Corresponding Points (with Drew Fairservice) by Carson Cistulli July 1, 2010 Amazingly, Corresponding Points is not the name of a lightly produced PBS talk show from the 1980s. Rather, it’s an experiment with which we’ll be, uh, experimenting today. The concept isn’t difficult: target one of the interweb’s better writers, ask him questions via email, and then re-print the emails in full to give the post that “raw” look everyone’s so into these days. Today’s guest is Drew Fairservice. Because you frequent better blogs everywhere, you’ve almost definitely seen Mr. Fairservice’s work at Walk Off Walk and Ghostrunner on First (GROF), his Blue Jay-centric blog. Fairservice practices what he calls a “liberated fandom.” Is that some sorta Canadian BS, or an ethos we can all embrace? Find out, in this edition of Corresponding Points! From: Carson Cistulli Sent: Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 10:45 PM To: Drew Fairservice Subject: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs Drew, At GROF, you recently wrote a post in which you looked at the watchability of four Blue Jay starters using our incredibly proprietary NERD metric. In said post — which, by the way, I totally didn’t find by googling my own name — you note how well the Jays in question come out by this measure. I wondered how the Jays’ top-four starters compared to those of other teams. If my calculations are correct, here’s the (awkwardly formatted) answer: 1. Boston (33): Tim Wakefield (10), Jon Lester (9), Josh Beckett (7), Clay Buchholz (7). 2. Colorado (32): Jorge de la Rosa (9), Ubaldo Jimenez (8), Jhoulys Chacin (8), Jason Hammel (7). 3. Philadelphia (31): Roy Halladay (10), Jamie Moyer (8), Cole Hamels (8), Joe Blanton (5). 4. L.A. Dodgers (30): Clayton Kershaw (8), Vicente Padilla (8), Hiroki Kuroda (7), John Ely (7). T5. St. Louis (29): Adam Wainwright (8), Brad Penny (7), Jaime Garcia (7), Chris Carpenter (7). T5. Minnesota (29): Francisco Liriano (10), Scott Baker (9), Carl Pavano (6), Kevin Slowey (4). T5. Toronto (29): Brandon Morrow (8), Ricky Romero (8), Brett Cecil (7), Shaun Marcum (6). A couple of observations. One, NERD isn’t infallible. I’m still not in love with Jamie Moyer getting an 8. I’m a fan of Moyer on a conceptual level, I guess — he’s 47 and throws his fastball at 81 mph — but I’m not sure I like watching him. C’est la frigging vie, right? Two, the difference between Toronto and all the other teams on that list is that, for the Blue Jays, the playoffs aren’t really a thing. Cool Standings — which, I don’t know if their methodology is flawless, but it seems mostly smart — has Toronto’s odds of making the post-season at about 5%. The Dodgers are next-worst at 14%. Every other team on that list is above 20%. Obviously, this has a lot to do with the division in which the Blue Jays do their balling. In another division — the NL Central, the NL West — the Blue Jays are very likely competitive. I imagine this is only of some consolation to you. Fact is, any fan worth his salt — and when I say “salt” I mean that bangin’ Portuguese sea salt, not like the Morton iodized variety — any fan worth his salt wants to see his team winning as much as possible. But I wonder: have those four pitchers — Morrow, Romero, Cecil, Marcum — have they made the season more watchable than the Jays’ place in the standings might otherwise suggest? From: Drew Fairservice Sent: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 6:53 AM To: Carson Cistulli Subject: Re: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs Consolation is old hat for Jays fans. The Blue Jays status as “the excellent also-rans” is nothing new. Through the last half of the decade, NERDy rotations kept the watchability up while the Wild Card leaders disappeared in the distance. Finding the silver lining in lost seasons is a Blue Jays rite of passage – look now further to the clingy manner Jays fans held to Roy Halladay and all the tears shed over his homecoming start moving to Philadelphia. While the past rotations were staffed by more established guys like A.J. Burnett and Ted Lilly, there is something to be said for watching the young bucks come of age before you eyes. The serendipitous development of Brett Cecil’s change up, Ricky Romero emerging from Troy Tulowitzki’s shadow, Brandon Morrow casting doubt on the genius that is Jack Zduriencik, and Shaun Marcum the ersatz ace are all worthy distractions from a season pretty over on Memorial Day. Drew From: Carson Cistulli Sent: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 11:36 AM To: Drew Fairservice Subject: Re: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs Drew, My second volley. Two questions. 