The Toronto Blue Jays get set to begin the proverbial second half of the season tonight in Oakland, following the MLB All-Star break earlier this week. While it doesn’t represent a numerical halfway point of the season (with just 71 of 162 games remaining), it offers us a great opportunity to re-visit some pre-season thoughts and predictions, and cast an eye towards the final eleven weeks of the season.
Before the season began, Asher and I each cast five “fearless” predictions ahead of the Jays campaign. We’ve both seen varying degrees of success. Original predictions are in bold.
Roberto Osuna won’t finish the season as the closer
Okay, I know we’re coming right out of the gate with a Debbie Downer, and I hope I’m wrong. But whether it’s due to injury or inconsistency, I believe we’ll see Drew Storen in 9th before the year is done. In fact, I think it could be before we hit the dog days of summer.
There is nothing statistically to indicate Osuna won’t be able to handle the job again. Let’s just call this one a gut feeling.
Boy was I wrong on this one. Osuna’s very few signs of sophomore slump have really been limited to non-save situations. He’s 18-for-20 on saves for the season, with a sub-1.00 WHIP and a low-2 ERA. He’s handled everything asked of him, and more, while at times being the only reliable option in John Gibbons’ bullpen. And let’s not talk about how brutal Storen as been.
Troy Tulowitzki will hit 35 home runs, drive in 110
We never really saw the real Tulo last year, and it’s widely believed 2015 was simply a down season for him. Add in the culture shock of coming to Toronto mid-season, and it was the perfect disaster. Tulo is healthy this year, without having to rehab any major injuries in the off-season, and is more acclimatized to his surroundings. Much like Josh Donaldson last year, I think he’ll emerge as more of a focal point in this offence, with a full year in hitter-friendly parks in the American League East, while topping the 30/105 numbers he posted in his career-best 2011 campaign.
A dreadfully slow start, and a quad injury forcing him to miss three weeks derailed this prediction. But let’s look at some projections: Tulo’s 15 home runs and 43 RBI in 66 games represents a 162-game pace of 36/105. So, right on the money. His maximum games played right now is 137, but we know he’ll get some days off, so if we project 130 games, he’s on pace for 29/84. Not too shabby.
J.A. Happ will lose 13 games
This one might be a bit of a stretch, since the offence will likely save him enough to avoid 13 tallies in the L column. Maybe it should read, “Happ will pitch poorly enough to earn 13 losses”. I could see an ERA bordering 5.00, and a high home run total. Count me unsold that he figured out how to pitch in two months in Pittsburgh. Even if he did, I’m skeptical those results follow him back north to this menacing division.
Wrong again! The resurgent lefty would need to lose 10 of his remaining 14 (estimated) starts to hit that loss total. And the quality of his starts present no evidence to suggest that’s about to happen.
Jose Bautista will re-sign with the Blue Jays
I’d give Jose 4 years and $30 million per, no problem. Will he take that? Nobody knows of course, but if Bautista is willing to negotiate, I think the brass finds a way to keep him around and let him retire as a Blue Jay.
I still have no idea how to read this situation. However, Bautista’s injury and relatively average production might be weakening his market value, which opens the door for the Blue Jays to remain in play. I’m leaning further from this conclusion than I was at the beginning of the season.
Blue Jays will win 100 games
A full season of this offence? Yeah. This doesn’t seem like much of a stretch at all. Health will be an important factor throughout the line-up, but I think the rotation, especially with Aaron Sanchez being added to Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey and Marco Estrada, will be more than adequate enough to propel the team to its first century mark season in franchise history.
Fumbling around for the first six weeks of the season sent this prediction down the tubes. In order to hit the century mark, Toronto would need to win 49 of its remaining 71 games. Is 49-22, or .690 baseball, achievable? I highly doubt it. How about 42-29 to finish with 93 wins? I think that’s very doable.
Now let’s move on to Asher’s predictions:
Jose Bautista will hit 50 home runs
Overly optimist? Maybe. But this is a contract season for Joey Bats, and the last time he was playing for a new contract was the afore-mentioned 2010 season.
I know he’s six years older now, and that he hasn’t hit 50 since then, but the protection behind him is stronger than ever, and with the excessive amounts of cash he desires on the line, I don’t see him doing something stupid like blowing out his arm trying to toss a guy out at first base.
He had four home runs in the nine games leading up to that lapse in judgement last season, then had 3 homers in the 31 games that he wasn’t healthy enough to play the outfield, followed by 33 homers in 108 regular season games after that.
