Each week Jays From the Couch takes in the beauty of the MLB landscape and tries to imagine how Blue Jays Fans might see things. This week JFtC suggests moving the Trade Deadline up to All Star Wednesday, requests the help of Pythagoras to validate AL playoff contenders deadline strategies, and insists baseball people stop blaming Canadian COVID protocols for their road performance.
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* Last week the MLB MINUTE offered up several suggestions to make the All Star break better for fans to follow and enjoy the festivities. A few helpful readers opined on social media that we had not talked about the Amateur Draft or shared what would occur on Wednesday. So glad you asked.
Traditionally, the All Star Break is recognized as the half-way marker for the season. Math has never been my strong suit, but over the past 20 years the 81st game is played well in advance of the break. Semantics aside, MLB executives and front office staff use the All Star Break as a line of demarcation between contender and pretender. More importantly, between buyer and seller. Given that knowledge, it is fair to assume that teams know by the All Star break where their team stands in the standings and what their front office needs to do about improving their short-term and long-term fortunes. Extrapolating this premise to its next logical conclusion, it doesn’t make sense to wait another 2 weeks to engage in the type of commodities trading that would shock and awe Wall Street investors. Which is why the MLB Trade Deadline needs to be permanently moved to the Wednesday of the All Star Break.
The Wednesday after the All Star Game is generally a travel day for the coaches and players who participated in the festivities. So why not ensure that players who ultimately become parts of trades don’t have to make a second unplanned trip. Besides-not every team is scheduled to resume play on the Thursday following the break. Why not give every team the day off that Thursday as well to make it easier for traded players to tie up loose ends at home and have the extra day to report to their new home cities. You would have to think the MLBPA and the players themselves would welcome the more practical accommodations for the real-life issues that arise for them after being traded.
Take a closer look at the positives of incorporating such a change and you see that MLB would dominate the sports media landscape for an entire week. Even the casual fan takes notice of all-star games and trade deadlines, just as they glance at headlines the day after the World Series addressing the start of free agency. If you marry the spectacle of the All Star Game with the drama and emotion of the Trade Deadline, happily ever after does not seem like a fairy tale. The timeline aligns with the potential for media frenzy in several ways. The spotlight on the start of NBA and NHL free agency is beginning to dim. The monster menace of the opening of training camps in the NFL would still be 10-14 days away. The pairing of the celebration of the game’s stars with the hoopla that comes with star players being traded to or from your favorite team would be a party everyone would clear their schedules to attend. So often we hear from analysts, players and ownerships that baseball is a business. Moving the Trade Deadline to the Wednesday following the All Star Game is good business.
Yes, general managers and baseball operations people will cry foul and insist that this could distract from a team’s draft preparation. The Amateur Draft has traditionally been held in early June. With the advent and utilization of information obtained at the Draft Combine, switching the draft back to June would compromise the effectiveness of the combine since the College World Series tournament might prevent the best collegiate players from participating. So I propose the first trade result from this proposal- simply swap the date of the Trade Deadline with the timing of the Amateur Draft. You could argue that how successful a team’s draft is may impact the types of players they would pursue in trades. I will counter that if a front office is not successful at the draft table odds are they will not be big winners at the trade tables. It is also fair to surmise that MLB front offices have a firmer grasp on the players they intend to draft than they do on the costs and returns in trades. Front offices navigate free agency, injuries, trade demands and a multitude of off-field issues while still preparing for drafts and making trades. Trades are not limited to Deadline Day-they are only last chances until the off-season.
* Run Differential is a statistic that has received more scrutiny over the past few seasons. Since the name of the game of baseball is to score more runs than your opponents you can understand why. The Godfather of Baseball Sabermetrics Bill James devised a way to show that looking at the difference between the number of runs a team scores and allows is actually a better indicator of a team’s performance than their winning percentage. James used an ancient mathematical formula used in geometry as its core calculation and other geekazoids have tweaked the formula to reflect the uniqueness of baseball factors. As we navigate the choppy waters of the Trade Deadline, you will hear baseball executives and media analysts refer to a team’s desire to improve their run differentials by obtaining either productive hitters, effective starters or shut down relievers.
As of games played Friday July 29th, the New York Yankees (68-33 +233) and Houston Astros (66-35 +115) have earned first-round byes for the AL playoffs. Based on their hefty positive run differentials, you can understand why these two clubs are the cream of the playoff crop. The Central Division leading Minnesota Twins (52-47 +24) will host a 3-game series versus the Wild Card contender with the “worst” record the Tampa Bay Rays (53-47 +18) while the Toronto Blue Jays (55-45 +56) will invite the Luis Castillo -led Seattle Mariners (54-47 +20) to the Rogers Centre.
