Though I am risking thewrath of the Drunks by quoting Springsteen (c'mon - Nebraska? one of the Boss' masterpieces, no?) I wanted to take this opportunity to point out some reasons to believe that things will not be as bad for the Jays as some seem to think. I'm not saying I'm expecting a World Series victory parade through the streets of T-Dot, but there are reasons to look forward to this season and not dread it. For example:
- The Jays had the 2nd best run differential in the AL last season, and the 4th best in all of baseball. Run differential is the best indicator of team ability and it suggests that the 2008 Jays were very unlucky.
- Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in the league (sorry, C.C., 10 career points of ERA+ against tougher competition) and is coming off one of his best seasons.
- Jesse Litsch, who has been ridiculed as a #2 starter, has put together two seasons of 118 ERA+ before his age 24 birthday. In his second big league season, he brought his K/9 up by a full strikeout per nine while dropping his walk rate a full walk per nine. His velocity was up and his home runs allowed were down. He will have to prove himself again, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this guy knows how to pitch.
- Much is made of the fact that A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, and Marcum will be gone to start the season. However, McGowan only pitched 111 innings of so-so ball last season and he could easily contribute more to the team this season, making him an addition to, not a subtraction from, last season.
- In that vein, though it was likely through no fault of his own, A.J. Burnett only put up a 105 ERA+ last season. it is not at all unthinkable that Casey Janssen, who was quite a good pitcher before a devastating labrum injury, could equal that if he is healthy, which he appears to be. Recently Jordan Bastian suggested that Janssen was a likely rotation candidate.
- Brett Cecil is only 22 and looks great. Does he have the endurance for a full season as a starter this year? No. But is he at the talent level where he's ready to make a contribution to the major-league team as an above-average pitcher? It sure looks that way.
- Marcel projection for Scott Richmond in 2009 is a 4.10 FIP. With the Jays defense, that could easily mean a sub 4 ERA for the Jays. Not a first option, but that's darn good for a 5th/6th starter.
- David Purcey is poised to improve by as much as a full run of ERA as compared to his production from last season, based on his overall performance last season.
- The Jays had one of the best team defenses in baseball last year and everyone will be back, with possible improvements due to Vernon Wells being healthier and Aaron Hill returning.
- Jays' left fielders hit .258/.325/.384 last season. Travis Snider should have no trouble beating that, and significantly.
- Jays' DHs hit ..247/.325/.418 last season. Even if Adam Lind doesn't improve at all from last season, he will be better than that.
- Shannon Stewart (69 OPS+), Brad Wilkerson (68 OPS+), and Kevin Mench (81 OPS+) had a full season's worth of plate appearances between the three of them last season. God willing, that will not happen this year.
- The Jays' offense scored 4.7 runs per game over the second half of the season. As of now it is looking like each member of that offense will be back with the Jays this season.
- Scott Rolen hit .307/.354/.523, right in line with his career numbers, after adjusting his swing to compensate for decreased range of motion in his shoulder. Is he a sure thing to do so in 2009? - far from it, but it is certainly a reason to be optimistic. If he can put up those kind of numbers or anywhere close with his defense, that's a huge deal.
- Supporting the Jays' young rotation will be last season's best bullpen in baseball, and by a large margain. All the key parts will be back this year, and adding Accardo and a full season of League could make this year's pen even better.
- The offseason isn't over yet.
Again, I'm not saying the Jays will win it all this season, but these are some reasons to think they can. This was a good team last year and there are these reasons, and more, to think that it will be a good team in 2009.