Tagged: Edwin Encarnacion

MLB Season Preview: With a Blue Jay/A.L. East Bias

Picking the Jays (in the A.L. East)

Call me crazy but I am picking the Toronto Blue Jays to win the A.L. East this year.  Seriously!  I know what you might be thinking?  And I’m not one of those people who pick his favorite/hometown team to win it every year.  If I recall, I had the Jays finishing dead last behind Baltimore last season.  If anything, I should be repeating that prediction based on Baltimore’s improvement and Baseball Prospectus slotting the Jays dead last in their preview.  I disagree, and say that last year was just a sign of better things to come from the Jays.

Here is Why?
 
Jays

Nobody in the Jays rotation stands out at you, but believe me, they are all solid arms.  I see Kyle Drabek proving to be the prospect everyone thought he’d be, working deep into games late in the season and winning ROY.  When Brandon Morrow comes back from the DL he is going to tally up big strikeout numbers and win big games.  Ricky Romero also has that ‘big game’ mentality.  The Jays can expect another solid season out of him.  These three are the pitchers that the Jays will rely on, also getting decent contributions from the back-end guys like Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch, Jo-Jo Reyes and possibly Zach Stewart later in the year.   The bullpen looks formidible with three former closers (Jon Rauch, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco).  This could be, but won’t a concern in my opinion. 

The key factor in the Jays winning this season is that the pitching gets better!!  I can easily see this occuring under new manager, and pitching specialist, John Farrell.  We all saw how the offense caught fire last year, and this year the pitching steps up to compliment it. 

Also notable, is the Jays have adding some effective speed to get on base with Rajai Davis, a full season out of Travis Snider @Lunchboxhero45 maintaining a high .OBP and Yunel Escobar having a bounceback year at the plate while helping the pitchers in spades defensively.  Along with that, the Jays look better defensively in the outfield with Corey Patterson being a late-inning defensive replacement.

Then, throwing more to the fire is Adam Lind, Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hill and J.P. Arencibia all having productive years at the plate.  Encarnacion and Arencibia emerge as a legitimate homerun threats this season, while Aaron Hill gets his batting average in the .320’s

All this is a formula for success.  The Jays put together a full year and take a commanding lead on the A.L. East early.  We sweep the Yankees in a home series in mid-September, giving the Jays what they need to lock up the A.L. East crown.

Importantly, I buy a t-shirt to commemorate the event.  Yay!!!!!!!! ha ha.
 

Jays11 copy.jpg
     

Rest of the A.L. East   

If you haven’t noticed this offseason, the A.L. East has changed drastically.  The Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and even the Yankees have rearranged their clubs in ways that might alter the landscape of this division.  On paper, you could say that the Red Sox and Orioles improved the most over the offseason, but every year we see good teams on paper disintegrate.  The Red Sox are definitely familiar with that.  So, that is what I am predicting for 2011. 

Orioles

The Orioles revamped their offense but are relying on too many unprovens in their rotation, and everybody can see it.  Their weakness is glaring.  The acquistion of guys like Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy shows that they are going to be a team that can flash the lumber, although without a solid nucleus behind them.  Similar to the Jays last year, their offensive numbers will be significant, but their record will not be enough for the wild card.  They’ll have a better season though, I’ll give them that as a fact.     

Red Sox

The Red Sox got some premiere players (Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford), an improved bullpen (Bobby Jenks) and a promising rotation (a thinner, healthier John Lackey).  They seem like the sexy pick to win the World Series right now, so they have that working against them.  Expectations will be high and they will fail to meet them this season.  Watch Papelbon gets yanked as closer, Scutaro and Saltamacchia not cut it defensively and their acquisitions take time to get aclimated to the change of scenery.  Jose Bautista ends up owning the Green Monster in Fenway.  So much so, they contemplate taking it down the following year.  Okay, I’ve started to dream a bit.      

Yankees *Wild Card Pick*

You could say the same old things about the Yankees.  Tired responses like they have an aging roster, and they will fold under the pressure of playing in New York.  But I won’t say them again, as I’ve been burned by these statements in the past.  I have the Yankees winning the Wild Card for the second year in a row.  Their back end rotation won’t have to be amazing to guide them through the year.  If they aren’t good, I like the depth they have in the minors with guys like David Phelps, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman for the 2011 season.  The Yanks bullpen also got a lot stronger with Rafeal Soriano.  It is going to scare clubs to get into late innings with that team.  They’ll take the Wild Card, but the Jays will be a handful for them all year. 

