After such an awful month of August when the Jays could only win nine games as they lost lots of ground in the Eastern Division, who would have thought that John Gibbons’ team would be involved in the race to the playoffs.
But the hill was too steep to climb in such a short time.
So, for this last blog of the 2014 season, I’d like too share with you my thoughts on the last six months.
It was a season filled with happy surprises and less happy situations. And since I always like to leave my readers with a good taste in their mouths, let’s start with what I did not like.
The offensive output of Colby Rasmus, probably on account of his too many strikeouts surely had an influence on his defense which, at times, was nonchalant.
Also, maybe on account of is leg injury, Jose Reyes was not able to cover as much ground as in previous years and he made too many errors (17). I think that the Jays may be tempted to move him from shortstop to another defensive position. One thing for sure, the absence of Brett Lawrie at third base did not help him, but still he was not up to his reputation defensively.
And again, without a second baseman who could anchor the infield defensively, the Jays must be dreaming of a Ryan Goins who could hit around .250 to go along with his gold glove.
The health situation that has hampered closer Casey Janssen is always a source of worries. Once again he could not start the season on time and after the All-Star Break, he was not up to par on account of a virus or food poisoning.
One has to admit that he was not available on a regular basis and that Sergio Santos failed miserably.
Now let’s look at some more positive aspects of the Jays.
The biggest surprise was, among non-pitchers, without any doubts the performance of Dioner Navarro. He did an outstanding job handling the pitching staff, his stamina was better than expected as was his offensive output.
Melky Cabrera, until he was hurt, was the most regular hitter on the team and his defensive skill improved a lot, since he was healthy. I sure hope the Jays will find ways to convince him to stay in Toronto. There is nobody in the farm system or on the free agent market who, currently, can replace him.
Jose Bautista was once again the leader of this Jays team. He hit more that 30 homeruns and drove in more than 100. He also was brilliant defensively.
It remains to be seen if one of the younsters among Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar and/or Dalton Pompey is ready to step in and claim center field to replace Rasmus.
On the infield, Juan Francisco may have hit many homers in a limited number of at-bats, but like Rasmus, his too many strikeouts make him a liability. The Jays need a healthy Lawrie at the hot corner. Danny Valencia is a gifted substitute in the infield because he can play at more than one position.
At second base, the injury to Maicer Izturis made Munenori Kawasaki a regular player instead of a part-time player. Vroom, Vroom as we have knicknamed him, is a crown pleaser and even if he improved his batting average he does not have enough power, the weakness of his arm and his limited mobility make him a reserve player at best.
At first base, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind form a sound combo. The offensive potential of « Double E » outweights his defensive shortcomings while Lind is one of the most productive hitters against righthanders. But they both need to be healthy.
Finally, the pitching staff.
I think that veteran Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dicky did a fairly good job despite Buehrle’s rough rime after such a great start.
Drew Hutchison had a season of ups and downs, but he ended on a strong note. J.A, Happ also was irregular. He could be a fifth starter, unless the youngsters coming up bypass him. For Happ, it could mean a trip to the bullpen or being involved in a trade.
The emergence of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez allow the Jays to look forward to an injection of young blood in a pitching staff filled with promises. But it is premature to say that Daniel Norris, Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman are ready to step in.
Aaron Loup and Brett Cecil are the lefthanders of the relief corps, but I have my doubts about Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow on account of their contracts for next year.
What about manager John Gibbsons and his coaching staff? I really can’t say what is in store for them.
The coming months should be interesting as G-M Alex Anthopoulos will get ready to attack the winter meetings (in December) with lots on his mind.
Until next spring, I wish all my readers lots of health and many happy surprises along the way.