I was curious, so I spent a couple of hours this evening looking up this year's stats for the Jays' regular hitters, and comparing their numbers with their 2006 and career totals.
Here's the goods (the number in brackets is the player's age):
Troy Glaus (31)
His batting average is right around his career norm, but everything else has dropped off a bit. Foot problems, a summer slump and the increasing prevalence of reality television are to blame. (Well, maybe not the reality TV - I just had to get a cheap shot in while I had the chance.)
Aaron Hill (25)
He's obviously trying to be more aggressive: his power totals are up, but his on-base percentage is down. He was more valuable when he was doing it the old way. That happens to a lot of us.
Reed Johnson (30)
2006 was clearly a career year, but he's fallen well below his career average this year. I assume that the back surgery is the leading culprit. (Would you be able to hit or run well with an aching back?)
John McDonald (32)
It's frightening to note that McDonald is actually doing better than usual this year.
Lyle Overbay (30)
A startling drop-off - the standard explanation is that he is still recovering from his hand injury. He had been consistent before this year.
Alex Rios (26)
In 2006, he started fast and finished slow. This year, he started slow and has been getting better. He's wound up in pretty much the same place both years.
Frank Thomas (39)
He's getting old, and this is a predictable rate of decline. Sic transit gloria mundi.
Vernon Wells (28)
The most baffling of the off years. He's off 27 points in on-base percentage and over 60 points in slugging from his career average, and even farther off his pace from 2006. He's not getting old yet, so that's not a factor. Either pitchers have found a weakness, or he's trying too hard to earn his money. I suspect the latter. This happened to Carlos Beltran too: he had a bad year after he signed his free-agent contract.
Gregg Zaun (36)
Both Darrin Fletcher and Greg Myers crashed and burned at about the age Zaun is now.
From these numbers, you can see that J.P. was probably overestimating the strength of his offense going into 2007. Last year, five of the nine starters hit more than could be reasonably expected. But no one could have predicted that seven of the nine regulars would be below their career averages this year, including two of the youngest members of the starting lineup.
So, what happens next? Will the offense be better in 2008? My guess is that some of the hitters will bounce back; there's no real reason why they shouldn't. But Thomas and Zaun are getting old and creaky.
As for upgrading the offense for next year: it's hard to improve a team when virtually all of the starting lineup is hitting something like .255. If some players were hitting .290 while others were hitting .220, the solution would be simple: keep the .290 guys, and get rid of the .220 guys. (You thought being a GM was hard, didn't you?) But if they're all mediocre, what do you do? Gut the whole team and start over? Call up Billy Beane and ask whether you can have your old job back? Go sit in the corner and cry?