Manny – Good Idea or Bad Idea?

Rumours have been swirling. 

The speculation is growing. 

Is there a chance that Manny Ramirez signs with the Blue Jays? 

I will admit that when I first heard of the idea I was not happy.  Why would Toronto want Manny?  With his oversized ego, clubhouse clashing personality, and declining production it seemed like a no-brainer – don’t touch him with a 10-foot pole.

Whenever “Manny” is mentioned, warning signs follow.  The negatives, dangers, and pitfalls are many.  For instance:

Production – Without a doubt Manny Ramirez is one of the premiere offensive producers in baseball history.  He has 555 career HR, a .998 career OPS, and a career .411 on-base-percentage.  He is a 12-time All-Star, has finished in the top-20 in MVP voting 11 times, and is a two-time World Series Champion.  He has been to the playoffs 11 different times with three different teams.

But…

The two worst seasons of his career were 2009 and 2010.  He was suspended for 50-games for performance enhancing drugs.  He was injured.  He hit only 9 HR last year, and was a colossal bust for the White Sox.  Why would he rebound at age 39?

Attitude – Manny rubs people the wrong way.  And he has proven in the past that when people irritate him, he shuts down.  He did it in Boston.  He did it in LA.  Why wouldn’t he do it in Toronto?

Age – Manny will turn 39 on May 30th.  The Blue Jays are a young, up-and-coming team.  Why would an aging slugger make a good fit on a young team, especially one with a questionable attitude?

Agent – He is represented by Scott Boras, an agent who searches for enormous contracts.  Under Alex Anthopoulos, the Jays are not in the market for enormous contracts.

But after thinking about it for a few days, and after reading Richard Griffin’s Toronto Star mailbag, I have softened my stance. 

I no longer think it is a terrible idea to sign Manny Ramirez. 

In two words, here’s why:

Motivation.  Legacy.

In this writer’s opinion, Manny Ramirez has truly been motivated five times in his career:

1. 1994: His rookie year in Cleveland, to prove he belonged in the majors – .269 average, 17 HR, 60 RBI, .878 OPS, 2nd in ROY voting

2. 2000: His final season in Cleveland, a contract year – .351 average, 38 HR, 122 RBI, league-leading 1.154 OPS, All-Star, Silver Slugger

3. 2001: His first year in Boston, to prove he was worth his contract – .306 average, 41 HR, 125 RBI, 1.014 OPS, All-Star, Silver Slugger

4. 2004 World Series: To prove he could perform in the World Series – .412 average, 1 HR, 4 RBI in 4 games, 1.088 OPS, World Series Champion

5. Second half of 2008: First arrival in LA, to prove Boston wrong for trading him – .396 average, 17 HR, 53 RBI in 53 games, 1.232 OPS, 4th in NL MVP voting 

There’s no way a beat up Manny Ramirez was motivated upon arriving in Chicago last year, to a team that doubted him and was already out of the pennant race.

So why will he be motivated in 2011?  Because of that second word: legacy.

Manny is a selfish player.  Always has been, always will be.  His final career numbers and the way he leaves the game are huge issues in his mind.  He will not want to be remembered as a washed-up veteran who hung around too long.  That would tarnish his legacy.  So will he be satisfied the way 2010 ended?  Absolutely not. 

That means wherever he lands in 2011, he will be extremely motivated.  He will  want to preserve his legacy, and cement his Hall of Fame status.  Think Frank Thomas signing with Oakland in 2006.

Now, imagine him producing one of those motivation-influenced season in a Blue Jays uniform.  Looks pretty good doesn’t it?

If Toronto did sign Manny, there would also be side benefits.  Love him or hate him, he has the type of colourful personality that sells tickets – both at home and on the road.  On top of that, people of Toronto often complain that the team doesn’t get enough exposure in the US, making it difficult to attract marquee free agents.  Manny instantly gives us that exposure. 

It might be a long shot, but if (and this is a HUGE if), Toronto can get him on a lower salary, incentive-laden, one-year deal, why not sign Manny?

He has already publicly stated he loves playing for John Farrell.  He has already publicly stated he likes the city of Toronto.  The Jays have a heavily latin influenced clubhouse, could use a solid DH, and desperately need higher OBP. 