Rays    

Hard to see the Rays finishing the season low in the standings after winning the division last year, isn’t it?  They will have a good club, no doubt.  However, I know how important it is to have a good bullpen in the A.L. East, and they don’t have one for 2011.  They still have a good season, but blow too many late leads on the road to the Yankees, Jays and Red Sox.  Bautista walk-offs bombs will be their demise.   

Baseball Does Not Revolve Around the A.L. East (I forgot)

There are actually other divisions, with some other good teams.  Believe it or not?

A.L. Central 

Tigers win this division on the backs of Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera.  Both these players have a long history of wraking the baseball.  Prospect Jacob Turner makes an impact in the rotation as a mid-season call-up and the rotation survives as the offense is a juggernaut in 2011.  The only PED Miguel Cabrera needs is scotch.

A.L. West

The Angels show MLB that defense in the outfield is as important as any aspect in the game.  Balls are gobbled up all year by Bourjos, Hunter and Wells, and
the best rotation in the West quells the Rangers bats all year.  The Angels win their matchups with the A’s starters on a consistant basis.  They are a fast, well managed and better team at producing offense.  The Angels are my ‘ultimate dark horse’ this year.  

National League

N.L. East

Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, need I say anymore names?  The Phillies rotation will get them loads of wins and Ryan Howard will wrake once again in 2011.  Hard to pick against them, I dare anybody to do it.  They are the class of this division.

Marlins *Wild Card Pick*

You’d think that the Braves would be the logical team to pick here.  Many predict them to improve upon last season.  They also scooped up Uggla from the Marlins.  However, the N.L. East, apart from the Phillies, has been a very competitive division and the fish look on the verge of making some noise.  The Marlins come into 2011 with a more experienced pitching staff, adding Vasquez and looking for prime years from Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson.  The lineup features a very good young outfield on the brink of providing Hanley Ramirez with some needed protection.  Marlins suprise everyone this season except me. 

N.L. Central

The Reds were so impressive last season that I’m riding them to the World Series this year.  With a taste of the playoffs last year, I see a hungry team looking for more.  No doubt, the Cardinals and Brewers will give them enough competition this year.  But I believe that will only help fuel this team.  They showed a tremendous consistancy as a team last year, and a great will and desire to win every game.  The central is slowing becoming a very tough division, and Joey Votto is looking like a “big red machine” at the top of it.  I see Cueto and Volquez solidifying themselves as frontline starters and Aroldis Chapman starting mid-season to boost the Reds even further. 

N.L. West  

It’s the Giants.  Dominant pitching characterized this team last year, and the scary thing is that they are all young players that are getting better.  They might have a shaky beginning this year, but the Giants will end it in first.  Their pitching is that much better than any other team in their division.  Big years from Madison Bumgartner and Buster Posey make them even better in 2011.  

World Series    

Angels vs. Reds

Winner: Angels in 7 games  

Don’t anybody call me unoriginal!  Dan Haren and Jared Weaver provide a great playoff stretch for the Angels and they win it just as the Giants won it last year; with pitching and defense (not including Scott Kazmir in that equation).   

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VORPin’ it up Blue Jay Style

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I don’t consider myself a ‘stat guy.’  I was never a strong math student.  But I do like
to analyze baseball stats from time to time.  The world of baseball
statistics has ‘blown up’ in the past 10 years with sabermetrics.  Don’t
ask me to demonstrate what these stats are?  I just find them interesting to look at and analyze.  Two of the more trendy stats out
today are VORP, and a UZR/150 score.

