Friday, December 17, 2010

Be Prepared

We can't officially close the book on 2010 for another few weeks but it feels like this week pretty much ends this chapter of Blue Jays history. The departure of Lyle Overbay and the Kevin Gregg indicate something pretty significant, something a lot of Jays fans don't want to admit: the re-building process is not over, it is only beginning.

Alex Anthopoulos and his crew of chili dog-stained retches set up 2010 as a place-holder year. Most of his moves worked out just as planned: bring in a veteran who can deliver draft picks or a decent piece in trade. Transition the veterans out with longer term solutions moving in. An unexpected 85 win season later and too many people seem to believe the Jays are close. They are not close, they are far.

The roster as constructed for Opening Day 2010 wasn't designed to win or compete for a playoff spot. As it appears, the 2011 roster is less so. Most of the pieces are now in place for 2012 and beyond and with that comes growing pains.

While the Orioles seem to make moves based solely on winning 82 games and celebrating their first winning season in a generation (LOLroche), the Jays have a plan. That plan has little to do with winning in 2011. And that's okay. But the Jays are looking to stay (payroll) lean while letting their kids go and play.

Leaving the bullpen to its own devices, running Adam Lind and E5(E3?) out there every day at first. Getting younger and more versatile while avoiding the many pitfalls of multi-year deals for players who won't help the team when it matters (i.e. ever).

Giving rope to young players on option-heavy deals is a nimble bit of business, too. If Lind or Hill sputter again, now there are viable internal options waiting to take their place.

Truthfully, the team isn't much worse than the one that stood poised to lose 90 on April 1st. The team certainly isn't better, but that's okay. The team is moving in the right direction. Depending on how the impending Jose Bautista Decision plays out, the Opening Day team in 2011 figures to resemble the lineup for years to come.

I like the look of the team. I like that, in my mind at least, they're going to let them run out there and play. The braintrust doesn't seem like it is employing a "sink or swim" attitude, more like "grow or die." Evolve or get left behind. The 2011 Blue Jays look an awful lot like a team which will put its players in the best position to succeed, now and forevermore.

That doesn't mean they're going to win 85 games in 2011. Or 65 games or 95 games. It is about positioning. Is the team positioned to win in 2012? It certainly will be. 2011 looks like the year in which the front office figures out what tweaks are required for The Push. What they need to do in order to Take a Shot.

Can you wait? Can you take another year of rebuilding? So long as what we see on the field looks like a cohesive attempt to compete — really, seriously compete, not just play well to no end — than I feel fine. Let them play, let us hope.

Image courtesy of Dumbo NYC


  1. aye aye aye, look at this 2012 lineup! My predictions

    LF - Travis Snider
    CF - Vernon Wells
    RF - Brett Lawrie
    3B - Aaron Hill
    SS - Yunel Escobar
    2B - Adeiny Hecchavarria
    1B - Adam Lind
    C - JP Arencibia
    DH - Adam Loewen (or FA, could also play RF and 1B)

    Ace - Ricky Romero
    2nd - Brandon Morrow
    3rd - Kyle Drabek
    4th - Brett Cecil
    5th - Dustin McGowan (let's hope)
    Closer - Zach Stewart
    Setup - David Purcey
    Long - Marc Rzepcynski
    and rest of BP arms

    All these guys are in house or trades. I have a couple of darkhorses in there (McGowan, Loewen), based on their upside, but it's a far stretch that they can get there. Even if they don't, we have other pitchers that could fill that role, and we can always look outside for that last piece for the DH role. Who knows? With that team, could be a roving DH role.

    Move over Yankees, Red Sox, it's the Blue Jays time to shine.

  2. Posted similar thoughts, but in a much less entertaining fashion.

    I just hope the negative crowd noise doesn't get under my skin so much that it affects my enjoyment level of watching this team come together.

  3. Let's hear it for Dustin McGowan!!!

    Ok, I may be a little biased...


  4. That lineup looks solid to me with two exceptions:

    1) There is no chance - none - that Adam Loewen gets anymore than a token cup of coffee in The Show.

    2)Poor Dusty. Sometimes a guy's body just isn't up to the task. Do you really think he'll bounce back to the point that he can throw 150 innings a year? If not, vote Rzep!

  5. I agree with Drew's last comment about that line-up, and I'll add my skepticism about Hecchavarria being a regular next year.