It might be a match made in heaven.

The Grandaddy of ‘Em All

For those who have read my prediction columns throughout the summer, you know what to expect – crap.

While I did manage to successfully predict seven of the eight playoff teams, my stat and trade guesses were way off.

Then, I only hit 50% of my Division Series picks.

Then, I decided to skip the LCS matchups altogether.  Good thing too, because I don’t think the Yankees and Phillies are still alive…

But, I can’t resist taking one more crack at the can.  I have to take a shot at the World Series.

So…here goes….

Pitching – Starters

Hard to say who has the better 1-2 punch.  San Francisco has Lincecum and Cain – a combined 2 – 1, 2.11 ERA in the NLCS.  Texas has Lee and Lewis – a combined 3 -0, 1.25 ERA in the ALCS.  The #3 guys – Sanchez for SF and Wilson for TEX – are both left handed, and both have the ability to dominate if they are on.  Both teams have rookies or near-rookies (Madison Bumgarner and Tommy Hunter) as the fourth man.  Pretty much a dead heat, if not for the fact that Cliff Lee is a robot and does not feel pressure, does not sweat, and does not bleed.

Edge – Rangers

Pitching – Bullpen

Texas has the sexier closer in Neftali Feliz, but San Francisco has Brian “The Beard” Wilson, who is just as dependable.  It’s the other guys who give the edge to SF.  Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla are all strikeout machines and impose more fear than the average (but admittedly effective) Darren Oliver and Darren O’Day.  Plus the Giants have played so many close games in the playoffs that their bullpen is battle tested.

Edge – Giants

Offense

Texas is powered by the long ball.  Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz combined for 6 against NY, and they also boast Vladimir Guerrero, Michael Young, Bengie Molina, and David Murphy who can all go deep.  Plus they have incredible team speed and aggressiveness, lead by Elvis Andrus.  They swiped 9 bags against the Yanks.  San Francisco stole only one base against the Phillies, and aside from NLCS MVP Cody Ross, hit only one HR (Ross had three).  They are a grinding team.  Texas has more ways to beat you.

Edge – Rangers

Defense

Both teams have made a similar number of errors in the postseason (Texas 7 – SF 6, though Texas has played one more game).  Both teams are stocked full of solid defenders, though the Rangers likely have an edge with Hamilton and Cruz in the OF and Andrus at SS.  The big question mark will be in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 when Vladimir Guerrero will play RF.  He used to be a Gold Glover…”used to be” being the key phrase.

Edge – Even

Intangibles

Texas had never won a playoff series before this year, so they have obviously never won a World Series.  The Giants have never won a World Series in San Francisco, their last championship coming when they played in New York at the Polo Grounds.  The Giants will want to win one for Aubrey Huff, a man who played 1,479 regular season games before finally making his playoff debut this year.  But the Rangers will want to win one for Michael Young, a man who played 1,508 regular season games before finally making his playoff debut this year.

Edge – Even

The Winner

I would like to answer “I have no idea”, but I don’t think I can get away with that.  The teams match up incredibly even in almost every aspect of the game that it’s almost too tough to call.  You would be an idiot to bet against two-time defending Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, but I think you’d be a bigger idiot to bet against playoff mastermind Cliff Lee.  I know he lost the World Series last year, so it is possible to beat a Cliff Lee lead team, but I think he uses that as motivation.

Rangers in 7

Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Report Cards – Bullpen

The fifth and final segment of the 2010 report cards – the bullpen.

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

Note 2: I’m using 50 IP as a cutoff for this column, meaning players such as David Purcey, Josh Roenicke, Rommie Lewis, and Jesse Carlson will not be graded.

Note 3: Brian Tallet’s numbers are for his relief appearances only and do not include his spot starts.

