Starters are Heading to - or Staying in - the National League

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If there’s one trend that has been consistent this off season it’s this one: starting pitchers are heading to – or are staying in – the National League. Let’s review the transactions that have taken place over the last few months in terms of pitchers as they headed for either the American League, or the National League, with an added remark about the impact this has on the Jays.

Starting Pitchers Headed to the National League:

  • Cliff Lee – FA signed with PHI – As it pertains to the Jays, this has no impact as they failed to face Lee during the 2010 season. However, odds were that they would face him at least once in 2011, so their season may be a tiny bit easier as a result.
  • Zack Greinke- Traded to MLW – Unlike Lee, Greinke faced the Jays twice and to say he dominated them is an understatement. His going to the NL should wind up handing at least 1 more win to the Jays total in 2011. The stats for Greinke vs the Jays in 2010 were: 1-0, 2 GP, 15 IP, 17 Ks, 8 hits including only 3 extra base hits – 1 HR and 2 doubles, 1 walk, a 2.40 ERA, a measly .154/.185/.250 line against him. Waive and smile Jays fans, waive and smile.
  • Javier Vazquez – FA signed with FLA – You wouldn’t think he had much success against the Jays with all of his struggles as a Yankee, but Vazquez did beat the Jays once in his 2 starts against them in 2010. His stats versus the Jays were: 1-1, 2 GP, 77 AB, 20.2 IP, 17 Ks, 17 hits including one double and 7 HRs (wow), a 6.53 ERA, and a decent .221/.318/.506 line against him overall. Will the job be easier facing the Yankees without Vazquez on board? With what’s left on the FA market, I’d say yes. So, it’s still a good thing for the Jays that he headed to the NL.
  • Ryan-Rowland Smith – FA signed with HOU – The Jays never faced him in 2010, but he did have the potential to bounce back to his 2009 form in 2011 had he stayed in Seattle or the AL.
  • Shaun Marcum – Trade to MLW – Can’t forget about Shaun, as I’m sure the AL hitters will be more than happy to see him go to the NL. It may not impact the Jays offensive output, but it sure hurts the pitching staff.
  • Boof Bonser – FA signed with NYM – He may not be a starter in the beginning of 2011, but he does have a chance at the rotation at some point in the season.

Starting Pitchers Remaining in the National League:

Starting Pitchers Signed or Headed to The American League:

  • Erik Bedard – SEA – Re-signed for 1 year.
  • Hisanori Takahashi – LAA – not even considered a starter by the Angels, I just included him here because he could get some starts in 2011, as he does have experience in the role.

That’s it! Umm, one of these things is not like the other……

Add the 2010 departure of Roy Halladay and Aroldis Chapman‘s signing with the Reds in the NL instead of with the Jays or Yankees, and you’ve got an even bigger outflux of talent pitching talent from the AL and more top-tier talent headed to the NL.

I have no idea whether this is the case because NL teams value pitching more, because the pitchers themselves like the NL more, or whether it’s just a freakish event for this off season alone, but you have to admit that this data is about as skewed as you can get. Who knows, maybe the AL teams are just more prepared with young guys ready to leap into the vacant starting roles, but it seems to me that most NL teams would have the same kinds of pitchers in place….wouldn’t they?

All this means for the Jays and other teams in the AL is that the hitting will continue to dominate headlines in the AL, while the NL will enjoy a freakishly talented influx of pitching, driving their hitting numbers down in the process.

I will add this in terms of the Jays – if they hit as many HRs as they did in 2010 with a slumping Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, and Travis Snideron board, as well as a starting catcher and short-stop that have less pop than those in the roles in 2011, how many more HRs will they hit in 2011 when you consider all of the pitching talent headed to the NL? Remember, although the Jays never faced Lee, they did face the Rangers pen that was fresher because Lee was going out there deep into games, giving his pen a break every fifth start. That won’t be the case for them, or the Royals, in 2011, meaning that the chances of the Jays facing a tired pen, as well as lesser starters, just increased by a good margin.

If the trend of starting pitching headed to the NL continues to take place, it could be a very memorable season for all AL hitters, as the league just keeps getting more hitter friendly every single time a quality pitcher heads for the NL.

That, my friends, is yet another reason to watch the Jays mash the ball like no other team can in 2011.

According to the Baseball Almanac, the 2010 Jays came in 3rd EVER in HRs hit by a team in a single season with 257 HRs. They toed with the 2003 Orioles and were beat only by the 2002 Rangers (260) and the 2001 Mariners (264). Notice how all of the 3 teams who tied or beat the Jays did so in the midst of the Steroid era? Enough said.

There’s no reason to believe that the Jays are going to slow their HR hitting pace. A better season is expected from Hill, Lind, and Snider, while Jose Bautista could regress slightly from his torrid pace in 2010. Add much better HR numbers out of a full season of Edwin Encarnacion at 1B/DH than the Jays got from Lyle Overbay, and you’ve got a lot of potential to add to 2010’s numbers. But that’s not all, the Jays also have more power on the way from the catching position in J. P. Arencibia. He could easily hit 25 HRs in 2010 if he stays with the club for the entire season. As Alex Anthopoulos has stated this off season, the Jays would like to keep promoted players with the club and play them as much as possible. Not more bouncing back and forth between AAA and The Show. That bodes well for Arencibia and for the Jays chances of setting a new MLB HR record as a team in 2011.

I know it’s a high expectation to place on any team, but I expect that the Jays will take a serious run at the HR record and that it will let all of MLB know that the Jays are not going anywhere but up in the standings as a result.

– MG

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Tags: Aaron Hill Adam Lind Jose Bautista Jose Molina JP Arencibia

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