Hope for the Hopeless: Toronto Blue Jays

This is the twelfth edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first ten fourteen teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays and their spiffy new roster played some terrible baseball in 2013. EVERYONE FREAK OUT!

OK, it's not that serious. The Blue Jays didn't live up to their massive expectations in 2013. No one is denying that. But man, every bad break that could have happened occurred in Toronto this summer. Only two starters made 20 starts, and there's a likely possibility that only one other starter will join RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle at that threshold this year, and that man is Esmil Rogers, who wasn't even penciled in to the Opening Day rotation. The chronically injured Brandon Morrow made just ten starts, and the nearly as chronically injured Josh Johnson took the hill just 16 times. Both pitchers were largely terrible when they were healthy too, complicating matters even more for the Jays. JA Happ also missed half the year after a scary line drive to the head in Tampa Bay, but has returned in the second half.

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The Blue Jays also suffered numerous injuries to their offense, as Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes both missed huge chunks of time. In fact, things really started to go downhill once Reyes got hurt in Kansas City in April in a freak accident at second base. If Reyes doesn't get hurt, who knows what happens with Toronto's season? Maybe if he's healthy, Emilio Bonifacio doesn't get shipped to the Royals in August because of his awful year. Maybe Lawrie doesn't feel obligated to return as soon as he goes down, and he doesn't get injured again at the end of May. There's really no telling what could have happened, and that was the first domino that fell in sabotaging Toronto's season.

But with the bad comes plenty of good. Edwin Encarnacion had another phenomenal year as a part-time DH, part-time first baseman. Adam Lind, who has looked like non-tender bait for the last three seasons, put it all together and got his OBP back up to a respectable level. Colby Rasmus has put together a four win season and looks like the superstar he was hyped as during his early days in St Louis. Jose Bautista returned from a disappointing 2012 and proved that he's still Jose Bautista, complete with nagging injuries that prematurely end his season. Dickey and Buehrle haven't been great, but neither has missed a start and both will finish the year logging 200 innings while getting vastly better in the second half of the season.

Perhaps the most important revelation of 2013 for the Blue Jays is their bullpen. Holy crap have these guys been good! Steve Delabar made the All-Star team and has struck out 80 hitters in 55 1/3 innings. Casey Janssen remains the best closer you've never heard of. Brett Cecil has been filthy after moving from the rotation to the bullpen full-time, while Aaron Loup has been quietly effective in the middle innings. Then there's former closer Sergio Santos, who has two unintentional walks in 19 innings this year to go along with 18 strikeouts despite missing about 2/3 of the season. The best part of that bullpen is that the only member that likely won't be back is Darren Oliver, who seems destined for retirement.

In fact, Toronto brings back nearly everyone in 2014. Their only free agents are Johnson, Oliver, fourth outfielder Rajai Davis, and pitcher Ramon Ortiz. It's a very basic statement, but the Blue Jays really only need to improve their starting pitching in 2014 for them to immediately become contenders again. The club has used 13 starters (and counting) this year, and Chad Jenkins is the only one with an ERA under 4.00 as a starter. If Dickey and Buehrle pitch like they did in the second half all year next season, Toronto will be a much better team. And if the club manages to get 25 starts from Brandon Morrow (which is probably a pipe dream at this point), they'll definitely be able to hold their own. But if Toronto has to waste starts on guys like Esmil Rogers, Chien-Ming Wang, Ramon Ortiz, and a irreparably broken Ricky Romero, Alex Anthopolous' grand experiment will be a bust.

Expectations will need to be tempered for Toronto going into 2014, but this is still the same core of players that was everyone's World Series pick six months ago. Some things worked, some things didn't. That doesn't mean that all hope should be lost.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

Hope for the Hopeless: Toronto Blue Jays

In our Hope for the Hopeless series, we take a look at all of the teams in the league that finished under .500, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2012 season.

The Blue Jays are an interesting team. General manager Alex Anthopolous is making moves that are generally thought of as cunning, slick, or whatever word you want to use. But it still hasn't translated onto the field yet. The 2012 Blue Jays team got nailed with something that there's no way to prepare for: an unparalleled glut of injuries.

Toronto has used 11 starters (and counting) this year. The worst part is that three pitchers underwent Tommy John surgery, meaning that they won't be ready for Opening Day next year, including young starters Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison. That immediately puts the Blue Jays, with a farm system with a lot of pitching talent at lower levels, in a difficult position for the 2013 season.

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It's going to be a difficult 2013 season for the Blue Jays. The offense should be fine, assuming Jose Bautista comes back and continues to hit like Jose Bautista. Whatever they end up doing with the infield (minus Brett Lawrie) should be an improvement over 2012. The disastrous outfield play should get straightened out. Even the bullpen should be fine. But the starting pitching? Yeah, that will be an issue.

Brandon Morrow, JA Happ, and Ricky Romero are likely going to be penciled in for the top three spots in the rotation. Morrow was nearly half of 2012, Romero has been awful, and Happ has been terribly unlucky (4.69 ERA, 2.80 FIP). The other two spots? Uh…Henderson Alvarez and his microscopic strikeout rate, and maybe Brett Cecil, who has never been able to put it together for a full season. That doesn't instill a lot of faith in the AL East, where offense is usually a dominant force, and there is no room for 4-A starters.

In a year where the Orioles have stepped up big time and the Red Sox have taken a major step back, the Blue Jays are in their usual spot of mediocrity in the division. Next year, they'll probably be in the same place, even if Boston improves and Baltimore declines. There are rumors that the Blue Jays are looking at starting pitchers like Anibal Sanchez this offseason, and getting a veteran to top their rotation would probably be the best move for them and their young starters. At any rate, Toronto needs to do something about that rotation, because they're not contending next year with the way it's set up. If they can just bring in two starters, maybe a top of the line guy like Sanchez and another middle of the road player, they can make some noise in the American League with their offense.

 

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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