OK, I wrote about this earlier, and thank you for all of the comments. I think I can be a bit more systematic. Looking at team fWAR for 2011, most playoff teams had something approaching or beyond 50 fWAR, usually with over 30 fWar from batters, and around 20 fWAR from pitching. (The Phillies had the lowest batting WAR of any playoff team, at 24.1, but they more than made up for this with over a 27 WAR from pitching)
So, the Jays in 2011 had a 21.3 batting WAR and a 12.5 pitching WAR. Can they improve enough to approach playoff level (around 50 WAR total)? I think they can get close, and here's why. (EDIT - thanks to some comments below, there are some flaws to my methodology. But, I think this analysis still points to the fact that even average-level performances from some positions could result in a large improvement, over all)OK, feel free to criticize my methodology, but here we go with a position-by-position break-down.
In 2011, the Jays received the following fWAR, position-by-position, assuming that fangraphs breaks down plate appearances correctly. Remember, usually a 2 WAR is considered an average MLB player, while 0 WAR, of course, is a replacement-level player. I'll list the position, 2011 WAR, and then what we might expect for 2012. Batters first.
C = 2.8 [2012 = 2.8. call it even. Arencibia will hopefully improve, but there's no way we'll repeat Molina's back-up performance)
1B = 0.3 (ouch) [2012 = 1.5. This, hopefully, is a conservative estimate. Some improvement, but still below average]
2B = 0.5 [2012 = 4.0. Why not? KJ was on pace for around this in his short stint with the Jays]
SS = 5.2 [2012 = 5.2. Most seem to think Escobar can do even better than last year. But, to be conservative, will give ourselves the same production]
3B = 4.9 [2012 = 4.5. How will Lawrie do? Certainly he's not going to be worth 9 WAR, but maybe 4.5?]
RF = 9.0 [2012 = 6.5. Regression, but still quite good]
CF = 0.9 [2012 = 3.0. Experts expect Rasmus to be above average]
LF = 1.4 [2012 = 2.5. Roughly Thames' pace translated over a full season. Hopefully a combination of Thames and Snider can put this together]
DH = 1.2 [2012 = 2.0. A conservative estimate. A full year of Encarnacion at the position could be quite good]
So, what does that leave us with? 27.5 fWAR - close to a playoff level offense. Still, to really reach the elite we would need 22.5 fWAR from our pitching in 2012, after only receiving 12.5 fWAR last season. Can we do it?
SP 2011 = 9.9 fWAR
RP 2011 = 2.6 fWAR
If we assume a rotation of Romero, Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil and McGowan, last year's WAR numbers look like: 2.9, 3.4, 1.0, 0.4, and 0.0 (the last in a very small sample size). What can we predict? So difficult to predict with injuries and so on. But just looking at these 5:
Romero. Let's give him a 2.7 fWAR for 2012, a slight regression (he was well above 2.9 in 2010, so I think 2.7 is a realistic expectation. Of course, he could do even much better)
Morrow. Improvement to a 4.0.
Alvarez. Over the course of a full season, he was worth about 3.0. Hopefully he can repeat it.
Cecil. Bounceback to his 2012 form of 2.6 WAR
McGowan. Let's give ourselves 1.5 WAR from the 5th pitcher spot.
So, if I've calculated correctly, this would give us about 13.6 fWAR from our starters. From our relievers, of course, we only received 2.6 fWAR last year. Santos himself was worth about 1.6 fWAR last year, while Darren Oliver was 1.3 fWAR. So, I think we can expect improvement from our bullpen. Is 5 WAR realistic? I don't know.
So, that would give us 27.5 WAR from batting, 13.6 WAR from SP, and 5 WR from relievers, for a total of 46.1. This isn't yet in the 50-60 range of some of the top playoff teams, but it is exactly the same total as the Tampa Bay Rays had last year.
So, does the more systematic approach work? What do you think? What are the flaws, here?