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Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays

2007 Record: 83-79 (.512)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 87-75 (.537)

Manager: John Gibbons
General Manager: J.P. Ricciardi

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Rogers Centre

Who’s Replacing Whom:

Scott Rolen replaces Troy Glaus on the DL
David Eckstein replaces John McDonald (bench) and Royce Clayton at shortstop
Marco Scutaro and John McDonald replace Russ Adams (minors), Jason Smith, Ray Olmedo, Howie Clark, Hector Luna (minors) and others on the bench
Shannon Stewart replaces Reed Johnson
Buck Coates replaces Adam Lind (minors)
Rod Barajas ironically replaces Jason Phillips and Curtis Thigpen (minors)
Brandon League replaces Casey Janssen (DL)
Randy Wells replaces Josh Towers

Opening Day Roster:

1B – Lyle Overbay (L)
2B – Aaron Hill (R)
SS – David Eckstein (R)
3B – Marco Scutaro (R)
C – Gregg Zaun (S)
RF – Alex Rios (R)
CF – Vernon Wells (R)
LF – Matt Stairs (L)
DH – Frank Thomas (R)


R – Shannon Stewart (OF)
R – John McDonald (IF)
L – Buck Coats (OF)
R – Rod Barajas (C)


R – Roy Halladay
R – A.J. Burnett
R – Dustin McGowan
R – Shaun Marcum
R – Jesse Litsch


R – Jeremy Accardo
L – Scott Downs
R – Jason Frasor
R – Brian Wolfe
L – Brian Tallet
R – Brandon League
R – Randy Wells

15-day DL: R – Scott Rolen (3B), L – B.J. Ryan
60-day DL: R – Casey Janssen

Likely Lineup:

R – David Eckstein (SS)
L – Matt Stairs (LF)
R – Alex Rios (RF)
R – Vernon Wells (CF)
R – Frank Thomas (DH)
L – Lyle Overbay (1B)
R – Aaron Hill (2B)
R – Marco Scutaro (3B)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)

In 2007, just four Blue Jays made more than 500 plate appearances and just one surpassed 170 innings pitched. Injuries sapped playing time from first baseman Lyle Overbay, third baseman Troy Glaus, catcher Gregg Zaun, left fielder Reed Johnson, starters A.J. Burnett and Gustavo Chacin, and ended closer B.J. Ryan’s season after just 4 1/3 innings. To make matters worse, Overbay and center fielder Vernon Wells suffered significant decreases in production due to injury, with Overbay losing 43 points of EqA from 2006 and Wells losing 49 points of EqA. Overbay had his hand broken by a pitch in early June and was never right the rest of the season. Wells played the season with a torn labrum and a cyst in his left shoulder, which he had surgically repaired/removed in September. All of which would suggest that there are many reasons to expect a better performance from the Jays this season. I’m not convinced.

Glaus has been replaced by the even more fragile Scott Rolen (since salvaging his career with the Diamondbacks three years ago, Glaus has played in 417 games, while Rolen has played in just 310), and Rolen is out until May with a fractured finger. Johnson has yielded to 40-year-old Matt Stairs, who could start the season on the DL due to a sore left hip flexor. Burnett has made 30 starts in a season just once in his nine-year career and his 25 last year were his second most since 2002. Ryan is still on the DL, and middle reliever Casey Janssen, who posted a 2.35 ERA in 70 games last year, is out for the season following labrum surgery.

Janssen brings up another point. Despite the loss of Ryan, the Blue Jays had the third-best bullpen in baseball last year, with their relievers posting a 3.46 mark, higher than only that of the Red Sox’s pen and the park-assisted Padres’ relievers. Given the volatility of relief performances, the Jays should expect that figure to increase considerably this year, even if Ryan returns in short order. Another reason to expect a decline from the Toronto pen is a decrease in the quality of their defense with Stairs serving as the strong side of a platoon in left field and David Eckstein replacing John McDonald at shortstop.

Meanwhile, there’s some debate about the degree to which the Jays can really expect much bounceback from either Overbay or Wells, as their steep declines last year were in part due to the fact that both had career years in 2006. In the two years prior to 2006, Wells hit just .269/.328/.467, better than his 2007 performance, for sure, but still barely above league average.

If there’s hope improvement for the Jays, it comes from their starting rotation. After a pair of injury-shortened seasons, 2003 Cy Young award-winner Roy Halladay has surpassed 220 innings and won 16 games in each of the last two seasons, and Burnett can be dominant when healthy. Those two form a formidable one-two punch, which the Yankees will have to absorb today and Wednesday. The source of the improvement, however, is the next two spots, which were claimed in May of last year by Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum.

The Jay’s first-round supplemental pick in 2000, McGowan had his career rebooted by Tommy John surgery in 2004 and struggled mightily in his brief major league stints in 2005 and 2006. Last year, he replaced the injured Chacin in the rotation in early May and posted a 5.68 ERA in his first nine starts, but in his tenth he shut out the Rockies, and from that game through the end of the year (18 starts), he posted a 3.40 ERA and struck out 102 men in 119 innings against just 39 walks. Marcum, a 2003 drafee, emerged from the bullpen to replace Victor Zambrano in the rotation a week later and posted a 3.91 ERA in 25 starts including a 3.31 mark in his first 18 turns before tiring in late August. If they’re able to build on those performances, and their talent suggests they can, McGowan and Marcum could combine with a healthy Halladay and Burnett to give the Jays a four-deep rotation that could be the best in the division and even one of the best in baseball.

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