March 31, 2016

Don’t expect Blue Jays fever again

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

Starting in August last year and stretching into mid-October, for the first time in decades, Blue Jays fever swept over Toronto – and most of Canada as well.

I hate to say it, but I wouldn’t expect the same thing this year.

Many people are quick to forget that before becoming World Series favourites during their amazing run, the Jays were sitting at just 50-51. Yes, this was a sub-.500 team almost two-thirds of the season in.

Is this team going to play closer to the one that started out the season at a mediocre pace, or the one that was firing on all cylinders down the stretch?

The biggest issue facing the Jays this year is pitching, especially the rotation.

Marcus Stroman was terrific after returning from injury last year and Aaron Sanchez has been lighting it up in spring training, but can both handle the rigors of a full season in the rotation? With so much responsibility being heaped on these two young arms, a slump from either could have serious consequences.

R.A. Dickey is back for a final season, but he’s a middle of the rotation guy at best and his knuckleball has been inconsistent to say the least. Marco Estrada earned his new contract, but can he repeat his career year? Opposing teams tend to figure out one-year wonders pretty quickly these days. J.A. Happ is back for another go in Toronto, but what if this stint is a disaster like the last one and he hasn’t worked things out, like he showed in Pittsburgh late last year?

The bullpen may have gained Drew Storen, but it also lost Sanchez to the rotation. It also can’t be discounted how much the former National stunk after losing his closing job last season. Roberto Osuna is a good young closer, but what if he gets stuck in a sophomore slump and Storen can’t bail him out?

All of these concerns are very real and we haven’t even gotten to the potential for regression from the lineup.

Everyone is a year older, obviously, but when Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are entering their mid-30s. Wear and tear on older bodies can lead to DL stints and large holes in the Jays’ lineup.

Troy Tulowitzki is entering his first full season with the Jays, but he wasn’t anything special last year – when healthy – and is never going to be considered an iron man.

Josh Donaldson put up MVP numbers last season, but could also is a candidate for regression, even if it’s just closer to his numbers in Oakland.

With a new president and GM running the show as well, it’s completely possible that they’ll want to put their own touches on this team as well, potentially changing its identity.

I hate to say it, Jays fans, but it almost seems more likely that they blow it all up around the trade deadline than go all-in like they did last year. And the sport of baseball in Canada will be far worse off because of it.


AL East: Baltimore Orioles

AL Central: Kansas City Royals

AL West: Houston Astros

AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians

NL East: Washington Nationals

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

NL West: San Francisco Giants

NL Wild Cards: Chicago Cubs, New York Mets

ALCS: Houston over Kansas City

NLCS: San Francisco over Washington

World Series: San Francisco over Houston

Worst teams: Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics.

AL MVP: Carlos Correa, HOU

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, WAS

AL Cy Young: Dallas Kuechel, HOU

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LAD

Trending up: Minnesota, Chicago White Sox, Seattle, Arizona, Miami.

Trending down: Toronto, Detroit, Texas, Colorado, L.A. Dodgers.

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