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We're Barely Worth Our Weight and We're Just Slightly Out of Date: Richard Griffin on Casey Janssen

Must...resist...urge to bash Griffin.....

OK, can't hold it back anymore.  Everyone's favourite hobo look-alike is back with more wisdom. 

So just a short a while back, Griffin fielded an innocuous question:

Where does Casey Janssen fit in this year? Starter or bullpen? Any chance he doesn’t break with the club?

With this:

Which brings us naturally to the case of Janssen. The Jays need at least one inning-eating relief pitcher that can carry a game from the third to the sixth every now and then. If Tallet is not there, then that guy should be Janssen. We already know that pitching coach Brad Arnsberg prefers Janssen out of the pen, even when he was healthy last spring. He has always succeeded as a major-league reliever and seldom succeeded as a ML starter. Why test the Peter Principle when you already have a need that he can succeed at. As for Janssen coming back from surgery, it’s easier to give a middle reliever an extra couple of days of down time than a member of your starting rotation.

So, Cleopatra-like, let's disolve this pearl with B^3's vinegar tongue.  Oh, no, wait, Ian Toye of Toronto has already done so for us:

Regarding Casey Janssen, you said his best place might be as an inning-eating mop-up guy. If you need somebody to go into the game in the 3rd, your chances of winning are probably very small. Why would the Jays use one of their few decent pitchers in such a role? Isn't that a place to stash your worst major league pitcher, since you probably won't win that game anyways?

Also, classifying Janssen as "always succeeding from the bullpen, seldom succeeding as a starter" is ridiculous. The guy has played 2 years in the majors, one in each role. His successful season as a bullpen arm came in his 2nd year, after he'd gained valuable experience as a starter in his rookie year. If a one-year trend counts as "always," I guess we can forgo the season as the Phillies will always win from here on out.

Ding!  Thank you Ian Toye!  The Jays already have too many quality arms in the bullpen picture.  Dirk Hayhurst, who has K'ed 12 and walked none in 7 spring innings so far and has yet to give up a run, isn't even going to get a run out.  Brian Wolfe, who has a 150 and 174 ERA+, respectively, over the last two seasons, has no chance of making the team.  Putting Janssen, one of the Jays better candidates for a starting job, into the bullpen in order to use a guy like Clement in the starting rotation  would only compound this problem and make little sense. 

Second, Griffin is actually using Janssen's success in the bullpen in 2007 as some sort of proof that he would not succeed in a starter's role instead of looking at a record of good pitching and concluding, you know, that Janssen is a good pitcher.  Casey's quality year out of the pen is evidence that he would be a good starter, not the other way around.   

But Griffin's response really takes the cake: 

I don’t believe the term "mop-up guy" was ever used in referring to Janssen’s best role. There is an extremely important role for good middle-men, guys that can enter a game when the starter struggles early and carry a game through the sixth inning. It’s not always in games that you’re being blown out. Recall the game that Ted Lilly and John Gibbons got into their famous dustup. The Jays had built a big lead, but Lilly couldn’t get through enough innings to earn a win, so he was taken out and took exception.

I get it.  So we should keep Janssen out of the rotation for that one game a season where the starter gets a big lead, coughs it up in the 5th amidst a blowup with his manager, and then the game ends up being a close game?

Griffin continues:

Secondly, Janssen is not one of their few decent pitchers. This is a Jays’ staff that led the league in ERA for both starters and relievers. But there are roles to be filled.

Yes. Yes there are.  Two of those roles are glaring holes in the Jays' starting rotation.  While Griffin points out that the Jays lead baseball in starters ERA and relievers ERA, what he doesn't point out is that all the relievers, plus Accardo, are back, while at least 2 of the 5 starters won't be. 

It's true, it's good to have a reliever in the bullpen who can pitch multiple innings effectively. Janssen could perform such a roleBut it's hardly the best use of his talents.  To paraphrase Bill James, a CEO can negotiate a deal to buy the company's paper clips, but it's hardly the best use of his time and talent (though there are some CEO's I wouldn't trust to buy paper clips).  And then this gem:

Thirdly, your ability to misquote the printed word is quite stunning. The fact of the matter is that Janssen, according to his pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, is better served at this stage of his career coming out of the bullpen. Until he gets an effective third pitch in his repertoire, once through the lineup may be Janssen’s best role. Just because a guy is making his second marriage work, does that necessarily mean he should go back and try it again with his first wife? Sometimes it takes a while to find something you’re good at and then you move on. Never say never and never say always. Go Phillies.

I don't remember Arnsberg explicitly saying that, though I'm open to being convinced that he did. What I do remember is Janssen having a great spring last season as a starter and all but winning the starting job before going down with the injury. Ricciardi is Arnsberg's boss (or the boss of Arnsberg's boss, really) and he has always, always seen Janssen as a starter long-term. And "until Janssen gets an effective third pitch?"  When Casey was in the bullpen, he only used a few pitches, but Casey has always been a 5-pitch pitcher and probably his greatest strength, like Marcum, is his ability to throw several different breaking and off-speed pitches for strikes. Marcum has done allright as a starter.

Look, I'm not saying that Janssen is predestined to excel as a starter. But what I am saying is that it would be stupid, really stupid, for the Jays not to try Janssen as a starter this sesaon.  Especially this season.  The Jays have a stacked bullpen and holes in the rotation, and, even if they didn't, we've shown before, many times, how even a league average starter is much, much more valuable than an above-average reliever, and that's if Janssen were used in predominantly high-leverage situations, which, pace Griff, are not the normal purview of the long man.

Thanks to Aimee Mann for the title, from her lovely song "Jimmy Hoffa Jokes."  The truth hurts.