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Why the Blue Jays will be very good in 2012


In an interesting article from "Arizona Snakepit," Jim McLennan concludes that Arizona was much better in 2011 than in 2010 mostly through subtraction. In other words, in 2010 they gave a lot of innings to replacement-level pitching and a lot of ABs to replacement-level batters. So, even though they did not make many splashy moves heading into 2011, merely removing players who were under-performing and replacing them with half-decent performances saw a very large increase in wins.

I believe the Jays are poised to do the same for 2012, and I'll tell you why after the jump. I'm very curious to hear what you think.

OK, I'm biased. I'm a Jays fan. But, using fangraphs WAR, the Jays gave an astonishing 2,528 plate appearances to position players with a 0.5 fWAR or less, including 429 PA to Aaron Hill at -0.8 fWAR and 338 PA to Rajai Davis at -0.2 WAR. The Jays had a total of 6210 PA in 2011. This means that roughly 41% of the Jays 2011 plate appearances went to players who were basically replacement level or worse. Replacing these plate appearances with even average or slightly-above average production would likely result in a major increase in team WAR.

Where did the team under-perform in 2011? As we all know, 1B, 3B, 2B and CF were the main culprits. How does 2012 look for these positions?

- 1B: In 2011 Lind had a 0.5 fWAR in 542 PA. Not great for a 1B. Will he better in 2012? If stories about his back are true, then yes, he'll probably better, and even a slight improvement could result in an extra win or two over the course of a season.

- 2B: Aaron Hill, as noted above, was awful. Not too many people were impressed by KJ, but KJ did manage a 0.8 fWAR in only 132 PA for the Jays last year. Extrapolated over a full season, that's actually pretty good, and probably a difference of a few wins right there. In other words, even if KJ is only a slightly above average 2B, we have a lot to look forward to.

- 3B: Mostly awful in 2011, except when Bautista and Lawrie were there. Replace those Nix and Encarnacion 3B plate appearances with a full season of Lawrie, and we can expect a major improvement, even if Lawrie doesn't live up to hype.

- CF: A wildcard. The Jays were awful in center. Even if Rasmus can put up an average WAR for a CF, again we're looking at a major improvement in team WAR over the course of a season. Some pundits believe Rasmus can be much better than average, of course, while others will point to his -0.6 fWar in only 140 PA for the Jays in 2011.

In all, however, I think you get the picture. If the Jays receive even average performances from these positions in 2012, the results should be a large increase in wins. Addition by subtraction.

Pitching, of course, is another matter. But again, the Jays gave a lot of innings in 2011 to pitchers who were basically at or below replacement level. Cecil's 123.2 innings at 0.4 fWAR; Drabek's 78.2 innings at -0.2 fWAR; Rauch's 52 innings at -0.6 fWAR are just a few examples. With a full season of Alvarez (1.0 fWAR in only 63.2 innings), an improved Cecil, and a re-vamped bullpen, the Jays could go along way to avoiding those replacement-level innings, thus improving the team considerably. Will it be enough for the playoffs? Maybe not. Will the Jays be very close? Why not?

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