Tao of Stieb: Rasmus among pleasant surprises

June 17, 2013, 2:00 PM

Blue Monday – Scattered thoughts to kick off your week

More Lindsanity: Last week, it was supposed in this space that Adam Lind’s torrid hitting pace was nice, though not sustainable at this level. And then over the weekend, he went 7-for-13 with two homers in three games, bumping his season-long on-base percentage/slugging percentage slashline to .417/.561.

What’s more is that Lind has posted better numbers against the same lefties who once owned him. He still only has 25 plate appearances against southpaws, but he has managed a remarkable 13 hits in those matchups, including a homer and three doubles. Obviously, small sample size disclaimers apply, but it would be hard to think of a 25 plate appearance stretch against lefties in any of the last three seasons where Lind had anywhere near this kind of success.

Perhaps the most impressive indicator in all of Adam Lind’s stat lines is the sharp decline in the percentage of infield fly balls he has hit. In the last two seasons, Lind has posted IFFB rates of 10.5 per cent and 9.9 per cent. But this year, with a stronger swing and fewer painful flailings, Lind has dropped that number to 1.9 per cent, which will place him in the top 20 in baseball once he qualifies.

Moreover, Lind has raised his line drive percentage by 6.7 per cent over last year while dropping his ground ball rate 7.6 per cent. All of which points to the fact that he is hitting the ball harder and squaring it up more often. And you can have a lot of success that way.

WAR! Huh! Good Lord!: I’m not particularly clever – nor wise – but as I understand it, Wins Above Replacement are probably best considered at the end of a season, when looking backwards to assess what happened in a year, or over the span of several seasons.

But since they publish the running tab on these things, let’s say we indulge in a bit of imprudent number regurgitation.

Most winningly-winning Blue Jay thus far? José Bautista, who has been such a bad example to the rest of the team through his unleaderly ways* that he’s posted 2.5 wins above scrub level, according to the Fangraphs tabulation.

Second on the list? Colby Rasmus, who crushed three home runs over the weekend in the Texas heat, and now sits at 1.9, just ahead of Lind (1.8) and Edwin Encarnacion (1.7).

In an odd and eminently notable coincidence, we find ten games of José Reyes from back in April and the Munenori Kawasaki’s 53 games of emergency replacement duty tied for fifth on that list with 0.6 wins.

On the pitching side of the ledger, Brett Cecil leads all with a 0.9 mark, while Casey Janssen follows with a 0.8.

Mark Buehrle has been the most valuable starting pitcher, tied for third Steve Delabar 0.6 wins. Meanwhile, putative staff ace R.A. Dickey is tied with Juan Perez at 0.5 wins. I’m sure Dickey’s philosophical about it…or at least has a good explanation.

Unexpected roster flexibility: Encarnacion has looked kinda good at third base, hasn’t he?

While past experience might lead one to have apprehension about putting EE there on a regular basis, Jays’ manager John Gibbons has seemed to pick his spots well over the past few weeks, since a short bench in NL parks during interleague play pushed him to make the move.

In 61.2 innings at the hot corner, Encarnacion has fielded well enough to make you think that he might be up to the task here and there while awaiting Brett Lawrie’s return. It certainly enhances the strength of the offensive lineup should the Jays need to cycle some other bats through the designated hitter slot through the summer months.

Remember the 2013 pitching staff: It was hard to imagine the 2013 season being any worse that last year, when the Jays would require 34 pitchers to get through the schedule. Well, here we are: not even half-way through the 2013 season and the Blue Jays have thus far employed 29 pitchers.

It’s probably fair at this point to say that this emanates in part from an organizational philosophy: the spots in the back of the rotation and bullpen are not so much jobs that are won as much as they are temp positions that are filled on an as-needed basis. Still, it adds up to a remarkably odd and eclectic list of names that you find filling out the season’s roster.

David Bush, Aaron Laffey, Justin Germano, Todd Redmond, Edgar Gonzalez, Thad Weber, Mickey Storey…heck, Ramon Ortiz seems like an organizational mainstay compared to some on that list.

It’s almost enough to make you want to run a graceful, slow-motion, black-and-white “In memoriam” tribute over the strains of Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” to some of these now-departed hurlers.

Except that, you know…for the most part, we won’t remember them. Only those among us who take unusual delight in the obscure would want to.

*I’m being facetious about this. Sometimes, I assume that this is obvious. But some of you might be reading my scribblings for the first time. In which case: Welcome. 

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