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Let's Talk About May

Sadly, I will not be talking about Bob May, the golfer who almost defeated Tiger Woods in the 2000 PGA Championship. Instead, I will take a look at how the Blue Jays fared last month, the wonderful month of May.

  • May turned out to be quite a productive month for the Blue Jays. Throughout its 31 days, they managed to only lose one out of the ten series in which they played, a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies. In the end, they posted a record of 17-12, a significant improvement over last month's 12-11 record. As a result, the team has thrust itself into the thick of the playoff race, currently standing 2.5 games behind the Red Sox, who are atop the AL East. Here's how the Blue Jays have historically fared in the month of May:

    Year    May Record    Final Record
    1977    8-17 (.320)    54-107(.335)
    1978    9-18 (.333)    59-102(.366)
    1979    5-23 (.179)    53-109(.327)
    1980   13-14 (.481)    67-95 (.414)
    1981    9-20 (.310)    37-69 (.349) <-- Strike-shortened season
    1982   13-14 (.481)    78-84 (.481)
    1983   18-9  (.667)    89-73 (.549)
    1984   19-6  (.760)    89-73 (.549)
    1985   17-8  (.680)    99-62 (.615)
    1986   14-15 (.483)    86-76 (.531)
    1987   16-11 (.593)    96-66 (.593)
    1988   13-16 (.448)    87-75 (.537)
    1989   11-15 (.423)    89-73 (.549)
    1990   14-14 (.500)    86-76 (.531)
    1991   15-12 (.556)    88-74 (.562)
    1992   15-12 (.556)    96-66 (.593)
    1993   16-12 (.571)    95-67 (.586)
    1994   10-16 (.385)    55-60 (.478) <-- Strike-shortened season
    1995   11-16 (.407)    56-88 (.389) <-- Strike-shortened season
    1996   13-15 (.464)    74-88 (.457)
    1997   15-13 (.536)    76-86 (.469)
    1998   18-11 (.385)    88-74 (.543)
    1999   11-17 (.393)    84-78 (.519)
    2000   16-12 (.571)    83-79 (.512)
    2001   10-18 (.357)    80-82 (.494)
    2002   10-17 (.370)    78-84 (.481)
    2003   21-8  (.724)    86-76 (.531)
    2004   15-14 (.517)    67-94 (.416)
    2005   15-12 (.556)    80-82 (.494)
    2006   17-12 (.522)    ?

    All-time record during the month of May: 407-417 (.494)
    All-time final record: 2255-2318 (.493)

    The correlation between a team's record in a particular month and its final record isn't all that strong. But one certainly does exist to an extent. Obviously, the better a team, the more likely that team will win a high number of games every month. The inaugural Blue Jays team, for instance, never had a month with a record above .500. Meanwhile, the 1985 Blue Jays squad, which won 99 games, never had a losing record in any full month of play. Their record was 1-5 in the month of October, hence my "full month" stipulation.

    An important thing to remember is that the Blue Jays had a somewhat difficult schedule in the month of May. Only Tampa Bay, whom they played six times, could be viewed as a significantly inferior opponent. In June, the schedule actually softens up a good deal. In addition to once again squaring off against the Devil Rays, they'll play the Orioles, Marlins, and Nationals, all of whom are well below the .500 mark. It'll be an important month, one that will help demonstrate whether they can stay competitive and further distance themselves from that all-too-familar .500 level.

  • Rumours are still swirling around that the Blue Jays are actively pursuing second baseman Adam Kennedy of the Angels. Here's part of what's posted in the rumors section at espn.com:
    The Blue Jays are still interested in making a trade with the Angels for Adam Kennedy, the Toronto Star reports. It's been speculated on several fronts that the deal -- Kennedy for Shea Hillenbrand -- would have worked had the Jays taken a pitcher (Jeff Weaver) off the Angels' staff.

    Obviously J.P. Ricciardi has no interest in acquiring Jeff Weaver. He's overpaid, ineffective, and almost on the wrong side of 30. As for Kennedy, he hasn't performed exceptionally well this season, but he'd be a vast improvement over the team's current second base quartet of Edgardo Alfonzo, John McDonald, Luis Figueroa, and Russ Adams, who's currently in AAA. Shea Hillenbrand has been nothing short of exceptional this season, much to my surprise, and his stock will likely never be higher. I actually think it's possible to get more than Kennedy in return for his services, but it's probably best not to get too greedy.

    One theory as to why Hillenbrand is exceeding expectations is premised on the fact that he's currently in the midst of a contract season. Essentially, since he wants to be paid handsomely when he becomes an unrestricted free agent following this season, he's elevated his level of play. That's an interesting theory and, as Adrian Beltre exemplified in 2004, some players do post substantially better numbers during their contract season. In the near future I'd like to delve further into this topic and perhaps track how all the very-soon-to-be free agents are faring this season. It would be interesting to see the results.

  • In the Keith Law thread on Batter's Box to which I linked yesterday, one of the site's posters and one of the most highly-respected sabermetricians around, TangoTiger (Tom M. Tango), made some very interesting points, and I hope he doesn't mind if I share them here.

    In two separate posts, he states the following:

    I don't know about Keith's situation in particular, but my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd hand knowledge culled from many sources is that MLB is very much a small-business (except for the players).  It's a job you take because:
    • it's on your way to something bigger,
    • you are well-set financially, so you can take a hit
    • you just want to be part of baseball
    Except for the players, the GM, and the general counsel, my guess is that all personnel are underpaid compared to the corporate world.  The average team's revenue stream is in the 130-million$ range, of which 75-million$ is allocated to the MLB players.  So, you are talking about a 55-million$ business with a 40-60 million$ of "real-world" expenses.  That is very small potatoes, probably equivalent to a 200-employee company.

    I know when I was talking to some teams last year, one offered me a salary that matched what I made after graduating in 1990.  Two others were talking about a salary that I made almost 10 years ago.  A few others wanted me to work as an unpaid intern.  "I've got a stack of resumes here of highly qualified people who want to work for free", I heard more than once.

    It's quite an eye opener (mainly because I've never quite spent the time to think about it), but it seems perfectly logical. Other than the players and perhaps the very high-ranking executives, it's unlikely that many employees within a major league organization make as much money as we'd be apt to assume. Moreover, his argument about supply and demand can be extended to the peripheries of the sports industry. The fact is that anything related to sports possesses a lucrative air, and most people simply want to get their foot in the door, so to speak. In fact, I'm slightly surprised by how many high-priced sports writers (I assume they're highly-paid, anyway) are currently employed. Some of them certainly warrant that salary, of course, but with the amount of highly-skilled, competent people who'd be willing to work for exobitantly low wages, it seems like an odd phenomenon to me. Though I'm probably undervaluing the benefits of having a stable writing staff, I think.

  • Some people are still fuming over the infamous Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano trade of 2004. Some might say they're going a tad overboard, but they probably haven't seen Zambrano pitch.
  • Congrats to Rox Girl, who managed to attract the attention of a high-ranking Rockies executive. I'd love it if he became a regular poster.