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?