Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Report Cards – Infield

After handing out grades to the catchers yesterday, today we’ll move 90 feet up the baselines and look at the 2010 infielders.

Tough, tough year for Aaron Hill (daylife.com)

Note 1: Report Card grades are based on Performance on an absolute basis, vs. the rest of the AL, and vs. Expectations

Note 2: Only players who received a significant amount of playing time are graded (meaning no Jarrett Hoffpauir or Mike McCoy) 

Lyle Overbay, 1B

Production: .243 average, .762 OPS, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 6 errors, .996 fielding % 

Rank among AL 1B (21 1B with 100+ AB): Average – 13th, OPS – 11th, HR – 7th, RBI – 7th 

vs. Expectations: Average Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 15 HR, 65 RBI, .279 average, .814 OPS.  Well below career norms in average and OPS. 

It was a rough year for the first baseman, but if you look below the surface just a bit it’s evident that it was really only a rough first two months.  On May 28, Overbay was below the Mendoza line, and hitting for virtually no power.  But from that day on he hit .267 with an .839 OPS and 16 HR – right around his career numbers.  His power numbers have never been as high as traditional 1B (think Morneau, Teixeira, Cabrera, Pena), and though his average was bad, it was only 13 points behind Teix, and he badly outhit Pena.  As always his defense was airtight.  Not a great season, but looked worse than it was. 

Grade: C 

Aaron Hill, 2B

Production: .205 average, .665 OPS, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 10 errors, .984 fielding % 

Rank among AL 2B (24 2B with 100+ AB): Average – 23rd, OPS – 18th, HR – 2nd, RBI – 3rd 

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 13 HR, 59 RBI, .285 average, .771 OPS.  WAY off last season’s output. 

Aaron Hill set the bar very high last year, and sadly came nowhere near meeting it in 2010.  After an April injury, he was never able to get it going.  His .205 average was the second worst in the AL among 2B, only better than  Luis Valbuena of Cleveland (though Hill had far more AB).  His counting and ratio stats were way off last year’s marks, and his defense mysteriously crumbled at the end of the year.  He was bad in all situations (.125 vs. LHP, .196 on the road, .165 in September, .225 with RISP).  

Grade: F 

Alex Gonzalez / Yunel Escobar, SS

Production: A-Gon – .259 average, .793 OPS, 17 HR, 50 RBI, 11 errors, .972 fielding %, Y-Esc – .275 average, .696 OPS, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 9 errors, .969 fielding % 

Rank among AL SS: N/A – half season for each 

I’ll combine these two into one section because they were traded for each other.  Gonzalez had a dynamite first half for the Jays, giving them much more power than anticipated.  After hitting 8 HR in ’09, he slugged 17 in the first half of ’10.  That allowed the Jays to deal him to Atlanta for the younger and more athletic Escobar.  Though Escobar struggled a bit with Toronto, he showed glimpses of power and flashes of brilliance in the field.   

Grade: Gonzalez – A-, Escobar – B 

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B

Production: .244 average, .787 OPS, 21 HR, 51 RBI, 18 errors, .932 fielding % 

Rank among AL 3B (24 3B with 100+ AB): Average – 17th, OPS – 7th, HR – T4th, RBI – 9th 

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 16 HR, 57 RBI, .260 average, .790 OPS.  

Encarnacion was maddeningly inconsistent in 2010, so much so that he earned both a Player of the Week award, and a stint in triple-A.  His power numbers were pretty good, and he had stretches of absolute dominance, but there were too many hitless streaks mixed in.  His defense was also atrocious – 18 errors were 3rd most in the AL for 3B, and many of his advanced fielding stats (such as Zone Rating) were negative.  Not good, but he pretty much met expectations so you can’t penalize him too badly. 

Grade: C- 

John McDonald, Utility

Production: .250 average, .727 OPS, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 5 errors, .974 fielding % 

Rank among AL: No Rank (utility player) 

vs. Expectations: Average Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 1 HR, 12 RBI, .238 average, .593 OPS.  Set a career high in OPS, HR. 

You know it was the year of the home run in Toronto when even Johnny Mac was getting into the act.  The lovable utility player set a career high with 6 bombs, and eclipsed the .700 OPS mark for the first time.  While on the surface it seemed like his normally spectacular defense may have slipped, keep this in mind: he normally plays over 50% of his time at SS.  This year less than 30% of his innings came at short, as he was asked to play 3B, 2B, and even LF for a few games.  Johnny was asked to be a pesky super sub, and he delivered that plus more power than anybody thought possible.  As a bonus, the home run he hit on Father’s Day after his dad passed away was one of the moments of the season. 

Grade: B+ 

Tomorrow I’ll take a look at the outfield, lead by HR leader Jose Bautista.

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