In the off-season the Jays added AJ Burnett to the rotation and said goodbye to David Bush. BJ Ryan joined the bullpen as Miguel Batista returned to Arizona.
The Jays allowed 705 runs in 2005, well below the league average of 758. The Jays were fifth in the A.L. in ERA. The Jays expect the addition of AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan to make a 2005 strength even stronger.
The Jays admit that the loss of Orlando Hudson will hurt the defense, Aaron Hill is unproven at second base. Three fourths of the infield are new from the start of the 2005 season and the infield could be a busy place with ground ball pitchers like Halladay, Burnett and Towers on the mound.
So Bauxites, will the Jays allow more or less runs in 2006?
Rob - I hope Burnett does better on his NL-to-AL transition than Clement did. His strikeouts and groundouts are encouraging for the Rogers Centre, but if he's not healthy, it doesn't really matter. I also expect declines from Towers, Chacin, Chulk and also Speier to some extent, though he'll still be a fine reliever. As for B.J. Ryan...I approve heartily.
The outfield defense scares me, though. Wells is Wells, but I can't imagine Hinske in a corner spot. And as much as I love the Cat (and I do think his defense is better than most believe), his best position is the batter's box. Also, let me state my contrary view on Reed Johnson's defense -- I don't think he's excellent out there, I've seen him butcher a few flies over his head, and as much as I believe Cat is underrated, Johnson is overrated. Might be just me, though.
I'm optimistic regarding Adams at short. He can only improve, which isn't saying much, but I think he'll be fine. Hill, while being a downgrade from the O-Dog, will play a passable 2B. The infield should be fine -- not the laughingstock others make it out to be. Put me down for 735 runs allowed.
Mike G- The team's ERA last year was 4.06; the FIP was 4.44. With the losses of Hudson and Koskie and the platooning of Rios (offset to a modest extent by the additions of Overbay and Molina), I see this as an average defensive club now. The addition of B.J. Ryan helps, but I still seem them surrendering 750 runs.
Joe: Average at worst. As breathlessly as some of the pundits have proclaimed that the Jays' defense is going to be awful, they aren't exactly putting a fire hydrant out there at second base, vainly trying to deflect balls to the shortstop. (Fire hydrant's season stats: 162 G, 323 A, 1 PO, 1 DP, 483 E.) Aaron Hill isn't Orlando Hudson, but he'll outhit the O-Dog, and he's an athletic man. I expect he'll open some eyes in the first month of the season.
RF, on the other hand, is a bit more worrying. I am going to reserve judgement on Hinske until I see him out there, but I think that the average of Hinske and Rios can come out to no more than league average.
As for 3B and 1B: definitely no worse than last year. Koskie only played 76 games at third last year, so the defensive drop-off can't be that great. I have great faith in Butter's ability to develop the infield defensively.
Dave Till: There's one stat from the 2005 season that just leaps out at me: the Jays led the AL East in fewest runs allowed by 81. That's with only half a season of the best pitcher in baseball. That's without Burnett and Ryan. How much will they lead the division by this year?
As for the defense: Hill will be a drop-off from Hudson, but he's athletic and has good range. And Butterfield is still there to teach him. The Jays also have excellent defense in reserve: Johnson, McDonald and Rios (when not playing) are as good with the glove as anybody out there. I'm not worried about the fielding.
Pistol: The runs allowed could really be all over the place, as is the case for most teams. Will Halladay pitch a full season at a Cy Young level? Will Lilly be healthy, and if he is will he be more 2004 Lilly or 2005 Lilly? Will Towers and Chacin be as effective and durable this year? What will Burnett bring? What impact will the defensive changes have? The Jays could almost be anywhere from 680 runs to 800 runs allowed.
I see a small step back from last year's result. Mark me down for 715 runs allowed.
Thomas: The defence will take a noticable step backwards. Overbay's an improvement and Adams will improve, but Glaus and Hill are significant downgrades. I expect steady improvement from Hill over the course of the year and I think Dave's got a great point in that we should be optimistic to see what Hill looks like after a year of tutelage under Butterfield. However, we're going to be saying, "O-Dog would have had that" a lot this year, particularly in the first half.
Wells is fine in center and I think Reed's a good outfielder who also has a tendency to sometimes badly misread balls. Overall though he's got good range and a strong arm; he's a plus defender. Hinske is going to be interesting to watch, but the Jays have set up their outfield well with both Johnson and Rios able to come in defensively. Despite the addition of Burnett and the health (knock on wood) of Halladay, the Jays will allow 630-640 runs this year.
Magpie - There are more ways for the Jays pitching and defense to take a step back than a step forward. Chacin and Towers were both very good last year (better than A.J. Burnett). Neither have proven that this is an Established Level of Ability. The five guys who carried the ball from the starter to the closer covered the whole gamut from Good (Walker, out of the pen anyway) to Lights Out (Speier). There's no real reason for regression there, just the Ceaseless Call of mediocrity.
The defense won't be as good, because Hudson is one of a kind. But I don't think it'll be a big problem. I expect Adams to be better, I expect Hill to be OK. Molina should be fine. Even Hinske - he can throw well enough, run well enough, he works hard, and I think he has good baseball instincts. I don't think he'll be a problem.
