Since taking over as general manager in late 2009 Alex Anthopolous has been fairly well received by the Blue Jays fan base. He has made some excellent trades in his time as GM, such as robbing Seattle of Brandon Morrow, dumping the contract of Vernon Wells, and picking up players like Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus at heavily discounted rates. Anthopolous really made his mark with his trades this off-season for R.A Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. The Blue Jays headed into 2013 with great expectations based on all the talent that the ninja GM acquired. There can be no doubting that AA really put his stamp on this team, and now that they are starting to turn it around he deserves all the praise right?
As it happens, not exactly. Before I go any further I should say that the purpose of this article is not to bash Anthopolous because I think he is good at his job and I've agreed with the vast majority of his moves as the GM of the Blue Jays. However, it is interesting that the biggest impact players on this team in 2013 are not players acquired by Anthopolous, but rather those brought in by his widely despised predecessor J.P Ricciardi. This is not a new point, it has often been noted in the past how Ricciardi did leave some core pieces behind for his protégé, but I don't think the extent of Ricciardi's influence, even four years after he was fired, is widely understood. At this moment 24% of the players on the Blue Jays active roster were brought in by Ricciardi. That sounds like quite a lot for a team that has made so many trades in recent years and wasn't seen to have much of a foundation to build on when AA took over. An examination of the remaining Ricciardi holdovers reveals that they are the driving force behind this team's success so far in 2013. Let's start with position players:
Collective WAR: 6.6
Team Position Player WAR: 8.6
Percentage of Team WAR: 76.7%
Collective Home Runs: 58
Team Home Runs: 91
Percentage of Team Home Runs: 63.7%
This quartet, especially the trio of Bautista, Encarnacion and Lind, has produced the bulk of the Blue Jays' offensive output so far in 2013. To be fair it is hard to credit Ricciardi too much for the breakout of Jose Bautista because it was one of the most inexplicable events in recent baseball history. However, it is more reasonable to assume that Ricciardi saw room for growth in Encarnacion when he acquired him as a 26 year old in 2009. These players' percentage of team WAR will come down slightly as Jose Reyes returns and Melky Cabrera comes around a bit, but it is a little bit staggering how much this offense was built by Ricciardi. The results are less stark when it comes to pitching but still highly noteworthy:
Collective WAR: 1.8
Team Pitching WAR: 4.4
Percentage of Team Pitching WAR: 40.9%
Collective Shutdowns: 28
Team Shutdowns: 63
Percentage of Team Shutdowns: 44.4%
Collective Meltdowns: 4
Team Meltdowns: 31
Percentage of Team Meltdowns: 12.9%
For those unfamiliar with Shutdowns and Meltdowns, they are a stat gauging when relievers help or hurt their team's chances of winning by at least 6% according to Win Probability Added. Cecil and Janssen providing 44.4% of the shutdowns to only 12.9% of the team's meltdowns is pretty impressive. The fact they account for 40.9% of this team's pitching WAR is insane. They are ranked 1st and 2nd in WAR, and must be the only relief duo to do that in the major leagues. This is great news for them, but it reflects very poorly on the starting staff. That being said, now that the starting pitching is coming around this duo is unlikely to have provide such a massive chunk of this team's pitching WAR by season's end. Regardless of what the starters do from here on out, Ricciardi's drafting has provided the two relievers that an elite bullpen leans on the most and that's nothing to sneeze at.
Many of those old enough to remember J.P. Ricciardi (which I would assume is anyone reading this unless there are some super advanced 4 year olds out there) do not have fond feelings for the man. He could come off as smug and unpleasant and he did make some questionable decisions during his tenure as general manager. There was a great deal of relief within the fan base when he was shown the door and Alex Anthopolous has been a more than worthy successor. Giving some credit to Ricciardi is not meant to discredit Anthopoulos in any way, but it doesn't say nothing that the Blue Jays 1st, 2nd and 4th leading position players in terms of WAR (and J.P Arencibia) and top two pitchers by WAR are all Ricciardi acquisitions.
In the interests of transparency I will say that I've taken a snapshot of the situation at a very opportune time to make this point. Adam Lind is probably playing over his head, and it would be hard for Janssen or Cecil to play any more dominantly. Additionally, a lot of key Anthopolous acquisitions, like Reyes, Dickey, Johnson are just getting healthy and are very likely to provide more value than they have so far. We also can probably expect better things from Melky Cabrera and Mark Buehrle. As I said before, my goal here is not to take anything from AA. I just think it's high time to appreciate some of the players J.P Ricciardi left the Blue Jays that are still core pieces of the team. We ought to be doling out some credit to the former GM. Even if it hurts. Speaking as someone who was firmly anti-Ricciardi for a long time, it definitely hurts.