Tag: Toronto

Toronto Blue Jays: 2010 Season Recap and Ticket Price Preview

The Toronto Blue Jays finished the 2010 season 85-77, earning them fourth place in the AL East, arguably the toughest division in the league. One of the major highlights of the Blue Jays’ season was their power at the plate. The Blue Jays led MLB with 257 home runs in 2010, surpassing their previous record of 244 by the 2000 Blue Jays team.

Jose Bautista led the team and the league with 54 home runs—12 home runs more than perennial All-Star Albert Pujols, who finished the season second in HRs. Bautista also ranked third in the league for RBIs with 124. This was a breakout year for Bautista who came into the season with only 69 home runs and 211 RBIs over 736 games. 

Hopefully Bautista will be able to continue with his impressive performance at the plate in 2011.

Toronto Blue Jays tickets for home games throughout the 2010 season averaged $70.72, making them a consistent presence in the top 10 leaderboard for average ticket prices.

Although it might be surprising to see this Canadian team commanding such high prices in a secondary ticket market, this is a trend that occurs across all major sports out of Toronto. The most expensive ticket for the 2010 season was for their last home game on September 29th against the New York Yankees, which averaged $87.63 per ticket. 

Blue Jay ticket prices will remain the same on the primary market for the 2011 season, so we expect that tickets on the secondary market will still be in high demand and should remain in, or around, the top 10 throughout the 2011 season.

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Toronto Blue Jays Infield Depth Chart: The New Look for 2011

At the end of the 2010 season the Blue Jays have seen many of their players depart through free agency, yet not that many players have been added from outside the organization to fill out the roster.

This suggests that many of the openings are being filled internally, through prospects or position changes.

Alex Anthopoulos has worked tirelessly in his time with the Blue Jays to fill the system with high-end prospects, but many of them aren’t ready yet.

You will see them starting to fill out the lineup over the next few years, players such as Travis D’Arnaud, Brett Lawrie and Zach Stewart.

In the meantime, players who have seen some time in the majors will likely become a permanent part of the roster, such as Kyle Drabek and J.P. Arencibia.


First Base

Adam Lind should get the majority of the starts here since Anthopoulos wants to see if he can take over the position for the future. Lind is still young enough to be a part of the core for the future, and he also has the capacity for power that is desirable at the corner infield spot.

Lind will be backed up at first by the recently re-signed Edwin Encarnacion, who was improving defensively but still struggled with his throwing. His skill set fits first base, and both of these players can take turns at designated hitter.


Second Base

Aaron Hill will remain a part of the double play duo in the central infield by continuing his play at second base. He faltered in 2010 both in the field and with his hitting, but with a return to being completely healthy, his play should rebound in 2011.

There was discussion of Hill being moved to third base if the Jays had traded for another second baseman, but no move was made, so he will retain his position for now.

When Brett Lawrie was acquired, he stated his desire to make this team out of spring training, which is a little far-fetched, but look for him in the near future.

The defensive stalwart John McDonald will back up Hill at second, as well as both shortstop and third.



Yunel Escobar will continue to make highlight-reel plays at shortstop for the Blue Jays as the second part of the double play tandem. His defensive flair was viewed as a distraction in Atlanta but has lit up the crowds here in Toronto. His versatile approach at the plate also gives the Jays some much-needed diversity, as he can hit to all fields and drop in a bunt when necessary.

The highly coveted Adeiny Hechavarria, who signed a four-year, $10 million contract with the Blue Jays last year, will have a chance to make the squad out of spring training. He has made it as far as Double-A, so he might not be ready yet, but he could still impress the coaching staff enough to stay with the team.


Third Base

The ever-versatile Jose Bautista is slotted in for third base at the moment, as a long-term option hasn’t emerged to fill the role. There was an outside chance that Brad Emaus could have played some time there, but he was selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft after the Jays didn’t protect him. They believed that his skill might not translate into the big leagues as a full-time player.

Mike McCoy will be in the infield utility role along with McDonald, so both of them may play some time at third to allow Bautista to play the occasional day in right field.



J.P. Arencibia will get his chance to prove that he can be a full-time catcher in the majors this season.

