Saturday, February 5, 2011
Five Bold Blue Jays Predictions
With the date for pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training just around the corner, with the exception of others like J. P. Arencibia just can't wait that long, I figured it is as good a time as any to make my five bold predictions for the 2011 season. Remember, please take these with a grain of salt as they are bold predictions which I have gone out on a limb with:
1. Brandon Morrow will become an elite starting pitcher most commonly referred to as an "Ace".
At the beginning of last season Brandon Morrow believed that the only way to be successful was to throw the ball as hard as he could. Of course as a result of this belief he had zero command early on in the season and over his career with the Mariners. The Blue Jays coaches kept telling him that if he took just a little off his pitches he'd still throw the ball hard enough that hitters couldn't touch him, but he would have much better command. After a poor April and May Morrow finally listened to his coaches and the results were as follows:
● From June through September he had an ERA of 3.53 and WHIP of 1.25
● His strikeout per nine innings ratio for the season of 10.95 was tops in the league for any pitcher with more than 140 innings pitched.
● A near no hit 17 strike out performance that is one of the all time most dominating games for a pitcher
All of this in spite of a being one of the most unlucky pitchers in baseball with a BABIP against of .344. In 2011 Morrow will strike out over 200 batters and keep his ERA under 3.50 for the season, making him one of the best pitchers in the American League.
2. Jose Bautista will hit 40 home runs
When looking at players throughout history that suddenly came into their own and slugged 50 plus home runs, the first person that comes to mind for me is George Foster. In 1977 at the age of 28 Foster suddenly hit 52 home runs for the Reds when over parts of the previous 8 years he only had a total of 79 home runs. The next season Foster hit 40 home runs and I'm going to say that Bautista matches this pattern of production and hits 40 as well in 2011.
3. Juan Rivera will hit 25 home runs with an OPS better than .800
This actually isn't all that much of a stretch as for his career he has a .789 OPS and averages 25 home runs per 600 at bats, an approximate number of at bats that he would get playing regularly over a full year. Also, let's not forget that Rivera will be a free agent at the end of the year and it may be his last opportunity at a big contract.
4. Edwin Encarnacion will hit more than 30 Home Runs.
I believe, just as in the case of John Buck, Alex Anthopoulos made a promise of regular playing time to Encarnacion to get him to sign with the Blue Jays. Additionally, with him now taking over as the full time DH and back up 1st baseman, there will be less of a reason to give him days off because of his poor fielding.
While Encarnacion has never hit as much as 30 home runs in a season before, if you extrapolate his home run pace last season over a full season, he would have hit 35 home runs over the course of 162 games.
5. Rajai Davis will steal 60 plus bases.
Last year Rickey Henderson made the bold prediction that Rajai Davis would steal 80 bases, which didn't phase Davis. I'm only going with 60 this year, which is only ten more than he stole last season, a year in which his OBP was down 40 points from the previous season.