Category Archives: Predictions

Predicting the W-L record of the 2012 Blue Jays using WAR

By Eric Han

Sky Kalkman of Beyond the Boxscore updated his WAR spreadsheet today. What’s a WAR spreadsheet? Well, it’s a magical tool that lets you punch in a bunch of numbers, and shoots out some other numbers in return! It’s kind of cool.

To be specific, the tool uses an inputted value of a team’s total plate appearances, weighted on base average, baserunning value, fielding value, total innings pitched, and earned run average, and estimates the total WAR value, and thus the estimated win count, of that team.  You can download it here.

I assumed in this exercise that the Jays’ roster for 2012 is roughly the same as they had at the end of the 2011 season.

Hit the jump for my predictions for the position players:

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A look at the Rays’ bullpen

As promised, I will go over the Rays bullpen situation for 2011.  The reason I’m doing this, by the way, is because these are issues I won’t have time for come preview time.  I want to keep each preview in the 750-1000 word range so in-depth discussions of bullpens would be out of the question.

The Rays lost pretty much their entire 2010 bullpen, which ranked among the best in baseball.  Closer Rafael Soriano left to sign a $35-million deal with the Yankees to be Mariano Rivera’s setup man.  Surprise bargain find Joaquin Benoit cashed in with the Tigers for $16.5-million and went from best to worst bargain in the space of a year.  Dan Wheeler, meanwhile, signed with the Red Sox, Grant Balfour with the A’s, Chad Qualls with the Padres and both Lance Cormier and Randy Choate remain on the free agent market.

The only holdovers are J.P. Howell, who missed all of last season with shoulder surgery, and Andy Sonnanstine, who’s had trouble sticking with the major-league club since they got good.

But don’t fret Rays’ fans, you have the smartest GM in baseball and the bullpen might not be bad at all, in fact, it just might be better than it was last year; it’ll certainly be cheaper.

The free agent deals signed to former Rays’ relievers this offseason totalled over $65-million in guaranteed cash.  That is money the Rays can put toward signing the crazy amount of picks they’ll have in next June’s draft.

To replace those players, the Rays signed two free agent relievers: Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth.

Both, in my humble opinion, are fantastic signings.  Peralta was stupidly good in Washington last season posting a 2.02 ERA, a 3.02 FIP and a 5.44 K/BB ratio.  He also allowed only five home runs in 49 innings of work.

If he was a few years younger (he’ll be 35 on opening day) or had played in closer to 60 games rather than 39, he’d be cashing in similar to the way Benoit did.  As it is, the Rays got him for the bargain basement price of $900,000.  He’s better than Benoit and $15.6-million cheaper.

Then there’s Farnsworth: Yes, he’s easy to pick on.  He was once a sure-fire elite closing prospect and his career has seemingly been nothing but shattered expectations, but the Rays have grabbed him at the right time.

Even though he’ll be 35 just after Opening Day, Farnsworth has been getting progressively better over the past two seasons with Kansas City and Atlanta.  After posting a disastrous 5.49 FIP in 2008 with the Yankees and Tigers, Farnsworth has followed up with two spectacular seasons.  In 2009 he raised his K/BB ratio to 3.00, the third highest total of his career to that point and then bettered it in 2010 with a 3.21 mark.  Farnsworth has also posted fantastic FIPs in that span at 3.10 and 3.06.

The success he’s had over the last two years can be traced to better pitch selection.  He’s used his slider much less often (from 34.7% of the time in 2008 to 20.6% in 2009 and 12.4% in 2010) and has incorporated the use of a cutter in its place.  He’s also started using his changeup occasionally to keep hitters off balance and to be more successful against lefties.

Farnsworth will be paid $3.25-million in guaranteed money which is less than both Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch and also less than Chad Qualls.  A lot of experts didn’t like the deal, but this non-expert loved it.

Then there’s the rest.  Manager Joe Maddon has said he will use a “closer-by-committee” until someone steps up.  I never see this as a bad thing as I think situational closing is actually the best way to handle the position.

Peralta and Farnsworth will be joined by Howell who is a very effective lefty when healthy.  Andy Sonnanstine should also hold down a spot, possibly as a swingman.

Then there are a couple players that I think are primed to become elite relievers.  The first is Jake McGee.

McGee is a 24-year-old left-hander who has an electric fastball and a decent slider.  His inability to develop secondary pitches has all but ended his run as a starter, but his absolute dominance at times leads me to think that he’ll be an elite-level reliever in the majors very soon.

After a call-up to AAA around the middle of last season, McGee transitioned from a starter to a reliever and that’s when he started to show real promise.  In 11 games, McGee posted a 0.52 ERA with 27 Ks in 17.1 innings of work.  He also walked only three batters and allowed just nine hits.

He earned a September call-up to the big club where he allowed just one earned run over five innings of work, striking out six.  Even as a starter at lower levels, McGee posted surreal strike out numbers and showed decent command.  I fully expect him to step in and dominate at the major league level and perhaps even close out games regularly.

Mike Ekstrom posted a 2.79 ERA and 3.72 FIP at AAA in 39 games last season and also looked solid at the major-league level in 15 games, while Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos (both acquired from the Padres in the Jason Bartlett trade) could also be very good at the major-league level.

The team then has Rob Delaney, who was claimed off waivers from the Twins, and non-roster invites R.J. Swindle, Jonah Bayliss, Cory Wade and everybody’s favourite former Jay and part-time author Dirk Hayhurst.

The sheer depth of major-league-capable arms tells me that the Rays will have little trouble adapting to their free agent losses.  Guys like Peralta, Ekstrom and McGee should be more than capable of replacing what left.

Who’ll play first base for the Rays in 2011?

As I did with the Red Sox yesterday, I charted out the Rays current roster today in preparation for my upcoming previews (which tentatively will start February 7th).

This, of course, coincided with the press conference introducing both Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez as official members of the Rays, but I’m not here to talk about that; well, not mostly anyway.  We know that the Rays plan to use Manny as the DH and Damon in mostly a corner-outfield role, which will certainly yield hilarious results.  I do, for the record, love both signings as I think the two of them still have a lot left offensively and came so cheaply that I’m considering asking Rays GM Andrew Friedman to marry me on a count of his ability to run a baseball team.

But like I said, I’m not here to talk about that.

No, I want to talk about one area of concern for the Rays: First base.

The storyline this offseason for the Rays has been the departure of many key free agents.  Franchise staple Carl Crawford signed with division-rival Boston.  The franchise’s all-time home run leader Carlos Pena signed with the Cubs, and the bullpen was also gutted with the loss of closer Rafael Soriano and other relievers Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler, Grant Balfour, Chad Qualls, Randy Choate, and Lance Cormier.

But as we will soon know in more detail thanks to Jonah Keri’s upcoming release The Extra 2%, the Rays are a franchise that is built to absorb these types of losses.  You see my friends, the Rays are built like an onion; when one layer is peeled away, there is a fresh new layer of young talent ready to step up and take their place.

Trading from strengths for prospects and building through the draft are the cornerstones of this system.  Friedman and his staff were at it once again this offseason, trading from their two positions of strength, shortstop and starting pitching, to maintain a system that is expected to graduate the team’s top two prospects in Desmond Jennings and Jeremy Hellickson.

First, the Rays shipped shortstop Jason Bartlett to the Padres for a host of relief arms to help rebuild their bullpen and then they dealt starting pitcher Matt Garza to the Cubs for a thief’s bounty of prospects, which allows the team the space to bring Jeremy Hellickson into the fold full time.

And all those free agents leaving means a boat-load of compensatory draft picks for the Rays.  They’ll actually have twelve of the first 93 picks in the 2011 draft, and eleven before the Tigers even make their first selection.

But let’s get back to the first base situation.

Carlos Pena had his worst season as a Ray last year, but was still able to sign for some healthy coin in Chicago leaving a gaping hole at first base in Tampa.

At first glance, it appears as though Dan Johnson is the most likely to take over there this season, which is frightening if you’re a Rays’ fan since he’s 31 and has all of 1429 plate appearances.

The good thing is that Johnson was a monster at AAA-Durham last year posting a surreal 1.054 OPS with 30 homeruns and 95 RBI in only 98 games.  The bad thing is that he has always been a good hitter at AAA, but it has yet to translate to the majors.  At his age, there’s a good chance it never does.

