Guest Blog

Rich Garton, a friend of The 500 Level and fellow classmate, has passed along his preview for the 2009 Toronto Blue Jays, and I include it in this space — less than two hours before opening pitch of Game 2. One down, 161 to go. Does the club have a chance at breaking 90 wins this year? How about 80? 70? Well, here’s what Garton has to say …

Blue Jays’ 2009 preview

By Rich Garton

Let me start off by ‘fessing up – I’m a Blue Jays homer. Always have been; always will be. Trying to change me would be like trying to change Bill O’Reilly’s stance on social conservatism – isn’t going to happen.

What does change year to year is my optimism. Yes, they have had some good years recently. Playing .500 baseball is no easy feat, especially in the toughest division in the game – the AL East. Fighting the Yankees, Red Sox and the Rays over the 162-game marathon is a tough draw, and the Orioles are young and improving.

But the difference between last year’s squad and this year’s is a no-brainer – pitching. Roy Halladay is the only bright spot on a fairly dim rotation. Filling out the other four spots are Jesse Litsch, David Purcey, Rickey Romero and Scott Richmond. Sorry, I didn’t catch that… did you say Purcey, Romero and Richmond are starting this season on the big squad? The jays are in some serious trouble.

It’s a far cry from a 2008 staff that was marked as one of the best in the whole league. But after losing Burnett to the free-agent hoarding Yankees and the injuries to McGowan and Marcum, the rotation looks pretty dismal. Not to mention the fact that B.J. Ryan’s once low 90s fastball now clocks in at an extremely hittable 86 miles per hour.

The line-up hasn’t really changed all that much. Vernon Wells will hit clean-up, being the only real threat to hit 30 to 35 round-trippers this season. Scutaro will share duties with McDonald at short stop, but don’t ever expect to see McDonald to hit in the lead-off spot. Once again, the Jays’ batting order this season will need more changing than George Steinbrenner’s diaper.

Most of the positions, however, will stay the same. Overbay is as steady as they come at first; Hill, back from his concussion, will be at second; Rolen will man the hot corner, and Barajas will have the duty of catching.

But here are the bright spots. The boys in blue have four high-end outfielders, and somewhere to put each of them. Alexis Rios is the dream right-fielder, with speed and a gun for an arm. Vernon Wells is a shoe-in golden-glover. Lind, who had a hot finish to last season, will likely DH, and newcomer Travis Snider will man the left side of the outfield.

But Lind and Snider have more than just their lack of ability to grow facial hair in common. At 25, Lind is a fresh face and a swing that’s eerily reminiscent of the great Johnny Olerud. Snider is the equivalent of a major league toddler – he’s 21 – but he lugs a heavy bat. Watch out for him and Lind to make a huge impact.

So while it’s easy to write off this year’s team, the 2009 version of the Toronto Blue Jays could turn some heads with a couple of big performances from their stars. Halladay needs to carry the bulk of the load and win over 20 games. He also needs to log about 250 innings to save the very talented bullpen for the other four starters. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the Jays skip the fifth man in the rotation when there’s a day off in between Halladay’s start and the fifth man’s spot. This way, Halladay will get more games and the Jays will get more quality starts over the course of the season. The Doc has proven himself year after year to be an inning whore.

But the other two big stars, Rios and Wells, need their play to reflect their pay. My sleeper pick this year is Lyle Overbay, who has been inconsistent over the past two seasons. He has the potential to hit 30 home runs, drive in 100 and has outstanding gap strength. He’s 32 years old now, so this would be the season for him to really make an impact.

If all of these variables can somehow add up, the Jays could find themselves fighting with Boston, Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland for the Wild Card spot.

Stay tuned, and don’t write them off. Last year it was their pitching that kept them alive. This year it’s going to have to be hitting, or bust.

2 Responses to “Guest Blog”

  1. mathesond Says:

    Just curious – when did BJ Ryan throw 98 mph? I remember his first season in Toronto he was topping out around 91 or so

  2. RG Says:

    Correct you are. It seems much faster than 91. We will update the post.

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