A first glance at the records listed above would show that the order of playoff seedings match up exactly with club run differential totals. The two wild card Wild Card contenders at this stage-Cleveland Guardians (51-48 +15) and Baltimore Orioles (51-49 Even) do not appear to be the victims of “bad luck” or “almost” game results. It should be noted that pre-season playoff possibilities from Boston (-17) and Chicago (-23) have losing records as reflected by their negative run differentials.
Why is this noteworthy in advance of the Trade Deadline? Quite simply, run differential and Pythagorean winning percentages will explain why your favorite team pursues and secures specific players and may not go after players we think they should. The Friday night trade for Luis Castillo by the Mariners is a perfect example. President of Baseball Operations Jerry DiPoto came to the conclusion that their lineup spearheaded by All Stars Julio Rodriguez and Ty France has the ability to score enough runs to win games. By adding a veteran starter in Castillo, DiPoto is counting on him to pair with Robbie Ray and company to limit runs and to protect a young bullpen.
Despite injuries to key pitchers, Tampa Bay may feel confident in their proven ability to promote pitching prospects to fill roles and focus on an anaemic offensive performance to date. You wouldn’t think the Yankees and Astros would feel pressure to improve via trade. But the Yankees have primarily slugged their way to a +233 run differential and will seek to maintain that differential by adding proven pitchers to their mix. Conversely, with 7 major league starters at their disposal and a lights out bullpen, the Astros will seek bats to increase their run differential. Within the context of the Castillo trade to Seattle, the Yankees are decidedly more negatively impacted while the Astros and Rays can cheer the probable elimination of the Mariners as possible landing spots for impact bats (like Juan Soto).
The Blue Jays would seem to be in good position to hold off Seattle and Tampa Bay. But factor in the recent 28-5 thumping of the Red Sox and their +56 run differential looks more like the Twins +24 than the Yankees +233. So assuming Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins is not standing pat after a post-Montoyo surge, he will be looking to add a starting pitcher and multiple bullpen arms to neutralize the inconsistent performance of pitchers like Jose Berrios, Yusei Kikuchi, Trevor Richards, and every minor league option not named Matt Gage they have promoted to the big leagues.
It may not seem to add up as you lounge on the Couch to take in all of the transactions as they flash across your screens. But the simple adage of “score more runs than you allow” will make the difference in every decision made over the next few days. Pythagorean Winning Percentage might have you mumbling “it’s all Greek to me.” But run differential will prove to be the difference between playing playoff baseball in October or 18 rounds at the local club come the fall.
* Since we are number crunching, let’s try to make sense of the continuing complaints by opposing baseball executives and media types about the established, well-publicized and released-well-in-advance COVID protocols established by the Canadian government regulating border crossings for ALL individuals. Not just major league baseball players. The formula for successful entry into Canada is not as complex as Pythagoren Winning Percentage. You don’t need an advanced mathematics degree or be fluent in analytics to get the right answer: Passport + Complete Vaccination Proof = Bienvenue-Welcome to Canada. The Libertarian in me defends an individual’s rights to make decisions for themselves and their families. Applied Libertarian principles also place and protect the rights of others who may be placed in harm’s way from the ramifications of a person’s decisions or actions.
The Toronto Blue Jays went more than 250 days between home games over the past two seasons. Toronto played 26 home games in Buffalo in 2020, and another 23 at Sahlen Field in 2021 after playing 21 games at their Dunedin complex. That is 70 home- away -from- home games before being permitted by the same types of restrictions to host a game at Rogers Centre. Thus far in 2022, the Blue Jays have played 53 home games that may or may not have been impacted by visiting players being denied entry into Canada due to vaccination status. Quick calculation (no calculator required) show that the Blue Jays still have a negative home date differential of -17 when compared to the “competitive disadvantage” situation faced by their 2022 opponents.
I support a players individual decision to not get vaccinated. But baseball is a team sport. Team officials had adequate time to convince their unvaccinated players to comply with Canadian statutes in advance of scheduled road trips to Toronto. Players had the opportunity to reverse their decision (as reportedly Andrew Benintendi is considering after his trade from the last place Royals to the league leading Yankees), meet vaccination protocols, and play for their teams per terms of their contracts. You cannot shoot yourself in the foot trying to clean your gun and blame the manufacturer for not accounting for your bad decision.
The time has come for baseball executives, professional athletes, puzzled pundits, and FANS to remove the ammunition before shooting off their mouths about perceived unfair practices by a diligent government and a fully compliant opponent.
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Jersey born, Pittsburgh resident, baseball lifer. Staff Writer jaysfromthecouch.com. Host THE ON FEK CIRCLE on JFtC YouTube Channel. Regular guest on Jays From the couch Radio Podcast. Established WPPJ Rock-a-thon benefit, which has been broadcast annually since 1981 and has raised for than $500,000 for the Early Learning Institute of Pittsburgh. IBWAA member.