The Blue Jays and Replacement Pitchers

Good luck remembering Thad Weber existed in five years. - USA TODAY Sports

Over the last year or so the Blue Jays have become famous for their waiver claims, but has it improved the quality of their depth?

With the influx of advanced stats into the mainstream, or almost mainstream, of baseball analysis, there has been a great deal of discussion about the "replacement player". The replacement player is the guy that can be had at any time with little difficulty. Usually a replacement player is a minor league veteran or someone that can be acquired from another team for a bucket of baseballs, some pine tar, or a $15 red lobster gift card. In short, a replacement player is Mike McCoy.

You really want to avoid playing these guys if at all possible, unless they are Henry Blanco or Omar Vizquel or someone else ancient who has no hope of hitting a baseball. In those cases you get them in there weekly. Snarky scorn for mystical "veteran presence" powers aside, the whole point of replacement players is to temporarily plug holes during the season, usually those caused by injuries. No one sets out with a plan to start the season someone like Jeff Francoeur in the outfield, unless of course they have no idea what they are doing.

Over the last couple of seasons Blue Jays fans have become far too familiar with this quality of player, particular when it comes to pitchers. Last year, the Blue Jays pitching staff fell to pieces due to a horrific streak of injuries and a fair amount of good old fashioned ineffectiveness. Not only were Henderson Alvarez and Ricky Romero the only starters to make it through the entire year, but the bullpen was a revolving door for months at a time. Thirty four different pitchers appeared for Toronto last year, and many of them were replacement players. For the purposes of this article the definition of a replacement player has three components:

1. The player must not start the season on the 25 man roster. You can't be replacing anyone if you had a job to begin with.

2. The player has not been considered a prospect in recent history. For example Chad Jenkins was a guy the Blue Jays may have expected to succeed based on his draft pedigree so I don't count him here.

3. The player cannot have been traded to the Blue Jays with a major league role in mind. Although Eric Thames, for all his beautiful facial hair, has a value much like the aforementioned red lobster gift card, the Blue Jays traded a living, breathing, human being to get Steve Delabar into their bullpen so you wouldn't consider him a replacement player.

In the chart below I outline the quality of the innings the Jays got from those guys (I will list the pitchers included at the bottom for those who are curious) in 2012. Perhaps the most disturbing number of all is the quantity of innings pitched. To make the image more vivid I have personified the aggregated replacement player and bestowed upon him the moniker, "Abe Replacement".

Fake Name

Innings Pitched

Wins

Losses

Earned Runs

HR Allowed

BB

K

ERA

FIP

Abe Replacement

206.2

6

10

138

38

79

141

6.01

5.37

As you can see, despite Abe's rubber arm he was a pretty poor pitcher. You know you might be in trouble when your earned runs allowed are creeping up on your strikeout total. To be fair, it's pretty clear what you are going to get relying on quad-A pitchers to pitch over 200 innings for your team. What is interesting is what Alex Anthopoulos did in response to Abe's ineffectiveness last year.

It seems that given the events of 2012 a light went on for AA. The Jays GM realized that no matter how well your roster is constructed (and despite the results you could argue that the 2013 Blue Jays were a well constructed roster) you are going to be drawing on minor league depth to plug holes at some point during the season. Anthopolous spent much of the offseason making waiver claim after waiver claim in an effort to bring in the best depth pieces possible so that when injuries struck the Jays would be prepared. His activity on the waiver wire became so famous that there was a Sporcle game about it, and when Sporcle is taking notice you know you are making waves.

Lo and behold, injury related disaster has struck the Blue Jays pitching core once again and this team finds itself leaning on replacement type pitching more than they'd like in 2013. Given the amount of effort this front office put into making sure there was quality minor league depth in case this scenario unfolded, one would think that the replacement pitchers might be doing better this year. In the chart below I used the same rules as I outlined earlier to define the replacement players and again there will be a list of pitchers included at the end of the article. Below are the stats for 2013's aggregated replacement player, a man by the name of "Randolph Replacement":

Fake Name

Innings Pitched

Wins

Losses

Earned Runs

HR Allowed

BB

K

ERA

FIP

Randolph Replacement

50

2

4

40

16

28

31

7.20

7.80

If you thought Randolph was going to be doing better than Abe you were sorely mistaken. Despite excellent recent performances from Juan Perez and Neil Wagner (who have combined for 0.6 WAR already) this group is a sorry, sorry bunch. It is rather disappointing that the Blue Jays anticipated this potential disaster, made significant efforts to be ready for it, and were still unable to find not disastrously awful depth pieces. Fifty innings pitched is far from a large sample but here's a statistic to give you an idea of how dire this situation has been:

Since 1871 the highest career FIP for a pitcher who has throw 50 or more innings belongs to man by the name of Miguel Jiminez with a 7.36 mark. If Randolph Replacement was a real pitcher he would be the worst pitcher of all time.

All of this is to say that furiously working the waiver wire in response to the pitching disaster in 2012 has not been an effective strategy. The Blue Jays replacement pitchers, despite some notable exceptions (Aaron Loup last year, Wagner and Perez so far in 2013), have not even managed to be replacement level. In some cases they haven't even come particularly close. I don't expect this front office to catch lightning in a bottle with every waiver pickup but I do expect them to catch competence in a bottle just a little more often.

Notes

-Abe Replacement is a compilation of the performances of: Chad Beck, Andrew Carpenter, David Carpenter, Jesse Chavez, Robert Coello, Evan Crawford, Sam Dyson, Shawn Hill, David Pauley, Scott Richmond, Ryota Igarashi, Bobby Korecky, Aaron Laffey and Aaron Loup

-Randolph Replacement is a compilation of the performances of: Aaron Laffey, Justin Germano, Dave Bush, Mickey Storey, Thad Weber, Todd Redmond, Juan Perez, Neil Wagner, Edgar Gonzalez and Ramon Ortiz

-This article is not updated to include last night's game because I just wasn't realistically going to stay up until 1 am and then do a bunch of recalculations. Sorry guys (and gals).

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker