I heard a clip on the radio last night that infuriated me, but also got me thinking. The clip was from Buck Martinez (no surprise there) saying something along the lines of “This year’s team is the best team the city of Toronto has seen in years”. I could not agree less. Don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a solid amount of talent and potential on this team, but it is by no means the best team Toronto has seen in years. In fact, it is strikingly similar to the team the Jays fielded last year, when they finished 75-87.
The similarities between the 2009 Blue Jays and the 2010 Blue Jays about a third of the way through the season are absurd. As a team, overachieving. The hitters with big expectations, underachieving. Journeymen just fighting to get another contract, REALLY overachieving. Don’t forget about the young lefty who’s poised for a break out season.
In 2009, the team started 27-14. Then they started playing good teams and lost 10 games in a row. In 2010, just about 2 weeks ago, the Jays were 31-22. Then they started playing good teams and have lost 7 of their last 10.
In 2009, Alex Rios and Vernon Wells were our big 3-4 hitters. At this time last year, Rios was hitting .261 with 7 HR. Wells was hitting .238 with 5 HR. Flash forward to 2010. The hitters with the biggest expectations coming into the year were the 2-3 hitters, Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. Their numbers? .184/.286/.353 (!!!) with 9 HR and .209/.277/.359 (!?!?!) with 8 HR respectively. Almost makes the 2009 Rios and Wells look like saints.
What else is reminding you of 2009? Well, the overachieving shortstop is one. In 2009 Marco Scutaro had a career year hitting leadoff for the Jays and now Alex Gonzalez is slugging .509 with 13 dingers. If his season ended now you could make the argument he had the best year of his career. You can throw Jose Bautista into this category as well. Like Scutaro, Bautista was a no-name utility player coming into the year but has made a name for himself launching bombs left, right and centre. He leads the MLB in home runs. Jose Bautista leads the MLB in home runs just over a third of the way through the season. No matter what way I write it, I still don’t understand it.
Then there’s the young lefty dropping now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t changeups. In 2009, it was Ricky Romero trying to prove he is no bust. In 2010, it’s Brett Cecil. I may be biased I’m biased, but I think Brett Cecil may be one of the most underrated pitchers in the MLB this year. He’s 23 years old and he has a 3.22 ERA, only allowed 48 hits in 64.1 IP, has a 0.99 WHIP (!) and has toyed with a perfect game. Obviously he’s no Ubaldo Jimenez, but give the guy some credit.
The point is, as shocking and exciting and impressive the Blue Jays have been this season, you only have to go back to last year to realize that overachieving doesn’t last. Alex Gonzalez will not hit 30-odd homers like he’s on pace for. Jose Bautista will not hit 50-odd homers like he’s on pace for. Brett Cecil will likely not keep up his All-Star worthy pace. As a result, the Jays will likely not keep up their .540 winning %. Last year, after the 27-14 start, they went 48-73 (.396 winning %). Expect something similar this year folks, these aren’t the ’69 Mets.
But since I’m a true Jays fan I’ll leave this comparison on a happy note. When Rios and Wells scuffled last year Adam Lind and Aaron Hill stepped up and managed kept the boat afloat. Who will be the one to break out this year while Hill and Lind find their swings? Will it be Fred Lewis? Travis Snider if he ever comes back? Brett Wallace? Only time will tell, but I will tell you – it’s going to be someone.