UZR/150
is concocted out of graphs, charts and ‘god knows what’ to get an overall
rating of how many runs a player saved, or lost, above any average
fielder.  The moniker stands for ‘ULTIMATE zone rate per 150 games
defensive games.’  First of all, I love the name. It compares some of my favorite
defensive baseball players to my favorite wrestlers, ‘The Ultimate
Warrior.’
  Follow the link above if you actually want to know
what it is about:  

For all those not familiar with VORP,
it means (Value Over Replacement Player).  VORP is a number generated
in terms of runs that are contributed offensively over a general replacement at
a certain position
.  For example, Derek Jeter had a 65.0 VORP
and Hanely Ramirez had 75.0 VORP in 2009.  This means that Jeter
contributed 65.0 more runs to his team over a general replacement shortstop in
2009, and Hanley contributed 75.0 over a general replacement.  Not that
big of a difference for Jeter when you consider the ‘fantasy phenomena’ that is
Marlins shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.  Jeter’s offensive production in 2009
(VORP doesn’t account for a player’s defense) was among the game’s
elite.   Jeter’s VORP was really a testement to the immense contribution
he had on the Yankees 2009 A.L. East pennet team last season.   
    

For me, it helps to visualize these so called ‘replacement players’ for each
position in order to assess VORP.

In the case of shortstop, the last two years Tigers shortstop, Adam Everett,
has had a 0.3 VORP.  Epitomizing the stagnate offense of the shortstop
replacement – respected only for his glove.  Another guy would be John
McDonald from the Blue Jays – with a -2.3 VORP.  McDonald is even a little
worse than the 0.0 mark of the average replacement at shortstop.  He is
still replacement worthy, but that is not saying a whole lot as the 0.0 number
value is made to characterize any ordinary player that can fill the role.

VORP copy.jpg

 

Lets breakdown the Blue Jays 2009 season related their
VORP and judge each player’s offensive value based on their
salary:   

    

  1. Fred Lewis, LF, Blue
    Jays,  $455,000 – 2009 VORP 6.7

 

Anthopolous
acquired Fred Lewis this season taking a risk on a player that has
obvious athletic gifts.  2009 was a terrible season in San
Francisco for Lewis.  He lost his job mid-season
and was sent to the minors.  A 6.7 VORP in ’09 shows that Lewis very close
to replacement level in left field.  The Blue Jays hope their hitting
coaches can help Lewis reach his full potential.  At his current price, AA
should be commended because Lewis looks like a risk worth
taking.    

 

 

  1. Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue
    Jays, $4,000,000 – 2009 VORP 41.6

 

2009
was a ‘career season’ for Aaron Hill that saw him make the All-Star game
and win a Silver Slugger.  His VORP shows that 2009 put him well above
replacement level.  He is emblematic of the modern slugging 2nd
baseman.  Hill is a free swinger that is criticized for not getting on
base enough.  He is our player with the most value in a stage of rebuilding,
so trading Hill has been thrown out there.  Personally, I like Hill’s
swing and approach at the plate.  It is overly-aggressive but I don’t see
any indications of that hindering his ability.  At this point, I’d hold
onto Hill, as he fits right in with the current mold of offensive producing 2nd
basemen.       

 

  1. Adam Lind, DH, Blue
    Jays, $550,000 – VORP 44.7

 

Adam
Lind
also had a ‘career year’ in 2009.  The Jays locked him into a
long-term contract for the foreseeable future before 2009 began.  This was
an astute decision, in my opinion.  Lind performed on the level of some of
the best #3 and #4’s hitters in the game last year.  It was a good
decision to keep Lind in the Jays future.  We are getting great value out
him on a 4-year 18 million dollar contract with options for even more
years.   

 

  1. Vernon
    Wells, CF, Blue Jays, $15,687,000 – VORP 15.4

 

As
if having a VORP at 15.4 wasn’t bad enough, Vernon Wells posted a -15
UZR score ranking runs gained/or lost on defense.  Defensively, Wells was
scored among the worst centerfielders in the league last season.  When you
deduce the defensive scores from the VORP, you get a replacement level
player
making seven figures.  2009 was a horror story.  It got
down right ugly for Vernon Wells.  At times, I couldn’t watch.  It
would give me nightmares.  However, 2010 is beautiful!!!  Wells is
hitting at a very high level, and actually earning his contract!!!  The
nightmares are gone.  15MIL is a huge commitment to any player.  It
could be argued that no player deserves that amount.  Wells streakiness,
injury prone seasons and age will definitely make him a contract that the Jays
will part with or trade at some point.  Right now, Wells is looking much
more athletic in the field and very savvy at the plate.  What a difference
a year makes?          