    My preferred 2012 line-up would be:

    LF - Travis Snider
    CF - Vernon Wells
    RF - Jose Bautista
    3B - Brett Lawrie
    SS - Yunel Escobar
    2B - Aaron Hill
    1B - Yonder Alonso
    C - JP Arencibia
    DH - Adam Lind

  6. I'm with Peter - I wrote last week that moving Aaron Hill seems slightly crazy. Move Lawrie until he gets Butterfielded up to an acceptable level.

  7. ELPB - Exciting Last Place Baseball ((c) Oilers)

  8. "Harder, better, faster, stronger" - your motto for the 2011-2013 Blue Jays.

  9. Well said man. Crazy how expectations can change just one year after we traded Halladay (although I suppose the process started during the summer when we waived Rios and traded Rolen.

    As far as lineups go, I think our 2012 competing lineup could look much different. If Escobar starts strong, for example, I wouldn't be surprised if AA sold high on him like he did Gonzalez. Even guys like Hill and Lind - who knows? AA seems willing to trade and I'd be curious to know what he considers this team's core to be.

  10. It's true, the 2010 team got lucky in a lot of ways (Gonzalez and Buck worked out about as well as one could hope, Bautista was insanely good, Marcum bounced back), but in retrospect I've actually been surprised by how well they did in spite of all the things that went wrong.

    Adam Lind, Aaron Hill, and Yunel Escobar all had by far the worst years of their respective careers, and Overbay was pretty much in the same boat (offensively, at least). Travis Snider only played in 82 games. Brian Tallet pitched 77 innings.

    All things considered, 2011 is one step closer to "the future" than 2010 was, and 2010 was still an incredibly exciting season to watch even though the Jays were never even close to a pennant race. Win totals be damned, next year is going to be a lot of fun.

  11. You seem to be falling into a typical Toronto fan trap. Tamp down expectations, delay gratification and look forward to some uncertain future. And when invariably said future does not conform to expectations, rationalize with some excuse (injuries, surprisngly poor performance etc).

    In truth, the Jays have been a decent left handed first base/dh bat away from wild card status for 3 years now. Even the 2009 team was but one batter away until they tanked the season by trading rolen. And the 2011 team could have contended for wild card too with a pick up of adam laroche or even johnny damon. That was before the marcum trade though. So now, absent a big trade by AA for another starter, we shall await 2012.
    Of course, in 2012, the Red Sox will be as strong as the 2011 team (Crawford and Gonzo will still be in their prime and Bucholz and Lester will be approaching theirs)...and the Yankees will almost assuredly buy or trade for a new rotation...and who knows about the Rays...

  12. You might be right on the first count, but no way are the Jays one LaRoche from the Wild Card. If you swap Albert Pujols for Lyle Overbay, do they win 5 more games? Six? That gets you...nothing.

    I have expectations. Just not for 2011.

  13. I would say that 2010 Pujols is worth about 7-10 games more than 2010's Overbay...Pujols makes the rest of the lineup stronger in a way not addressed by the WAR stat...i.e. increased WAR for hitters hitting before and after Adam Laroche would be worth 2-3 games than Overbay...
    Btw, the Greinke trade shows that AA traded poorly for Marcum. He should have received at least another prospect in return.

  14. Shoot, forgot that criticizing the Jays on a blog comments section is back to mindless parroting of faulty saber stats, and hagiographic analysis of the latest GM wunderkind...see you in 2015 after the inevitable failure of yet another misguided 5 year plan

  15. "Can you wait? Can you take another year of rebuilding?"

    Yes. Just bring baseball back please. I don't care who's on the field.

  16. You realize Adam Laroche isn't very good, right?

  17. Yes, Laroche is not very good...he is merely good..(and scaringly consistent)...the point is that a merely good bat is better than a bad bat...see the giants 2010 lineup
    also if you put laroche in a better lineup than he is used to, you may see his numbers jump a bit.
    i would have similarly been interested in picking up johnny damon this a dh...a la paul molitor 1993 signing...the point is keeping marcum and signing a good lefty bat may have been enough or the jays to win 92 games..which may be enough for the wild card this year...all at a minor cost (less than $8 million and no loss of prospects)
    instead we are supposed to hope for 2012 and beyond...unless we realign away from the sox and yankees (or the majors add another wild card), the chances of reaching the playoffs will remain slim

  18. Bringing up the Giants 2010 lineup too... it's like he's got a bingo card of baseball points to make.

    Greinke's better than Marcum, and the Royals didn't get one guy nearly as good as Lawrie- AA traded for quality, Dayton Moore traded for quantity. Check back in three years and see where they're at.