There was talk that the Jays were pursuing free agent Russell Martin, who could have played some third for the team as well as his typical role of catching. They lost out in pursuit of him to the Yankees, so it will be important for Arencibia to quickly prove that he can handle full-time duties.

It will be important for the catcher to get to know his starting staff so he can work on calling a strong game at the major league level.

He will be helped out in this regard and with his defensive play by the veteran Jose Molina, who was brought back for his leadership and experience.

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Carlos Pena Pursued by Blue Jays as Toronto Makes Big Push to Sign First Baseman

According to ESPN, the Toronto Blue Jays are trying hard to sign slugging first baseman Carlos Pena to a contract.

The Blue Jays are without a first baseman, as Lyle Overbay became a free agent. The Jays were not interested in his services, so they passed on re-signing him.

The Jays, who were the most powerful extra-base-hitting team last season, appear to want to just keep adding to the power that gave them so much success last season.

Offensively, the Jays were an up and down club last season. When the bats were clicking, the Jays would score runs in droves, but when the bats cooled down, the club struggled mightily to score runs.

Adding Pena, quite possibly the best power-hitting first baseman available on the free agent wire, would give the Jays a lethal left/right combination in the middle of the lineup with Jose Bautista.

Pena last season hit a paltry .196 in 582 at-bats with 28 home runs and 84 runs batted in. That’s a down year for anyone, but for Pena, it was especially bad.

The Jays, if they sign him, will be taking a risk that last year’s poor performance was just a fluke. Last season was the first in the last four seasons that Pena did not reach at least 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for a season.

Carlos started to regain some magic in the playoffs in 14 at-bats, hitting .286 with a home run and four runs batted in to go along with an OPS of 1.126.

In years previous, Pena’s numbers were astronomical from the first base position. Having hit 31, 39 and 46 home runs the last three seasons, Pena is obviously a very potent power threat.

Talk before today revolved around whether Adam Lind could man first base, but it looks like the confidence in that proposition is fading fast, and Lind will be back to his LF/DH duties if Pena is indeed signed.

Thoughts on adding Carlos Pena to the roster?

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Blue Jays Aquire Versatile Outfielder Rajai Davis From Oakland

Yesterday, the Toronto Blue Jays made a minor deal with the Oakland As by acquiring outfielder, Rajai Davis. In return the Jays sent a pair of minor league relievers, Trystan Magnuson and Daniel Farquhar, to Oakland. Both players spent all of 2010 with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Although he’ll be thirty next season, Davis still has three years of arbitration remaining. That should keep his salary down while providing the Jays with help in some key areas.

The first thing to jump out about Davis is his speed on the basepaths.  In 2010, he swiped 50 bases in 61 attempts, an excellent 81.9 percent success rate. On his career, spanning back to 2006, Davis has stolen 143 bases against just 38 failed attempts. Davis nearly stole as many bases as the Blue Jays did as a whole last season. The Jays swiped just 54 bags last season.

Now, stealing lots of bases does not equate to winning games, one only need and look at the one team that stole less bases than the Jays. That would be the World Champion San Francisco Giants. But having someone with this level of base stealing ability is never a bad occurrence. That speed is also a key factor for Davis at the plate. He is not a power hitter, he doesn’t even have average power, with a career isolated power of just .102. To help paint that picture a little better, Davis has just a dozen homers in 1455 trips to the plate.

Without the power, Davis has routinely hit plenty of groundballs and used his speed to dig out base hits. Davis’ BABIP has been better than the league average in three of the last four seasons, including 2010 when he had a career low 15.5 percent line drive rate. Keeping your BABIP high with a low line drive rate is awfully tough but he was able to do it successfully with his speed a key culprit for why.

In his career Davis has hit .281 with a .326 BABIP. Davis doesn’t walk or strikeout much making his ability to keep his average up paramount to being a productive hitter. Davis drew a walk in just 4.6 percent of his at-bats last season, well below the league average and well off his 6.7 percent mark in 2009. If he walked more he’d be a prototypical lead-off hitter but as it stands he’s probably better suited to hitting lower down the line-up. Maybe not so much with the Jays though as they don’t have a clear cut choice for a lead-off hitter in 2011.

