What can be done?
One option is having him speed up his delivery from the windup with men on base. Another is having a catcher with a cannon to work when Towers pitches. A third is have him work on various pick off moves to keep the men on base guessing--or all three. I think the Jays are at the point in time where pitching from the stretch is quite simply not an option. You cannot have a pitcher who opposing batters completely mauls (.350/.380/.632) once runners get on base. Even if they run wild on Towers, it is hard to steal home. Finally, with his precision he should be able to come inside fearlessly. He absolutely needs to keep hitters off balance and uncomfortable in the box if he hopes to be successful. I hope that the Jays can try some of these things during spring training.
Further, they can showcase him in spring training provided he enjoys some success. As a fly ball pitcher, he could probably give close to 180 league average innings in a big NL park like AT&T, Chavez Ravine, Petco, Shea, RFK or Dolphin Stadium. Towers has a career GB/FB ratio of 1.03 after posting a mark of 1.33 in 2007. Whether he’s learning to get more ground ball outs or last year was a fluke remains to be seen; nevertheless, for less than $3 million the Jays may have a potential trade chit.
It is an O.K. gamble to offer arbitration.
The Jays also claimed OF Cody Haerther (.303/.363/.474 in just under 1500 minor league AB) from the Cardinals for outfield depth. On the one hand, we have enough outfielders however other than Matt Stairs, the Jays had an abysmal bench last year. The Jays gave over 1300 AB to guys who were barely replacement level (.233/.275/.325) in 2007 so Haerther might be a potential bat off the bench. He has a better track record than the recently released John-Ford Griffin does (.262/.342/.454 minor league line) so who knows?
Speaking of which, a minor trade brought Marcos Scutaro over from the A’s. My west coast contacts speak well of him. He’s your prototypical ‘scrappy’ ballplayer although he does possess some on base skills (.350 OBP in 365 AB in 2006). His career line of .259/.320/.384 while not awe-inspiring is a step up from the “.233/.275/.325 club” of last season. I hope that the Jays won’t have a bench where you wish you had pinch hitters for your pinch hitters in 2008.
A-Rod vs. Maggs
To open, obviously the BBWAA got the AL MVP vote right but Magglio Ordonez was not a completely brain-dead choice to garner a couple of first place votes, even though the votes he got were for the wrong reasons. Consider:
Player BA OBP SLG Hits BB XBH OPS+ RCAA PA Outs
A-Rod .314 .422 .645 183 95 85 177 83 708 428
Maggs .363 .434 .595 216 76 82 167 73 678 405
We see that not only was Ordonez on base more often but he reached there via contact rather than the walk. With men on, a walk isn’t as good as a hit since a base on balls only moves up any base runners 90’. A hit can move runners a lot further and unless the bases are loaded a walk will not plate a run. Also noteworthy is Maggs struck out over 40 fewer times than A-Rod. Factor in that Ordonez played better defense than Rodriguez and you can see some justification for somebody giving Ordonez first place votes. Don’t get me wrong, I would have noted for Rodriguez myself however, I could see why somebody in good faith could have given the nod to Ordonez.
I see that Jimmy Rollins was named NL MVP. As I wrote last Sunday, it is not has bad a choice as a lot of the sabermetric crew will make it out to be. It should be noted that had the Mets not collapsed and the Phillies missed out on the NL East, David Wright most likely would have come away with top honours (Zero first place votes? 4th?? What's with that?). It is the classic ‘to the victors belong the spoils’ situation. I am biased and freely admit that the decision makes me happy as seeing Willie Stargell cop the hardware back in 1979 (yes, I am that old). Thirty years from now folks will look back at the numbers and wonder what the BBWAA was smoking when they voted (some will be doing that even as I write this) but make no mistake, Rollins did have an awesome season. Don’t forget, he set the National League record for total bases by a shortstop in 2007. Rollins defenders three decades hence will be able to point to that record, winning both the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger and not missing a single game while doing it as justification for winning the 2007 MVP.
Of note, both MVP this year hold their respective league records for total bases by a shortstop--go figure.
Congratulations to both.