September 20, 2011
Toronto Blue Jays
Kiss 'Em Goodbye is a series focusing on MLB teams as their postseason dreams fade -- whether in September (or before), the league division series, league championship series or World Series. It combines a broad overview from Baseball Prospectus, a front-office take from former MLB GM Jim Bowden, a best- and worst-case scenario ZiPS projection for 2012 from Dan Szymborski and Kevin Goldstein's farm-system overview.
Today we say so long to the Toronto Blue Jays, who continue to make progress in competing the tough AL East, but still found themselves coming up short. It's time to kiss them goodbye, eh?
Projected 2012 Lineup
Baseball Prospectus' Take
Signs of disaster: The Blue Jays have had to rely on their bats, since the team’s pitching hasn’t held up its end of the bargain. Among AL teams, only the Orioles and Twins have run up a higher Fair Run Average than Toronto’s 4.88. The Jays were again victimized by their undesirable division assignment and the unbalanced schedule, going 20-30 to date against the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. The good news is that they’re 13 games over .500 against everyone else, but that doesn’t change the unfortunate fact that the Jays are still stuck behind three seemingly immovable obstacles. They also endured disappointing seasons from Travis Snider and Adam Lind, two players who were expected to be offensive stalwarts but haven’t lived up to their billing lately, and top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek made the team out of spring training only to lose his control and continue to struggle even after a demotion to Triple-A.
Signs you can ignore: The Jays endured a sign-stealing controversy that erupted in Augustand briefly made them the object of unwanted attention from armchair baseball ethicists, but the bad publicity blew over before long. If in fact that Jays had been up to something sneaky and were forced to reform, it didn’t affect their ability to hit balls a long way; the team has gone yard even more frequently at the Rogers Centre after the report’s publication on August 10, as a percentage of balls in play:
However, the Jays have improved their home-run hitting to an even greater degree on the road, where they’ve presumably been playing without any foreknowledge of upcoming pitches, which suggests that they’ve derived a bigger benefit from the hot second halves of Lawrie and others than any illicit activities in which they might have engaged. —Ben Lindbergh, Baseball Prospectus
Bowden's Bold Move
The bold move the Blue Jays should make this off-season is to sign a proven veteran starting pitcher with leadership capabilities. Specifically, they should target starting pitchers C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle. Either one would bring a 15-win and 200-innings pedigree along with veteran leadership to the top of the Jays' rotation. Romero remains the "ace", but either veteran would help develop the young pitchers who follow.
The Jays should also take a chance and sign Jonathan Broxton of the Dodgers to a low-salary deal with incentives based on games pitched. Broxton, 27, had elbow surgery recently to clean out bone spurs. If he is healthy, he could bounce back to his 2009 form, when he saved 36 games with a 2.61 ERA and a WHIP of 0.961. His ineffectiveness the last two years had to do with command problems that were directly related to health.
Signing Wilson or Buehrle would give Toronto the pitching boost it needs to legitimately compete for a playoff spot in 2012. —Jim Bowden
Hopes and Fears
Worst-case scenario: 70-92
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @ben_lindbergh