per nine innings and his home runs are about average.  Given his stats, Morrow looks like a pitcher that should own an ERA in the mid-3.00s, not one over 5.00.

The problem with Morrow comes with men on base.  This is best demonstrated against left-handed batters, but it applies to right-handed batters as well.  With the bases empty, Morrow keeps the ball away from lefties:

Brandon Morrow, pitch frequency vs. LHB, bases empty, 2011.That heat map generates a .200/.283/.285 slash line.  In 223 left-handed batters faced with the bases empty, he allowed 10 extra-base hits.

Brandon Morrow, pitch frequency vs. LHB, men on, 2011.For some reason, Morrow abandons his successful location and comes inside to lefties.  This results in a .266/.323/.475 slash line.  In 158 PA in this situation, Morrow allowed 18 extra-base hits!  The effectiveness of extra base hits comes their ability to advance runners a long distance, especially in scoring runners from first base.  Morrow changes his location at exactly the wrong time and gets hammered.

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