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Hot Button Issues for Canadians Hotstove Luncheon

Last year, at this time, I wrote a post detailing exactly what I would have liked to ask Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos if I had been invited to the Vancouver Canadians annual hotstove luncheon. What a difference a year makes. This Friday, I’ll be heading to the Hotel Vancouver as an accredited member of the media.

Soooooo, theoretically, I’ll get to ask Anthopoulos all my questions rather than writing a post speculating on what I would like to know. If you look back at the queries I had last year, some ended up being quite prescient. But there were far too many too suit our purposes this year. So, let’s trim down this year’s to a few hot button issues.

The lack of activity so far this winter. I’m not as worried as many on this one. It’s not like there are no dance partners left. Another starter is still number one on the Jays off-season wish list (despite AA’s recent comments on the FAN590, more on that below), and there are still eleven pitchers available, including four of the top ten in the Reiter-50, Sports Illustrated’s off-season free agent ranker.

Although I’d love to see the Jays land Japanese free agent Masahiro Tanaka, I think it’s a long shot at best, and ironically, we should know during the lunch where he lands:

Once Tanaka’s destination is resolved, the rest of the ‘frontline’ starters should fall and I fully expect Toronto to be in on one of them. With their protected draft pick giving them the leverage they need.

Going back to the GM’s radio comments, I do take issue with his talk of another centerfielder being a priority. I just don’t get that. With the hole the Jays have in the rotation and at second, I don’t see how you wouldn’t be fully focused on those two, when you have both Anthony Gose and Kevin Pillar (despite their minor league options) to fill the void.

The other two issues I’d like to discuss with AA (I wonder if he’d grant me a private audience?) are somewhat related. As Andrew Stoeten pointed out after listening to Jays new hitting coach Kevin Seitzer discuss Ryan Goins (sorry, I’m struggling to find the actual clip). The language of batting average, rbi’s, and other outdated metrics seem to crop up quite often when Jays management discuss their hitters. I’d always assumed that these dinosaur-isms were strictly for media (and maybe player) ears while internally, the braintrust evaluated their, and potential, players using a sophisticated proprietary model with nothing but advanced metrics for inputs. I’m starting to have my doubts though. The Jays admitting that they potentially undervalued defense last season, didn’t help. Taking park factors into account, the front office had to know that the Rogers Center concrete turf plays fast. How, given that information, you could ‘undervalue’ range, is beyond me.

It’s worrying.

I would love to ask AA a) if they actually have a proprietary model and b) if so, what are the inputs (and please don’t say rbi’s is one of them).

The final issue I’d touch on is based on two excellent articles I’ve read lately on pitching biomechanics. Obviously, reading two articles does not make an expert so I’m not damning the Jays ‘caveman approach’ as Chris Sherwin does, but I still think an explanation as to why, given the Jays recent injury history, they would not at least consider an alternative approach is hard to swallow.

According to part two of John Lott’s piece, it cost the Baltimore Orialoes USD 40,000 to have a research team from the American Sports Medicine Institute take over one of their cages and biomechanically test (think millions of sensors to produce 3-D imaging of pitchers delivery, while also filming with numerous cameras to give a super-slow motion picture) 40 of their pitchers. I’m not sure how much Dr James Andrews charges per Tommy John surgery, but considering he performed six on Jays pitchers in 2012, I’m guessing that 40 grand would be chump change.

Now, I’m of the opinion that all athletes can tweak, but can understand, somewhat, a major league pitcher being a bit hesitant to make wholesale changes based on what a computer tells them is wrong with their delivery. They’ve made it all the way to the big leagues with what they were using.

That shouldn’t stop the organization from jumping all over this for their minor league prospects though. The Jays have a plethora of quality arms in A ball and below. Yes, with spring training, and the different levels they play for, they are subjected to numerous pairs of ‘expert’ eyes. The science would be in addition to all of this. A tool to possibly catch an inefficiency in their delivery that could not be seen by the naked eye.

For me, the money quote comes from Toronto pitching coach Bruce Walton, in regards to the numerous injuries suffered by Jays hurlers: ‘It’s hard, you can go round and round and round and come back to the same place. You don’t know.’

That’s not good enough. Even if biomechanical engineering prevents one injury, it’s worthwhile, the last thing needed in 2014 is another Lansing pitcher to go under the knife like Roberto Osuna did last season.

(author’s note: The bulk of this article was written yesterday, prior to today’s news that Masahiro Tanaka has signed with the New York Yankees. Doesn’t change what I would ask AA. Why he feels he needs a back up center fielder when it’s pitchers he should be focusing on.)

Photo courtesy of vancouversun.com

Photo courtesy of vancouversun.com

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