Blue Jays season in review, 2010

Hey there! Enjoying the playoffs? How about that Halladay, eh? And Lincecum, he’s something else, isn’t he? Yeah, the playoffs have been pretty great so far. The only real problem with the playoffs is that the Jays aren’t part of them.

Well, if you’re a Jays fan looking for a diversion from the playoffs, you’ve come to the right place. It’s time again for the annual Infield Fly post-season roundtable in which I ask some questions that I and other (better known and more knowledgeable) people answer.

And the better known and more knowledgeable people taking part this year, in no particular order, are:

Drew: Proprietor of the always-entertaining nerditry and liberated fandom you can find at Ghostrunner on First, Drew can also be found contributing to Walkoff Walk and The Score’s new baseball blog,Getting Blanked. You should probably also follow him on Twitter.

Ian: This guy may be the hardest working man in the Blue Jays blogosphere. If you want to know what’s going on with bobblehead promotions or the facial hair developments of Jays players, The Blue Jay Hunter is the first place to go (oh, and the site’s pretty good for info on the game, too). Ian’s also the founder of the Bautista Appreciation Society, president of the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and should really be followed by you on the Twitter.

Cole: Reporter and columnist for the largest newspaper in New Brunswick and probably the biggest Jays fan I know in the real life. Cole’s been a part of the panel since the beginning (before it was on this site, even). Despite living in New Brunswick, he attends more games in person each year than most people who live in Toronto.

Paul: You know how The Score does that Drafted show? I only have basic cable, so I wouldn’t know myself except that Paul Brothers won it last year. He’s a cool guy, he knows his stuff, he tweets AND he’s on TV, so everything he says is true.

And then there’s me:

Chris: I am a guy who does some things. One of those things is convincing the people listed above to write for my site — thanks, guys!

Now that that’s taken care of, we can get to the questions. But not right away. Posting all of this at once would make for one unbearably long post. So the answers will be divided up into three parts, the first of which will already likely be bumping this down the page by the time you’re reading it. If not, you’re awesome! Thanks for reading the blog at weird hours.

VW — second best Blue Jay this season?

Welcome back! The following is Part 1 of the answers to the questions posed in this year’s post-season Blue Jays roundtable. If you’re curious who’s answering the questions, I suggest you read this. Now that you’ve read that (or not) I present to the first of three sets of questions, with three questions each. Confused? Me too! Anyway, here we go:

What was the best play, moment or game of the Jays’ 2010 season?

Drew: It has to be the big home run Bautista hit off David Robertson, his 40th on the season.  The staredown, the ultra-slow trot.  Everything about it was awesome and enjoyable in that “shhh this victory isn’t hollow I don’t care what you say” kind of way.
Ian: The best moment and game were one in the same: August 23rd against the New York Yankees. Jose Bautista carried the Blue Jays to a narrow 3-2 win over the New York Yankees on account of his two home runs. More specifically, the moment from 2010 that stood out in my mind was the staredown Jose Bautista gave David Robertson after he hit his second home run in the game.
.      Prior to that moment, Bautista was brushed back by Ivan Nova with an inside fastball and tensions boiled over as the benches cleared. Rather than retaliate with his fists, Bautista fought back with his bat and let the longball do the talking. I was fortunate enough to be there in person at the game, and it was an epic moment I will never forget.
Cole: I particularly enjoyed Brandon Morrow’s brush with a no hitter and all the other ones throughout the season, even though they ended up in heartbreak at the time they were great moments.
.      J.P. Arencibia’s first game in the majors was also very poignant, as was Toronto fans actually being good baseball fans for once and giving Jose Bautista a well-deserved curtain call.
Paul: The best moment of the Jays’ 2010 season was the Brandon Morrow near no-hitter. I was at the game nursing a nasty hangover in the 500’s. It seemed like another typical game until around the 5th or 6th inning when the K’s started piling up and the Rays started going down. By the 9th inning you could feel the electircity in the building. I hate Evan Longoria for breaking up the no-no but the good news is I got over my hangover pretty quick.
Chris: Probably because I was there in present and had an excellent seat (Thank you, G20 Summit!), but J.P. Arencibia’s debut was definitely the highlight of the season for me. Not only was it an unreal performance, but it gave me another game — along with Canada-U.S.A. at the World Baseball Classic — that I can look back on and think fondly when I get annoyed with the fans in Toronto. Some of them do get it, and some do appreciate greatness when they’re seeing it.

