With the players the Jays currently have under contract, will the Jays offense be better or worse in 2011? The Jays haven’t made too many moves, but then again, did they have to? The tinkering with the lineup that was done by Alex Anthopoulos can easily be seen as upgrades at the 1B, SS, DH, OF/Bench positions, as well as in the speed category. The Jays will also presumably have Jose Bautista at 3B instead of Edwin Encarnacion, making that a huge offensive upgrade. That’s nothing to shake a stick at when you ask me, because the 2010 offense did pack a whole lot of punch as it slugged its way through the season.
The Jays offense finished 2010 with the following rankings in all of MLB:
- 15th in ABs
- 24th in Average
- 9th in Runs Scored
- 21st in Hits
- 2nd in doubles (only behind Boston)
- 25th in triples
- 1st in HRs (2nd place Boston had 46 fewer HRs than the Jays)
- 9th in RBIs
- 2nd to Boston in Total Bases
- 23rd in Walks
- 14th most Strike Outs
- 28th in SBs
- 26th in OBP
- 1st in Slugging
The Good:Runs Scored, Doubles, HRs, RBIs, Total Bases, Slugging
The Bad: Average, Hits, Triples, Walks, SBs, OBP
As we can see, Alex Anthopoulos and the Jays have some deficiencies to address in the Jays lineup despite their historic power surge. Some minor changes have been made with the departures of Fred Lewis, Alex Gonzalez, and John Buck, as well as with the additions of Rajai Davis, Yunel Escobar, and J. P. Arencibia to the lineup. Are these changes enough to address the bulk of the issues listed above? I say that for the most part, yes, and here’s how I came to that conclusion.
In order to assess the impact of the newcomers, we need to look at what changes will be made to the lineup overall. The most used lineup in 2010 was as follows:
- Fred Lewis, LF / Travis Snider, LF (Snider also hit 9th often)
- Alex Gonzalez, SS / Yunel Escobar, SS
- Jose Bautista, RF
- Vernon Wells, CF
- Adam Lind, DH
- Aaron Hill, 2B
- John Buck, C
- Lyle Overbay, 1B
- Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
Presumed lineup changes made and their impacts based on what we know today:
- I’m going to play an “I told you so” card at some point in 2011 when people start to see that J. P. Arencibia‘s bat is a lot more special than they give him credit for. He’s going to be a big upgrade from John Buck‘s stats across the board very quickly.
- John Buck‘s 2010 stats:409 AB/ .280 AVG/ 53 runs/ 115 Hits/ 25 DB/ 0 Tr/ 20 HRs/ 66 RBI/ .314 OBP/ .489 SLG
- J. P. Arencibia‘s AAA stats: 412 ABs/ .301 AVG/ 76 runs/ 124 hits/ 36 DB/ 1 Tr/ 32 HRs/ 85 RBIs/ .359 OBP/ .626 SLg
- Analysis: His 2009 season really broke what was unquestioned support for his impressive bat. As you can see from his 2010 stats in AAA, he rebounded swiftly from that injury plagued season and even added 2 HRs during his 1st ever game in The Show. Still, people question him. Why? Because they like to do so sometimes. He’ll have to prove me wrong, but until then, I’m 100% in the corner of JP “Beast Mode” Arencibia. Enjoy the show folks, because adding his power to an already power-filled lineup will be a lot of fun to watch.
- Lyle Overbay leaves, Adam Lindtakes over 1B: This is a little messy because it involves wheeling players around in terms of positions played, but it essentially makes the old DH – Lind – the 1B and add’s Encarnacion’s bat in his place. Encarnacion may also spend time at 1B, but I’ll look at him simply as replacing Lind as a DH to simplify things. Overbay will be 34 years old in 2011, while Lind will be much younger at 27 and will be hitting his prime years, so the Jays have already gotten a lot younger by making this change.