Finding a spot for Davis in the line-up is jumping ahead a bit with incumbents Vernon Wells, Fred Lewis, and Travis Snider lined up as the ideal outfield trio. The defensively challenged Adam Lind and third baseman/right fielder/home run king Jose Bautista might also be looking for outfield playing time next season. That being said, Davis is considered an above average defensive outfielder capable of handling all three outfield spots. Right away he’s probably the best centerfield option for the Jays, from a purely defensive standpoint.

Davis has played 342 games in center, 57 in left and 35 in right during his career. With Lewis, Snider, and Lind all hitting left-handed there should be plenty of opportunities to get the right-handed hitting Davis into the line-up against left handed pitching. Davis has a career .331 wOBA against lefties, compared to a .308 wOBA against righties. That difference comes mostly from hitting .292 against lefties to .277 versus right-handers and walking 2.7 percent more against lefites than righties. His isolated power and BABIP are essentially even against either type of pitcher.

How much playing time he gets will determine the end value of this trade. But for a pair of minor league relievers the Jays added a proven base stealer who can effectively play three outfield positions and hit lefties, all at a reasonable cost. A small move sure, but it’s good to see Alex Anthopoulos go out and address a need without appearing to give up too much in the process.

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Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Review: Kevin Gregg

If there was one player on the 2010 Blue Jays who was predicatively unpredictable, it was closer Kevin Gregg. After spending just one season with the Chicago Cubs, and not a particularly great one either, Gregg signed with the Blue Jays on a one year deal with club options for 2011 and 2012. Gregg quickly moved into the closer’s role converting six saves in six chances in April. He would keep the job all season despite some drastic ups and downs.

Converting or not converting saves is ultimately what closer’s are judged by, despite the flaws of the statistic. Gregg’s perfection in April was supported by his other, more telling, stats including his .82 ERA, .81 FIP and an unprecedented (especially for Gregg) .82 walk per nine innings. The good times quickly came to an end for Gregg and he was fortunate to still have the closer’s job come July.

In May and June, Gregg made good on twelve of fifteen save opportunities. That wasn’t far off his poor pace from 2009 that him blow seven saves in just thirty chances. Again, the rest of Gregg’s numbers supported the interpretation of  his questionable save rate. Gregg posted ERAs of 5.11 and 8.10 in May and June. His walk rate spiraled completely out of control, walking 17 batters in 19 1/3 innings of work. He did manage to keep setting down hitters on strikeouts in his toughest of times striking out 21 in those same 19 1/3 innings.

The month to month numbers are extremely small sample sizes, one outing can drastically alter the numbers for a months worth of work. But it’s still hard to ignore the fluctuations. After striking out at least 9.49 batters per nine innings across the first three months, he struckout 6.52 in July and 5.06 in September. And in between July and September he mowed down 10.38 per nine.

Manager Cito Gaston was rewarded for sticking with Gregg through his spat of ineffectiveness, as Gregg posted FIPs of 2.87, 3.31 and 3.64 in the last three months of the season. The save statistic mirrored this return to success as Gregg settled down and closed out twenty of his final twenty-three save chances. Gregg somehow managed that 3.64 FIP in September despite walking AND striking out 5.06 batters per nine, not an easy feat to pull off, nor one that anyone should try and emulate in the future either.

Gregg worked justed 59 innings on the year, his lowest total in any full season dating back to 2004. The lighter work load might have contributed to his overall success, 2010 saw Gregg post both the second lowest ERA(3.51) and FIP(3.57) of his career. His 86 percent save conversion rate also happened to be the second best of his career.

Gregg rebounded nicely from 2009 and did so in baseball’s toughest division. His proneness to wide performance fluctuations makes him a less than ideal closer. However, he’s proven himself to be a durable reliever by making at least 63 appearances for four straight seasons now. He’s also had a FIP under 4.00 in four of the last five years.

The Jays are probably not going to exercise his 4.5 million option for 2011 but he could still come back to the team if he were to accept an arbitration offer or resign for a lesser amount. Another season of 60-70 innings of better than average relief work would be worth somewhere around 3 to 3.5 million dollars, a number that seems fair to both sides. The Jays definitely got their money’s worth in 2010, although it wasn’t always easy to watch. If Jays fans can stomach another season of the unpredictable, they might get their money’s worth again in 2011.