Jose Bautista: American League MVP?

Drew: I think it still has to be Josh Hamilton.  Numbers, ballpark aided as they might be, are comparable in many ways plus the invaluable defensive contribution.  I think Jose has a better case than me and many media members believe, but Hamilton still gets the nod.
Ian: Transplant him onto any playoff contending team, and Jose Bautista is unquestionably the American League MVP. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case and we have to delve into the whole argument about how MVP’s should help get their teams to the playoffs. That being said, I wouldn’t give Jose Bautista the MVP award, but I’d certainly put him in the top three, maybe even as high as second place.
Cole: Do I think he should be given the award? Yes, a case can certainly be made. Do I think he will be? No, I do not. I think a player in a non-major MLB market and/or a non-playoff team has to really go above and beyond to win the award away from someone who might be an easier more mainstream choice.
Paul: Probably not. I compare Bautista’s year to Cecil Fielder’s in 1990. Cecil finished second in voting to Rickey Henderson and I think Jose will finish second or maybe even third to Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. Usually the AL MVP goes to a player whose team made the post-season so my guess is Hamilton.
Chris: I’ve got another post in the worked on this topic, so rather than stealing my own thunder, I’ll just say yes.

Other than Bautista, who was the best Blue Jay of 2010?

Drew: Ricky Romero.  Best numbers, most innings, still learning.
Ian: Lost among the hysteria of what has been Jose Bautista’s monster season, Vernon Wells has quietly strung together his second best season as a Blue Jay. Statistically, he’s been the best centre fielder in the American League and the sixth best outfielder in the American League. With this bounce back year, Vernon has shown that he needs some protection in the lineup to truly be deadly.
Cole: A lot of Blue Jays had surprisingly good seasons. I would have to say the best in terms of overall contribution however might have to go to John Buck. Not only did he far exceed expectations with the bat, but he seemed to do a good job with the Jays pitching staff and together with Molina turned what was expected to be a big negative for the team into a positive.
Paul: I’m gonna say Vernon Wells. Everyone has been on Vernon the past couple years for really sucking it up despite being paid so much money. If you look at his stats, Vernon had a good year.  He finished 2nd in team batting with .273 Batting average, 2nd in HR’s and RBI . Even better he had the most at bats of any Blue Jay meaning he was healthy!! He also had the most hits and the most doubles. Atta Boy Vernon!  Take a breath, the pressure’s off, for now.
Chris: Shaun Marcum. Debating who the Jays’ best pitcher was this season seems pointless. A valid case could be made for just about any of the four main starting pitchers, but I’m going with Marcum. Not only did he lead the starters in ERA+, WHIP, BB/9 and K/BB, he assumed the leadership role amongst the pitchers that Doc left vacant. Say what you will about intangibles, when you’ve got a young, inexperienced staff, it doesn’t hurt to have someone reminding them to “pitch like a man.”

That concludes Part 1 of the roundtable answers. If you enjoyed this, you should probably be aware that Part 2 is scheduled to go up tomorrow.

Adam Lind — biggest letdown among players on the 2010 Blue Jays roster?

Welcome back. Wondering what this post is all about? It’s our annual post-season roundtable! Read the introductions here and the first set of answers here. On to the questions…

Who was the biggest letdown?

Drew: Gotta be Lind.  I think most people expected Hill to come back to Earth.  I was sure Adam Lind was slump proof.  I was wrong.  Such as shame that his all-world approach went away when times got tough.  His second half was actually half-decent, but he was so bad for so long in May and June, his numbers never recovered.
Ian: The conjoined slumping twins (Hill and Lind) were obviously a disappointment, but more specifically Aaron Hill. I’m more confident that Lind can turn things around next season, yet I’m much more worried about Aaron Hill. It feels like not only did his offense drop off significantly this season, so did his defense. It’s gotten to the point where I can even see Hill’s at bat unfold in my head: breaking ball low and inside, Hill takes a couple of hacks and strikes out. And that’s not something you want from your second baseman who still has 4 years (albeit 3 club options) left on his contract.
Cole: Aaron Hill obviously springs to mind and also I was a bit letdown by Travis Snider as I assumed he would have “broken out” by now, so to speak. I’m not ready to render him a ‘bust’ yet and obviously his lack of playing time throughout the season had an impact on this, but I think we had all hoped he would have become the hitter he’s supposed to become by now. However, still no rush as he’s still a young gun.
Paul: Kevin Gregg for my money. Didn’t trust him all season long.
Chris: I have a feeling that most people would pick either Aaron Hill or Adam Lind. In that sense, I’m not different from most people, but I give Lind the nod over Hill because I never expected Hill’s offence to match what he did last year.

