Sunday, April 4, 2010

Smiling Through the Pain: the Hitters

On the occasion of Adam Lind's new long term deal, of which I heartily approve and have no reservations at all about, I'll go ahead and get around to giving you my quick take on the hitters going north with the Jays, with the starters listed by Friday night's batting order since Clarance says it will be Monday's as well:


Jose Bautista (RF) - *Sigh* What can be said that has not already been said? Dude can't hit right handed pitching. Oh sure, buy into that hot 100 at bats at the end of 2009 if you want. Believe him when he says he "made an adjustment" and ignore the previous 1900+ plate appearances. But just remember that Rod Barajas had a 100 at bat stretch when his OPS was almost 1.000 last year, too.

Aaron Hill (2B) - I've been going on the assumption that Hill's power outburst last year was a career outlier and that long term he was a guy who'd homer in the low 20's and give you 40ish doubles, too. I figured he'd offset that small regression by walking a bit more this year. But he leads the team in spring homers so, while spring stats don't matter much, maybe I and everyone else was too quick to reach that conclusion.

Adam Lind (DH) - the straw that stirs the drink, I fully expect him to do as well or better than in 2009.

Vernon Wells (CF) - I'm not really that worried that he'll recover offensively. My guess would be something like an .830 OPS (which is pretty much the career number he brought into 2007 when he got on the insane roller coaster of the last three years). It's whether or not he can at least be passable on defense since the Jays seem adamant about not moving him out of that position. On that point, I'm not optimistic.

Lyle Overbay (1B) - If he plays every day, as The Manager has said, he'll be a huge liability vs LHP. If Ruiz platoons with him, he'll be a great asset here.

Edwin Encarnacion (3B) - Hand injury and recovery aside, EE gets far too much disrespect from Jays fans. He's clearly not likely to be a star, but he's produced considerably more offense in his career than Bautista and those who speak of ditching him and installing JB at 3B are . . . not rational.
Defensively, he enjoys a very bad reputation but a closer analysis indicates that he's a perfectly capeble, maybe even above average fielder when it comes to getting to and catching the ball - he makes almost all his errors on throws. It certainly behooves the Jays to see if Brian Butterfield can work his magic and clean up EE's footwork to solve that problem. Admittedly, he could be a disaster this year - but he could also be a very pleasant surprise for those of you who have very low expectations.

John Buck (C) - Is what he is. A somewhat younger and slightly better version of Barajas, at least offensively. It's difficult to asses where he stands defensively, I've seen wildly varying reports. If we are blessed, he'll give way to Arencibia before August begins.

Alex Gonzalez (SS) - has random episodes where he gets his offensive contribution up to league average or so - interspersed with other episodes where he's horrid. no way to know what we'll get from his bat. He'll likely be an above average fielder again, though he's not what he was at his peak.

Travis Snider (LF) - If you, like me, are wondering why I listed eight names before his, then you understand the reference to pain in the title. Everything about Clarance's handling of Snider pisses me off and is wrong, in my opinion. Yes I know, he's the respected baseball professional and I'm the guy who writes about it for free on the internet. Normally I try to show some restraint in assuming I'm smarter than the guy who's getting paid to decide but . . . just damn. Everyone in the baseball world can see this, it's not just me.
For starters, hitting a guy like Snider behind John Buck is foolishness but maybe, just maybe, that could be overlooked, at least initially. You'd just assume The Manager was sucked in by Buck's homer total last year. But hitting behind Gonzalez? There's simply no sanity to a move like that. it's hard to rant about it because it feels like trying to explain to you that the sky really is blue after all.
Secondly, I've heard all the giggles about how bad a Lind-Wells-Snider outfield would be, and possibly they are right. but isn't this write-off developmental season precisely the time when you settle the question of whether or not Snider can play a credible RF once and for all? Yeah, if we were trying to prove something in the win column, then by all means those marginal wins are to be taken seriously. but we're not, are we? I've seen the argument that it hurts the young pitching, but I don't think that, with proper coaching and communication, it has to. I'm of the opinion that a solid ground ball defense is what's key. We don't want our pitchers inducing a lot of fly outs anyway.

Bench:

John McDonald - Another verse, same as the first. Essentially a player-coach at this point
Jose Molina - Pitchers rave about throwing to him, should be good mentor for JPA eventually.
Randy Ruiz - I'm not totally sucked into the feel-good story, at least partly because I figure Clarance is going to screw it up anyway.
Mike McCoy - if all goes well, Joe Inglett 2.0, now with speed. Which is not a bad thing.

I won't extend this post to go into detail right now, but my quick & dirty analysis of this team, in terms of the potential for runs scored and allowed, makes it a slightly below .500 team on paper (irrespective of the multitude of forecasters openly speculating about 90+ loses) and I'm going to extend that a bit and suggest perhaps a bit of karma for all the years the under-preformed their expected results. I usually make my predictions with the understanding of +/- 3 wins, but I'll say up front that this prediction is at the top of that range. My usual prediction would be 80 wins (i.e. anywhere from 77 to 83) but I'm gonna call it 83 wins this time - with the caveat that that's my high-end guess.

I'll glance over the key minor leaguers in the next few days, as time permits.

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