The experts have spoken. The predictions are in. Everybody agrees – the Blue Jays will not make the playoffs in 2011.
While most sports sites had nice things to say about Toronto’s future, none see a strong finish this season.
Sports Illustrated picks Toronto to finish 77-85, dead last in the AL East.
CBS Sportsline polls a panel of eight baseball experts. Three pick Toronto to finish in the basement, behind the Orioles. Four slot them in fourth place, and one brave soul (Al Melchior) has our boys in third.
ESPN says that although the Jays have a bright future, the time is not now. However, three analysts do predict big seasons from some rookies. Both Jason Churchill and Joe McDonald have Kyle Drabek winning the AL Rookie of the Year, while the one and only John Kruk gives the award to Brett Lawrie.
But those are the experts. They were all wrong last year.
Besides, you are here not because you want the opinion of an expert. No, you are here because you want the opinion of an idiot.
So let 500 Level Fan oblige.
A few weeks ago, Daniel from C70 At The Bat, a St. Louis Cardinals blog, asked me to participate in a season preview for the Jays. In that column I predicted a 75-87 record and a fourth place finish in the East. I realize that that is worse than any of the other sites predict, but I’ll stick with it – not because I think the Jays are going to be terrible, but because I think they are setting up for next year. 2012 will be a Wild Card year. You heard it hear first.
Aside from the record, here are 24 other predictions about Toronto’s upcoming season. Some are standard and some are off-the-wall, bet we can all rest assured on one thing – MOST will be wrong.
1. Jose Bautista will hit 44 HR to lead the AL. He will not regress as much as everybody expects.
2. Travis Snider has the break-out year that many predicted last year. .275 average, 32 HR, 95 RBI.
3. Rajai Davis steals 63 bases, breaking the franchise record of 60 set by Dave Collins in 1984.
4. Edwin Encarnacion plays a surprisingly capable third base, and hits over 30 HR to boot.
5. EE’s steady play in the field keeps future hearthrob Brett Lawrie in the minors for most of the season, ruining John Kruk’s rookie of the year choice.
6. Though Drabek has a nice rookie year, he finishes under .500 and nowhere near first place in the ROY voting.
7. The Rookie of the Year? Throw all the Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Sale, and Mike Moustakas predictions out the window. J.P. Arencibia takes the fact that nobody seems to believe in him anymore to heart, lives up to his potential, and wins the award for the American League.
8. At one point in the season, Jason Frasor is given the opportunity to close games again. He blows it. Again.
9. Jon Rauch starts the year as closer and Frank Francisco finished the year as closer. They combine for 40 saves.
10. Eric Thames is called up to the big leagues before Brett Lawrie.
11. One member of the Blue Jays starting rotation tosses a no-hitter, only the second in franchise history.
12. Ricky Romero leads the staff with 16 wins.
13. Brandon Morrow returns from injury and leads the AL with 235 strikeouts.
14. Jessie Litsch surprises many by sticking in the rotation all season.
15. On the afternoon of Sunday June 26th in an interleague game in St. Louis, Toronto hitters hit back-to-back-to-back home runs off of former teammate Brian “Billy Talent” Tallet.
16. Juan Rivera does not make it through the season.
17. Aaron Hill bounces back, sacrificing power for average, and hits .275 with 15 bombs.
18. Yunel Escobar mystifies fans everywhere by bunting in the first inning over 50 times.
19. As has been said elsewhere, Marc Rzepczynski – not David Purcey or Jesse Carlson – becomes
the next Scott Downs.
20. Jose Bautista joins Kelly Gruber and Jeff Frye by hitting for the cycle.
21. Scott Downs, Vernon Wells, and Roy Halladay all receive huge ovations upon their returns to Toronto. When Pittsburgh comes to town between June 28-30, Lyle Overbay inexplicably does not.
22. The Blue Jays hold their own against the AL East, but play poorly against the AL West and, as usual, the NL during the interleague schedule.
23. For the second year in a row, Jose Bautista and a Toronto catcher make the All-Star team. Arencibia (yes, I believe in him) joins Buck and Whitt as the only Blue Jay catchers to make it.
24. Romero finishes in the top-5 of the AL Cy Young voting.
Bonus – For the first time ever, somebody wins the nearly impossible three-for-three game.
Over/Under on the number I get right?
Happy 2011 everybody!