- Lyle Overbay‘s 2010 stats: 534 AB/ .243 AVG/ 75 runs/ 130 Hits/ 37 DB/ 2 Tr/ 20 HRs/ 67 RBI/ .329 OBP/ .433 SLG
- Adam Lind‘s 2010 stats:569 ABs/ .237 AVG/ 57 runs/ 135 hits/ 32 DB/ 3 Tr/ 23 HRs/ 72 RBIs/ .287 OBP/ .425 SLg
- Analysis: It’s actually slightly demoralizing that we can’t rant and rave about how much better Lind’s offensive output will be than Overbay’s, even though I think most would agree that it shouldbe much better. He could have a similar season than he had in 2010 if he doesn’t adjust his hitting approach, or he could resume his potent 2009 season caliber performance. We’ll have to wait and see, but for the purpose of this post we’ll call it a draw with the potential to be a big upgrade. I’m expecting a return to 30 HRs, 80-90 RBIs, and a .270 avg/.325 OPB or above from the big guy, which would be a significant upgrade from Overbay’s stats.
- No changes, as Aaron Hill will continue to man 2nd. However, I think most would agree that the Jays can expect similar pop from Aaron Hill with a much better average and OBP than he provided in 2010. Therefore, I’ll include Aaron – the 2011 edition – as a possible slight upgrade in both average and OBP.
- A full season of Yunel Escobar versus a half-season of Alex Gonzalez and a half-season of Yunel Escobar. The Jays got a 27 year old SS instead of a 34 year old SS, shedding yet another 7 years off the age of the squad for 2011.
- Alex Gonzalez‘s Stats in Toronto:328 AB/ .259 Avg/ 27 runs/ 64 hits/ 27 DB/ 1 Tr/ 17 HRs/ 50 RBI/ .296 OBP/ .497 SLG
- Yunel Escobar Stats in TO 2010: 236 AB/ .275 Avg/ 32 runs/ 64 hits/ 7 DB/ 0 Tr/ 4 HRs/ 16 RBI/ .340 OBP/ .356 SLG
- Analysis: I would argue that Yunel is a huge upgrade to the Jays lineup because he compliments their strengths better than Alex did. While Alex provided some really surprising pop to the lineup, he simply didn’t get on base enough. You can see that Yunel scored more runs than Alex despite having close to 100 fewer ABs with the Jays in 2010. That’s because his OBP was much higher and he allowed the guys hitting behind him to drive him in as a result. As has been pointed out by many Jays fans, Jose Bautistamay have had close to 170 RBI if some runners were on base when he hit his 54 HRs. Instead, he only got 124, or 70 if we discount the ones he drove himself home with. With Yunel’s great OBP ahead of them, the core of the Jays lineup should have many more RBI opportunities in 2011, something that should boost their 26th ranking in OBP, and 9th ranking in RBIs and runs scored.
Edwin Encarnacion, or E5 as he is known when he plays 3B, will “reportedly” not be manning 1B in 2011. If that’s true, and Jose Bautista is in fact the starting 3B – and I for one see nothing wrong with that – it will be one of the biggest upgrades to the Jays in 2011, both offensively and defensively.
Left Field/Right Field
Fred Lewis didn’t spend all of 2010 with the Jays, but he was a fairly regular member of the OF corners when he got into Toronto. Jose Bautista will presumable leave the OF for the hot corner, but his bat is staying in the lineup. Therefore, the result is that Travis Snider will continue to be part of the OF corner options, along with newcomer Rajai Davis who the Jays traded for in return for 2 highly ranked relievers. The added youth and speed in the OF should help the Jays cover more ground and help out the pitchers as a result.
- No changes. Vernon Wells returned to form in 2010 and finally kept himself healthy all season long. I think it’s safe to assume that another healthy season would result in a 23-33 HR and 80-100 RBI season. That’s a good enough result to continue to help the Jays win and more than most teams get from their centre fielder. If Vernon does break down or has a nagging lower body injury, look for Davis to take over CF duties, yet another reason he was an important pick up for the 2011 Blue Jays.
Edwin Encarnacion will have a whole lot of fun being a full time 1B/DH. I predict a 30+ HR 80+ RBI season with a much better average and OBP than he provided in 2010. Sure, call me crazy, but get back to me when the season’s over and let me know how I did as well!
