There’s nothing better than a good ol’ New Years Resolution. Nothing brings more laughter, light-hearted humour, and comic relief than listening to resolutions, because so many of them are so absolutely ridiculous. Here are some real ones I’ve heard:
“I want to work out EVERY DAY!”
“I will not eat ANYTHING unhealthy for the ENTIRE year!”
“I vow to read two full length books EVERY MONTH!”
“I will reduce my booze intake to only ONE beer a WEEK!”
Hilarious! When you set such lofty goals you are setting yourself up for failure. A more meaningful resolution equals a better chance to actually meet it.
The same logic applies to what I want to see for the Blue Jays in 2012. I can easily say things like I want the Jays to win the World Series, or I want Bautista to win the AL MVP, or I want Brett Lawrie to smash 45 homers. But are those things really realistic? Maybe, but not likely.
So let me present to you five realistic objectives that I would like to see happen for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.
1. J.P. Arencibia to raise his average to .250
Arencibia hit .219 last year, which was the lowest batting average among all AL catchers with at least 450 plate appearances, putting him behind players such as Miguel Olivo and Kurt Suzuki. However, JPA also ranked 7th in OPS at .720, 2nd in HR with 23, and 4th in RBI with 78. Based on his number of at-bats last year, a .250 average would require an additional 14 hits. Those 14 hits would also raise his OBP from a dreadful .282 to a more respectable .311 and his OPS to over .780 (which, incidentally, would have been 4th best in the AL for catchers last year).
But can he do it? His minor league numbers suggest he can, as he hit .301 in triple-A in 2010, and had a career minor league average of .275. His major league splits from last year suggest otherwise, as he failed to eclipse the .216 mark in any individual month after May.
However, in his second full season in the big leagues, I think that 14 extra base hits isn’t out of the question.
2. A breakout year for Colby Rasmus
In 2009 as a 22 year old rookie, Rasmus hit 16 HR, had a .251 average and a .714 OPS and finished 8th in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. In 2010, in his sophomore season, Rasmus improved to 23 HR, a .276 average and .859 OPS. In 2011, with a lot of hype about becoming baseball’s next big star, Rasmus fell flat and found himself traded to Toronto. His numbers in Toronto were horrific – .173 average, .517 OPS, 3 HR in 35 games.
But a lot has been made of his time in St. Louis, about how he didn’t get along with manager TonyLaRussa, about his feuding with some teammates and with the media. St. Louis was also a veteran team with a set identity – maybe not the place for a young up-anc-comer to really feel at home.
A full season in Toronto might finally be what the doctor ordered. He will be surrounded by youth, on a team with tons of potential, and with less pressure than the past. I don’t want to ask for 40 HR and a .950 OPS, but I think numbers exceeding his 2010 campaign are entirely possible.
3. Consistency from Brandon Morrow
The overall numbers were similar to 2010: 11 wins, a higher ERA (4.79) but a reduced WHIP (1.29) and walk rate (3.5 BB/9). However the way he got there was not at all pretty, as Morrow took us all on a wild, rollercoaster of a ride. Check out his ERA and WHIP splits:
April: 3.97 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
May: 5.51 ERA, 1.56 WHIP
June: 3.77 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
July: 4.62 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
August: 5.58 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
September: 4.42 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
Good then bad. Good then bad. The change was evident start-to-start as well. Look at this 6-game stretch beginning May 21st:
May 21 vs. Houston: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
May 26 vs. Chicago: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
May 31 vs. Cleveland: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
June 6 vs. KC: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K
June 11 vs. Boston: 4.1 IP, 10 H, 9 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
June 18 vs. Cincinnati: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
There is reason to believe that he is capable of becoming a solid starting pitcher however. First, he is entering his third season with Toronto, and third as a full-time starter. His arm strength has been built up and the inning limits will likely be off. In other words, he won’t be treated with kid gloves this year. Second, he ended 2011 with a bang. His final three starts of the season looked like this: 2-0, 21 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 10 BB, 24 K, 0.86 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .486 OPS against.
I’m not asking for staff ace type numbers, just consistency each and every start. I think he delivers in 2012.
4. Ninth inning reliability
In 2006, B.J. Ryan made his Blue Jays debut and put together one of the most dominant seasons by a Toronto closer. Ever. 38 saves, 1.37 ERA, 10.7 K/9, 0.86 WHIP. It was the kind of season where fans knew that if Toronto took a lead into the ninth, the game was over. It is the kind of feeling that Yankees fans have had with Mariano Rivera forever.
We haven’t had that feeling in Toronto since. Ryan blew out his arm in ’07, and while Jeremy Accardo did a good job filling in, he wasn’t trusted. B.J. returned in ’08 and while the overall numbers were good, his dominance was gone. Then followed three straight years of musical closers, with Jason Frasor, Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, Jon Rauch, and Frank Francisco all taking turns making Jays fans nervous. Long gone are the days of Ward and Henke.
This year we welcome Sergio Santos into the mix as the newest ninth inning man. While he may not have the name or the track record of some of the free agent closers that Anthopoulos passed over (Papelbon, Cordero, Madson), he does have the stuff to be dominant. A 13.1 K/9 ratio in 2010 to go along with 30 saves and a 1.11 WHIP would have blown all Blue Jay relievers out of the water.
As fans, we don’t necessarily to need to see Ryan circa ’06. But I think we’ll have the feeling of relative ninth inning safety return.
5. Meaningful games in September
It has been a long, long time since fans in this city have had a pennant race to get excited about. In Toronto, September has become a time to head to the dome to check out how the young call-ups do in their first taste of big league action, or maybe to go bid farewell to a retiring or departing star. In the past five years, the closest that Toronto has been to a playoff spot on September 1st was in 2007 when they entered the month 6.5 games back of the Wild Card. A week later and that deficit had swelled to 9.
The last time fans in this city had reason to be excited was way, way back in 2000, when on September 1st the Blue Jays sat at 70-63, just 1.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians for the AL Wild Card. By as late as September 21st the Jays were still just 2.5 games back of Oakland and Cleveland, and only 4.5 behind the Yankees for first in the East, before a 2-8 finish ruined the season. But for that month, baseball excitement gripped the city.
The subsequent years have been brutal. In 2004 the Jays were 24 games out of the playoffs on September 1. In 2009, they were 16.5 out. Last year they trailed the Wild Card by 14.
But with a young core of Lawrie, Arencibia, Rasmus, Thames, and Escobar, surrounding the power of Bautista and (maybe) a return to form of Lind, with Romero, Morrow, and Alvaraez leading the rotation, and Santos closing things out in the bullpen, maybe, just maybe, this is the year for meaningful September games. With the Yankees aging, and turmoil surrounding the Red Sox, the iron curtain between the Jays and the playoffs might be weaker. Sure Texas and the Angels look formidable, but with an additional Wild Card spot possibly up for grabs in 2012, I expect the Jays to be making noise in September.