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No Judge, No Jury, No Hangman, No Justice in Ontario

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That is, of course, the Blue Jay , the D.C. Comics superhero and Champion of Angor. Will the Jays need a superpowers to compete in the AL East this season? Read on, in Part II of our bloggers roundtable! For Part I of the roundtable, click right here .

5. Who do you think is the best choice for the last spot in the starting rotation?

Alpheus Chan: Casey Janssen. I have always been a huge fan of his since his minor league days, and his 4 pitch mix bodes well for the rotation. I think he will have more success than Litsch and Chacin if given the opportunity to start. Litsch can use some more time in the minors and as for Chacin, I really don't know what to think of him.

Quinton: My choice for the 5th guy in the rotation would be based partially on Grapefruit action, not on the stats but on my feel for the pitchers themselves on the mound. I think Chacin gets an extra look for his performance in the past.

Mark W: I don't think this really matters, to be honest. The fifth starter at the beginning of April is not guaranteed to be the fifth starter by the end of April, let alone by the end of the season. Injuries, poor play, good play, acquisitions, and managerial whims, among others, lead to rotational turnover every season. The same argument can be made about whomever makes the roster as the 25th man. It's essentially meaningless.

Additionally, due to off days, a 5th starter can be skipped over a fair bit, which means that a pitcher can be more useful as a high-leverage reliever than a back-of-the-rotation starter.

AChengy: I love our rotation. The fifth spot is generally considered a bonus over the course of a season teams generally average 6 starters a season. I personally think if Janssen was our "#5" guy our rotation would be near the top of the AL. I'm not sure though if Janssen is the best choice as I think our bullpen still needs him. I think 2009 would be best for Janssen as Burnett is likely going to be gone :(. I think a mix of Litsch and Chacin would be good but Chacin should be given the first opportunity since he's been around longer and Litsch could use more time in the minors anyway.

Hugo: Mark makes an interesting point, but one that only applies if the Jays are willing to make changes on the fly. I don't think it's quite the same as the 25th man, who rarely has an opportunity to impact a game at all - the 5th starter impacts each game he starts. In 2006 for example, continuing to use Josh Towers because of his 2005 really hurt the team. The Jays lost practically all of Sparrow's starts, the bullpen was overworked, and the Jays left Sparrow in the rotation way too long. Janssen was an ace reliever last season but his low K rate gives me a little pause as to whether that will continue. In addition, Ryan's return and possibly League's means that Janssen might not have as many high-leverage opportunities as he has in the past, although I should mention that Janssen himself has admitted he enjoys the comfort of pitching out of the pen. Still, I'd love to see Janssen in the rotation this season, as I think he is a better bet for both short and long-term success there than Litsch or Chacin. I think Litsch could use some more seasoning but is a good backup option, and I'm not really bullish on Chacin, although it's great that he has options as he has had success in the past. I also agree with folks that no answer to this question changes the fact that the Jays' rotation this season is something to be pretty excited about.


6. How often and in what situations would you start Eckstein and Johnny Mac at SS, respectively?

Mark W: I wonder if McDonald's defensive proficiency can be partly explained by park effects, given Orlando Hudson's slight regression in Arizona. On the other hand, a player like Russ Adams is a butcher on defense, so this is merely a question of curiosity on my part.

Unless McDonald can duplicate the defensive superiority of a someone like Adam Everett over an entire season, the safe bet would be to start Eckstein, who routinely posts respectable OBP rates. McDonald would make a fine defensive replacement late in games.

AChengy: I definitely would like to start Ecksstein 80% of the time with Johnny Mac as a late game sub. Doc loves Mac at short so I guess he could start those games and have a mix of Ecks and Hill at second.

Alpheus: On the days when our groundball pitchers start (i.e. Halladay, Burnett), I would start Johnny Mac because his defence will be more reliant upon. I would start Eckstein on the other days. However, according to some advanced metrics, J-Mac's defensive superiority more than offset Eckstein's offensive superiority, which is an interesting case in support of J-Mac as a starter. Personally, I would be OK with both. I am leaning towards J-Mac because I like that our club is the best defensive club in baseball.

Quinton: I think Eck needs to be the starting SS on opening day, and use Johnny Mac for a defensive replacement and to give Eck his rest. I think it's kind of unfortunate that Mac doesn't hit better because if he started all year he could be a contender for the Gold Glove.