Who will be in the Jays’ five-man rotation in 2011?

Drew: Romero, Morrow, Cecil, Rzepcyznski, Drabek.  Been a slice Shaun Marcum, but your ceiling is nigh.
Ian: I think we can all agree that the core four of Marcum, Romero, Morrow and Cecil will be back, but it’s that coveted fifth starter’s position that will be up for grabs next season. Kyle Drabek has shown he’s ready to pitch in the major leagues, yet the Blue Jays still have so many talented starters who could also slot in. I’m going to go with the dark horse candidate and say Marc Rzepczynski will be the number 5 starter in 2010 behind the four horsemen.
Cole: Romero, Drabek, Morrow, Marcum, Cecil.
Paul: Romero, Marcum, Morrow, Cecil, Drabek…..that’s amazing to write down on paper!
Chris: Barring trades or injuries, Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil and Brandon Morrow should hold down their spots for the duration. The fifth spot is Kyle Drabek’s to lose, but if even he doesn’t lose it, I doubt he’ll start the season in Toronto. I expect the team will hold him back in an effort to better control his service time and use some like Jesse Litsch to start the season off. R-Zep I like, but I just can’t shake the thought of him working out of the bullpen.

If you could anoint one player as a Blue Jay of the Future, who would it be?

Drew: Travis Snider.  So young, so big, so fun, so good.
Ian: Considering the unusually high turnover rate when it comes to faces of this franchise, I’d have to so with a sure bet and a long-term deal and say Ricky Romero. It’s tough to believe he’s just finished up his sophomore year in the big leagues, but with his attitude and work ethic, Romero is wise beyond his years. I know he said Doc is the enemy now, but maybe some of the Halladay intensity unknowingly rubbed off on RR Cool Jay.
Cole: Kyle Drabek.
Paul: I gotta say Brandon Morrow. After the no-hit game I fell in love with the guy. I hope he becomes an Ace of this staff. And if he plays like he did this season, Jays fans will be eating plenty of free pizza.
Chris: He should be the Blue Jay of the Now, but due to injuries and misuse by Cito, I’m sticking with Travis Snider. I’m imaging him developing into a real masher next season and staying that way for years to come.

Alex Anthopoulos has been very busy since taking over as general manager. What move of his has had the biggest long-term effect on the Blue Jays?

Drew: Right now I’d say not trading any potential free agents at the deadline.  Compiling draft picks could pay huge dividends in the future.
Ian: When AA traded Brett Wallace, he definitely set back the clock on the long-term first base solution by a few years. Wallace would be with the Blue Jays right now (probably sitting on the bench though), but at least we’d know that he is the guy at first for the next 5+ years. Now we don’t even know who’s playing first base next year. It was a big gamble to take, and sometimes you have to bet big to win big.
Cole: If you’re looking long-term than obviously his increased efforts in scouting and signing players from all over the globe will have a big impact. For the first time in a while when an interesting name pops up I now actually feel like the Jays are a player again, which is always nice.
Paul: Outside of the Halladay trade, I’d say getting Morrow for League.
Chris: Trading an overachieving Alex Gonzalez for Yunel Escobar has got to be his best move so far. The Jays have been struggling for years shore up the shortstop hole and with Escobar, the team has gotten a lot stronger up the middle. I just wonder how Adeiny Hechevarria feels about this.

Still here? Awesome! We’re now a little more than 3/4 of the way through this year’s roundtable. The final instalment will go up this weekend. Hope you’ll come check out the thrilling conclusion.

Carl Crawford: Future Blue Jay if a couple of panelists get their way.

So here we are. The fourth and final episode of this year’s post-season roundtable. If you’re playing catch-up, I advise you to read the introductions, then go for the first and second set of answers. If you’re already up to speed, here you go, the final set of answers:

A clerical error results in you being GM long enough to make one move this off-season. What move do you make and why?