 

 

  1. Lyle
    Overbay, 1B,
    Blue Jays, $7,950,000 – VORP 18.4

 

Lyle
Overbay is hard to gage
because he is a player that saves runs on defense, having a UZR/150 score of
plus 6.  His VORP is slightly above replacement level, but at a position
where the offensive output at the replacement level is the highest. 
Overbay is a contributor, but the raw stats like AVG., doubles and RBI’s have
declined.  Overbay will earn 8 million this season and the Jays will
likely look to Brett Wallace (a centerpiece in the Roy Halladay trade) to fill
1st base in the future.  I wouldn’t be too patient with
Wallace.  If the Jays get in contention in the next few seasons, I’d chase
after a guy with some proven production.      

 

  1. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B,
    Blue Jays, $5,175,000 – VORP 9.6

 

Edwin
Encarnacion
played his best year at the Great American Smallpark in Cincinnati. 
He had a couple years with great offensive production, amid horrible defensive
skills.  He was acquired with a number of prospects for Scott Rolen last
season.  The Jays picked up Encarnacion’s hefty contract.  A very low
VORP compounded by injuries and terrible defensive skills puts Encarnacion at
replacement level in the 2009 season.  Nobody is expecting much from
Encarnacion, so there is room for him to prove himself with the
organization.  If the Jays aren’t drafting, looking or thinking of
establishing 3rd base help now, they are not doing their job. 
      

 

  1. Alex Gonzalez, SS, Blue
    Jays, $2,750,000 – VORP 5.8

 

The
injury riddled 2009 season for Alex Gonzalez in Boston
was probably a legitimate gripe.  Gonzalez has burst on the scene in
2010.  He is proving himself much more than a replacement level SS,
hitting .277, with 7 HR’s and 19 RBI’s thus far.  The Jays only saw
Gonzalez as a stopgap option, so they signed him to only one year.  He may
for a larger, longer contract next season while the Jays wait on young top
Cuban prospect Adeiny Hechevarria to develop in the minors.  I’d give
Gonzalez another 2 years if he keeps playing like this? 

 

  1. John Buck, C, Blue Jays,
    $2,000,000 – VORP 7.4

 

Another
‘stopgap’ for the Jays was John Buck, although he is a player that is
not playing well above his head right now.  The Jays signed him for one
year while they develop some catcher talent in the minors (i.e. J.P. Arrencibia
and Travis D’Arnaud).  The depth of talent at the catcher position is not
that significant.  I wouldn’t be worried about this position.  Buck
provides some pop in his bat while playing near replacement level.  I
don’t think we will get much more out of him.  The best that the Jays
could do is draft, and try to develop their young catchers into a rare case of
Brian McCann or Joe Mauer.  If this takes longer than expected?  Buck
might get another one-year contract with the team? 

 

  1. Travis Snider, RF, Blue
    Jays, $405,800 – VORP 6.5

 

Travis
Snider
is a case of a guy that crushes the minor leagues, but has not
nearly translated that into the majors.  The near replacement level VORP
indicated a lack of playing time last season, and some relative struggles for
Snider.  The Jays should be patient with Snider, as he is still very young
and could be an emerging star that we could get very good value out of. 
It depends how well the Jays do, if Snider tests their patience level.  I
might upgrade this position if the Jays turn into buyers at some point, and let
Snider take more time in the minors.  Just being here at this age, 22,
Snider is well above the curve.

 

Jose
Bautista, Blue Jays, Utility

 

Last
season Jose Bautista mainly played a utility role with the Jays. 
This season he has moved around positions on a more permanant basis. 
Edwin Encarnacion’s recent injury has Bautista currently filling in as the Jays
starting third baseman.  Before the arrival of Fred Lewis, Bautista was
rotated around the corner outfield position.  Regardless of where Bautista
ends up playing, he has proven to be a very useful acquisition – providing some
extra base pop in the order, hitting 6 HR’s with 20 RBI’s this early in the
season.  Upon the return of Edwin Encarnacion, he may relegate both Edwin
and Fred Lewis to a utility role.          

 

Conclusion

 

Looking
back on last season, the Jays only had 2 players here that produced significant
VORP.  They need to raise the depth of production in different
ways to help a very young, inexperienced, but inexpensive pitching staff. 
That is the only way we could compete with likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and
Rays. 

 

2010
 

 

How
many guys have been stepping it up this year?