So what if Johnson fails miserably?  Well, the Rays just inked Casey Kotchman to a minor-league contract.

Kotchman had a disastrous season in 2010 with Seattle finishing with an atrocious slash line of .217/.280/.336.  On top of that, he wasn’t strong defensively, which was unusual considering just how good he had been as a first baseman in his career.

Kotchman has been around a while, but is still only 28 and in his prime.  With regular time, he should see a rebound to his career numbers of .259/.326/.392.  Not terrific, especially for a first baseman, but he may be a better option than Johnson for this year; he’s certainly a huge upgrade defensively.

Then there’s the intriguing option no one seems to be talking about: Chris Carter, formerly of the Mets and Red Sox.

Carter was once a highly touted outfielder in both Boston’s and New York’s system, but has fallen off the map in recent years.  He’ll come to camp, like Kotchman, on a low-risk minor-league deal.  He’s played more than enough first base in the minors to be considered an option there and last season posted a .263/.317/.389 line mostly in cavernous Citi Field while finding his way into 100 games with the Mets.

If Carter proves he can hit enough this spring, then he could break camp as an everyday player.  Kotchman and Johnson do have the inside track though.

Another good thing about the Rays lineup this season is its versatility.  Ben Zobrist can play anywhere but catcher effectively, Sean Rodriguez can play the middle infield and corner outfield spots, while Matt Joyce can play both corner outfield spots with ease which will give the Rays a lot of flexibility.

Not to mention that Dan Johnson can sort of play third base and Chris Carter, if he makes the team, can play the outfield.

The main area of concern, however, for the Rays has to be their bullpen.  I’ll go over why I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people think later tonight or tomorrow.

Some thoughts on the Red Sox roster: Bullpen and shortstop

Somewhere around the time when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a couple weeks, I’ll be starting my annual team previews.  I will admit that this year, I come armed with more knowledge of advanced statistics than ever before.

I’ve literally been studying the stuff for the past year.  It’s not that I wasn’t aware of them before, but now I understand them as well.  As far as I’m concerned if you’re in the camp that refuses to look at modern statistics, then you’re going to be left behind, quickly.

This may sound incredibly geeky, but in order to properly perform these previews/predictions, I have to compile some data into chart form, like I did here for the Boston Red Sox earlier today.  In compiling this chart a few things struck me that I’ll elaborate on here since there is literally nothing else to talk about; unless Justin Duchscherer signing in Baltimore is considered overly noteworthy.

First off, after literally becoming one of the best closers in baseball over night a few years ago, Jonathan Papelbon has been seemingly left for dead by many analysts close to the Red Sox.

Rumours continue to surface that the Red Sox are may be shopping him and many speculate that he’ll be traded at some point this year; especially if Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks prove capable of handling the closer’s job.

I would like to make three observations about the Red Sox bullpen: 1) Remove ERA and Bard was not much better than Papelbon last season which suggests that Papelbon wasn’t as bad as people said he was and that Bard wasn’t as good.  2) Bobby Jenks may have had the best season of any current Red Sox reliever in 2010; bear with me, I’m not crazy. 3) Outside of those three guys and maybe Dan Wheeler (who I think is a tad overrated) there is a shocking lack of depth in the Red Sox ‘pen and their left-handed situation is downright scary

Another observation I have about the Red Sox involves their shortstop situation.  Conventional wisdom would tell you that Marco Scutaro will be the close-to-everyday shortstop, given that he’s being paid the money to play there, but taking a quick look at the numbers it’s quite obvious that Jed Lowrie should be given every opportunity to start there in 2011.

Okay, so I’ve uttered four things here that I should now go about backing up.

1)      Bard and Papelbon were more comparable in 2010 than people think

Looking strictly at ERA, one could easily draw the conclusion that Bard was far superior to Papelbon in 2010, which likely feeds the notion that Papelbon should be traded in favour of Bard becoming the new closer.  Papelbon posted his worst ERA since taking over the role at 3.90, while Bard posted a surreal 1.93.

I have no doubt that Bard would be a fine closer and in fact, he is a great pitcher, but before every Red Sox fan jumps unknowingly off the Jonny Paps bandwagon, take a look at the peripherals for each pitcher last season.  Let’s play a little Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B.

Pitcher A: 67.0 IP, 10.21 K/9, 3.76 BB/9, 2.72 K/BB, 0.94 HR/9, 3.51 FIP
Pitcher B:  74.2 IP, 9.16 K/9, 3.62 BB/9, 2.53 K/BB, 0.72 HR/9, 3.37 FIP

Pitcher A is Papelbon and Pitcher B is Bard.  Bard’s numbers are very marginally better, but certainly not by much, if at all.  It’s clear that Papelbon’s 3.90 ERA and Bard’s 1.93 ERA were on either end of the misleading scale.

Papelbon’s numbers did decline slightly in 2010, but after the ridiculous stretch he had between 2006 and 2009, you had to expect that eventually he’d come back down to earth a little.  All signs point to Papelbon’s ERA rebounding in 2011.

2)      Bobby Jenks may have had the best 2010 of any current Boston reliever

Now, stick with me here.  I know how bad Jenks’ 4.44 ERA in 2010 looks, but seriously, look outside of that.

Jenks had a higher K/9 rate than both Bard and Papelbon at 10.42, a better BB/9 rate at 3.08, a better HR/9 rate at 0.51 and a much better FIP at 2.59.  He also posted a GB% at 58.3 which when combined with his stupidly good K/9 rate illustrates that he rarely, if ever, gives up a fly ball; that will play well in Fenway

I criticized the Red Sox signing of Jenks to a two-year deal earlier this winter, but looking at those numbers it becomes harder to do so.

3)      The Red Sox bullpen is scarily thin

Yes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better back end than the one in Boston, but outside of those three pitchers, there isn’t much.  Scott Atchison, Tim Wakefield, Dan Wheeler, Hideki Okajima, Matt Albers and Michael Bowden all had FIPs above 4.10 and none were particularly good.

Wheeler’s tendency to give up the long ball will be further exposed with the move to Fenway and any bullpen that plans on using Atchison as much as they will scares me.  This is not to mention that Tim Wakefield looks to be on his way out of baseball after a fine career.

Then there’s the lefty situation.  As of now, the only lefty that seems to have a real shot at cracking the roster is Okajima.  At 35 and coming off a 4.64 FIP year that saw his numbers fall dramatically across the board, that shouldn’t scare any lefty-heavy lineup *cough* Yankees! *cough.*

Essentially having three closers does help that situation as all three are solid against left-handed hitters, but having one shut-down lefty is essential and right now they don’t have it.

The best options outside of Okajima are prospect Felix Doubront, who will likely return to AAA and continue to start, and non-roster invites Andrew Miller, Rich Hill and Randy Williams.  Scary.

4)      Jed Lowrie should start at shortstop over Marco Scutaro

This one’s probably the most obvious of my claims; Scutaro came back down to earth in 2010 after his career 2009 season.  No one should be surprised by this as Scutaro’s lofty numbers in 2009 were much higher than he’d ever approached before.

His slash line fell from .282/.379/.409 in 2009 with a .354 wOBA to a .275/.333/.388 line in 2010 with a .319 wOBA; more in line with his career averages.

With Jed Lowrie continually showing that he is becoming a solid offensive player, it’s time to give him a shot at playing every day.  Last season, Lowrie had a slash line of .287/.336/.429 with a ridiculous wOBA of .393.

He may not be great defensively, but neither is Scutaro who posted a -4.8 fielding rating at short last season.

It’s time to put Scutaro back into a role he can excel at: utility infielder.  Putting him there increases his value a lot, especially if another injury-plagued season rears its ugly head in Boston.

Another concerning element to the 2011 season in Boston has to be their catching situation.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek might be the worst catching duo in the league.

I still think the Red Sox are the favourite in the AL East, but it’s not as convincing as I thought it was.

The Vernon Wells Trade, Part II: What the Jays are getting back

Coming back in this trade are two major-league players in C/1B/DH Mike Napoli and OF Juan Rivera.

I think it should be assumed that if the Angels had offered Toronto a pack of Big League Chew they would have accepted the trade, but the fact is, Napoli and Rivera are far from useless commodities.

Napoli, although not a great defensive catcher is probably better than people think he is; he’s certainly better than the Angels think he is.

He’s also one of the better offensive catchers in the game having posted a career OPS 26 points higher than that of Wells at .831.  He also tops Wells in OBP (.346-.328) and in slugging percentage (.485-.475).  Napoli also has a career walk-rate of 11% which is a very solid above-average number.  The Jays need patience at the plate; we know this.

From pretty much any angle, Napoli in himself is comparable to Wells in return value, especially when you consider Napoli’s salary will be no more than just over $6-million for 2011.

Defensively, Napoli has some serious versatility and fits two or three real needs in the Jays’ lineup.  He was actually rated as an above-average fielder last season with the Angels, according to FanGraphs and will allow Toronto to ease J.P. Arencibia into his role as starting catcher this season.  If Arencibia struggles and has to be sent down, Napoli and Jose Molina are more than capable of carrying the catching load.

Outside of that, Napoli actually played more games and innings at first base last season in Anaheim than at catcher, where he more than held his own defensively.  Given his propensity to tear apart left-handed pitching (.289/.393/.538 against lefties vs. .238/.329/.467 against righties in his career) a platoon situation at first base with Adam Lind does seem to make some sense.

His offensive ability also makes him a nice DH option when there’s no other way to get him in the lineup.

This also allows Edwin Encarnacion to move into a corner-infielder bench role who can also DH occasionally, which in my opinion increases his value over his status as a below-average regular.

There’s very little not to like about Napoli in a favourable situation such as Toronto.

As for Juan Rivera, he was more of a throw in to the deal, likely to make room on Los Angeles’ depth chart as well as to clear his $5.25-million salary for 2011, but he still fills a noted hole in Toronto, especially with Wells departing.

Rivera will likely occupy one of the corner positions (my guess is left field) with Travis Snider playing in the other.  Rivera is not a particularly good fielder but does possess some pop at the plate with a career .461 slugging-percentage and even if his on-base numbers aren’t great, he still has an identical .328 career OBP as Wells.

The more I look at this deal, the more I love it.

The Vernon Wells Trade, Part I: Vernon to Anaheim.

Now that there has been nearly 24 hours to let the Vernon Wells trade absorb into our brain cells, perhaps it’s time for a little analysis of what this trade means for both sides.  First I’ll detail Wells and the Angels and then in the next part, I’ll talk about what the Jays received in return.

I do want to say, as many Jays’ fans are saying, that I like Vernon Wells.  He didn’t live up to his contract, but I don’t blame him for signing it, I blame ownership or J.P. Riccardi or whoever was responsible for signing him to that contract in the first place.

Wells was a team leader and an incredible influence in the Toronto community and the Canadian community at large.  I’ve always loved his deadpan sense of humour and his ability to make any interview entertaining (as evidenced by his numerous encounters with Cabbie on The Score).  Even his play on the field was much of the time at a level rarely seen within this franchise.

As a move to better the franchise, however, I cannot be happier.  It’s nothing personal, but as a fan I’m thrilled at the potential for this deal to open up a kind of Jays’ team that can contend on a yearly basis with the giants of the AL East.

About a week ago when talking about the four most important and polarizing position-players on the Jays, I talked about what I expect to see from Wells going forward.  I think it still holds true now, although it will be interesting to see if playing in Anaheim helps or hurts his numbers.

Here’s what I said at the time:

“Wells had a nice bounce-back year in 2010 after an ’09 that had fans of the team and pundits alike calling for his head on a platter.  He finished with a solid if not spectacular slash line of .273/.331/.515 and hit over 30 home runs for the first time since 2006, a year before signing the massive extension.  He recorded the second-highest WAR rating of his career at 4.0 and although he was still below average defensively, he managed to improve greatly over his previous two seasons, perhaps showing he was healthier than in previous years.

“However, there are some troubling things about Wells’ 2010 that are worth mentioning.

“Vernon got off to a torrid start.  Between Opening Night and May 9th, Wells compiled a .339/.406/.661 line to make for a 1.067 OPS.  He’d hit 9 homeruns and had driven in 25 in only 33 games.  He compiled a walk rate of 9.8% during that time.

“From May 10th through to the end of the year, however, Wells had a much more pedestrian .255/.310/.475 line for a .785 OPS.  He hit 22 more homeruns while driving in 63 and saw his walk-rate drop 27.5% to 7.1%.