Jose wants that money. If he hits 50, he’ll be tough to say no to.
Even before the injury, Bautista was (shockingly) on pace for just 29 home runs. Can’t give Asher too much grief though–I was expecting similar production from Joey Bats.
J.A. Happ will finish with more wins than Marco Estrada
Before you laugh, keep in mind that wins do not come close to being the only stat that determines one pitcher is better than another. Josh Towers won 13 games, while allowing 237 hits in 208 innings in 2005.
Anyway, Happ is a better pitcher than you think he is, or probably remember him being. And for good reason – his career has teased with bouts of supreme competency (12-4, 2.93 ERA in 2009, 1.85 ERA in 11 starts with Pirates last season) littered with inefficient performances stuffed with full counts and 5th inning yanks.
I’m rooting hard for Marco Estrada to repeat his performance of a year ago (134 hits allowed in 181 innings), but I know that his 13 wins were six more than his previous high in seven years prior.
Happ has four seasons of 10 wins or more. Estrada has one. Happ’s career ERA is 4.13, Estrada’s is 3.95. Life’s not fair.
But hey, this prediction could come true even if it’s Happ’s 17 wins squeaking past Estrada’s 16. Dreaming big is fun.
Total count so far: Happ 12, Estrada 5. In fairness, Estrada’s poor run support has hurt that number a little bit. He was an All-Star, and maybe Happ deserved to be, too. But they’re both in contention with Aaron Sanchez for Toronto’s most valuable pitcher. Speaking of which …
Aaron Sanchez will out-pitch Marcus Stroman
I’m playing it safe here with that wording, since it will be tough for Sanchy to have more wins or strikeouts if he’s in the bullpen at some point.
So out-pitch in what sense? I think Stroman will still be the de-facto ace by season’s end, but I believe Sanchez will pitch so well in his time as a starting pitcher that he will pass Stroman on the depth chart within the next two seasons.
Whether it’s with more electric stuff that gets more strikeouts, or he winds up with more innings or a lower ERA, I believe Sanchez will be valued more before long, and dare I even say, will start on opening day in 2018?
Asher nailed this one, too. Sanchez’s numbers pretty much across the board are better than Stroman’s, and he pitched in the All-Star game on Tuesday. Stroman has rebounded lately, and he’ll need to maintain that form when (if?!?) Sanchez gets moved back to the bullpen. Opening the door for …
Drew Hutchison will start a playoff game
If Aaron Sanchez is going to be subjected to an innings limit and is sent to the bullpen by the time the playoffs(?!) rolls around, someone will need to jump into the rotation.
Sure, it could be one of Gavin Floyd, Jesse Chavez, or even Cliff Lee, but why not go with the home-grown product that’s going to be chomping at the bit to prove his doubters wrong?
Hutch is still only 25, and while last year’s 5.57 ERA in 30 games (28 starts) doesn’t inspire much confidence, let’s not forget that he was last year’s opening day starter, and that not every opening day starter that falls flat on their face that season is the second coming of Ricky Romero.
I believe he’s a couple tweaks in his windup away from finding consistency in his command, and the minor leagues are the perfect place to work on dramatic changes to one’s mechanics.
I’m not going so far as to say he’ll be in the top three and start an ALDS game, but remember what happened last year when R.A. Dickey started in the playoffs?
If Toronto makes the playoffs, this is seeming more and more likely every day. Stroman, Happ, and Estrada are all locks. Hutchison vs Dickey for 4th starter spot? It certainly won’t be Gavin FLOLyd.
Michael Saunders will hit 25 home runs
Go big, or go home, right?
If you had a whole year taken away from you by a sprinkler head, you’d be pretty pissed off and want to prove your doubters wrong, wouldn’t you?
Plus, let’s not forget this is a contract year for Saunders as well.
He hit 19 back in 2012, and he did that at Safeco Field, which is a notoriously pitcher-friendly park.
Accompanied by the mandatory copout “as long as he stays healthy” prefix, I could see Saunders go to town at the Dome. If he continues to be protected by Russell Martin in this bottomless lineup, he could conceivably become the best Canadian Blue Jays slugger since Matt Stairs graced the ballpark on Bremner Blvd.
He’s already got 16, and was named an All-Star. Nine home runs over the final 71 games doesn’t seem like a stretch for “Captain Canada”.
Man, Asher was pretty much bang-on with these. Maybe I should ask him to buy me a lottery ticket?