 

This
year has been very pleasing to those looking for improvement in the Blue Jay
lineup from last season.  The Blue Jays lead the entire league in
homeruns!  I would not have expected that.  Alex Gonzalez, Vernon
Wells and Jose Bautista look on pace to have breakthrough seasons and increase
their VORP.  If Snider, Overbay, Lewis and Buck can make solid
contributions to the lineup, then the overall output in VORP will be much, much
better than last season.  Nobody expected this kind of the production from
the Jays so far, it has me giddy, happy and definably over-joyed!  We are
VORPin it up, and slugging with the ‘big boys’ in the A.L. East.  
    

Keys to the Season: What they are saying? What I am saying?

The Blue Jays enter 2010 depleted of some depth.  We traded our only front-end starter (Roy Halladay), let our best defense outfielder walk away (Alex Rios) and also traded our best defensive infielder (Scott Rolen). 
The analysts don’t see the Jays getting any better any time soon.  That
said, it is hard to get worse than the 75-87 record that saw the Jays
finish, once again, 4th place in the highly competitive A.L. East. 

The only thing that could be worse is the Jays finishing behind the Baltimore Orioles
for dead last in the A.L. East.  This is where most believe
the Jays are headed, as Baltimore seems to be going upward in the
standings with an array of emeging young players.  Some even go further
to say that the Jays are going to be the worst team in the American
League.  Hello Kansas City Royals!  I’m not about to go nearly that far, but I do believe the Jays 2010 success is contingent on some key factors. 

Every year I look forward to reading the Baseball Prospectus write-up that forcasts the Blue Jays future.  Similar many other baseball fans, I use the intelligence and effort put into Baseball Prospectus
to supplant my own personal lack of baseball intelligence. 
They do amazing work!  More to their credit, they were dead on with
pin-pointing the downfall of J.P. Ricciardi in previous years. 
Primarily, they critiqued Ricciardi’s string of questionable signings that
started with Cory Koskie and his low-risk, low-reward college draft
picks that produced a few good talents, but ended up depleting our farm
system as a whole.

For this season, Baseball Prospectus has pretty much agreed with
other publications saying that 2010 has been “clearly surrendered to
rebuilding’ with the signing of ‘stopgap’ players like John Buck and Alex Gonzolez.” 
They also state the obvious by very briefly saying “trading the Doc
hurts, and the Jays will be in a tough battle to be ahead of the
Orioles all year.”  What they are enthused about is the prospects of Hill, Lind,
Snider and the Walrus (Brett Wallace) all playing together at some point
this year, calling them the ‘Fab Four.’ 

I’m liking this ‘Fab Four’ analogy … a lot!   So, I’m going with it as my number 1 ‘key to the season’ for the Blue Jays:

Keys to the Season

1. The Fab Four  

It would be very nice to bank on repeat seasons from Adam Lind and Aaron Hill.  If it doesn’t happen, then Baseball Prospectus
has entertained the notion of trading Aaron Hill at peak value to
further establish the Jay’s committment to rebuilding.  Anthopolous
doesn’t seem headed that wa -, but it might be an idea? 
Hill and Lind anchored our lineup last year. The Jays would not have won 70
games without them.  For 2010 we need to count on their bats have to be back in full
effect.  They are both a key component to our team now.  They now have to show that the team can rely on them.  

It will key to get help from guys like Brett Wallace/Lyle Overbay and Travis Snider providing more support near the back of the order.  Going back to Baseball Prospectus, our home park (the Rogers Centre) statistically favors left-handed power hitters.  Last year Jays radio analyst and former player, Alan Ashby,
stated that what really contributed to the Jays 1st place dominance in
April and May was one man – Travis Snider.  Snider started the season giving the
Jays a great power element before totally tapering off in May.  He was a
nice surprise for a team that could use ‘nice surprises.’  This season the Jays could
potentially get another surprise in Brett Wallace.  Anthopolous acquired his
coveted left-handed power bat as a part of the Roy Halladay trade.  The Jays hope that Wallace will be the future, as Lyle Overbay
enters the last year of his contract.  Overbay suffered a
knee contusion last week in Spring Training, so the prospects of
Wallace in 2010 look more possible.  If Snider and Wallace can somehow
find their way into the lineup and produce at expected levels for the
kinds of prospects that they are?  The Jays will have a pair of surprise
‘left-handed’ power bats to compliment Lind and our home ballpark.  Brett
Wallace didn’t have a very good spring, so the Jays will look to
rejuvenate Lyle Overbay for their left-handed production in 2010.  Granted that Overbay’s knee contusion doesn’t become
serious.  These guys all have to produce for the Jays to compete with the potent lineups of New York, Boston, Tampa and now Baltimore.  

