#firegibbons? #idon’tgetit

John Gibbons

 

Blue Jays fans everywhere are clamouring for manager John Gibbons’ head and frankly, I don’t get it.  Entering play Sunday, the Blue Jays were in last place in the AL East, 3.5 games out of first place with a 13-17 record.  In their last 10 games, the Jays were 2-8.  Why is the team losing? Let’s have a look.

Offense

The Blue Jays (entering Sunday’s play) rank 7th in all of baseball with 140 runs scored – ahead of New York, Baltimore, Boston and Tampa.  With the injuries to Adam Lind, Jose Reyes, and the fact that 2B has been a carousel of offensive black holes for the Blue Jays, John Gibbons has the offense running on all cylinders – more or less.  Nothing to see here.

Defense

Toronto leads all of baseball with a .991 fielding percentage.  Fangraphs has the Blue Jays as the 11th best fielding team according to their fielding metric.  They are 12th in defensive runs saved.  So basically, the Blue Jays are slightly above average in the defense category.  Team defense isn’t losing the Blue Jays any games, for the most part.

Pitching

Here we go.  The Blue Jays are dead last in all of baseball for innings pitched by the starting staff.  40% of the starting rotation is over the age of 35 (Mark Buehrle, RA Dickey), 40% of the starting rotation is diabetic (Dustin McGowan, Brandon Morrow).  The remaining 20% is coming off Tommy John surgery and has never pitched 150 innings of professional baseball at any level (Drew Hutchison). Blue Jays starters average 5.473 innings per game, which means the bullpen has to make up the remaining 3.52 innings.  That’s a lot to ask.

As good as the Blue Jays bullpen was in 2013, they can only do so much.  Brett Cecil has appeared in 15 games already.  That puts him on pace for 78 appearances and 82 innings pitched.  That’s not exactly ideal.  The Blue Jays are 29th out of 30 MLB teams in bullpen ERA with a 5.35 mark.  Blue Jays relievers walk the 2nd most batters in all of baseball: 4.98 for every nine innings pitched.  In 12 save opportunities, the Blue Jays bullpen has blown five.  Had they not blown those five leads?  The Blue Jays would be 19-12 and in 1st place in the AL East.  The pitching is the problem.

Gibbons also has another strength: he is a savvy handler of relief pitching, with former reliever B.J. Ryan once claiming that in his first year under Gibbons he only got up once in the bullpen without getting into a game. – Jeff Blair, Return of the most underrated manager in Blue Jays historyNovember 20, 2012.

The Blue Jays’ manager has continued to be a savvy handler of pitching this season.  Before Brandon Morrow landed on the 60-day DL with a torn tendon sheath in his right index finger, Gibbons openly stated he planned to use a six-man rotation with minimal off days in May.  This would give his diabetic duo an extra day between starts to heal, as well as his aging veterans and recent Tommy John victim.  It’s clever, creative and a plan that flies in the face of baseball convention.

In spite of the bullpen having to eat more innings than any other pen in baseball, only Cecil is even in the top 20 of appearances by a reliever in MLB (tied for 15th).  After that it’s Delabar at (tied 70th) and Santos at 101.  Gibbons is mindful of the workload that needs to be distributed among the relievers.  It’s a long season and Gibby knows it.

And he’s not only savvy with the pitching.  On Sunday, Gibbons had Dioner Navarro – nursing a quad injury – pinch-hit for Dustin McGowan.  After lacing a single into the left-field corner, Gibbons – playing with a thin bench – called on staff ace R.A. Dickey to pinch run for the injured Navarro.  Yet another creative move to get the most out of his roster.  Almost Joe Maddon-esque.

In an effort to generate more offense when playing inter-league games in NL ballparks, Gibbons moved third baseman Brett Lawrie to second base in order to keep Juan Francisco in the lineup.  Lawrie made it clear that he was unhappy about the move, even though it was temporary.  Does Gibbons care? Nope.

Although Gibbons does a few things that irritate me, namely wasting outs in the early innings with sacrifice bunts, I am not convinced that Connie Mack himself could get a better performance out of the pitching staff that the Toronto Blue Jays currently employ.  For the John Gibbons haters and #firegibbons hashtag users out there, what would you like to see Gibbons do differently?  Which manager out there could do a better job with this pitching staff and how?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Connie Mack
Connie Mack.  Photo courtesy of Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics.

Featured image courtesy of REUTERS/Doug Kapustin.  Statistics courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau & Fangraphs.

Written By

has written for Mopupduty.com since 2006. Follow Callum on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram (@callumhughson)

  • squitis1979

    Precisely. Unless he is involved in the roster management -which he isn’t- he’s doing everything he should be with the crap bench and rotation pieces he has to work with.