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Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Review: Vernon Wells

After establishing himself as one the AL’s better outfielders from 2003 to 2006, Vernon Wells failed to produce at the dish in 2007 and again in 2009. Injuries almost certainly played a part in his rough ’09 campaign, but with two off years sandwiching a productive 2008 season, there were lots of questions to be answered in 2010.

Fairly or unfairly for Wells, he will spend the rest of his time in Toronto with the burden of his massive contract hanging over his head day in and day out. That contract will be paying Wells over twenty million a season for the next four seasons. Needless to say, quite a bit of production will be expected from a player making such a lofty sum of money. That’s understandable, but at the same time it’s not as if Wells is writing his own checks either. 

2010 showed us that Wells can still be an above average player. Whether he can keep that going through 2014 is a question to try and answer at a later time. For now the Jays fans and front office alike can relax a bit with a solid, healthy season in the books. Wells played in 157 games and made 646 trips to the plate, topping 150 games played for the second season in a row and sixth time in nine seasons since 2002.

Wells stormed out of the gate in April hitting .337 with eight homers and a monthly season high wOBA of .468. After April however, his production dropped in each of the next three months. Wells walk rate dropped from 7.9 percent of his plate appearances in April down to just 5.8 percent in June. His batting average dipped down to .240 and .236 in June and July. Only his continued power output allowed him to post above average wOBAs in May and June with isolated power marks of .222 and .250.

The decline hit rock bottom in July, a month that saw Wells go deep just once with a slash line of .236/.289/.348. At that point it was hard to have any optimism that Wells could get his act back together. August was slightly better, he still only hit .248 but he managed a .198 ISO thanks to three homers and nine doubles.

In September, Wells could do no wrong at the plate. He drew a walk in 11.8 percent of his trips to the plate, the third highest monthly mark of his career, and had more home runs, eight, than strikeouts, seven. He also tossed in a .298 batting average, .386 on-base percentage and had a .288 ISO.

The strong start and finish left Wells with some impressive end of season numbers. He topped 30 homers and 40 doubles for the third time in the same season finishing with 31 homers and 44 doubles. His 7.7 percent walk rate was almost a full point higher than his career average and the best rate since 2006. The .242 isolated power was the best mark of his career. His final wOBA of .362 was well above the league average mark of .321.

According to the defensive metrics, Wells had his best defensive season since 2007. Those metrics also suggest he might be better off moving to an outfield corner spot. Whether or not the metrics are accurate, Wells is definitely not getting any younger and a move to a corner spot would be nothing more than the usual fate of centerfielders reaching their mid-thirties. If he produces like he did in 2010 his batting numbers would be fine for a corner fielder and are excellent for a centerfielder in the meantime.

The Jays will have Wells on the payroll for the next four years and he doesn’t figure to produce twenty million dollars a year of value but at this point two or three more seasons like 2010 will do just fine as the team tries to build a winner around him and the other veterans.

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Alex Anthopoulos for Rookie of the Year: Grading AA’s Debut Season for Blue Jays

Jays fans have put up with a lot. Former GM J.P. Ricciardi made mistake after mistake, from Alex Rios, to Vernon Wells, to B.J. Ryan, to Frank Thomas. The motto seemed to be “buy high, sell low” in Toronto.

But fear no more. Forget Austin Jackson; forget Jason Heyward. You want a Rookie of the Year?

Cue Alex Anthopoulos.

Shortly after RHP Brandon Morrow’s 17-strikeout performance, I decided to take a look at AA’s offseason moves to see what he’s done in reinventing the Blue Birds. He took the reins on October 3, 2009, so let’s see some of the major moves he’s made:

Signed UTIL John McDonald to a two-year/$3M deal (11-25-09). Johnny Mac is a Gold Glover at every position. Great re-signing for a solid defensive replacement.

Signed SS Alex Gonzalez to a one-year/$2.75M deal w/ club option (11-26-09). Gonzalez was solid with the stick and the leather, and Anthopoulos turned it into a solid trade (see below).

Signed C John Buck to a one-year/$2M deal (12-16-09). Buck has been great behind the plate and made the All-Star team this year, well worth $2M. Anthopoulos didn’t move Buck in July, so while Buck (thumb) is on the DL, he’s hoping that he remains a Type B free agent.

Acquired RHP Kyle Drabek, C Travis d’Arnaud, and OF Michael Taylor from Phillies for RHP Roy Halladay and $6M (12-16-09), then sent Taylor to the A’s for 1B Brett Wallace. Dealing Doc had to be done, so we’ll skip that. Drabek threw a no-hitter in Double-A this year and aside from that has been pitching very well. D’Arnaud remains a highly-touted prospect who should be up in 2012 or so.

Acquired RHP Brandon Morrow from the M’s for RHP Brandon League and OF Johermyn Chavez (12-23-09). Morrow has the best strikeout rate of any starter this year and is pitching very well (at home at least) in his first full season as a starter.

Signed RHP Kevin Gregg to a one-year/$2.75M deal w/ two club options (2-5-10). AA decided that if Gregg could fix his atrocious home run rate from last season, Gregg’s value would return to normal. We’ll see what happens with Gregg this offseason.

Signed C Jose Molina to a one-year/$1M deal w/ a club option (2-19-10). Great FA signing at bargain money.

Signed SS Adeiny Hechavarria to a four-year/$10M deal (4-13-10). Hechavarria has a big league-ready glove and is hitting a little bit at Double-A. He’s seen as an infield version of Alfonso Soriano.

Acquired OF Fred Lewis from Giants for cash (4-15-10). Lewis sported a nice .262/.332/.414 line before getting injured, all at a cheap price. Jays get a replacement leadoff hitter to cover for Marco Scutaro.

Signed RHP Adonis Cardona to a $2.8M deal (7-13-10). Set a record for a Venezuelan amateur with the righty’s deal. Cardona is another high-ceiling talent and a top prospect.

Acquired SS Yunel Escobar and RHP Jo-Jo Reyes from Braves for SS Alex Gonzalez, RHP Tim Collins and RHP Tyler Pastornicky (7-14-10). AA bought low on the disgruntled Escobar, who has a truckload of potential.

Acquired OF Anthony Gose from Astros for 1B Brett Wallace (7-29-10). This one is probably the iffiest. Wallace has played some games for the Astros, but his value has dropped for years now because of added weight. Once a left infielder, he appears destined to be a first baseman or a DH. Gose, on the other hand, is drawing comparisons to Carl Crawford in Single-A ball.

Draft: The Jays signed all four of their top picks, finally getting RHP Deck McGuire to sign on the dotted line. ESPN’s Keith Law wrote that the Blue Jays had a “strong haul” in the draft.

Blue Jays fans couldn’t ask for more from AA’s first year. He’s aggressively made moves on international FAs and has made some solid, cheap MLB FA signings while picking up solid prospects in trades. His blueprint of high-ceiling, high-potential players appears to be working.

Especially when a team like the Jays can’t compete financially with the likes of the Red Sox and Yankees in the uber-competitive AL East, building a team through picks and prospects is the right way to go—just ask the Rays, who were terrible forever (literally) but have quickly become a very talented young team among the best in baseball.

It was surprising to see the Jays hang on to LHP Scott Downs, RHP Jason Frasor, Gregg and Buck at the trade deadline, but those players may bring draft pick compensation after the season because of stellar 2010 regular-season stats. 2011 looks like it’ll be the final rebuilding season for the Jays before making a serious run at the AL East—or the AL Wild Card at least—in 2012.

The youngsters we once knew—Morrow, Shaun Marcum, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Jose Bautista—are now veterans, preparing for one last year of seasoning before trying to guide their team to the playoffs.

For the first time in a long time, the future looks bright in Toronto.

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Would Adam Lind Have Fantasy Baseball Value as Blue Jays’ 2011 First Baseman?

Adam Lind’s 2010 campaign was disappointing, as he fell well shy of what many hoped was his 2009 breakout (.305, 35 HR, 114 RBI).

The fact of the matter is, he had little opportunity to approach those numbers once again.

His HR/FB in ‘09 was 19.8 percent, significantly higher then what he had posted in portions of the prior two years (13.3 percent and 11.0 percent).

The inability to sustain that mark certainly played a role in his regression, while he also may have been pressing to live up to the power (his fly-ball rate went from 36.8 percent to 40.4 percent).

