Pre-season Predictor: Reasons for Optimism
Read any forecast of the Blue Jays' chances in 2009, and there's a near consensus: with A.J. Burnett gone, and Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan on the shelf, there's no way this team can compete. Granted, it's never easy to replace 483 innings of starting pitching, but a closer look at this team reveals some grounds for hope, even in the merciless AL East.1. The Bullpen
Don't expect them to lead the league in ERA again, simply because it's tough to repeat, but this should be a team strength. Expect them to pitch more innings, but with a deep pen and the likes of Jeremy Accardo standing by in Las Vegas, that shouldn't be a huge problem.2. Pitching Potential
Purcey, Richmond and Romero aren't exactly household names. And Jesse Litsch is stretched as a #2 starter, to put it mildly. However, all of them have decent upside. This isn't the second coming Ohka, Thomson and Zambrano. If these guys struggle, you have Cecil, Mills, Casey Janssen, and a bunch of other options waiting in the wings. The nice part of having young pitchers around is that they'll only be in the rotation as long as they're effective. That kind of competition usually fosters decent results. The last time the Jays went mining for young pitching, they found that McGowan and Marcum could hack it at the big league level.3. Bouncing Back to that Sweet, Sweet Median
Not one lineup regular enjoyed a career season in 2008, and only Vernon Wells put together an above average - if injury riddled - season, compared to his career numbers. Expect some improvement from the likes of Rios, Rolen and Overbay.
4. Stiffs Need Not Apply
The Jays won't be squandering more than 1000 plate appearances on the likes of Shannon Stewart, Brad Wilkerson, Kevin Mench, Matt Stairs and Frank Thomas in 2009. That was one out of every six trips to the plate last year for guys who ranged from mediocre (Stairs) to abysmal (the other four guys).5. The Kids are Alright
The biggest reason for optimism is the core of young players: Aaron Hill, Alex Rios, Adam Lind and Travis Snider. This is where the Jays are capable of great improvement, IF Hill is fully recovered, IF Rios can consolidate his gains over the past two seasons, IF Lind and Snider are really ready for prime time. Yes, that's a lot of IFs, but this is where surprise teams come from: big improvement from the young guys.
Add all these factors together and the Jays bring home a surprising 85 wins.
Labels: 2009, Predictions