Monday, March 3, 2008

A Preview A Day Keeps the Winter Away, #4

For the month of March I will be doing a season preview, with a new team each day, going in alphabetical order by team so I can save the Yankees for last, because I am, in fact, that devious.

As this is a Yankees' blog, the previews for AL East teams will be more detailed than those of AL Central and AL West teams, and any AL team previews will be more detailed than NL team previews, save maybe for the Mets. Each preview will involve consideration of how much 'threat' a team is to the Yankees, for fairly obvious reasons.

Up Today: The Toronto Blue Jays

The first division rival preview here, so it'll be a bit more in-depth than the other ones.

The Jays, quite simply, have the misfortune of playing in the the AL East. Short of winning a World Series or losing 100 games (and that's not even a hyperbole) they will be overshadowed by the Sox and Yankees when they're good, and the Orioles and Rays when they're bad.

It would, however, be a bad idea to overlook the team. Consider this: Toronto won 83 games last year, in the AL East, while losing significant time due to injury from Halladay, Burnett, Chacin, Ryan, Overbay, Glaus (now departed for more Cardinal-y pastures), Zaun, Johnson and (breath) Wells.

And you thought the Yankees had injury problems in '07!

Imagine if all of them were healthy.

Anyway, so let's start off looking at Toronto's likely starting rotation:

Roy Halladay: This guy's an ace. There's no other way about it, and, to add to it, he pitches pretty dang well against the Yanks. He's 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA in his career against the Bombers. So, basically, he makes Josh Becket look like fodder.

AJ Burnett: When he's healthy, he can be up there with the game's best. When he's healthy. He did manage 165 inning last year, which I'll admit I was surprised to see given his reputation for being an injury-risk.

Dustin McGowan: Held right-handed batters to a .198 average last year. That shouldn't be too much of an issue for the Yankees, who could likely put together a line-up with just one right-handed bat if they really wanted to (they don't.)

Shaun Marcum: Not up to the Halladay/Burnett/McGowan standards, but then, there's a reason he's not the number one starter. Had a 7.47 ERA in his last seven starts, but also had a torn meniscus, so yeah, that's not totally surprising.

Jesse Litsch: I'll put it this way--in a September game last year we were all excited we didn't have to face Halladay or Burnett (I forget which one, but I think it was Halladay), and we got to face Litsch instead. We, uh, kinda sorta lost that game, and it wasn't a pretty one, either.

Rotation summary, as it effects the Yankees: You know, I'd be more scared of facing this rotation than Boston's. Granted, I'm not really afraid of any rotation, but I really would rank a healthy Toronto rotation ahead of Boston. The, uh, problem is, though, the healthy bit.

Out of the bullpen, Accardo and Janssen are solid. Ryan is slated to return from TJ surgery, so we'll see what that does.

As for the regular line-up, highlights:

Alex Rios: Let's put it like this--there's the Jays line up, and then there's Alex Rios. He's got a .338 average against the Yankees, not to mention a poster child for a good right field arm. He is THE highlight in a line-up that, outside of Frank Thomas, does not inspire much fear.

Frank Thomas: Now that I've mentioned him, might as well...he's only a threat at the plate, as he can't play in the field, but he's still a threat. He was one of Joba's very first outs, though, so take that as you will.

Aaron Hill: Not quite Robbie Canò with with the bat, but he did tie a franchise record for home runs set by a second baseman.

Line-up summary: Toronto's strength is not their line up. If they took care of their line up the way they did their pitching, there'd be a likely chance that the race for the AL East would be a three-way. I wouldn't be surprised to see Toronto make a major push near the deadline for some serious line-up help, although, given what I've seen of Toronto's farm system up here in 'Cuse...well, I mean, when you have ten errors in a game...yeah. Doesn't bode too well.

Threat to the Yankees: Orange, Exercise Extreme Caution.

Why Orange, when they probably don't make the playoffs?

The Yankees still have to play them nineteen times this season, and if their rotation stays healthy, they are anything BUT a walk-over. I imagine the race for third in the division with Tampa is going to be very, very intense.

In another division, the NL Central and NL East come to mind, the Jays could easily be a contender, but that'll get you every time.


  1. Mike Eff- shelley etc from LoHud here.

    i've been meaning to visit here for quite some time, and when i just read that you did a piece on the jays rotation i thought it would be the perfect time for a visit.

    very well written and i completely agree with your assessment, we were very lucky that they had so many injuries last year because when we were struggling early on we were having trouble with them up until
    the" HA" day. actually that was the turning point of the season for the yanks really...all encapsulated in a-rod's HA.
    of course their injuries made room for mcgowan and he really has the makings of an ace if his arm stays healthy; they certainly don't take care with innings caps in toronto, so who knows...
    the bottom line is that they have one of the best 123 rotations in the majors.

  2. Heya, thanks for stopping by!

    And yes, that they most certainly do. Like I said, in any other division, they're a contender. Especially if they get something that remotely resembles an AL-level line up

  3. Toronto does have a good starting rotation led by Halladay. But they always seem to be bit by the injury bug (especially Burnett).
    Agree that their line-up isn't as good as the Yanks or Sox. Toronto has the misfortune of being in the American League East!