There have been a lot of negative comments on Twitter and a variety of baseball blogs to Edwin Encarnacion returning to the Blue Jays in 2011.
Mat Germain wrote a great article on here yesterday regarding Encarnacion’s return to the Jays and, as a result of these negative online reactions to the signing, here are even more reasons as to why Edwin Encarnacion makes perfect sense for the Blue Jays in 2011.
The biggest reason the Jays could benefit from giving Encarnacion more at-bats is because he has the ability to tear apart left-handed pitching, and the Jays were the worst team in all of Major League Baseball versus LHP in 2010. Encarnacion posted a .914 OPS versus lefties in 2010, and has never had an OPS below .804 in any season of his career versus LHP. His proven success versus left-handed pitching is another reason why his position change to 1B/DH to complement Adam Lind is ideal.
To say that Lind was terrible against southpaws this season would be an massive understatement. Lind posted a horrific .117/.159/.182 line in 137 at-bats versus lefties in 2010.
It’s still unknown whether Encarnacion will platoon with Lind at first base or if they will routinely be in the lineup together as a 1B/DH tandem. Encarnacion, though, would be the ideal platoon partner for Lind, who would not have to be relied on as a full-time first baseman in his first year at the position. Encarnacion, a right-handed hitter who mashes left-handed pitching, would take the field occasionally and mesh perfectly with Lind, a left-handed hitter whose success at the plate in 2010 came entirely from right-handed pitching (.275/.327/.502).
For those who rush to use the “E5″ nickname for Encarnacion due to his errors at third base, it’s easy to tell when watching a game that he had little difficulty snagging ground balls or line drives. The problem, and primarily the cause for his errors, was his inaccurate 180-foot throws across the diamond to first base. With putting Encarnacion at 1B or DH, GM Alex Anthopoulos has cleverly created a situation for Encarnacion to succeed in by limiting his chances of committing throwing errors while still being able to use his occasionally intriguing bat.
As Mat pointed out as well, teammates’ reactions on Twitter to Encarnacion returning were definitely positive.
I took this picture (above) of Encarnacion in June when I visited every ball park from San Francisco down to San Diego, where the Jays were playing an interleague series. Observing EE in the dugout during the game and in batting practice, it was evident his teammates were quite fond of him. Encarnacion was also one of the only players that stopped to wave to visiting Jays fans during BP, or to sign a ball for a child (the others were Cecil, Romero, and Cito).
It’s worth noting that Jays’ management is very fond of Encarnacion as well, considering he took his July demotion in stride and never complained at all. There is no doubt Encarnacion will have a positive effect on the 2011 clubhouse atmosphere and help keep everybody loose.
The main knock on Encarnacion would be his inability to hit for a high average, but another interesting note concerning him is the fact he is much better on the road than he is at home. In 67 career games at Rogers Centre, Encarnacion has posted a .230/.278/.396 line, compared to a .256/.335/.552 line he had on the road in 2010, so don’t be surprised if he gets more starts on the road next season. His .921 OPS when he’s ahead in the count is exactly double his .460 OPS when he has two strikes on him as well.
Finally, if you are really stretching for reasons to understand or justify the Encarnacion signing, take solace in the fact that there will be at least one more season of seeing EE’s last name barely fit on his jersey, Buck Martinez oddly pronouncing his name on all broadcasts, and the possibility of the Jays finally being able to use this video clip on the big screen at Rogers Centre next season: