Jays take 2 of 3 from AL West Leader

Monday, August 24 2009 @ 12:42 PM EDT

Contributed by: John Northey

Hey, gotta take the positive wherever you can these days!

Yesterdays box score is here
Other news includes...
Girardi squashes talk of Burnett-Posada conflict
Rice misquoted? Rivalry to blame, HOFer claims - Jim Rice doing his best bitter old man impression
Red Sox’s chances of signing Wagner in doubt - Wagner not interested in Sox as he doesn't want to be a setup man

So, we've been going through from frustrating times - the Jays and the fans.  Thought we should look for what is good at the moment and provides hope for 2010 (figure many others will cover what will not give us hope).

Cheap wins: where a guy goes under 6 innings or gives up more than 3 runs and gets a win anyways.  Total of 7 for the team with no pitcher getting more than 2 (Roy Halladay & Ricky Romero)
Tough losses: quality start but loss comes his way anyways.  Total of 10 for the team, 3 each for Tallet & Halladay while 4 others got 1 each.
Why this is a positive: shows that the staff has still been unlucky and their W-L isn't always a good indicator. 
Why this is a negative: shows how annoying our offense has been, again.

Team Record in starts: Guys with over 500 team records when they start: Halladay (duh), Romero, and Cecil with Romero having the best team record.  Given these 3 are likely to be in the rotation in 2010 this is good news, especially for the kids. The team doesn't normally win unless you go deep and do well given the cheap wins/tough loss figures.  Bad news is for Marc Rzepczynski who they are just 3-6 when starting despite his 120 ERA+.  His 2 unearned runs aren't enough to cover it, but odds are the fact Rzep hasn't gone more than 6 1/3 yet is.  Kid has to learn to throw strikes more often.  Scott Richmond has seen a 500 team record btw.

Quality Starts: Roy Halladay, Ricky Romero, Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Richmond, and Brett Cecil all have over 1/2 their starts as quality ones (6+ IP, 3 or fewer ER) with Romero & Halladay over 60%.  For comparison the Yankees have 3 guys over 50%, just AJ over 60% (guess he learned a lot from Halladay) while the Red Sox have 3 over 60% (Lester, Beckett, Wakefield) but no more over 50%.  Tampa has 2 over 50%, 1 at 60%.  I'd say this is a good plus going forward.

You'll notice not a lot is said about Brian Tallet.  Largely because A) he hasn't been that good and B) he is not likely to get a lot of starts in 2010, if any, unless the team is injured like they are this year.

Of the big 5 listed in the QS list only Halladay is over 30 (32) with Richmond the only other one over 24 at 29 years old.  We have a young staff who are doing very, very well vs what the big 3 in our division have.

So, what about offense? 
We have a 100 OPS+ which is a big improvement from 2008's 94 and 2007's 95 but still a long ways away from 2006's 108.  What hope does it have of improvement?
Kids... (ie: under 27)
Adam Lind, Travis Snider, Edwin Encarnacion (just 26) are all regulars now and will be in 2010.  Only Encarnacion is a downgrade vs what we were playing before.
In prime years (27-31)...
Aaron Hill, Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, Randy Ruiz, Joe Inglett.  Not as good a group, with just Wells and Hill locks for 2010 (one a woohoo and one ... not).
Decline time (32+)...
Rod Barajas, Lyle Overbay, Marco Scutaro, Kevin Millar, Raul Chavez, John McDonald.  Scary that McDonald and Millar are likely to get even worse, thankfully neither is signed for 2010.  Only Overbay is signed from this group and his 129 OPS+ is just fine to keep around anyways and it should be OK even with a decline to the 110-119 range.  Barajas should be allowed to leave (68 OPS+), as should Scutaro if he asks for too much (great OPS+ of 118 but 96 is his previous high so I'd expect serious regression in 2010).  Millar, Chavez, and McDonald will all vanish into the sunset unless they take a AAA contract one hopes.

So just one decliner on contract vs 3 kids and 2 primes giving us 3 slots to figure out for 2010 - catcher, shortstop, DH.  Ruiz has been nice as the DH so far (138 OPS+) but I sure wouldn't count on him keeping it up.  JP Arencibia has talent but I sure wouldn't count on him.  Angel Sanchez has done well in AAA this year, but again not a guy to count on.

So on the positive note we do have kids in regular positions, a couple in their prime who are signed (one good, one not good contract), and just one decliner who is locked up for 2010.  For comparison the Yankees have tons of talent but their CA/SS/3B/LF/DH are all on the wrong side of 32.  Of course a team OPS+ of 117 can suffer a lot of age related decline with no ill effect overall.  Boston has 4 positions like that and just a 101 OPS+ overall (wow, the Jays are almost hitting as well as the Sox - who'd have thunk).  Sadly Tampa has just 2 guys over 30, just one at 32 and a team OPS+ of 105 which is likely to stay strong in 2010.  ::Shakes head:: must stay positive somehow!

OK, so the offense has needs.  But at least only one bad contract locked in and one of the offensive holes (catcher) has just free agents in the majors and at least a couple of prospects in the minors who are known for their defense.  Our offense is likely to improve for the 2nd straight year, while 2 of the big 3 are not as likely to improve given age of lineup.  We have starting pitching up the wazoo and it is young and (largely) left handed with help coming in 2010 (Marcum, maybe McGowan). 

Nothing much new here, but hope is there if you look for it.  Of course, it would help more if the Jays moved to the AL Central or NL Central or NL East or if the playoff structure was shifted to an NHL/NBA model but at least we should see lots of short games in 2010 with a killer young pitching staff (outside of Rzep starts where 100's of pitches could be thrown by the home side although a good result could still occur).  Plus, of course, no more 'Rios moments' to endure.