2.  Leading the Way on the Mound

The absence of Halladay in the Jays rotation leaves the question:  What starting pitching
talent(s) will emerge?  It would be nice to see multiple guys have
success.  For the Jays to have hope of doing anything this season, they
need some pitchers step up and make a name for themselves.  The likely
candidates are Shaun Marcum and Ricky Romero.  Romero is
coming off a fine rookie year going 13-9.  At one point in the season,
some Yankees writers compared Romero’s stuff, notably his changeup, to Mets ace Johan Santana
That may be a bit strong as Romero struggled at times – compiling an ugly
WHIP of 1.52.  He will need to do better than that to lead the Jays
pitching staff, but he is still learning.

I was really looking forward to watching Shaun Marcum in the Jays
rotation last season.  He came off an impressive 2008 only to be sidelined in 2009.  At times, the way Marcum changed speeds and commanded
the strikezone makes, he was unhittable against weaker hitting clubs.  He seems
to have a great pitching IQ.  I like that Marcum always looks
like he is in control on the mound – something that he probably
learned from Roy Halladay.  Having Marcum back will be an asset that
the Jays didn’t have last season.  Although, coming off an injury, that
will hard count on.  The Jays making the Marcum the #1 opening day
starter is good sign that he will be one ‘key’ to watch in 2010!

As for the rest of our staff, the Jays look to be going with three of Brian Tallet, Marc Rzyepcynski, Brandon Morrow or Dana Eveland.

Eveland had a very strong spring that propelled him into the mix.  It is hard to tell how he will fair with the Jays, but he has certainly opened some eyes this spring.  He might be the most unlikely candidate to lead the staff, but these kind of players sometimes emerge.  Look at Ben Zobrist last year?  

The Jays gave up an intriguing young pitching prospect, Yohermyn Chavez and hard-throwing reliever Brandon League to get Brandon Morrow.  Baseball Prospectus
called Morrow “an odd decision” since the Jays don’t look to be
contending anytime soon.  I don’t agree with this because at age 25, Morrow is still young – making him a possible factor in the Jays rebuilding project.  He is the kind of
player where the Jays are expecting the worse, and hoping for the
best.  I’d say Morrow is ‘big key’ to this season because he could be
due for a breakout year capitalizing on his chance to start full-time.  If Anthopolous hit a homerun with this trade, 2010 could be very promising! 

Brian Tallet pitched very well for the Jays filling in rotation spots last year.  He
has the most experience of the bunch and is a solid option.  However, I don’t
expect him to ‘breakout’ year in 2010.  I’d catergorize Marc Rzyepcynski
the same way.  Zippy (as I call him) is very advanced for his age.  He has four good pitches that he can command, but they don’t overwhelm batters.  Both these guys are solid optionsm, but without a very high-ceiling.

If the Jays want to do something this year then having Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil
emerge is key!  Cecil overstepped his bounds getting some early
‘big-league’ experience when he should have been in the minors.  Cecil
brings a great arm and a somewhat deceptive left-handed delivery. 
Cecil’s development is not quite there, but in my opinion he has the makings of a front-line
starter.  He will start this year in AAA and look to bounce back into
the rotation at some point this year.  Kyle Drabek has had a very
impressive Spring Training.  Drabek is now being considered for the
rotation earlier than we expected.  Not having actually seen him pitch, I
hear he has a very effective, well-controled curveball that is featured
along with some other great pitching tools.  Jays fans can barely hold
their excitement on him.  I know better than the rely on a rookie though.     

With the rebuilding project underway there is no reason to rush both
Cecil and Drabek.  However, their contributions this season could be
‘key’ to the Jays 2010 season, although it is a bit of stretch to count
on rookies emerging in dramatic fashion.