“If I was a betting man, I’d say the second set of numbers is more likely what you’ll see from Wells in 2011 and beyond.”

I don’t appear to be alone in thinking Wells will regress in 2011 and beyond.  Bill James predicts a drop to a .269/.328/.467 line, which in terms of slugging percentage is quite a severe drop off; and James also formed that prediction before the trade and I would imagine his park adjusted numbers will suffer in Anaheim.

According to ESPN’s MLB Park Factors, Angel Stadium ranked ahead of only Safeco Field in Seattle and Tropicana Field in Tampa in 2010 in the runs category at 0.864 of the league average, Rogers Centre ranked 8th at 1.058.

In home runs, Angel Stadium ranked 23rd at 0.825, while Rogers Centre was 4th at 1.358; and in hits Angel Stadium ranks 24th, while Rogers centre ranks 11th.

Those factors will not help Wells, although you could make the argument that a potential switch to a corner outfield position and the switch from turf to natural grass could help him stay healthier.

Overall, I really do see Wells’ numbers regressing to a .255/.310/.475-ish line.  I will admit, that on-base percentage is significantly less than his career .329-mark, but that is also helped by a .280 career average, and I don’t see Wells achieving that number in Anaheim.

A look at four polarizing Jays: Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, Adam Lind, Aaron Hill and the 2010 season

The Jays won a respectable 85 games in 2010 despite every prediction heaped upon them giving them little chance of finishing out of the AL East basement let alone with a winning record.

The predictions were warranted, after all, Toronto did trade its franchise’s most dominant pitcher in December 2009 to the Phillies for a package of prospects thought to be at least a year or two away from impacting the major-league team on the field.

I myself, in all my acknowledged fan bias, picked the Jays to finish last in the AL East with a 68-94 record.

For the record, I’m very glad I was wrong.

But is it realistic for fans of Canada’s team to think big in 2011?  Should we be happy with another .500ish season or do we want blood unless the team improves upon its 2010 win total, in other words contend for a wildcard?

Examining the elements that gave the Jays their best season since Eric Hinske won the Rookie of the Year and the likelihood of their repetition could allow us to see if the 2010 Jays were a fluke or a team ready to contend at any moment.

Let’s start with the good; Jose Bautista became the most unlikely 50 homer hitter of all time, Vernon Wells had a bounce-back season, John Buck was an All-Star, and the Jays’ young pitching staff outperformed all expectations.  Which of these is most likely to continue, which is most likely to fall back?

The bad?  After breakout 2009 campaigns, both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill took massive steps backward in 2010.  Was it an aberration or a sign of things to come?

For the sake of space, I’ll focus on the four most polarized position players in 2010: Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill.

Jose Bautista
A journeyman utility-player, Bautista was once known for being the only player in major-league history to have the dubious distinction of being on 5 different major-league rosters in one season, now the thing he’s most known for is being one of 26 players to hit 50 homers in a season; and the first Jay to do it.

People have already started comparing him to Brady Anderson and Luis Gonzalez, players who had one unbelievable season and then faded back into relative obscurity.  But is Bautista one of those players or will he put up all-star power numbers perennially?

Given that last year was only the second time Bautista accumulated enough at-bats to actually make a huge difference on the team, I think he’ll continue to put up decent numbers as long as he’s given the shot at playing every day, but there’s no way in hell he ever comes close to the numbers he put up last year.

Previous to 2010, Bautista had a career slash line of .238/.329/.400 compared to his 2010 numbers of .260/.378/.617.  There will most certainly be a regression, but I sort of see Bautista as an extreme comparison to Jayson Werth.

Werth, like Bautista, waited until his late 20s to compile a career year that far outperformed any previous season.  His wasn’t as drastic a breakout as Bautista’s, but I believe the comparison still holds true.  Werth has managed to compile a few good seasons and I expect the same for Bautista.  But late-bloomers tend to fizzle out early; I feel Werth and Bautista will both have very short peaks.

I honestly expect Bautista to slump back down to a stat line in the area of .250/.345/.500.  Not super-human like 2010, but still a solid .850 OPS guy.  I do expect a full regression by 2012 or 2013 so I’m desperately hoping the Jays don’t do something stupid like sign Joey Bats to a 7yr/$126-million extension or something.  Let the Yankees or some other team make that horrible deal.

