This is a sad column. With the end of week 26 (Sept 27 – Oct 3) comes the end of the 2010 Blue Jays season. It also signals the unofficial end of summer, and the beginning of a long, cold winter.
But there is also reason for happiness and optimism. Toronto finished the last week of the season 5-2 against two playoff teams that were still battling for home field advantage in New York and Minnesota. They did it the same they won all season long, with good pitching and the long ball. The 5-2 record leaves the Jays with 85 wins in 2010 – a far cry from where most people thought they’d be heading into the season.
Here are three things that came out of week 26 – the final week of the season:
1. Home Runs Galore
The Blue Jays hit a lot of home runs in 2010, and that didn’t change in the last week of the season. Toronto launched 16 deep flies in seven games last week, bringing their season ending total to 257 – tied for third most in the history of baseball. They went deep in every single game, including breaking their own franchise record for HR in a season on Wednesday, and then hitting six on Thursday.
Jose Bautista’s 54 lead the team, but the Jays had home run hitters throughout the lineup. Seven different players hit 20 – Bautista, Wells, Lind, Hill, Overbay, Encarnacion, and Buck. Add in Alex Gonzalez before he was traded, and Toronto had eight players hit over 15, and throw in Travis Snider to give the Jays nine players in double digits.
But a more impressive stat is this: When Adam Lind homered as a left-fielder yesterday, it meant that Toronto reached the 20 HR mark from every single position on the field. Very impressive.
2. EE Comes Alive
If Toronto was unsure what to do with Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason before last week, now they likely have absolutely no idea. EE continued his strange, up-and-down season by going ballistic last week.
In six games, the third baseman went 8-20 with 5 HR, 11 RBI, a .400 average, and a 1.585 OPS – good enough to win the AL Player of the Week award. The surge brought his average to .244 and his OPS to a more respectable .787.
There’s no guarantee that EE will be back with the club next year. In fact, his last week hot streak may have increased his trade value from “Unusable” to “Attractive”.
3. Who’s Fifth?
One of the biggest offseason debates will no doubt revolve around the fifth slot in Toronto’s starting rotation. With 1-4 locked down in Marcum, Romero, Cecil, and Morrow, the Jays are looking for a dependable fifth man, with consistency the key. If the last few weeks taught us anything it’s that the solution for #5 appears to lie inside the organization.
The three candidates who closed the season in the rotation all pitched well, meaning Alex Anthopoulos has a difficult decision ahead of him. The candidates:
Shawn Hill – Hill made four starts in September, and finished with a 1-2 record, 2.61 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 14 K in 20.2 IP, including allowing one run in 4.2 IP in Minnesota last Thursday.
Kyle Drabek – The youngster went 0-3, but pitched pretty well: 4.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 12 K in 17 IP. The Blue Jays combined to score only 5 runs in his three starts. Drabek went 6 IP, allowing 3 ER in his final start against the Yankees.
Marc Rzepczynski – Rzep was up-and-down this season, finishing 4-4 with a 4.95 ERA and very poor 1.60 WHIP. But he definitely saved his best for last, with a very impressive final start in Minnesota: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 6 K. In fact, Rzep was pretty dominant in his final three starts, which might give him the advantage going into the offseason: 3-0, 1.96 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 23 K in 18.1 IP.
The pitchers have played their cards. The decision now rests with the GM.