It is also a bit of a stretch to count on players coming off the injuries to emerge.  Dustin McGowan and Jesse Litsch
are both wildcards at this point.  We may see them not pitch at all
this year?  McGowan had a serious injury, and it is a terrible shame because of
his talent level.  Litsch doesn’t have the stuff to be a top 3 starter in my
opinion, but I hope he proves me wrong.  I’m counting more on the
contributions of Drabek and Cecil as possible ‘keys to the season’ … and the future for that matter!

3.  Team Defense

The Jays lost Scott Rolen at third base, we picked up a decent
defensive shortstop Alex Gonzolez, stayed similar defensively at
catcher acquiring John Buck to replace Rod Barajas and got a little weaker in the outfield losing Alex Rios.  The Jays outfield will now have Jose Bautista
Bautista intrigues me because I want to see how much ground he can cover in the outfield.  Bautista’s arm is also well above-average.  I look
for him to step-up and be a key contributor to the team defense.  With Adam Lind and Travis Snider possibly occuping the other corner
outfield spot, it could get ugly.  Also Edwin Encarncion at third base is a very risky option.  The Jays will need to play good ‘team defense,’ as they look to be deteriorating in that respect.

Conclusion

If all these things fall into place, the Jays will have a very good
year.  If they don’t?  And you will notice that I don’t expect all them
to actually happen.  The Jays will – as every baseball preview predicts
– submit this season to rebuilding and likely end up in the ‘cellar’ of
the A.L. East.  Notice how I used the word ‘cellar.’  Cellar are often opened by keys … ha ha.  Yep, I’m a cornball.

Even though this year looks bleak Blue Jay fans, it will be entertaining to look out for my:

Keys to the Season”   

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September Mountain Men

Taking time off blogging about the Jays, I recently came across a very good old film that put the 2009 Blue Jays season into perspective for me.   That film was ‘Jeremiah Johnson‘ starring Robert Redford and Will Greer.  Shot in 1972, Jeremiah Johnson, played by Robert Redford, isolates himself from civilization looking to find peace amid the harsh wilderness of the Rocky Mountain in the late 1800’s.  Johnson becomes a ledgend of the mountains!!  He singlehandedly takes on a pack of wolves, a bear and countless natives looking for the honour of taking the ledgend’s sclap.  To say the least, the heroine, Jeremiah Johnson, kicks some serious butt.  I won’t go on and ruin the movie for you, if you haven’t already seen it.

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(Movie cover)

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(My Interpretation of Jeremiah Johnson at a Jays/Tigers game in September … sadly the beard is gone too itchy)

Roy Halladay is Jeremiah Johnson

Before Halladay departs from the Jays.  Mark my words, I am going make a ledgend out of him in Toronto before he can do it somewhere else!  I’ve already compared him to Seabiscuit, but I think this comparison is more accurate.  Now, I don’t know how Halladay‘s record is against the Indians or the Braves, but Roy definately reminds me of a ‘renegade mountain man ledgend‘ pitching for the Jays this season.  Roy is kinda like a warrior far from a war.  He plays for a team far from the limelight (if you’ve seen the Jays crowds lately).  He is alone among pitchers of his era, completing games like no other and compiling stats hardly comparable to his peers.  Halladay extremely well-spoken with the media, but you can tell that he doesn’t care about that and all he wants to do is pitch, and win!  Playing in a ‘not-so-great’ baseball market, like Toronto, Halladay’s win total has suffered.  His greatness, as a pitcher, is not what it might be in a bigger market some would argue.  But the truly great thing about Roy, is that he doesn’t he care about that?  Not a bit.  All he wants to do is win.  He is a ‘renegade mountain man’ sporting a beard and born in Colorado to make things even more comparable.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he knew how to ‘SKIN GRIZZ,’ as Will Greer puts it in the the film.

The Blue Jays are Mountain Men

Every September the Blue Jays become an isolate, renegade team.  Being forgotten by most, but sneaking up on the Red Sox, Angels, Yankees and Twins/Tigers to do some damage to their confidence (lol?) going into the playoffs.

Currently, the Jays have a bunch of ‘mountain men’ fighting to survive on the mountain.  Jose Bautista, Randy Ruiz, Travis Snider, Marc Rzyp…, Brian Tallet, Rod Barajas and Edwin Encarnacion are showing their stuff off to Jays execs.  Two or three, if not all of these guys might get a starting job next season.  A prerequisite for making the team must be ‘skinning grizz.’ 