Kevin Gregg, Closer

Production: 63 games, 59.0 IP, 2 – 6, 37 SV, 3.51 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 58 K’s, 8.8 K/9

Rank among AL Closers (14 Closers): SV – T3rd, ERA – 10th, WHIP – 13th, K/9 – 8th

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 68 IP, 3-4, 12 SV, 4.10 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.3 K/9

It’s true that very few of Kevin Gregg’s saves were of the dominant variety.  It’s true that his WHIP was the second worst among AL closers.  It’s true that he left Jays fans sweating during most of his appearances.  But let’s be honest for a second.  Kevin Gregg started the season as a co-setup man, and finished with the third highest save total in the American League.  The bottom line is that Cito asked him to enter the game in a save situation 43 different times, and he succeeded in 37 of them.  The 86% success rate was higher than Jonathan Papelbon and virtually identical to Mariano Rivera.  For a guy who lost the closer role in every season which he had it, tha’s not too bad at all.  He settled the bullpen after the early season struggles of Jason Frasor.  Better than expected.

Grade: B

Jason Frasor

Production: 69 games,  63.2 IP, 4 SV, 3 – 4, 3.68 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 65 K’s, 9.2 K/9

Rank among AL RP (50 RP with 50+ IP): Games – 14th, ERA – 31st, WHIP – 35th, K/9 – 14th

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 59 IP, 3-4, 5 SV, 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.2 K/9

Take away an awful April and 2010 might have been a career year for Frasor.  He was named closer to start the season, but was so bad in April (8.38 ERA, 2.59 WHIP) that he lost the role outright to Gregg before the end of the month.  Pitching in less stressful situations he responded with a lights out May (0.82 ERA), and actually finished the season as a top-15 strikeout pitcher and one of the most dependable Toronto relievers.  When all was said and done his final numbers closely matched his average season, so in reality he met expectations.  But it’s hard to ignore April and what might have been…

Grade: B-

Scott Downs

Production: 67 games, 61.1 IP, 5 – 5, 2.64 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 48 K’s, 7.1 K/9

Rank among AL RP (50 RP with 50+ IP): Games – 16th, ERA – 10th, WHIP – 6th, K/9 – 29th

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 69 IP, 3-3, 3.22 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.6 K/9

Scott Downs has evolved into one of the top left handed relievers in all of Major League Baseball.  His 2010 campaign was a typical lights out performance – 60+ IP, a sub 2.70 ERA, and a 1.00 WHIP.  He was dominant in the first half (2.65 ERA) and in the second half (2.63 ERA), good at home (3.54 ERA) and great on the road (1.89 ERA), tough against right handed hitters (.243 BAA) unhittable vs. lefties (.152 BAA).  He could pitch in the 7th, the 8th, the 9th, or extra innings, in a tie game or with the Jays ahead.  He was as dependable as they come.  The anchor.

Grade: A

Shawn Camp

Production: 70 games, 72.1 IP, 4 – 3, 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 46 K’s, 5.7 K/9

Rank among AL RP (50 RP with 50+ IP): Games – T9th, ERA – 15th, WHIP – 19th, K/9 – 43rd

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 58 IP, 2-3, 4.74 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 6.6 K/9

Camp pretty much blew his career numbers out of the water in 2010, setting a career best in appearances, ERA, and WHIP.  Once a cast off from the lowly Devil Rays bullpen, Camp has blossomed with the Jays, improving every year he’s been here (since 2008).  Though not a strikeout pitcher, he proved he could get out of jams with control and by pitching to the defense.  He was consistent for much of the year and will likely be a key component in 2011.

Grade: A-

Casey Janssen

Production: 56 games, 68.2 IP, 5 – 2, 3.67 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 63 K’s, 8.3 K/9

Rank among AL RP (50 RP with 50+ IP): Games – T36th, ERA – 30th, WHIP – 36th, K/9 – 22nd

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 56 IP, 2-4, 3.59 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.0 K/9

Janssen was kind of the forgotten man in the Jays bullpen.  He seemed to be a garbage time reliever, making apperances when games were out of hand.  For a guy thought to be a potential fifth starter that is quite a demotion.  His stats are as good as they could be for those kind of spots, and he actually managed to set a new career high in K/9 – by a mile.  He did well with what he was given, which admittedly wasn’t a lot.  Will he be trusted with a bigger role next year?