1. Okay, so the consolation of a young, interesting pitching staff isn’t enough to make up for years of playing — what — third or fourth fiddle? What keeps bringing your back then? Are you just straight representing Canadia? Does the new front office give you any hope? 2. Per HitTracker, four of the top six leaders in No Doubt home runs are Jays: Vernon Wells (9), Jose Bautista (7), Edwin Encarnacion (5), and John Buck (also 5). I’ve seen a couple of those, I think — in particular, that June 4th game during which he hit twin 440-foot homers off AJ Burnett. What’s that been like for you? And also: what should someone who’s NOT a Jays fan know about watching this offense? From: Drew Fairservice Sent: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 12:11 PM To: Carson Cistulli Subject: Re: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs 1. No matter how progressive or liberated I think I am, my Blue Jays fandom is staid. I’m not likely to pack my stuff and move on to a more successful/less futile team so I try to make the best of it. Looking down my nose at the annual Yankee-fodder to emerge from the AL West gets tiring (eventually), so I like to make the best of what I’m given. Watching Halladay for years, Scott Rolen for his cup of coffee, Carlos Delgado in his prime, trying to decide if Aaron Hill & Vernon Wells are 3, 4, or 5 tool studs, and the defensive wizardry of John McDonald ultimately add to the experience of going to the ballpark and watching your team win more than they lose, even if it’s for nothing in the end. 2. My feelings on the Jays all-or-nothing approach are mixed. They are great fun to watch, the home runs fly from just about anyone in the lineup on a given day. The downside – they are hilariously easy to pitch to. The Jays make it their business to go down hacking in accordance with their plan of attack at the plate. I have a pet theory that the Jays found bargains in cheap acquisitions in guys who “hit the ball hard” and set the loose on the world. With lame-duck enabler Cito Gaston pushing and prodding his troops to “get their front foot down” and let fly, the Jays brass figured they could nail homers at a prodigious rate while using the previously mentioned pitching staff to keep games close. A couple three-run homers and you’re off! The plan worked wonders until the home runs all turned solo. The Jays are still an exciting team to watch if you subscribe to the “bloop & a blast” offensive theory, but countless bad ABs (no walks means no PAs) wear on your soul. If you’re watching the Jays for the first time, understand what you’re seeing is The Plan. Hit The Ball Hard, At All Costs. That is the beginning and the end of the ethos. From: Carson Cistulli Sent: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM To: Drew Fairservice Subject: Re: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs 1. In that post — i.e. “Addition by Subtraction” — you write, “One thing I know (almost) for sure: Encarncion is going to put up some hilarious numbers in Vegas.” And continue: I predict some eye-popping numbers once the “Holy Crap I’m nearly 28 and just got [sent down again] Designated for Motherflippin Assignment!!” hangover clears. The kind of numbers associated with slummin future studs like Travis Snider and Brett Wallace, I’d guess. Gawdy, crooked numbers with slugging percentages so high they’re matched only by his BAC after a night at the Spearmint Rhino. First, that’s exciting prose. Keep doing that. Please. Second, you appear to be absolutely correct about Encarnacion in Vegas — thus far, at least. Through just seven games in the PCL, he’s slashing .438/.486/.781 with 3 HR. Actually, four of those games and all of those homers came in Fresno, but the point remains: Encarnacion is killing it. 2. You use the term “liberated” to describe the sort of fandom you practice and/or espouse. “Liberated Fandom” is a tag you seem to employ with some frequency at GROF. Is that some sort of Canadian BS? How would you explain it to someone who, at first blush, is skeptical of the term? How would you explain it to someone who, at first blush, is excited by it? Finally, how would you explain it to the sort of Japanese person you always see in Vice Magazine? From: Drew Fairservice Sent: Wed, Jun 30, 2010 at 1:26 PM To: Carson Cistulli Subject: Re: Hey, it’s Carson from FanGraphs As you once wrote about a PCL ballpark: “I think the park factor is about a million.” I put zero stock in anything I read about PCL numbers, but Encarnacion was born for slugfests like that. His skills might not translate to the big leagues but down there he’s in his element. Liberated fandom is something I first saw on Free Darko – the wildly successful and pretentious basketball site of some acclaim. I’ll never fully divorce myself from rooting for laundry but I refuse to shut myself off from Joy dressed as the enemy. I have nothing but love and respect for Mariano Rivera and couldn’t possibly imagine a world in which Manny and Papi are villains. I couldn’t bring myself to cheer for David Eckstein during his time as a Jay because it just didn’t feel right. Basically, my bastardized version says listen to your guts. Cast off the shackles of us versus them and embrace greatness in its every form. Appreciate and understand the team in the other dugout because the wins and losses fade over time. It isn’t too far from the “All Joy” concept, just with a wordier name.