Many Jays fans and writers seem to be losing their minds about the lack of runs the Jays have been able to drive in thus far this spring. We’re only 3 games into spring training, and the pessimists are eating it up, making it known that this is an indication of what to expect in 2011 – great pitching and horrible hitting. My comment to them are as follows: relax, don’t look too closely at box scores, and come back to me the last week of spring training. Only then will performances and the lineup in general deserve a closer look.
Having said that, there are plenty of other reasons to not worry about the performance of Jays hitters thus far. Here are the top 10 I could come up with this morning:
- 1 – It’s spring training for crying out loud!! This is by far the biggest reason to not panic and it really shouldn’t need to be said at all. Players are all working out the kinks and working on getting their swings going. Everyone knows that the pitching is usually ahead of the hitting in the spring, so this lack of runs shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
- 2 – The Jays lineup is currently missing a player that is expected to knock in 20-30 HRs in 2011 to go along with a ton of doubles in Aaron Hill. His presence in the lineup will make it much tougher to navigate through and he’s someone that the current lineup definitely misses immensely.
- 3 - Another missing player in the lineup is one that many expect to have a breakthrough season in 2011 in Travis Snider. As someone hailed “The Franchise” when he arrived in Toronto, he showed us what he was capable of last spring when he hit .378/.404/.711 in May of 2010, which included 3 HRs and 6 doubles. He will be a vital part of the 2011 lineup that could blosson into a core of the lineup hitter. Having him in the lineup instead of the players the Jays have had in games thus far will make a huge difference.
- 4 - One hitter who has started spring training on the right foot is one that doesn’t have the highest of expectations in Juan Rivera, who is hitting .500 with a double and a walk thus far in 4 ABs. If he can continue his good start and carry it into the season, he could provide a lot more offensive help for the Jays than anyone expected and in turn make the Jays much better overall. He has enough power to hit more than 20 HRs, and with Dwayne Murphy now tweeking his approach, who knows how much power the Jays will get out of him. At a minimum, he’s making it easier for Alex Anthopoulos to include him in trade talks. Still, he’s one player to watch carefully in 2011.
- 5 - Watching Anthony Gose steal 2nd base with an apparent 3.24 “Ricky Henderson” type time should be good enough to make every Jays fan’s heart thump a little faster. Both the Tigers and the Jays staff were astounded by his speed and skills in stealing, and the fact that he later took 3rd base was just a bonus! Knowing that he could be with the Jays sometime in 2012 if he progresses well gives Jays fans lots to look forward to, so this spring training has at a minimum provided a glimpse into what’s to come.
- 6 – The pitching has been mostly outstanding, and aside from the Jesse Carlson injury and Kyle Drabek‘s neck issue, there are no major hangups in what we should expect from the pitching staff in 2011. Nobody needs surgery, the starters all did well – particularly the guys in the race for the 5th starter’s spot – and the staff looks ready to take another step forward in 2011. Pitching wins championships, so as long as the Jays pitching remains strong and healthy, 2011 should be a competitive one for the Jays.
- 7 – Lessons Learned: there have been many of them this spring, as should be the case. From Jose Molina taking 2B because Anthony Gose was lacksidasical in the OF to Adeiny Hechavarria not planting his feet in order to throw Jose Molina out (notice a trend here), the Jays youngsters are getting some great experience. This is exactly what spring training is for, it gives some young players a chance to get some great advice and experience to take with them to the minors as they take what is hopefully a big step towards The Show. Both Hechavarria and Gose have impressed with their defensive abilities overall, despite some mishaps, so the talent is evidently present – and that’s a great thing to find out this spring. The Jays coaches and John Farrell all have something to go by now when they speak of each player, and it allows them to know what to expect in the future. The time for Jays regulars to get warmed up and prepped fully for 2011 will come, likely once many of the minor league players are gone and the lineup is set as it may be used often this season.
- 8 – The real interest in terms of performance should be in the position battles, but the absence of Scott Podsednik has taken away from that this spring. The bench is pretty well set aside from the last 2 spots, and one of the players battling for those spots – Mike McCoy – has done fairly well thus far. The fact that he is so versatile gives him a leg up on others who are vying for one of the last 2 bench spots, so his good start is promising.
- 9 – There’s plenty of time left for players to get their bats going. The season is more than a month away. Besides, would you rather have them go through a cold spell now, or during the beginning of the season?
- 10 – IT’S SPRING TRAINING’S FIRST WEEK!! Grab a beer, relax, smile, and enjoy the spring as it comes around and warms the air! The Jays bats will be fine. So long as the arms hold up, we’re in for a very fun season of baseball in Toronto.
That’s my take on the panic and why Jays fans should not worry about the lack of Jays runs this spring. They will come around. Regular season success is rarely a result of spring training success. The Yankees finished the 2010 spring training with a 13-15 record and the Reds finished with a 12-16 record. The Rangers were even worse at 10-19, and the Twins were marginally over .500 at 16-14. Yet, all 4 teams made the playoffs and spring training stats meant nothing. In fact, some superstitious players would say that they don’t want to do too well in spring training, because they think it’ll take away from hots streaks they could have had during the regular season instead of in spring training.