Grade: C+

Brian Tallet

Production: 29 games, 50.0 IP, 1 – 4, 6.84 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 34 K’s, 6.1 K/9

Rank among AL RP (50 RP with 50+ IP): Games – 50th, ERA – 50th, WHIP – 50th, K/9 – 41st

vs. Expectations: Average MLB Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 58 IP, 2-2, 3.38 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.2 K/9

It was hard to watch at times.  Tallet was bad and somehow seemed to get worse.  He actually began the season in the starting rotation, and made a few spot starts along the way, but was essentially a reliever for most of the year.  Out of all AL relievers with 50 IP or more, he came dead last in ERA, WHIP, and appearances.  He was dreadful.  But…I will say this about him.  He had some effective moments when he was asked to come in and retire left handed batters – they hit only .176 against him.  Cito really misused him quite a bit, often leaving him in for multiple innings.  If he was used as a lefty specialist (as he should have been) he would have been better.  Therefore, because a portion of the bad numbers can be blamed on the manager, he doesn’t fail.

Grade: D

Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Report Cards – Starting Rotation

Part four of the report card columns.  Today we look at the starters from 2010.

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

Note 2: I’m using 10 starts as a cutoff for this column, meaning players such as Jessie Litsch, Dana Eveland, Kyle Drabek, Brad Mills, and Shawn Hill will not be graded.

Ricky Romero

Production: 32 starts, 210.0 IP, 14 – 9, 3.73 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 174 K’s, 7.5 K/9

Rank among AL SP (82 SP with 10+ starts): IP – 13th, W – T15th, ERA – T23rd, WHIP – 34th, K/9 – 22nd

vs. Expectations: Only one big league season (13 – 9, 4.30 ERA)

The biggest concern heading into 2010 with Romero was consistency.  He tired down the sretch in 2009 and the Jays were hoping to build his arm strength and develop more consistency at the same time.  They succeeded on both fronts.  Romero bettered his ’09 stats in every major category (ERA, WHIP, K/9, K/BB) and was able to take his regular rotation spot right to the end of the season.  In addition his 1st and 2nd half splits were close (6-6, 3.71 ERA in the first half, 8-3, 3.75 ERA in the second).  It was expected to be another stepping stone season for Romero, but he seems to be closer to “ace” status than “developing”.

Grade: B+

Shaun Marcum

Production: 31 starts, 195.1 IP, 13 – 8, 3.64 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 165 K’s, 7.6 K/9

Rank among AL SP (82 SP with 10+ starts): IP – 24th, W – T18th, ERA – 20th, WHIP – 5th, K/9 – 20th

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 21 starts, 130 IP, 8 – 6, 4.03 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 103 K’s, 7.2 K/9

Expectations were muted for Marcum in the Spring of 2010.  He was coming off Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2009 season, and even though he showed flashes of brilliance in ’08, he was a question mark.  But Marcum turned into the rock of the Jays rotation.  He twice flirted with a no-hitter, was excellent after a loss, and pitched well all season long – especially in May (5-0, 1.85 ERA).  Plus he was a good clubhouse guy and a practical joker.  Great season.

Grade: B+

Brett Cecil

Production: 28 starts, 172.2 IP, 15 – 7, 4.22 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 117 K’s, 6.1 K/9

Rank among AL SP (82 SP with 10+ starts): IP – 37th, W – T10th, ERA – 40th, WHIP – 40th, K/9 – 46th

vs. Expectations: Only one big league season (7 – 4, 5.30 ERA)

Cecil started the season in the minors, but quickly became a staple in Toronto’s rotation.  He lead the Blue Jays in wins, had a great second half, and was one of the few Jays starters who actually pitched well on the road (7-2, 4.52 ERA).  He also can be shown as a prime example of why wins are a meaningless stat.  His best month statistically was July, where he had a 2.23 ERA but only went 1-0.  His worst month statistically was September: a 6.92 ERA but a sparkling 4-0 record.  The high ERA in September was not suprising considering he eclipsed his 2009 innings total by nearly 80, a huge jump that lead to fatigue.  Regardless, it was a great development season for Cecil, and he should be even better in 2011.

