TORONTO- Disappointed! Heart Broken! Stunned! Those are the three words that sums up the Toronto Blue Jays’ performance during the ALCS. After the Cleveland Indians advance to the World Series last Wednesday night, the Blue Jays will head the offseason with so many uncertainty.
Give the Indians a lot credit, they deserve their trip to the championship round. Terry Francona done a magnificent job in managing his bullpen as Andrew Miller won the ALCS MVP. The Indians’ pitching staff manage to shutdown the Blue Jays’ bats, limited them to score eight runs during the ALCS after scoring 28 runs during the wild card game and ALDS.
Now that the Blue Jays are going home, here is a position-by-position review:
Russell Martin did maintain his offensive production with 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. However the 33-year-old Canadian backstop took a step backward defensively, caught only 15% of base stealers this season (44% last season). He struggled to hit during the postseason, hitting .091. Dioner Navarro was brought back late last season. Navarro shown some good at-bats and prove to be a better backup over Josh Thole.
Edwin Encarnacion had a monster year during his contract year. The 33-year-old Dominican slugger hit 42 home runs and 127 RBIs. Although Encarnacion spend most of the time at DH, Encarnacion shown some flashes playing first base, only committed 2 errors in over 638.1 innings. Justin Smoak showed some power and solid defence at first base. However he continues to struggle to hit for contact as he only had a .217 batting average and struck out 112 times.
Devon Travis became a hitting machine batting nearing .300. However, Travis struggled to make routine plays with 11 errors in limited action. Travis’ durability is a bit of concern for the Blue Jays. But when healthy, Travis could be one of the best offensive second baseman in the league. Darwin Barney done an outstanding job filling in for the injured Travis earlier this season. Barney is a terrific defender and shown some production at the plate with a career high .269 batting average. Ryan Goins has always been a terrific defender, but need to hit to find a role on the roster.
Josh Donaldson was on pace to have a better season than he did last year when he won the AL MVP. However he did suffer a minor hip in September. His 37 dingers and 99 RBIs were impressive but his .404 on base percentage was one of his best of his career. Once again Donaldson is a worthy candidate to repeat as AL MVP and the Blue Jays are fortunate to have him.
Troy Tulowitzki started off slow but finished strong during his first full season with the Blue Jays with 24 home runs and 79 RBIs. His range and arm at shortstop is one of the best in the league. Tulowitzki is going to be a major impact player for the Blue Jays over the next few years.
It wasn’t the year that Jose Bautista envision heading to his final year of his contract. Bautista missed 46 games with turf toe and sprained left knee, but he did managed to hit 20 or more home runs for seven consecutive season. His range in right field was so bad that he need to make 26 starts at DH. He won’t sign a 5 year contract worth $150 million, but when healthy, Bautista is still one of the most fearsome power hitter. Kevin Pillar was Superman in center field, but too a major step back with his bat with a .267 batting average and 7 home runs. Pillar needs to improve his plate discipline. Michael Saunders’ terrific first half performance earned him an All Star nod. However the 30-year-old Canadian only hit .191 in the second half. Ezequiel Carrera did an outstanding job filling in for the injured Jose Bautista. Melvin Upton Jr. provided some pop, speed and defence in the outfield.
The Blue Jays’ starting rotation was one of the biggest surprise last season. Aaron Sanchez won the battle for the 5th and final spot in the rotation. Turns out he’s been the best pitcher for the Blue Jays this season. The 24-year-old led the American League with 3.00 ERA over 192 innings and made his first All Star appearance. J.A. Happ was also outstanding with 20 wins and 3.18 ERA. Marco Estrada was lights out during the first half of the season, but suffered a back injury during the 2nd half. Marcus Stroman was inconsistent during last season with a 4.37 ERA, but shown some flashes during the 2nd half of the season. R.A. Dickey only managed to pitched 169 innings, the lowest during his time with the Blue Jays. Francisco Liriano was terrible with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but pitched really well with a 2.92 ERA with Martin behind the plate.
Roberto Osuna may be 21 years old, but he pitched like a 31-year-old stud. He was outstanding for the Blue Jays with 36 saves. Need to cut down his home runs total, but Osuna is one of the best relievers out there. Jason Grilli has been a great veteran presence in the back end of the bullpen. The 39-year old struck out 58 batters over 42 innings during his time with the Blue Jays. Brett Cecil struggled in the first half but was better in the 2nd half of the season. Rule 5 draft pick Joe Biagini was solid during his rookie season with a 3.06 ERA. Joaquin Benoit was a great late additions with a 0.38 ERA since being traded to the Blue Jays. The Bullpen needs to improve as they lost a lot of close ball games.
There were a lot of changes within the front office as Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins took over baseball operations. Although a lot of fans were still bitter about the changes and Alex Anthopoulos’ departure, the front office have done an outstanding job in bringing veterans impact players. It wasn’t perfect for John Gibbons, but there were more highs than lows for the long time manager. But need to do a better job in utilizing the small ball and winning more close ball games.
It was a disappointing ending for the Blue Jays, but it wasn’t a failure as well. They made the wild card spot and put on a show during the ALDS. But they need better execution if they want to bring the World Series back in Toronto. There are some question surrounding the future of Bautista and Encarnacion. But as long as they still have Donaldson, Tulowitzki and their young pitching staff, they are still a contending team heading to the 2017 season.