  • michael

    just a question on one part of the article, does gibbons really even bunt that much? i seem to remember him being against the bunt. i see that they have 7 sac bunts (15th in the league) on the year, one of which was a suicide squeeze that scored a run, and all by pretty terrible hitters save for izturis (who hit pretty well while he was healthy).
    i’m no fan of the bunt, but when it’s #9 hitters like goins, getz, diaz, and kawasaki doing the majority of them i don’t mind as much.

    other than that small nitpick, i’ve never understood the anti-gibbons crowd. ran a great bullpen last year despite the awful starting pitching and generally does a good job with the lineup.

    • That’s all it was – a nitpick. Gibbons rarely bunts.

  • Jays Fan

    So here is my question. Does the manager in fact have any impact on the outcome of the game or not? When the bullpen performs well and the Jays win Gibbons gets credit for his “excellent bullpen management”. However, when the pen blows the game the Gibbons defenders say things like “the pitchers did not do their jobs” and “I don’t recall seeing him pitching over the last few weeks”. So I guess if the Jays win then Gibbons gets the credit and the players really had nothing to do with it and if the Jays lose it is all the players fault and no blame for Gibbons? How do I get a job like that?

    • I think that the manager can do a lot to impact the game in a negative way, but it’s harder for him to impact the team in a way where the team performs above and beyond expectations.

      In the case of Gibbons – whether you are defending him or attacking him – it’s
      important to judge him based on his decisions. Are they sound and do they make sense?

      For example, if in 2013, John Gibbons batted JP Arencibia and his .227 OBP lead-off, you would be right to attack him. If the Blue Jays are playing an inter-league game and John Gibbons pinch-hits Jose Bautista for the pitcher with the bases loaded and
      Bautista flies out, you would say Bautista didn’t do his job. You wouldn’t attack Gibbons for using Bautista in that situation.

      Gibbons’ decisions surrounding bullpen workload, bullpen roles and match-ups are
      sound. If Gibbons uses his best relievers in the late innings with a lead and they don’t perform, you don’t attack him for not using Todd Redmond or Esmil Rogers instead.

      • Jays Fan

        I do agree with that but often question the decisions that Gibbons makes with respect to the bullpen and matchups. It is my view that he makes his decisions entirely based on statistics, which are important, but he does not add in judgement. Some days a player just seem to have it all going and other days they seem to be struggling but that does not seem to factor in. Gibbons seems in love with lefty/righty matchups and will remove a reliever that has just struck out several players in a row based on match ups. I have also seem him leave a reliever in for far too long (on one of those struggling days) based on what appears to be match ups. I prefer a manager like Bruce Bochy who says that being a manager is more than stats and also involves knowing your players and how they are on any given day. It is my view that Gibbons does not have the confidence in himself to ignore the stats and go with his gut if required because it you always use stats and it doesn’t work out you have an excuse.

  • Sam Bruce

    This is very well articulated. The Jays are in the most competitive divisions in the AL, and yet they are still holding their own. Their offense is firing on all cylinders, and the use of pinch hitting/running has been marvelous. With the call for Marcus Stroman coming, it shows that Gibbons is actively involved in trying to evolve the struggling roster. Hopefully we can get more ground on that front before Buehrle slows down.

  • Mike Hradil

    #hiregibbons he is the man!!

  • Kibble

    I am done with Gibbons..The sub par .500 records shows that this team needs a leader, not just half of the time…A.A. is also responsible for this talented team that under achieves…Both gotta go…we need motivators, someone with positive vibes and body language..And the pitching needs an overhaul…Win 3 lose 6…etc. Goodbye Gibby..so long A.A….

  • delta8wd

    Gibbons may be a manager but for a minor league team, where he knows just enough to be, whatever. As far as managing the Toronto Blue Jays, he is not the person for that job. First of all, look over his stats and see how many one run games he has lost, not because they didn’t have a chance to win them, he sat back hoping for the long ball to advance runners. I have read he handles the bullpen very well, well I disagree. He is managing against veteran major league coaches and managers who have seen it all. When Gibbons warms up a pitcher why does he not put up two pitchers a lefty and a righty, instead he warms up the one that is going in and the opposition counteracts his deep thought out plan. I truly don’t believe his style is a motivating style, the players seem like they really don’t want to play for him or they don’t think he knows what he is doing, which is exactly what I said a few years ago.
    If you supporters of Gibbons, think he is doing a good job, let the players tell you how they feel, when minor injuries keep people out of games, didn’t the grumbling of Lind, Rasmus and Lawrie tell you anything. Have you not noticed how the players sit at one end of the bench, and Gibbons sits at the other drinking his, whatever?
    Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare yourself for another disappointing year. Yes, we will have moments to cheer, but we will have far more tears then cheers.