2011 MLB Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays 2011 MLB Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays 2011 MLB Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
 

2011 MLB Team Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t seen the post season since 1993.

Just like the Baltimore Orioles, the Blue Jays suffer from AL East syndrome.

The AL East Division was tough enough when it housed the two best teams in baseball, the Red Sox and Yankees. Than, in the last few seasons the Tampa Bay Rays jumped onto the elite list, which made baseball life in Toronto only harder.

What is so frustrating is the Blue Jays would have made the playoffs many times, if they played in any other division. In 2010, the Blue Jays won 85 games and in four of the last five seasons prior have won 80+ games. That amount of W’s has been enough to make the playoffs many times and even clinch a division title outside of the AL East.

For the Blue Jays, even with their major-league leading home-run total of 257 from last season, heading into 2011 things look to be the same…meaning anything is possible.

Blue Jays fans blamed not making the postseason on unfortunate circumstances for a darn good team, until the Rays proved that theory wrong.

The Positives:

With the sad departure of skipper Cito Gaston, the Jays hired Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell that was a great move. The Jays have a young pitching staff with a lot of potential and under Farrell’s guidance they could flourish.

Trading ace Roy Halladay prior to last season was not a popular move, but the starters finished with an ERA of 4.30, which top the Yankees 4.35 ERA.

The starters have the potential to make Toronto a 2011 surprise story, lead by Rickey Romero who looks to replace the traded Shaun Marcum. Romero finished last season with a 14-9 record and an ERA of 3.73. Three other youngsters Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek will follow Romero.

The Jays had the most homeruns, 46 more than the Red Sox who had 211. Jose Bautista led that charge being accountable for 54 of the 257 total. Bautista should have a big year, as the 30-year-old is a free agent at the end of 2011, and players know the better play, the bigger contract. He also had 124 RBIs last season.

Joining Bautista is rookie Travis Snider, who displayed power in the minors and so moving Bautista to third base frees up a spot in the outfield for Snider to move in full time.

Also, the Jays were the slowest team in baseball, finishing 2010 with a pathetic 58 steals. So, signing Rajai Davis who stole 92 bases for the Oakland A’s the last two seasons is be a huge improvement. Look for Davis’ RBIs and total runs to jump because of the massive power bats behind him in the line-up.

The future of the Blue Jays looks very promising, as their outlook has changed under second-year GM Alex Anthopoulos. Instead of trying to compete with the ‘win now’ attitude of their peer teams, Anthopoulos’ is putting the money into acquiring the top young talent, by adding more scouts all over; in California alone the team has five. This attention to detail seems to be right on track so far.

If Anthopoulos’ reorganization of priorities keeps up at this pace, the Jays will get in the playoffs again just not yet. The idea is to not just for one season, but for many to come.

The Negatives:

Fact is 85 wins are meaningless when you play in the AL East.

After years of the Blue Jays being lead by false hope, they seem to finally have come to grips of this fact. It has lead to major frustrations for both fans and players.

The team with the most power couldn’t seem to do much else at the plate. The Jays on-base-percentage was a pathetic .312 third lowest in the AL. Even with all the home-runs, the Jays need to improve on their 732 RBIs, which was just shy of a 100 less than the league leading Yankees.

The Jays will have to make-up for the 71 total home-runs hit by Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and John Buck who will not be back in 2011. It’s a lot of pressure on Bautista to have another 54 home-run season, an achievement that is hard to do in the first place, mind you repeat.

Reality is the average Jays team from 2010 might look different heading into 2011, but it is doubtful to be the year when Toronto finally gets to see a postseason berth again.

My advice is to keep one eye one the Blue Jays because it is a franchise going somewhere very soon.

Also, Blue Jays fans have to give the team something to play for, making an empty the Roger Centre all season long unacceptable. The Jays had great fans in the 90’s so time to come on back because in sports you need fans to keep you going.

Players To Watch:

2B Aaron Hill and 1B Adam Lind both had horrible 2010 numbers, and this duo has to get back to 2009 form in order for the team to not finish last in the AL East. Hill and Lind both took home Silver Sluggers in 2009, combining for 71 home-runs and 222 RBIs. Considering Lind is 27 and Hill is 28 in age, they can easily reproduce those numbers again. It will soften the blow of losing Wells and co. during the off-season. The two-infielders will make or break the Jays from being almost in the mix, or just another average year for Toronto.

2011 AL East Predication:

If all goes accordingly, the Jays could take the Rays but it will be tough to land in third place. Look for the Jays and the Orioles to be battling for fourth place in the last two months of the season.

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