Matthew E: I think the pitching will be a little better than last year's, but the road it takes to get there may be an unexpected one. The Jays' '05 bullpen was unusually stable; that probably won't happen again. Not with the same six guys (well, five, now that Batista's been replaced by Ryan). The starters won't all succeed. There will be injuries. But overall they'll be fine. I'll go out on a limb here, though, and predict that by September, Dustin McGowan will be Toronto's second best starting pitcher.
Gitz:I can't really speak for the defence, but any team that loses Orlando Hudson in the middle of the diamond is going to notice it. Put me down for being opposed to both the Burnett and Ryan signings. Ryan is a fine pitcher and will be OK, but how much difference will he make in the standings in 2006? One win? Two at best? The Clement/Burnett comparison is a good one, except that we hope Burnett doesn't get conked on the head by a line drive mid-season. That's what really torpedoed Clement's season; he had been excellent until that point (he had a 5.72 ERA after). Whatever the case, chances are good that Burnett, assuming he pitches at all, will be slightly above league average.
Having Halladay around for a full year will help (duh), and realistically he's worth five extra wins. That's fantastic, but that will be mitigated somewhat, if not entirely, by declines in Josh Tower's and Gustavo Chacin's performances. And my feelings on Ted Lilly are well-known, so I won't bother.
In sum: Magpie said it best. The odds are greater that the Jays staff, on the whole, will take a step back in 2006 than it will take a step up.
Magpie - On the other hand... while there are lots of ways for the Jays to allow more runs than last year than there are for them to allow fewer... the ways in which they can allow fewer are extremely significant indeed. That's the good news, and extremely good news it is. Doc and Ted the Tease, on their own, can pretty much offset it all by themselves. If Halladay can start 33 games or so, instead of 19, the team could be saving about 25-30 runs against last year; if Lilly is just league average, that too saves a whole bunch of runs (say 15-20) as well. If those two things happen - and neither is unreasonable - it should at least cancel out most of the decline from Chacin/Towers/SetUp Crew. Anyway, once again the Jays will give up fewer runs than any team in the division. By quite a lot, actually...
Mike G- Gitz is the Designated Skeptic, but I'll pinch-hit for him on this one. Halladay has averaged 195 innings with an ERA of 3.16 over the last 4 years. To expect him to throw 230 innings with an ERA of 2.42 is asking a little much, especially as a ground-ball pitcher missing Hudson.
Named For Hank: Thomas, is Glaus really a huge downgrade on Hill, Hinske and Hillenbrand? Or just on the guy from the Praries who played less than half the season?
I got a whole lot less worried about the swirling O-Dog trade rumors once I saw Hill play second for the last month of '05. He wasn't Orlando Hudson, but no one is.
Thomas: NFH, I'm talking about Koskie. I think Koskie last year looked like he had lost a half-second/step (however you feel it is best phrased) off his time in Minnesota in the first half of the decade. That being said, Koskie was still, in my eyes, a better than average defensive third baseman. Not gold glove or anything, but better than average. Glaus, from what I've read of him, isn't by most accounts. So I expect Glaus to be worse than Koskie would have been and, without Glaus, Koskie would still likely be at 3B.
Hinske didn't play 3B at all, but I think Glaus will be worse than Hill was, particularly given the fact that Hill was likely to improve in 2006 if he stayed at the position. I'm not sure how to compare Glaus to Hillenbrand and I'd probably like a chance to look at both of them a bit more. But as to whether Glaus will be worse defensively than Koskie? I would be surprised if he's not.
Named For Hank: But how much better will Glaus be at third than Koskie will be on the DL? Infinitely better! That's kind of my point -- Koskie is a really great defender when he's healthy, and he's much less healthy every year. Check out his games played -- they march down in a very predictable pattern.
Thomas: Agreed. But still, the over/under on Koskie's games played is about 100. Let's say it's in that vicinity for argument's sake. It still means that for about 100 games we're missing Koskie's defence and we have Glaus's. I don't know how Troy compares to Hillenbrand or Hill, but I don't think either is particularly worse than he is. This means you still have a case of 100 games of noticably worse defence at 3B. Is it the end of the world? No. Will it negate Glaus's offensive potential? No. Is it something to note when Halladay and Burnett are ground-ball pitchers? Yes.
Gerry: Pitching is more important than defense, so even though there are concerns over the defense its the pitching that matters more. Injury worries aside, Halladay, Burnett and Towers are better than league average pitchers. Chacin and Lilly could be, although we cannot be sure, but I think they will be close to league average. Many fans think the bullpen will regress this season and they might, bullpen pitchers tend to have their ERA's move up and down from year to year. However I do think the Jays group is a good one and pitchers like Ryan, Speier, Walker and Frasor are likely to be more predictable and should perform at close to last years level.
The Jays defense might not be as good as last year but 80% of those concerns are at second base. I think Hill will be fine there, but of course not as good as O-Dog, and offsetting the drop-off at second will be an improvement at shortstop. I am not suggesting Adams will develop into a great shortstop but he was bad last year and most shortstops get better in their second year, they learn the position, they know the hitters, and they learn their limitations. So I am calling for the middle infield to be similar to last year. I am not as worried about the loss of Koskie, he was injured a lot and I thought his skills had diminished a little.
I will give back a little and say 735 runs allowed for the 2006 Jays.