Hugo: One thing I think is really interesting (read: kind of dumb) is that Gibbons has said that Mac won't be used as a defensive replacement for Eckstein late in games. Why rule that possibility out? I hope that Eckstein can have a bounce-back year in the field, as he was always a reasonably good fielder before last season, and won't need as much support in the field. But if he doesn't bounce back, the Jays will need MacDonald for late innings and for the occasional start with a groundballer on the mound. I sort of like the idea of starting Mac occasionally and using Eckstein later, pinch-hitting for Mac at a critical at-bat, since 4/5 of the Jays starting rotation (assuming Janssen or Litsch) are groundball pitchers and only League and Downs in the pen would qualify as such.


7. Which players do you think are likely to most improve on their performance from last season? Who are most likely to suffer a decline?

Alpheus: There are a couple obvious candidates that are most likely to improve their performance from last season, most namely Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Reed Johnson. They can't really be any worse than they were last year for their talent level. I expect bounce back seasons from all of them. I also believe that Aaron Hill and Alex Rios will continue to improve. As for pitchers, as much as I like him, I hate to say that I don't see Shaun Marcum sustaining the success he had last year up until the final weeks of the season. I really do hope he proves me wrong, I think it is 50/50. Dustin McGowan is mine and the trendy darkhorse pick for the Cy. I think he can surpass Halladay and Burnett as the best pitcher on this team. I think whether or not the Jays makes the playoffs is dependent upon whether McGowan can harness his talent and put up numbers he is capable of.

AChengy: Adam Lind, Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells will probably improve on their performance from last season. Lind was pressed in the 2 hole with Overbay which I thought was a poor managerial decision. He should be eased into the lineup and be given a comfort zone. Overbay and Wells need to rebound anyway so here's hoping they don't repeat their season.

I see Jeremy Accardo struggling in 2008. With BJ Ryan hopefully back to form as our closer, Accardo will assume some middle relief duties and I'm very concerned about that. I see him as very erratic with his control and his WHIP with runners on base is pretty bad (greater then 2). I just don't see Accardo doing well outside a closers role.

Quinton: I look to Reed Johnson to improve this year. In the past he has seen some at bats from the lead off spot which will be minimized with the addition of Eck. Also, Johnson has a crowd in LF to contend with for playing time. Vernon had an off year and while he didn't use his shoulder as an excuse, it doesn't take a hitting coach to see that he wasn't seeing the ball well last season. Shoulder is healthy and his swing should come back.

Mark W: Adam Lind and Dustin McGowan possess the potential to improve a fair bit in 2008. However, that comes with separate caveats related to playing time: Will Lind receive adequate playing time to blossom into an above average outfielder, and will McGowan's arm be able to withstand a second consecutive high workload?

Jesse Litsch will likely suffer a steep decline. He strikes out too few and allows too many baserunners. He projects to post an ERA above 5 in 2008.

Hugo: That's an interesting point about Accardo. If he does struggle, perhaps League can pick up the slack. He's looked pretty good in the spring so far, with just a few control glitches he's hopefully working out. For what it's worth, Blair has a lot of confidence in Accardo as a set-up man, saying that Jeremy has a low-key demeanor and isn't the type that needs the emotional pressure of closing to succeed. I basically agree with everyone about the improvers: if Lyle's hand is better, he should be much improved - I just hope he doesn't try to do too much. He's looked good this spring (tiny sample size alert!), taking walks and hitting line drives. I also think Wells deserves a mulligan for last season - he's a feel hitter and a nagging injury like the one he had could be expected to be more devastating for him than for most. As for McGowan, I agree that he's primed for a huge year. I am more confident on Marcum than most, I love the way he mixes up his pitches and he gets plenty of K's without walking too many. I also think he will be far better conditioned to start for a full season this year. I don't think he'll be better than last season, but I do think he can finish the season with an ERA+ over 100, which would be dandy for a 4th starter. I also like Rolen to have a good season - I think the most recent surgery will restore some range of motion and strength to his shoulder, and players of his calibre usually age well so if he's healthy, I think he can produce around his 2006 levels. I'm worried about Stairs, Litsch, and Zaun (due to age more than anything) but the Jays have decent cover for all three.

Thanks for a great roundtable, fellas!