|2007 Team Previews: The Toronto Blue Jays||| Print |||Send|
Written by Chris Wilson (Contact & Archive) on April 02, 2007
Regular Season Record: 87-75
One important factor that will come into play for the Jays is that a number of key players last year took strides forward last year. While some of that is likely true growth for young players (for example, Alex Rios seems to be realizing his potential) it is likely that some players will see a regression to the mean. (for example, Reed Johnson has never shown reasons to believe he’s a .319/.390/.479 hitter). The addition of Thomas makes this a better hitting team than the one fielded last year, but once we factor in regression from some of the overachievers, that improvement becomes narrow. On the other hand, if we look at the components of the team’s offence, only the Yankees had a higher OPS. At .284/.348/.463, the Jays were among the leaders in all three rate stats, but only middle of the pack in runs scored. Clearly, there’s some sort of underachieving that happened here. Is it a fluke, or is there some reason why they underscored their performance so badly?
One likely culprit appears to be the dreaded double play. Only Oakland grounded into more double plays than the Jays last year. Clearly all those extra outs would hurt the team’s run scoring. If we look where those double plays are coming from, one thing we notice is that two significant culprits – Molina and Hillenbrand – are no longer with the team. Additionally, Troy Glaus grounded into twenty five double plays last year, a number uncharacteristic for a flyball hitter who strikes out a lot. With limited team speed and solid on-base percentages, the Jays will likely still hit into their share of double plays, but the number should drop from 2006. Expect solid run scoring from this team.
On the pitching side of things, things look a little shakier, at least on the surface. The 2007 Jays have one established ace in Halladay, a very-good-when-healthy starter in Burnett, a premium closer in Ryan, and a lot of question marks. On the other hand, they have a LOT of question marks. There are a handful of unproven guys with decent arms, or competent pitchers with recent injury history. That creates an interesting situation where the team really doesn’t know who will fill out the most innings for the team, but it is quite likely that at least one of two guys will step forward and be respectable. The key will be whether the Jays’ talent evaluators correctly identify the best men for the rotation.
The bullpen should be stronger than the rotation overall. Ryan’s among the elite closers in the league, and there are all kinds of guys who have had success in the bullpen. The loss of Speier leaves the team without an established setup man, but with a number of guys like Frasor and League who have had bullpen success, and a number of borderline starters who will not make the rotation, it would be surprising if the Jays fail to manufacture a pretty good bullpen.
Keys to Success: Team health will be a big factor. There are several key players with recent injury histories, and there’s not a lot of margin for error in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees. Can Thomas and Glaus stay healthy? Will Burnett throw close to 200 innings? There’s a few key risks that have the potential to blow up, but also have the potential for substantial rewards.