Grade: B

Brandon Morrow

Production: 26 starts, 146.1 IP, 10 – 7, 4.49 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 178 K’s, 10.9 K/9

Rank among AL SP (82 SP with 10+ starts): IP – 52nd, W – T37th, ERA – 50th, WHIP – 52nd, K/9 – 1st

vs. Expectations: Only half of a big league season as a starter

You can’t really fault Morrow for the inconsistency he showed early in the season after several years of being screwed around by Seattle.  After being converted from starter to closer, than back to starter, then back to closer, it was going to take time for him to develop into a starter again.  It showed in the first two months – 5.46 ERA in April, 6.52 ERA in May.  But once the calendar hit June, something clicked.  Maybe it was being partnered exclusively with Jose Molina, maybe it was some tweaks from pitching coach Bruce Walton, or maybe he finally figured it out on his own.  But he went 5-1 with a 3.69 ERA in the second half and threw the game of the season in August against Tampa (8.2 IP of no-hit ball, 17 strikeouts).  He lead the AL in K/9, but needs to figure out how to pitch on the road to be a true superstar (8-1, 2.74 ERA at home, 2-6, 6.72 ERA on the road).

Grade: B-

Marc Rzepczynski

Production: 12 starts, 63.2 IP, 4 – 4, 4.95 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 57 K’s, 8.1 K/9

Rank among AL SP (82 SP with 10+ starts): IP – 79th, W – T71st, ERA – 64th, WHIP – 77th, K/9 – 13th

vs. Expectations: Only one big league season (2 – 4, 3.67 ERA)

Rzep didn’t make his season debut until July 7, and didn’t nail down the fifth starter’s slot officially until mid-August, so it’s difficult to compare his numbers to the league.  But one glance and it’s easy to tell that he allows far too many base runners (1.60 WHIP) to be successful.  Look beyond the surface, however, and you’ll see that he was one of Toronto’s most effective starters down the stretch.  His last five starts (September 8 – October 3) were dynamite: 3-1, 2.86 ERA, 28 K in 28.1 IP).  He is only 24 years old, and with the strikeout numbers he put up in his 12 starts (top-15 in K/9) it’s obvious that once (if) he figures out baserunner prevention, Toronto will have one of the (or the) best number five man in baseball.

Grade: C-

Tomorrow we’ll wrap up with the bullpen.

The Things You See When You’re Blind Drunk…

So a few friends and I went to a beer tasting event last night at the Berkeley Church (Queen Street East).  The Toronto Beer Experience.  Great beers.  Lots of beers.  Memory is hazy. 

We left the show around 11:30.

What happened next will go down in history.

In hindsight, was it wise to walk into a bar called The Blue Sea on Queen and Jarvis just before midnight, three guys, four sheets to the wind?  Maybe not.

But walk in we did.

Other than the “interesting” clientele, consisting mainly of a man with no teeth wearing a Detroit Tigers hat, and a man with thinning hair who begged us to insult him, one thing caught my eye hanging on the wall behind the bar.

A glorious sight:

Who said this was only a Leafs town?

Good on you Blue Sea.  Good on you.

Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Report Cards – Outfield

500 Level Fan continues with our quest to grade the 2010 Blue Jay roster.  Today – the outfield.

First a Toronto HR record, now an A+ grade from FLF (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 I’m not ranking DeWayne Wise)

Note 3: I am including Adam Lind in this post, even though he was primarily a DH.

Jose Bautista, RF

Production: .260 average, .995 OPS, 54 HR, 124 RBI, 7 errors, .981 fielding %, All-Star

Rank among AL OF (70 OF with 100+ AB): Average – 34th, OPS – 2nd, HR – 1st, RBI – 1st 

vs. Expectations: Average Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 10 HR, 35 RBI, .238 average, .729 OPS.  Blew away all career highs. 

There realy isn’t much to say about Baustista that hasn’t been said.  He shattered the Blue Jay record for HR in a season, set a career high in every major offensive category, and was at or near the top of the league in most categories.  The fact that his average finished at .260 when it was as low as .229 on July 1 speaks loads about his progress as a hitter.  He also showed incredible patience at the plate drawing 100 walks – and shockingly only 2 (2!!!) intentionally.  On top of that he played exceptional defense, finishing second in the league in OF assists with 12 – despite starting 45 games at 3B and one at 1B.  A banner year. 

