Spring training is in full swing in sunny Florida, with the Toronto Blue Jays having played their first intrasquad game today ahead of their first official Grapefruit League game tomorrow. Runs were scored, Lawrie defensive errors were made…it’s all coming together.
So, in case any of you missed it it’s probably a good time to revisit a little 15 part, 15000+ words series I did a bit earlier this month on who I thought would be in the starting lineup of the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays. Today, we’ll review the much-improved offense – but first, the links:
Part 1: J.P. Arencibia - 510 PA, .255/.315/.450, 26 HR
Part 2: Adam Lind – 600 PA, .260/.320/.445, 26 HR
Part 3: Kelly Johnson – 580 PA, .270/.350/.430, 16 HR, 11 SB
Part 4: Brett Lawrie – 610 PA, .280/.340/.490, 20 HR, 22 SB
Part 5: Yunel Escobar – 605 PA, .285/.365/.405, 10 HR, 5 SB
Part 6: Edwin Encarnacion – 580PA, .270/.330/.465, 23 HR, 6 SB
Part 7: Eric Thames – 300 PA, .270/.315/.455, 8 HR, 3 SB
Part 8: Travis Snider – 300 PA, .265/.315/.450, 9 HR, 5 SB
Part 9: Colby Rasmus – 590 PA, .260/.325/.445, 19 HR, 14 SB
Part 10: Jose Bautista – 650 PA, .295/.415/.595, 40 HR, 11 SB
That would give the club’s starters an approximate line of: .271/.339/.463, 197 HRs, 77 SB
The .802 OPS looks a little crazy, but consider that this doesn’t take into account of all the ABs that will do to bench players/reserves that will bring all the numbers down. As much as I tried to avoid it, I thought I was particularly rosy with the forecast I put out there. In retrospect, that no one on the team’s starting 9 might hit under .250 is probably a little optimistic, given that 8 players with 130+ PAs did just that in 2011. If I had to guess, Adam Lind and JPA could be the likeliest players to not be a .250 hitter for the season, but I also think that (at least with JPA, really) the power production will alleviate things a bit.
That being said, the team will get a (hopefully) full year of Lawrie, Johnson, and Rasmus in the lineup, and considering that we had a mish-mash of Juan Rivera, Jayson Nix, Mark Teahen, Mike Coy etc. starting games for a significant chunk of the season, I’d say it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the team will improve on last year’s .730 OPS mark. It might not have seemed like it at times, but the Blue Jays had a top-10 run scoring (743) and home run (186) offense in 2011. With the 3 new regulars added, those numbers only stand to improve; I don’t think it’d be a stretch to think that the Blue Jays might lead the league in HRs by the end of 2012.
Power is just one part of the game, though. What’s held the team’s offense back against that of the Yankees and Red Sox is the ability to get on base and hit for average, two things that the Blue Jays did at a below-AL average clip last season. Barring a disastrous season from Lawrie and Johnson (the latter of whom has a career .343 OBP), we should surely see the team provide more run-scoring opportunities by having more men on base over the long haul of the season.
Just how much will the team’s overall OPS improve from 2011′s .730? I’ll put the over/under at .760, and I think I’ll take the over. Either way, this should be an exciting team to watch in ’12 – and the offense will probably be the most fun part of it.