  19. if you put laroche in a better lineup than he is used to, you may see his numbers jump a bit.

    How. How and why. State your case. The Dbacks lineup he just hit in the middle of (and put up career low numbers in the preeminent hitters ballpark in baseball) ranked as one of the best in the National League.

    He spent most of the year hitting behind Justin fucking Upton and ahead of Mark Reynolds & Miguel Montero. IT DIDN'T HELP HIM! His wOBA? Well below his career average. His 25 home runs a whooping 5 more than Lyle Overbay. Plan the parade.

  20. State my case:
    1) to refute your points: Arizona's offense ranked 8th in the NL, not 'one of the best'.
    2) the 3 players you mentioned had decent years at best.
    3) Laroche's numbers were better when he was buried in the Atlanta lineup.

    If you bat him 7th in the Jays lineup, you can expect a .275/.345/.490 year. compare to Overbay's last year of .243/.329/.433. that's a definite albeit incremental improvement. Also, at age 31, there is still upside.

    In the alternative, sign Johnny Damon for a year. Either way, the Jays would be improved by a game or two at least. As the Jays won 85 games last year without positive contributions from Lind and Hill, or much from Snider, and as their starters are still at ages where they should be improving, even if Wells and Bautista drop down, the Jays could win 92. Keeping Marcum would have helped.

  21. 1) Sixth in wOBA, 4th in slugging, third in home runs.

    2) If these good hitters had bad or decent-at-best years, doesn't that dispel the lineup protection myth? Shouldn't they buoy each other?

    3)I simply don't get how you can say "you can expect this slash line out of a 7th place hitter." Why can I expect that? What does his place in the lineup have to do with it? Because he'll have JP Arencibia hitting behind him? It doesn't make any fucking sense.

    Yes, the Jays won 85 games without Lind and Hill. But Escobar will have to come a long way back to match Gonzalez's offensive output, John Buck's 2010 might be Aaron Cibia's career ceiling, and if Jose Bautista hits 35 you still need to come up with 20 more from somewhere.

    Johnny Damon? Steal 20 bases? That'd be nice. Too bad he stole 22 over the last two years combined. He hit 8 home runs last year. 8.

  22. 1) 8th in runs
    2) The careers of the three hitters you mentioned are too short and/or to mixed to deem them as 'good' hitters. They ain't Chipper Jones yet that is for certain.
    3) why can you expect it? because it is reasonable (i.e within 2 standard deviations of what Laroche has accomplished)...if I had said he would hit .300/.400/.550, I would agree with you that I was being too optimistic.

    Escobar needs to hit as he has done previously in his career to fill in for the half season of Gonazalez we will 'lose'.
    based on Arencibia's minor league numbers, we can expect him to hit somewhat less than Buck's 2010 numbers. Or he may be Buster Posey.

    As for 'replacing' Bautista's lost output, I think Snider, Hill and Lind will more than make up for it.

    Johnny Damon has stolen 23 and been caught once in the last two years playing on teams where he was probably not asked to run. Compare to his 2008 29 steals on 37 attempts. Based on his age, and previous totals, I think 20 steals on 25 attempts would a reasonable assumption. Added to a .280/.360/.440 slash line and you have a low rent Molitor type with a decent ceiling. Definitely a guy worth looking into. And he's a lefty bat

  23. May be Buster Posey? Are you daft? Posey's minor league walk rate never dipped below 11%, in three "full" seasons his lowest wOBA is .390!

    Arencibia got his walk rate over 10% for the first time after repeating triple A in the place pitching forgot. Be serious.

  24. So I refute all 8 of your points and your response is to obtusely criticize my statement "or he may be Buster Posey."

    Look up the word nuance Drew.

  25. You're right, I keyed on that particular tidbit of insanity, ignoring the reasonable points throughout.

    I don't know what it is a reasonable assumption that Damon can return to 20+ steal guy but his high success rate indeed bodes well. As for his slash line, his Bill James projection (always the most aggressive system) calls for .271/.352/.407 - not far from your number save the slugging. Being away from Yankee Stadium has a big impact.

    As for the Dbacks being 8th in runs, the Jays finished 7th so it isn't like he's sliding into the backend of the 27 Yankees.


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