Throw in a huge jump in strikeouts and a regression in his BABIP, and it all added up to the following numbers:

569 At-Bats
.237 Batting Average (135 Hits)
23 Home Runs
72 RBI
57 Runs
0 Stolen Bases
.287 On-Base Percentage
.425 Slugging Percentage
.277 Batting Average on Balls in Play

I think there is little questioning the idea that he was pressing in 2010. His strikeout rate went from 18.7 percent in 2009 to 25.3 percent in 2010.

Over his minor league career, he posted an 18.7 percent mark in 1,581 at-bats, so there is little questioning his ability to make contact.

However, you wouldn’t know it by looking at his monthly rates:

  • April: 29.7 percent
  • May: 22.0 percent
  • June: 31.1 percent
  • July: 26.4 percent
  • August: 19.6 percent
  • September: 23.8 percent

Every single month was higher than his 2009 mark—almost unfathomable to think of. You couple that with a huge decline in BABIP (in 2009 he had a .323 mark), and the expected decrease in power and the fact that his average was awful should not be a surprise.

However, there certainly is reason for optimism.

He has proven to be too good of a hitter throughout his minor league career and early in his major league career to think that he won’t be able to turn the contact around. Throw in some improved luck, and his average shouldn’t be a concern.

The power he showed in 2010 is probably what we should come to expect. Given his history (55 HR in 1,581 minor league at-bats) and the huge increase in his peripherals, it would appear that he’s more of a 25ish home run hitter. That’s certainly not a mark you would complain about.

An improved average should help him in both the run and RBI categories as well. Let’s face it—the more he’s on base and the more hits he gets, the more productive he’s going to be overall, no matter where he settles in the lineup.

The Blue Jays took a look at him at first base in 2009, and there certainly is reason to believe that they could give him a much longer look in 2010. Lyle Overbay could be considered just as disappointing, hitting .243 with 20 HR and 67 RBI.

As a free agent this offseason, it’s hard to imagine the team bringing him back.

That would leave a gaping hole at first base and Lind, who is signed through 2013 (with options for 2014, 2015, and 2016), could make the most sense to fill the void.

Of course, it’s dependent on the team’s other moves, and there figure to be a slew of first base options available via free agency. Still, it certainly is worth considering.

That type of move could add to his fantasy appeal in 2011. Depending on your league rules, he may actually have just utility eligibility at the outset of the season, playing 16 games in the outfield and 11 at first base.

That limits his value significantly because fantasy owners are not going to want to clog their utility spot on a player who is going to hit .280 with 25 HR.

Those are fine numbers, but they certainly aren’t going to be a first choice, especially if he doesn’t have eligibility elsewhere. It just cripples your flexibility.

However, even as a first baseman, Lind is losing significant value.

It’s a position where you are looking for big HR and RBI totals and coming off 2010, there are significant questions if he can get there. He’s just not in the class of names like Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Joey Votto.

As a high-upside risk, he’ll be worth taking in the mid to late rounds of your draft (if he has outfield eligibility in your league, then it’s a mid-round pick). He’s shown how good he could be, but it doesn’t seem likely he will fully get back there.

We’ll get into a projection as we get closer to the 2011 season, but for now keep his name filed away as a bounce-back sleeper, but one that may not be worth the risk. Then again, could he be 2011’s version of Vladimir Guerrero?

What are your thoughts on Lind? Where are you pegging him for 2011? Is he going to have value as a first baseman?

Make sure to check out our 2011 projections:

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Cito Gaston Receives Proper Send-Off as Toronto Blue Jays Break Records

The end of an era is coming…again.

The Blue Jays had their final home game on Wednesday night and had a ceremony honoring Cito Gaston since he will be retiring this year.

With close to 900 wins under his belt with the Blue Jays, Gaston is the most successful manager in the franchise’s history.

Gaston led the Jays to four division titles and then two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993, possibly the greatest achievement among Toronto’s sports teams in relatively recent memory.

The Blue Jays manager returned to Toronto in June of 2008 and will manage his final game when the season finishes on October 3.

With an emotional pregame ceremony leading the game, the Jays gave Gaston a proper send-off by knocking around the New York Yankees 8-4 and winning the three-game series. The large crowd of 33,000 was lively and supportive, giving Gaston several ovations through the ceremonies and as the game finished.

For one who brought such good times to Toronto, it was great to see such a show of respect in this his final home game with the team.