Grade: A+ 

Vernon Wells, CF

Production: .273 average, .847 OPS, 31 HR, 88 RBI, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding %, All-Star

Rank among AL OF (70 OF with 100+ AB): Average – 26th, OPS – 8th, HR – 3rd, RBI – T9th 

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 24 HR, 89 RBI, .280 average, .803 OPS.  Huge bounce back year. 

After being labelled as one of the worst contracts in baseball, Vernon Wells proved that he still had gas in the tank with a huge 2010.  Injuries and slumps had plagued him for the last three seasons, but in ’10 he was back to his early career form.  He ranked in the top-10 in many key offensive categories, and provided an error-free season in CF (though, admittedly, his range factor is far below average).  We had come to expect disappointment from Vernon.  He blew us all away.

Grade: A 

Travis Snider, LF

Production: .255 average, .767 OPS, 14 HR, 32 RBI, 3 errors, .979 fielding %

Rank among AL OF (70 OF with 100+ AB): Average – 40th, OPS – 25th, HR – T22nd, RBI – T47th 

vs. Expectations: Did not have a full season of MLB experience pre-2010. 

On the surface, Snider was a disappointment, but injuries cost him dearly.  After struggling badly last season – to the point where he was sent to the minors – he was expected to be a force in 2010.  But he got off to such a horrendous start (.125 average in late April) that a demotion was being questioned again.  However, on April 29th something clicked.  In a 14 game stretch starting that day he batted .385 with 4 HR, 11 RBI and a 1.187 OPS.  A wrist injuy cost him two-and-a-half months, and he struggled when he returned, but a big September (.289 average, 6 HR) gave us glimpses of his potential.  Essentially Travis finished in the top-25 in the AL in OPS and HR while playing only half a season.  The future is bright. 

Grade: B-   

Fred Lewis, LF

Production: .262 average, .745 OPS, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 3 errors, .983 fielding % 

Rank among AL OF (70 OF with 100+ AB): Average – 33rd, OPS – 33rd, HR – T35th, RBI – T41st  

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 4 HR, 20 RBI, .277 average, .775 OPS.  

Lewis came over from the Giants in early April and instantly gave the Jays their first true leadoff hitter since the days of Shannon Stewart.  He was fairly consistent all season long, hitting for contact, and giving Toronto a speed threat on the basepaths (17 SB).  While it’s true he isn’t the greatest defender (below average arm, makes every fly out an adventure), and he might not walk enough to be a great leadoff man (38 BB), he was dependable until foot surgery ended his season. 

Grade: C 

Adam Lind, LF/DH

Production: .237 average, .712 OPS, 23 HR, 72 RBI, 0 errors, 1.000 fielding %   

Rank among AL DH (17 DH with 100+ AB): Average – 14th, OPS – 13th, HR – 6th, RBI – T4th 

vs. Expectations: Average Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 18 HR, 67 RBI, .283 average, .824 OPS.  Far, far below 2009. 

Adam Lind and Aaron Hill are easily comparable.  They both broke out last year, with each winning the Silver Slugger award and setting the bar high for years to come.  Then, they both flopped in 2010.  Lind was especially awful because he didn’t have any injury trouble to blame his struggles on.  After a .305 average, .932 OPS, 35 HR, 114 RBI season in ’09, Toronto’s DH dropped substantially in all categories in’10.  The counting stats were respectable, but not good enough for a full-time hitter.  It’s also hard to have a DH who can’t hit lefties, which he can’t as shown by his atrocious splits: .117 average, .341 OPS vs. LHP.  To be fair, he did have a much better second half (.267 avg, .807 OPS) all while trying to learn a new position 1B.  But if the real Adam Lind is the man we saw in 2010 and not Lind version ’09, the Jays are in trouble. 

Grade: D- 

Up next: the starting rotation.

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.

Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Report Cards – Catchers

With the quiet part of the offseason in full bloom for the Jays (i.e. post-regular season, pre-free agency) I thought I’d take a look back at the 2010 campaign and dish out the highly anticipated 500 Level Fan Report Cards.

