It was only one game and as a more stats based writer I understand the perils of trying to draw any meaningful conclusions without a proper sample size but last night was ugly and it also got me thinking. There are no doubts the reloaded Blue Jays batting line-up is pretty impressive this season – at the top of the order. Given the absence of the currently injured third basemen Brett Lawrie the bottom half has a ton of question marks in my opinion.
There is no disputing opening night was ugly and when a team doesn’t get timely hits it makes it look and seem much worse than it is. For the Blue Jays to be a contender I feel they are going to need one or two of Lind, Rasmus, Arencibia & Izturis to have “surprise to the upside” season to give this line-up some real bite and depth.
I don’t think there is any question that Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are going to produce. They likely won’t all have career seasons but I think it is safe to assume that if all remain healthy they will take professional at-bats, at worst. After that though, all bets are off.
Here are the 2012 stats for the remaining five thru nine batters in our current line-up:
It needs to be pointed out that not many teams in the major leagues sport completely dominant line-ups one thru nine and the Blue Jays aren’t necessarily weaker than other teams in that regard but there could be a lot of easy outs after the big dogs eat.
Not a single player in that group is an above league average hitter (wRC+) with only Adam Lind close (98). There is some power with Arencibia and Rasmus but that is probably more than equalized by the fairly sizable strikeout rates. In short, it isn’t pretty from five thru nine barring some serious improvement.
One would think that Adam Lind is going to be on a very short leash as the teams’ everyday designated hitter. Alex Anthopoulos likely won’t hesitate to upgrade the team at this spot and if Lind doesn’t rebound from a disappointing couple of seasons I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is simply given his walking papers at some point this year.
In the American League East you cannot afford to give away at-bats from your designated hitter. One game doesn’t make a season however given his shoddy performance record over the last three years Adam Lind doesn’t exactly strike fear into opposing managers.
It is early and who knows what the trade deadline will bring but if Lind underperforms again and if when the Minnesota Twins are looking to dump Justin Morneau for prospects you can bet Alex Anthopoulos will be first in line – if he hasn’t already kicked tires.
Colby Rasmus is a slightly different animal as he plays a premium position on the diamond and hits further down in the order. I feel he will be given every opportunity to show he can produce at the major league level. Of course Anthony Gose will obviously be a keen observer while playing the minor leagues.
Maicer Izturis is here for one reason – defence. He can play multiple positions on the diamond and play them better than anyone else we have (including shortstop). He will be our ninth batter most of the season and if he can be a league average offensive second basemen the Blue Jays will be happy. Emilio Bonifacio will be our super-sub and gives us versatility and speed. He is a guy that just needs to play to his strengths and won’t be counted upon to be a major contributor barring major injuries.
That leaves one of the more important players to this team – Brett Lawrie. I think the plan is to have Lawrie bat sixth after Adam Lind and looking at the composition of our line-up he will be the main difference maker if the Jays are going to be a great offensive team or simply good.
A healthy and productive Lawrie does a few things for this team. First, Lawrie adds one of the top rated gloves at third base and brings his personality and energy to the team. Second, he has shown to be a capable presence at the plate and should be a much tougher out this season.
Third, he sends Bonifacio to a bench role which increases our depth and options. Lastly, he pushes everyone else down one peg in the batting order. An extra at-bat or two for Lawrie as opposed to Arencibia, Rasmus or Izturis could mean the difference between a win and a loss.