Cito Gaston was often considered a second hitting coach, due to his diligence in working with hitters in attempts to perfect their swings. Whether it was largely influenced by Gaston or not, the Blue Jays have certainly made the manager proud with their hitting expertise this year.

At least if you are counting home runs.

Aaron Hill and John Buck both hit home runs in that Wednesday defeat of the Yankees, and then the Blue Jays added six more on Thursday night against the Minnesota Twins. Jose Bautista hit home runs No. 53 and 54, one of which was a grand slam. Edwin Encarnacion contributed two more, and both Jose Molina and Travis Snider had one each.

With 253 home runs this season, the Blue Jays have reached the fourth highest total in baseball history. Only three teams have hit more in one season, those being the 1996 Baltimore Orioles (257), the 2005 Texas Rangers (260), and the 1997 Seattle Mariners (264).

With three games remaining in the season, it is possible that the Blue Jays could climb higher in the all-time rankings if they continue their frenetic home run pace.

It seems only fitting that the Blue Jays are breaking records this year in the final season of Cito Gaston’s managing—if only it was once again enough for the postseason.

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Jose Bautista Is a Problem Toronto Blue Jays Opponents Will Find Hard To Solve

Jose Bautista used to be a problem for the home team, when that team was the Pittsburgh Pirates.

But now that he has found his stride, or rather his bat, in Toronto, it’s now his opponents that are wondering if they have a problem.

He’s looking at 50 or more home runs this year. This seems like a “high water mark,” at least for now, but even if he regresses to say, 30 to 35, he will still be a dangerous long ball hitter.

He’d just be in front of the “pack” (think Josh Hamilton of Texas, a hard-hitting team, or Mark Teixeira, formerly of Texas, now a Yankee) instead of way ahead.

“Regression” is likely to take place, partly because of the laws of statistics and partly because opposing pitchers will adjust to him. Now that he’s a threat, instead of just a fluke, they’ll pitch him more carefully.

Even so, their options are limited.

Bautista, a right-handed batter, hits most of his home runs to left field, a minority to left-center, and NONE to the opposite field. That suggests that pitchers should try to offer him opposite field balls, to his outside.

That’s easier said than done. Most pitchers pitch better to batters’ insides (which is why the conventional wisdom is to put up right-handed pitchers against right-handed batters and left-handed pitchers against left-handed batters).

If they pitch to the outside, they’re likely to give up walks, something that Bautista is good at drawing. Defying the above conventional wisdom, it’s now LEFT-handed pitchers that pitch better to Bautista, because his outside is their “inside.”

Likewise, most pitchers prefer to pitch low. That’s a bad strategy against Bautista, who likes to “lift” balls for pop-ups. His vulnerability is high pitches, chest- or even shoulder-high, like the ones that got him ejected from a game against the Yankees after he protested the umpire’s calls.

Pitchers may adapt to Bautista. But after they do, they would have to “revert” for other batters. Or a team may use a left-handed reliever against Bautista and then need to switch to a right-hander against the next batter. The confusion that could occasionally result could be a plus for Toronto.

As well, if pitchers can adapt, so can Bautista. In some ways, an outside pitch may be easier to hit, or at least “leverage,” because it doesn’t have to be “rebounded” like an inside pitch. The outside pitch is at least partly headed toward right field.

Although he doesn’t yet have the knack, Bautista can learn to guide the ball to the opposite field using his bat. That may even come naturally to him someday, because he won’t have to use as much power (he has enough to hit home runs, but perhaps less than the average slugger).

While maintaining his long ball pace, Bautista has started hitting more singles in the second half, thereby raising his batting average, formerly his Achilles heel. That seems to be because he is striking out less.

However many home runs he actually hits, Bautista is now a credible home run threat. Opposing pitchers can probably limit his home runs, but only by making concessions in other areas, like walks.

Bautista’s OBP (on-base percentage) is now approaching .400 and could exceed this mark next year if pitchers pitch “shy” to him. To take this concept to an extreme, pitchers could hold his home runs to ZERO—by giving him an intentional pass every time he shows up at the plate for a 1.000 OBP.

Most opponents would like to “solve” Bautista. Some will succeed better than others. But they will all find that there are no easy solutions to a multifaceted offensive player.

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