Drew: I try and pry Alex Gordon out of the cold, dead hands of Dayton Moore.  Too much talent to give up this year.  I’d overpay, relative to what everyone else offers.  Everybody and their sister will try and rip Moore off because the Royals are idiots, I’d make an almost fair offer and give him a winter of Buttering up.
Ian: Sign Carlos Pena. I don’t know where this stemmed from, but I think it’s a wise move to go and get him because if the Adam Lind at first base experiment fails, Pena can step in and play solid defense at first. If Lind finally gets his big boy glove going, then Pena reverts to designated hitter. The only problem is Scott Boras is Carlos Pena’s agent, so you know he won’t settle than anything less than a 2-3 year deal.
Cole: Hire a new manager who will play young players with high upside who are the future of the organization and not feel obliged to play veterans on their way out of the organization just to make sure they can get a good contract in free agency.
Paul: In a perfect world I would sign Carl Crawford. HA! But that’s never going to happen. The Jays need base hits and speed at the top of the lineup. I would try to trade* John Buck for that. I would also shop around Bautista to see what’s on the market for him. There’s no way he puts up numbers like that again.
Chris: Throw a ton of money at Carl Crawford and sign the hell out of him. Dude gets on base, runs like a madman and is just all around excellent at baseball. Anytime you’ve got a chance to add a guy who just turned in a 6.8 WAR season, I say you do it.

(* Buck is a free agent after this season, but let’s not overreact. Letting Buck walk is tantamount to trading him for a draft pick and some financial flexibility, OK?)

Do you realistically see the Jays competing for a playoff spot next year?

Drew: Only if more things break their way.  They need to avoid down years and injury again and hope the Yankees and Red Sox are too old and not completely re-tooled. Be like the Padres in everything except the “gagging away the division lead” part.
Ian: As 2010 has shown us, anything is possible. A team that was supposed to finish well under .500 and even last in the American League East has defied logic and posted 80+ win seasons for the last 7 of 9 years. The Blue Jays could be even better next year, but a playoff run would be contingent on two out of the three AL East juggernauts imploding for them to really have a chance in 2011.
Cole: I am the eternal optimist in this sense so my heart says yes even though my head says probably not. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in baseball it’s that you never really know. There are so many unknowns involved that until you get out there and play the games it’s hard to say. Let’s keep in mind that this year a lot of pundits had the Jays finishing in last in the East and potentially losing 100 games. They far exceeded that expectation. What’s to say if they are predicted to finish third and win 85ish game next year that they can’t exceed expectation and win 90+ and contend? Hustle and heart, baby.
Paul: Yes. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be a fan.
Chris: As currently constructed, there’s a chance, but there are a lot of ifs attached. If the pitchers keep on pitching like men, if Bautista doesn’t fall off a cliff, if Snider develops further, if Wells doesn’t go back to sucking and Lind and Hill don’t suck again, the team’s definitely got a real chance at competing. But all of that’s assuming Anthopoulos doesn’t completely revamp the team…

Closing thoughts: Is there anything not addressed by the above questions that you’d like to say about the Jays?

Drew: I really hope Jose Bautista hits 30 home runs next year so everybody will just leave him alone.
Ian: I think the one big thing we learned in 2010 is that the Toronto Blue Jays are a very talented group of players who are just on the cusp of hitting their stride. With the starting staff comprised of Marcum, Romero, Morrow and Cecil, they gave the team a great chance of winning night after night. Not very many clubs are fortunate to have as solid a rotation as the Blue Jays, and I definitely think we shouldn’t take it for granted.
Cole: I found this season to be tremendously enjoyable and I’m looking forward to 2011.
Paul: I would like to say having lived in Toronto since March, going to Blue Jays games is an awesome way to spend a few hours. Which leads me to the question: Why don’t more people come to the games?? There’s 3 million people in this city and we fielded an exciting, home-run hitting team that was fun to watch. Yet Toronto was in the bottom 5 in total attendance this year only ahead of teams like Pittsburgh, KC, and Baltimore…teams that totally suck. Come on Toronto. Support the Jays!
Chris: As exciting as the 2010 season was at times, I’m far more excited about this team’s future. Cito’s gone and the young guys will get a chance to play! Snider will (or should) finally get a real chance to show his potential and we should get a better idea of exactly how The Plan will play out now that Anthopoulos won’t be handcuffed by a manager whose sole goal seems to be helping veterans get better contracts.

And that concludes the roundtable. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading. Once again, I want to say a big thank you to DrewIan, Cole and Paul — without your contributions, this wouldn’t be possible.

Check back next year for the next edition of the roundtable, something which the team will hopefully force us to hold off on until November. Of course you can always come back before then if you’re so inclined.

 

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