This series of posts will be split into five parts: Catchers, Infielders, Outfielders, Starters, Relievers.  Today I’ll begin with part 1: the Catchers.

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 J.P. Arencibia)

John Buck

Production: .281 average, .802 OPS, 20 HR, 66 RBI, 5 errors, .994 fielding %, All-Star

Rank among AL Catchers (30 catchers with 100+ AB): Average – 3rd, OPS – 6th, HR – T1st, RBI – 4th

vs. Expectations: Average Season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 12 HR, 43 RBI, .235 average, .705 OPS.  Set a career high in Average, OPS, HR, RBI.

Buck was outstanding at the plate this year.  He ranked at or near the top in every major offensive category, and gave the Jays much more than they were expecting based on his career numbers.  The defensive aspect of his game was lacking at the beginning of the season, but as he grew more comfortable with the starting staff, his game calling and his calming influence grew in leaps and bounds – especially with Ricky Romero.  His 20 HR tied the Blue Jay record for a catcher set by Darrin Fletcher, and he became the first Jay backstop since Ernie Whitt to make the All-Star team.

Grade: A

Jose Molina

Production: .246 average, .681 OPS, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 2 errors, .996 fielding %

Rank among AL Catchers (30 catchers with 100+ AB): Average – 14th, OPS – 12th, HR – T12th, RBI – 26th

vs. Expectations: Average season pre-2010 (per Baseball Reference) – 2 HR, 14 RBI, .235 average, .609 OPS.  Tied career high in HR, set high in OPS

It’s difficult to judge a back-up catcher on numbers, since by definition they receive much less playing time than a starter.  But when he played Molina produced at a decent clip, essentially meeting expectations both of his career and of what a backup catcher should produce.  His numbers almost matched last years back-up Raul Chavez exactly.  But his biggest contribution by far came behind the plate.  The rapport he established with Brandon Morrow was one of the (if not the) biggest reason behind Morrow’s breakout season.  As soon as Molina became Morrow’s personal catcher, it was as if something clicked for the pitcher.  That alone trumps the numbers and stats.

Grade: B-

Come back tomorrow to see the 500 Level Fan Report Cards for the 2010 Blue Jay Infielders.

Hey! It’s Delusional Tuesday!

Cliff Lee is not human (daylife.com)

Not much you can say about Cliff Lee last night.  The man is a machine.  Unstoppable and unbelievable.

After eight shutout innings last night, his 2010 postseason now looks like this:

3 starts, 24 innings, 2 runs, 0.75 ERA, 13 hits, 1 walk, 0.58 WHIP, 34 strikeouts, 3-0 record.

Wow.

So here is my delusional Tuesday thought: I want Cliff Lee. 

I want him on the Blue Jays next year.

Go ahead Alex.  Sign him.  Give him some money, any amount of money he wants.

He dominates the Yankees.  We play in the same division as the Yankees.  He dominated Tampa Bay.  We play in the same division as Tampa Bay.

Think of what it would allow the Jays to do if we signed him.  They could:

A) Install him as our ace, moving everybody down one slot accordingly.  The rotation would be Lee, Marcum, Romero, Morrow, Cecil, a convenient L-R-L-R-L setup.  Rzep could move to the bullpen as long man, and Drabek could get some more seasoning in triple-A.

B) Trade one of our four starters with a prospect for an outfielder or first baseman.  Names like Prince Fielder and Colby Rasmus keep coming up.  A pitcher like Marcum would likely fit in well on one of those teams.  That would allow either Rzep or Drabek to claim the fifth spot.

Sadly, I’m not an idiot, just a dreamer.  I know there is absolutely no way we sign Cliff Lee.  He likely wouldn’t want to pitch here, and his salary demands would be FAR too high for our budget.  It also goes against our build from within philosophy.

But hey, it’s delusional Tuesday.

I am allowed to believe in miracles…

Blue Jays, Catchers, and the Abyss of Suck-dom

As a Jays fan living in Toronto, I don’t watch a lot of National League baseball.  Occasionally I’ll tune into to Sunday Night Baseball and watch a game, but my main exposure to the NL comes in the playoffs.