10 Games this Year  

10 is most games I’ve gotten out to in one season.  The Halladay vs. Burnett game, Opening Day, the Jays 92/93 reunioun game and my annual trip to Detroit were just too much for me to sit at home and watch on TV.  Seeing that I’m nowhere able afford season tickets, or flex-packs or what-have-you I think that this is a pretty good number.  It was even fun last week where I attended a game, with such a sparse crowd, that I could people hecking from the 200 level on the other side of the stadium.  The Halladay versus Burnett battle was probably my favorite game, of the ones I attended.  The crowd was just awesome that night.  It felt like a playoff game.  A close second was the 92/93 reunion game.  He are some pictures from that night.

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(The team … the trophies)

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(Together again.  Pep talk.)

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(‘Headed for a Third’ (World Series) shirt I got shortly after the Jays won their first two World Series.  Sadly, I am ‘out-growing’ this shirt and we have yet to get to third.  Not even a wild card spot in the playoffs for 16 years.)

Scott the Red, Holding Firm on Doc

Scott Rolen was having a fantastic season as a Jay in 2009.  As mentioned in previous posts, he made some necessary adjustments to his approach at the plate and became more of a contact hitter.  The result was a steady .320 average, and a 28 game hitting streakRock copy copy.jpg mid-season.

Rolen was a true professional, and he will be missed in Toronto.  Especially the hilarious commerical during Jays games where Rolen is at a drive through window ordering a burger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yyuKLh8qjvQ  

Well, you always have to give value, to get value and I believe the Jays were able to do that this trade deadline.  In the deal the Jays were able to acquire third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, relief pitcher Josh Roenicke, and relief/starting pitching prospect Zach Stewart

Aquiring Edwin Encarnacion in the deal is a little bit of a risk.  We don’t know what we are going to get from this guy??  He had very good year at the plate last season, but 2009 has seen Edwin hampered by injury and struggling at the dish.  Defensively the Jays will definately take a hit, as Encarnacion cannot ‘hold a candle’ to perennial Gold-Glove candidate Scott Rolen.  With this deal, the Jays make third base possibly a problem area in the future.  I don’t think anyone is envisioning Encarnacion in our long-term future … right now at least. 

Roenicke is a young hard throwing reliever that could be inserted into the Jays pen ASAP.  With closing issues, set-up issues and overall wear and tear on the pen this season, Roenicke will provide some needed depth to the pen.  Who knows?  He could even step up to the closer role at some point???

Zach Stewart is another hard throwing youngster.  It is always nice to see the Jays aquire a young player that has succeeded everywhere he has played in the minors!  Stewart sports a 1.67 ERA at three minor league levels this year.  He relieved 9 games in AAA, and managed to pitch at a 0.79 ERA clip, getting a couple of 2 inning saves.  Stewart also started 14 games at the between class A and AA this season, doing very well in those starts.  Sources say the Jays may be primarily looking at him as a starter.  Starter or reliever, Stewart looks to be a valuable asset for the Jays moving forward.

Quite frankly, I can’t wait to see the young, hard-chucking Texas boy pitch!!  Yee-Haw!  Sorry, I sometimes spontaneously combust over new New Blue Jay talent.

I will miss Scott ‘the rock,’ but I’m glad the Jays made this deal.  At least it is something! 

Halladay

Come 2010, we will see where we are in terms of the standings, and replay this Halladay thing all over again.  Blah!  I know you all can’t wait. 

All sources indicated that we could only get ‘one’ solid prospect out of a Halladay trade.  J.P. Ricciardi was looking for much more than that, and Halladay deserved much more that in my opinion.

With the offers that were apparently presented to us, I don’t see why we couldn’t get similar offers next season?  The Jays were only getting presented with one legitimate guy, and a couple of low-to-mid level prospects.  No doubt, we would get the same next season in Halladay’s contract year.  We will see in 2010, barring any Blue Jay playoff run.  What Doc will command in 2010?  He will at least be worth ‘one’ good prospect next season.  Mark my words!  Mark’em.   

I’m on J.P.’s side with this Rolen deal, and holding firm on Halladay … On the Record.