When we sum up all of the changes, it adds up to the following lineup:
- Rajai Davis, LF (adds to speed, better average, and better OBP numbers than the Lewis/Snider combo)
- Yunel Escobar, SS (adds much better OBP, hits, and runs)
- Jose Bautista, 3B (a huge improvement over Encarnacion, will have to face major adjustments)
- Vernon Wells, CF (should replicate ’10 numbers)
- Adam Lind, 1B (should improve on ’10 numbers)
- Aaron Hill, 2B (has some work to do in terms of avg and OBP, but the power is still there)
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH (can you remember who DH’d in ’10? Sure, it was Lind, but he did zip so Edwin will improve on that big time in ’11)
- Travis Snider, RF (The Franchise is ready to make his claim)
- J. P. Arencibia, C (adds power, better average and OBP, better SLG, and more RBIs. Will prove critics wrong)
Other possible impact additions (internally) during the ’11 season:
- Brett Lawrie – He could do well to get a full season of AA or AAA under his belt, but the Jays may be tempted to bring him up if he does well during the 1st half of the season. He’s the best impact bat the Jays have had in the minors since Travis Snider and could fit in at numerous positions, allowing him to play a super-utility role until the Jays decide on where he should play long term. Talk about nice insurance for the big club!
- Corey Patterson – He could earn himself a bench spot to start the season and would bring a lot of experience – not to mention the ability to play all 3 OF positions – along with him. It all depends on how well he kicks things off in ’11.
- Adeiny Hechavarria – His D is ready for MLB action, so if he gets the bat going before the all-star break, I don’t expect the Jays to be shy about pushing him to The Show. Which of Yunel Escobar or Aaron Hill would shift to 3B is unknown right now, but we know that Hill is comfortable with the move should it come to that.
- Eric Thames– With his power, there’s no doubt that he fits the Jays mojo of ’10, but I’m not certain John Farrell will allow the same free-swinging mentality. He progressed so much in ’10 that a look in September could be in the cards, or earlier if injuries warrant it.
- Darin Mastroianni – If Rajai Davis flops or gets injured, I expect to see Darin’s name in the Jays lineup. It’s time that this OBP and speed machine gets a chance to prove himself at the highest level after a good amount of seasoning.
- Brian Jeroloman – I would be surprised to not see Brian in a Jays uniform at some point in ’10. Not only has he caught Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart before, but he’s the heir apparent to Jose Molina, a player I believe the Jays may move before the trade deadline to a defensive catcher hungry team (if the Jays are out of contention that is). While his bat doesn’t compare to JP’s, it could be an upgrade over Jose’s.
The remainder of the prospects would be a lot less likely to make it to The Show, but Travis d’Arnaud, Moises Sierra, and Adam Loewen are the next names on the list that could take a peak at the majors if circumstances were dire.
I don’t think that opposing pitchers can come out and say it outright, but I think they hate to face the Jays who can make them look foolish on any given pitch due to their power throughout the lineup. The Jays lineup is a formidable one now that Jose Bautistahas established himself as a true power and it now includes much better OBP threats that should result in more multi-run extra base hits, something that lacked severely in 2010. They now have some speed to work with, a couple of young guns set to take off (Arencibia – Snider), and a few underachievers from ’10 (Hill-Lind) who should rebound if they make the right adjustments. With this group of masher and the new thief, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Jays offensive rankings listed above will improve quite a bit and will result in more wins if the pitching holds us its end of the equation.
I can’t honestly say that I believe this is the lineup that will take the Jays directly to the world series, but, stranger things have happened. The Giants had a much weaker lineup, and look where they wound up. I know the Jays lack the top-end pitching that SF has in the rotation and in the pen, but if all that I listed above comes out as expected, the Jays could do some serious damage offensively.I would say that the support ready to come up and support the current lineup is much better than it was in ’10 and that it should help add some consistency to the offense that was lacking in ’10.
Whether or not that results in a push for a playoff spot is a question for another day, but I’m not as discouraged with the makeup of the Jays lineup as some people currently are. I think that off season expectations to make big additions were coming from good intentions, but that sometimes a simple tweak is better when you know you have some real talent pushing through the minors.