For the last couple of years, I have used the Baseball Musings projection tool and the Steamer projections to project the runs scored by the Jays in the upcoming year.
I have tested this tool in prior years and found it to be pretty accurate. I would ordinarily test the latest version of the tool against the 2013 Jays results, but with all the injuries I did not have a "standard lineup" to use. So instead I took a team with a relatively consistent 2013 lineup – the Orioles. I took a standard batting order of McLouth / Machado / Markakis / Jones / Davis / Wieters / Hardy / Flaherty / Roberts and used their actual 2013 stats in the Musings model. Projected runs scored? 773. Actual? 745. Accurate to within 4% - pretty good, considering that BAL did have injuries to Reimold, Roberts, Flahery.
So what does the model say about 2014 for the Jays? I assumed a lineup of Reyes / Cabrera / Bautista / Encarnacion / Lind / Lawrie / Rasmus / Navarro / Goins, though the model claimed that I could get a slightly better answer (~12 runs) by moving Bautista to bat second and batting Lawrie 5th. I assumed (conservatively) no acquisitions, no platoon partner for Lind, and no Izturis platooning with Goins. I did not adjust the Steamer projections in any way (so this is a "no significant injury" scenario)
The result? Musings projects the 2014 Jays to earn 818 runs.
To provide some context: 818 runs would have been the second highest total in baseball in 2013 (behind Boston’s 853) and it would have been the highest in baseball in 2012.
As always, I am not suggesting that the Musings tool is perfect. However, each of the four times I have tested it have yielded results within ~5% of actual – a result which is unlikely to be random. And Steamer is not perfect – though it is widely considered to be one of the best forecasting models. So (tongue firmly in cheek!) what implications can be drawn from this result?
1. Barring injury (sigh), offense should not be an issue for the Jays in 2014. As such, fine-tuning the offense (finding a platoon partner for Lind, improving offense through trades) should be a secondary priority.
2. Toronto may have the luxury of playing Goins ~ full time at 2B, even if his offensive production is well below league average.
3. If an opportunity arose to trade hitting for a top-notch starter, the Jays might have enough depth to consider it.