Last night was my first real time watching and paying attention to Buster Posey.

Since I had him on one of my fantasy baseball teams this year I knew he was pretty good.  But after finally watching him play I realized three things:

1. He is really, really good.

2. He looks like he is 11 years old.

3. The San Francisco Giants are extremely lucky.

When I say the Giants are lucky, I don’t mean because they have a great player playing for them.  The Jays have had several great players.  No, I mean they’re lucky because one of their so called “catchers of the future” actually panned out.

You can’t say that term – “catcher of the future” – around a Jays fan (or at least around me) and not get a pained expression.  Catcher has been a black hole for Toronto for a long time.  Baseball Reference shows that Toronto has really only had three main starting catchers (three straight seasons as the main starter) in their history: Ernie Whitt (1980 – 1989), Pat Borders (1990 – 1994), and Darrin Fletcher (1998 – 2001).  Since 2001 the Jays have used a pot-pourri of catching options, for the most part journeyman, or veterans playing on one year deals.  Such catchers include Ken Huckaby, Tom Wilson, Greg Myers, Gregg Zaun, Bengie Molina, Rod Barajas, and John Buck.  The Jays haven’t been able to produce a top notch, high quality, young catcher like other teams have, namely Joe Mauer (Min), Carlos Santana (Cle), Matt Wieters (Bal), Brian McCann (Atl), Geovany Soto (ChiC), and of course Posey.

That’s not to say they haven’t had the chance.  Toronto has had so many “catchers of the future” in the last few years, it is depressing that none have made the jump to stardom.  Look at the list, and try not to shed a tear:

Angel (or Sandy) Martinez

Catcher of the Future: 1995

The end of the Pat Borders era was supposed to lead into the beginning of the Martinez era.  But there was one problem (aside from him being referred to as both Sandy and Angel), the same problem that would eventually plague the rest of the players on this list – Martinez couldn’t hit.  He lasted parts of three seasons before being traded to the Cubs.

Blue Jay Stats – .232 avg, .612 OPS, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 104 K in 422 AB

Josh Phelps

Catcher of the Future: 2000

Debuted as a catcher in 2000 before being switched to first base.  Had a great first season in 2002 (6th in Rookie of the Year voting), but crumbled shortly thereafter and was eventually shipped to Cleveland in 2004.

Blue Jay Stats – .266 avg, .810 OPS, 47 HR, 176 RBI

Kevin Cash

Catcher of the Future: 2002

Had an incredible arm, could throw out baserunners from his knees with ease.  Unfortunately he was horrendous at the plate.  Traded to Tampa Bay in 2004.

Blue Jay Stats – .173 avg, .485 OPS, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 85 K in 301 AB

Guillermo Quiroz

Catcher of the Future: 2004

Was the next big thing after Kevin Cash, but like Cash couldn’t hit.  Flamed out in a heartbeat, managing only 29 games for Toronto before being selected by Seattle on waivers.

Blue Jay Stats – .205 avg, .510 OPS. 0 HR, 10 RBI, 6 K in 23 AB

Robinzon Diaz

Catcher of the Future: 2008

The hopeful successor to Gregg Zaun, he lasted all of 4 AB for the Jays.  Was traded to Pittsburgh for Jose Bautista in 2008.  At least that worked out well…

Blue Jay Stats – .000 avg, .000 OPS, 0 HR, 0 RBI

For those counting, Buster Posey hit more home runs this season (18, in less than a full year) than Martinez, Cash, Quiroz, and Diaz combined.  Awful.

Of course we are now into a new Catcher of the Future era with J.P. Arencibia.  It’s WAY too early to judge him, but aside from his brilliant debut he didn’t give us much to be excited about in his limited action this season (.143 avg, .532 OPS).  Regular playing time should improve his stats, but the numbers will have to be impressive to get the taste of catcher failure out of my mouth.  Next year might (or, hopefully, should) give us a better indication if he is more of a Cash or a Posey.

If the former, we are in luck.  If not, just add him to the list and move on to the next.  Travis D’Arnaud isn’t far away…