It might even be smart of Toronto to trade Bautista if they’re not contending by July and he’s having another solid season.  The haul you’d get in return would be worth it.
Vernon Wells
Despite Parkes and Stoeten getting into a wicked sweet baseball blog battle for the ages over Wells’ recent comments to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, I could ultimately care less what he says off the field.

Parkes chastised Wells for being too complacent about his struggles and the fact that he hasn’t lived up to his massive contract, Stoeten, with much hilarity, decided Parkes was misreading what he said; I tend to agree with Stoeten on this one.

I’ve always kind of liked Wells’ bluntness and sometimes flippant attitude toward Toronto media and fans who give him a hard time.  I don’t see him as the type who cares about what people think of him, and I like that; even if his on-field performance can be downright maddening.

I don’t take his comments as complacency; I just think he’s stating the obvious.  I don’t see him as a lazy player and clearly his teammates don’t think so or they wouldn’t have made him their captain.

Saying something so obvious such as “I haven’t lived up to my contract” doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t want to start living up to it as Parkes suggests, but I’m also not going to tell him to choose a new career because of his opinion. I digress.

Wells had a nice bounce-back year in 2010 after an ’09 that had fans of the team and pundits alike calling for his head on a platter.  He finished with a solid if not spectacular slash line of .273/.331/.515 and hit 30 homers for the first time since 2006, a year before signing the massive extension.  He recorded the second-highest WAR rating of his career at 4.0 and although he was still below average defensively, he managed to improve greatly over his previous two seasons, perhaps showing he was healthier than in previous years.

However, there are some troubling things about Wells’ 2010 that are worth mentioning.

Vernon got off to a torrid start.  Between Opening Night and May 9th, Wells compiled a .339/.406/.661 line to make for a 1.067 OPS.  He’d hit 9 homeruns and had driven in 25 in only 33 games.  He compiled a walk rate of 9.8% during that time.

From May 10th through to the end of the year, Wells had a much more pedestrian .255/.310/.475 line for a .785 OPS.  He hit 22 more homeruns while driving in 63 and saw his walk-rate drop nearly 3% to 7.1%.

If I was a betting man, I’d say the second set of numbers is more likely what you’ll see from Wells in 2011 and beyond.

But hey, it’s not all negative; Aaron Hill and Adam Lind each had breakout years in 2009, only to see horrid follow-up campaigns in 2010.  It’s conceivable to think that they could bounce back.

Aaron Hill
Hill’s lone positive for 2010, his 26 homeruns, is quickly negated by the fact that his OPS fell from .829 in 2009 to .665 in 2010.  His line drive percentage also took a nose-dive from 19.6% to 10.6%, being made up by a very high flyball rate of 54.2%.

The saving grace for Hill resides in the fact that his career line drive and flyball rates were closer to his 2009 numbers than his 2010 numbers, so there’s little reason to expect a continued rapid regression in that regard.  Also, his walk rate went up significantly in 2010 and his strike out rate was about at par with his career rate.

I don’t see why Hill can’t return to numbers consistent with the ones he posted in 2009, although don’t be expecting 36 home runs, there was a lot of luck involved in that total.

Adam Lind
Lind also saw a drastic drop across his slash line in 2010 after a break out ’09.  He went from .305/.370/.562 to .237/.287/.425.  His walk rate plummeted from 8.9% to 6.2% and his K rate went up nearly 7%.

Unfortunately, Lind’s 2010 strike out rate was more consistent with his career average, but his walk rate should rebound slightly.  His career rate, minors and majors combined heading into 2010 was just under 8%.

Lind had a BABIP well below league average while his line drive rate and flyball rate weren’t substantially worse from ’09 to ’10, which suggests that he suffered through a significant amount of bad luck in 2010.  In fact, his infield flyball rate was 3.9% better in 2010 than his 2009 rate, suggesting that he actually made solid contact as often as ever.

I expect all four of these players to settle back to happy mediums somewhere between their breakout/bounce-back years and their awful years directly before and after them.  That’s the great thing about this game, things even out.

To be honest, as the team stands now, I can’t see how they’ll improve over their 2010 season, but I also don’t see them taking a giant step back either; .500ish sounds about right to me.