81-81. Five hundred. The Blue Jays finish the season as the most hum-drum team in the majors, as noted before being remarkable only in their ability to never fluctuate more than a game or two from the break-even mark. Unfortunately, break-even doesn’t make for fans breaking into applause, and so we sit and watch Jays-gone-by like Roy Halladay, Aaron Hill and Shaun Marcum play meaningful games as we assess the year gone by…and the one only a short (optimistically) winter away.
My report card for the 2011 Jays… and note, as at mid-season, grade is somewhat dependant upon role (ie. More is expected of regular players than back-up or utility guys)
JP Arencibia: got better through year, good power, should be among top 4 in Rookie of Year balloting. C+
Jose Molina: great bench player, worked well with pitchers and umps, average dropped after mid-season, was he tired out? B
Adam Lind: made switch to 1B better than expected but it did hurt his back. Average still a bit low, but 86 ribbies in games played is solid, should be over 100 if healthy all year. B
Kelly Johnson: late season addition from Arizona. Looked comfortable but not flashy at 2B, got to be an OK line drive hitter after 20 games or so.C+
Yunel Escobar: was leading team in hits when his elbow got drilled by a pitch; good defense, improving hitting; .290 with 48 RBI (as a leadoff player much of year) makes him among better SS in league. B+
Brett Lawrie: victim of massive over-hyping, but in 6 weeks walked the walk, more or less, hitting well and playing much better “D” than predicted. Something to look forward to in ’12. A
Edwin Encarnacion: started year slow at plate and atrocious in field, but put together great second half, showed some versatility in roles. C+
Rajai davis: an injury plagued year, with him alternately a daily fixture and a bench player when he was healthy. Great speed, great base stealing and distraction to pitchers when on base, but hitting and fielding need work.C
Colby Rasmus: great speed and ability to get to ball in outfield but tempered by total mental blunders letting balls drop by him at times; couldn’t hit worth a darn and seemed unhappy to be here. D-
Eric thames: unknown at start of spring training, impressed with skills and attitude, pretty good hitter, outfielding needs work but improving.B-
Travis Snider: team now admits his career marred by rapid promotion to majors as a teen; can’t maintain good habits at plate, very spotty in field; flashes of brilliance, long stretches of utter mediocrity. D-
Jose Bautista: OK, no one was talking triple crown for him by August; indeed he didnt hit 54 homers again this year. BUT, hey, second straight home run championship, led league in OBS, club record in walks, superb defense at two positions. What grade could there be besides A+
Mike McCoy: set record for “frequent flyer” miles between Ontario and Nevada; finally got a chance to play regularly in september and looked good, good versatility, even pitched an inning! Utility plus. B
Adam Loewen, Dewayne Wise, Mark Teahen, Dave Cooper, Chris woodward: not enough playing time to evaluate.
Ricky Romero: really took role of ace and ran with it; 2.92 ERA over 225 innings reminiscent of Jays-era Halladay; 15 wins team high, showed leadership among other pitchers.A
Brandon Morrow: finished very strong (2 runs over 22 innings in 3 games), but didn’t get far enough into games too often; accused by TV analyst Gregg Zaun of not being in good enough shape. 11-11 OK on a .500 team, but disappointing given his talent. C
Brett Cecil: after leading team in wins last year took several steps back; lost velocity and good location of pitches, outspoken outbursts after losses may represent immaturity not passion; lacked “crispness” he had last season according to manager. D-
Carlos Villaneuva: first an afterthought, then the ‘long man’ in ‘pen, then a starter, then finished in bullpen after minor injury. Adapted well to different roles, looked sharp for first half dozen or so starts. If role was set more firmly, he’d probably be very good. B
Kyle Drabek: expectations too high for him, journey to majors too fast. Good first start then all downhill including stint in minors, even late season return as reliever didn’t help him find strike zone or control his temper. Sorry, an ERA over 6.00 and an equal walk to strikeout ratio can only mean an F
Henderson Alvarez: only one win in 8 starts, but looked very poised and posted a highly respectable 3.65 ErA; not even on radar of pitchers for ’11 back when breaking training. B
Casey Janssen: after Rasmus trade became dominant right-handed middle reliever for team; led regulars in ERA, allowed only 5 earned runs in 28 innings after all star break.
Frank Francisco: maybe too much expected of him given his limited use as closer in texas; looked very reliable and almost ‘lights out’ in last two months after very shaky first half. Great improvement. C+
Jon Rauch: maybe too much expected of him due to his Randy johnson-like size. 11 saves, 4.85 ERA, suggest he might be better middling middle reliever than closer. D
sean Camp: quietly led team in appearances and bullpen innings. Looked tired from it at times in summer’s heat, but all in all did reasonably ok. C+
jesse Litsch: not so hot start as starter, after stint on DL and in minors came back as innings-eater out of bullpen, looked better there. C-
Luis Perez: first start was one of best games of year for Jays, a one hit shutout, but all in all looked tentative and not quite ready for prime time,as a starter at least. Potential but for now D+
Joel Carreno, Dustin mcGowan, Chad Beck, Dan Farquhar, R. Lewis- not enough to evaluate.
John Farrell, manager: won 4 fewer in his inaugral year than Cito did last year, but then again, Cito was a veteran of three decades and two world series. And the club itself perhaps wasn’t as good as the ’10 edition; certainly it seemed banged up more often. Seemed to have a quick hook for pitchers, especially in ‘pen, soemthing he addressed himself as a bit of a weakness, but kept team largely focused, played around a lot of injuries and trade-caused roster changes and was accessible enough to media. C+
Alex Anthopolous, general manager: his second year, one he told the Toronto Sun a “large step forward” (largely due to better results with minor league clubs). On one hand, assembled yet another playoff-missing, 4th place club. On other, his message of hope for future doesn’t seem as far-fetched as similar messages over past decade have due to some good young players (Lawrie, Alvarez, Arencibia etc.) Getting rid of Wells contract was brilliant, but he’s now the only person left standing in Toronto still defending the Rasmus trade. Seems to have a passable grasp on what the team needs to get better, but still lacks a grasp over what the fans want to see and will need to really re-kindle a love affair with the team. C+