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The Dangling Conversation: Ongoing Blue Jays Offseason Conversation

Greetings, fellow corvid-philes.  Simon and Garfunkel ring in our newest ongoing feature, which is going to be an ongoing back and forth conversation between the site's two main bloggers, rince and yours truly.  We'll be asking each other questions and getting into the big questions of the offseason very soon, but let's first take a bit of a look back.  Please e-mail us your questions or just leave them in the comments, and chime in as you see fit.  Without further adieu:

Hugo: So what were the biggest positives and negatives for Jays’ fans to take away from this season? 

Rincewind:  Biggest positives? The bullpen was almost unbelievably good, considering Accardo and Janssen were hurt all season. Carlson came out of nowhere. Ryan came back from Tommy John much better than anyone could have hoped. Downs was brilliant, lights out, damn near perfect. League became the pitcher we hoped he would become. Tallet was great, Parrish did well as a reliever and even Shawn Camp and Jason Frasor had the odd useful moment. I am not sure all that all can happen again.

Hugo:  Yeah, it’s amazing to think that the bullpen could even get better from last season’s unbelievable performance, but if Accardo returns healthy, Ryan continues to improve his control post-surgery and League pitches as he did last year for the whole season, anything is possible.  I’m guessing that Frasor and Tallet will be gone next season, as they can be replaced with non-arbitration eligible arms.  Ryan is also a possible trade candidate, but I’m not sure the Jays will be comfortable dealing him, especially with talk about using Downs and/or Janssen in the rotation next season.  But with at least most of Downs-Ryan-Janssen-Accardo-League-Carlson Wolfe set to return, not to mention some good young pitchers in the Jays’ system, next season could be another great one for the pen. 

There weren’t many positives offensively, but I did enjoy watching Vernon Wells come back with a healthy shoulder and do a fine job offensively in the games he was able to play.  Rolen looked comfortable at the end of the season and Lind and Snider both showed glimpses of what they can do as offensive players. 

The defense was great again, although the early metrics are suggesting it might be time for Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios to switch places in the outfield.

Rincewind:  Offensively I think my favorite player to watch this season was likely Joe Inglett. He got on base well and had the occasional hit with RISP. It is too bad he can’t play SS, he’d be perfect there and leading off. And you are right Moonraker was fun to watch and Rolen’s new stance at the plate seemed to play off, I hope it carries over.

I guess we skipped maybe the biggest positive in Roy Halladay, his ‘problem’ is we expect him to have this sort of season every year so he gets ignored. Doc has so much value, not just for his pitching, which is terrific, but because every fifth day the bullpen gets a rest. With Purcey and Litsch rarely going deep into games it is good to have one game out of every 5 where you know at worst the pen will only have to give you a couple of innings and often not have to use the pen at all.

Until his injury Shawn Marcum was also amazing, at the end of June his ERA was 2.70. Litsch turned in a fine season too and AJ, who would have imagined he could make 34 starts in a season while striking out just about everyone.

Hugo:  Great point about Doc.  How about the negatives? 

Rincewind:  Negatives?  Less power than I could have imagined, the odd home run early in the year would have made things so much better.

Hugo:  The hitting was a huge bummer pretty much all season, I agree.  It’d be easier to chalk it up to an off-year if the Jays hadn’t been so terrible at the plate in 2007 as well.  What’s worse is that in 2007 the Jays were futile against righty pitching, and in 2008 they were awful against lefty pitching, with mostly the same lineup.  So which do we focus on for next season?  The trouble with the offense is that there are a lot of players who are offensively average and some who are below average for their positions, but no one who stands out offensively.  Hitting for power was definitely a problem, but the Jays didn’t show much of a knack for getting on base either.  Part of the problem is that their cornerstone offensive players, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, aren’t good at getting on base. 

I would say that the biggest negatives were the loss of McGowan, Marcum, and Janssen to serious arm surgeries.  Marcum and McGowan were well on their way to being above-average starters, and Janssen looked great in the spring in the starting role that it appeared the Jays were grooming him for.  All three were home-grown, Marcum and Janssen looked like draft-day coups for Ricciardi, McGowan was finally living up to his first-round potential, and then it all came crashing down.  Now Casey and Dustin will have to attempt recovery from labrum surgery, something many pitchers are not able to successfully do, and return this season, and both may be needed for starting roles.  As for Marcum, he will miss the whole year with ligament replacement surgery, but one may be more confident in his long-term health. 

Rincewind:  I guess on the list of negatives another top one would be JP’s decision to sign Wilkerson and trade for Mench, which goes with his choice of sending Adam Lind back to the minors after only a handful of at bats. When he signed Wilk, to me, it put to a lie his line that this was the Jay’s season to make the playoffs. He needed to find a bat that could lift the offense (Bonds?), instead he picked up someone that the powerhouse Mariners gave up on.

This goes hand in hand with his decision to go into the season with two 40 year olds in important offensive positions with only one back up plan (Lind) in case their bats should slow.  Add in his wonderful choice of Shannon Stewart over Reed Johnson and his not having a better back up for a Scott Rolen when he had to know that Rolen can’t play 150 games anymore.

So maybe the biggest negative was JP’s inability to see offensive weaknesses in his team.

Hugo:  Yeah, the DH spot was a huge problem.  For another team it wouldn’tve been such a big deal, but for a team like the Jays that was already giving away offense for defense at other positions, they really could not afford to have such poor production at the DH spot.  We still have some offensive weak spots, and there’s no way we can afford another poor DH season this year.  We don’t necessarily need a huge bat (though it sure would be nice), but we definitely need above-average offensive production from the spot.  I tend to agree with you about J.P., using Mencherson for so many at-bats, dropping Lind after just 19 at-bats when the Jays didn't have anyone better, and dumping Thomas without a plan to replace him hurt the Jays a lot this season. 

Hugo:  Well, that's it for this time.  Join us in a few days, when we will begin to really get into what the Jays might do, and what they need to do, this offseas and heading into next season!