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2009 Jays Offence: Sooner or Later / Your Legs Give Way, You Hit the Ground

Today's post title comes from The English Beat and I thought it was appropriate considering how great the season has started out for us Jays fans.  Watching the offence this early part of this season has been great fun, but I think it's pretty safe to say that we all realize that we're in for some regression.  At this point in the season, good luck on a few balls in play and timely hitting could be the difference between a team that is scoring seven runs per game and a team that's scoring three.  On the other hand, if the team is simply playing better, the regression that we're likely to see should be relatively muted.

Friday's game pending, the Jays are lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 7.0 runs per game (77 runs in 11 games), up from roughly 4.4 last year.  The additions of Adam Lind and Travis Snider can't be worth over two runs per game, can they?

Well, the short answer to that question is obviously no, but let's take it a little deeper and go through each player in the Jays lineup.

1. Marco Scutaro (.310 / .423 / .619) - Scoot has been playing out of his mind so far, OPSing a gaudy 1042 (about 300-350 points higher than where anyone would expect him to be).  The power numbers will clearly come down, but what's a little unnerving is his line drive percent of just 10.8 (down from 22.6 last year).  His walk rate of 17.3% (9 in 52 plate appearances) is quite encouraging, however, as is the fact that he is seeing 3.7 pitches per plate appearance, quite solid considering that he's only struck out six times.

What to look for: Power will normalize, OBP will come down as well

2. Aaron Hill (.380 / .385 / .620) - Like Scutaro, Hill's been playing above his head right now, but that's only because of how incredible he's been.  Hill's offence will come back down to Earth, but, aside from a disproportionate number of HR coming from his flyballs (like Scutaro, his HR/FB rate is above 15%) the numbers don't look much like a fluke, with a line drive rate of 26.2.

What to look for: OBP and SLG numbers will likely come down some, but this could be a career year for him.  Maybe he'll draw another walk at some point this year.

3. Alexis Rios (.222 / .294 / .333) - Hard to believe, but the weak spot in our lineup has been the slumping Alex Rios.  According to Cito, the problem with Rios has been his timing.  He also has some of the strangest batted ball data I've seen.  Personally, I'm not terribly worried about Rios, his power returned after Cito took over last year and I think we're just seeing a poorly-timed slump.  Hopefully the improvement here will help offset Hill and Scutaro's backsliding.

What to look for: Rios to break out in a big way.  As Terry Kennedy said, "Most slumps are like the common cold; they last two weeks no matter what you do."

4. Vernon Wells (.340 / .380 / .532) - Perhaps this is a little more than we were expecting from Vernon, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he can continue this kind of play because his HR: FlyBall ratio is actually a little down from last year, while his line drive rate is pretty similar to what it's been in the past.  He's had some luck on balls in play, so we're likely to see a bit of decline in batting average and consequently on-base percentage.

What to look for: Same or even more power, but fewer singles.

5. Adam Lind (.370 / .431 / .652) - As much as I'd love to see Lind keep up this pace, it isn't going to happen.  Regardless, gone are the worries some of us had last September when Lind's value was tied up in his singles and high batting average on balls in play.  His line-drive rate is at 22.2%, he's already hit three homers and, perhaps most comforting, he has taken some great walks and is seeing 4.6 pitches per plate appearance.

What to look for: Some decline, but not as sharp as you might expect because he really seems to be seeing the ball well.

6. Scott Rolen (.359 / .422 /.564) - Rolen looks like the Rolen of old.  He has simply been mashing the ball, and it seems like the strides he took last September have carried into 2009.  He's hitting line drives over one third (35.1%) of the time, which would lead one to believe that his .343 batting average on balls in play should actually increase.  Rolen's numbers this year are not unheard of for him, so if he really is rejuvenated and stays healthy we might not see a decline at all.

What to look for: Let's hope Cito spells him just enough to keep him healthy.

7. Lyle Overbay (.259 / .375 /.444) and Kevin Millar (.294 / .294 / .529) - Millar only has 17 at-bats, so there's no real reason to dwell on him at this point.  Since Millar has been spelling him against southpaws, Overbay has seen almost all of his at-bats against righties, but that hasn't brought his power numbers quite back to where they were in '06.  Either way, he is seeing the ball pretty well (5 BB and 5 K), and hasn't yet grounded into a single double play.  Millar's line drive rate is down, but he's seen so few at-bats that it's pretty much meaningless, especially considering the shots he almost hit off Glenn Perkins a few days ago.

What to look for: Unless he starts to play against lefties, Overbay should actually improve a bit.

8. Rod Barajas (.276 / .290 / .379) and Michael Barrett (.188 / .235 / .375) - Anecdotally, there have been times when Barajas seems to be hitting the ball hard but into bad luck and his batted ball data (75% fly balls and only 10.7% grounders) seem to agree there.  If only a quarter of those fly balls would leave the park, as they have been for Lind and Snider, we'd be in really good shape.  Barrett, like Millar, just hasn't played enough to talk about much.

What to look for: Some improvement, but not all that much.  Don't forget that we are talking about Big Rod here.

9. Travis Snider (.348 / .423 / .913) and Jose Bautista (.350 / .409 / .450) - Moonraker has just been an absolute beast.  In just 27 plate appearances, Snider has already hit three homers and four doubles.  Sure, his numbers will come down a bit, but let's appreciate this for what it is right now.  And, while Snider's striking out almost as much as most projected (26% of the time), he's walking more and when he's connecting he is sending the ball into orbit.  Bautista has seen 23 at-bats and has been good.  Provided that he continues to play against lefties only, his production should not drop too much because, although his line drive rate will drop and his ridiculous batting average on balls in play (.500 as of now) will plummet, his strikeouts should come down a bit as well.

What to look for: Snider to decline due to balls that have been going for doubles being caught and a tough learning curve as the league catches up to him a bit (he's already been intentionally walked) and he starts to play against lefties.  Like Hill and Scoot, it would be absurd to think that Snider could keep being this good already.

And so, on the whole, we aren't going to keep seeing seven runs per game from this club, but there's no reason to think that the offense should decline to the levels of last year.  Even most of our outs have been hit hard this year and most of the guys who are going to decline have been playing at or near the level that their basic statistics show, it's just unlikely for them to continue to play at that level.