Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Myth of the Blue Jays Offense

This off-season whenever the discussion turns to dissecting the Blue Jays greatest needs for improvement, on numerous occasions I've heard comments similar to, 'They don't need to improve their offense as they scored the 6th most runs in baseball', 'Their offense is good enough' or 'Their pitching was horrible and was the biggest reason for their lack of success'.  Whenever I heard comments like this alarm bells went of in my mind as I suspected these assumptions may be based on faulty information.  Therefore today I'd like to delve into the Blue Jays 2011 offensive runs scored and pitching runs allowed, compare them against the rest of the league and see if the common beliefs hold up.

The 2011 Results - Offense

Yes it is absolutely true the Toronto Blue Jays finished finished 6th in baseball in runs scored in 2011, however, with pitchers hitting in the National League you really can't use runs scored as a measure of comparison for teams from the different leagues.  Therefore, to compare apples to apples I will only use American League team totals for the purpose of this article, where the Blue Jays finished 5th out of 14 teams in runs scored.  Refer to Chart 1 for American League runs scored by team.

Chart 1 - American League Runs Scored by Team
Runs Scored
NY Yankees867
Kansas City730
Tampa Bay707
LA Angels667
Chicago White Sox654

The first thing that stands out to me is that although the Jays did finish 5th in the league in runs, they scored 132 less runs than the league leading Boston Red Sox.  Additionally, they only scored 20 more runs than the league average.  Thirdly, these totals ignore home park factors and could be misleading.

To combat any park advantage I decided to equalize each teams at home runs scored by taking their 2011 park factors and adjusting each to an equivalent of 1.00.  Therefore, once removing home park advantages, the Toronto Blue Jays adjusted total runs scored was 692, which was 31 runs below the league average.  Additionally, they now finished 10th out of the 14 teams in adjusted total runs scored.

Therefore, despite the common belief, the above analysis suggests the Blue Jays offense was below average for American League teams in 2011.

The 2011 Results - Pitching

The common belief is that the entire rotation outside of Ricky Romero and 10 starts for Henderson Alvarez, the entire Toronto Blue Jays rotation was a disappointment.  Additionally the bullpen couldn't be counted on as they blew a league leading number of saves and Casey Janssen was the only reliable member that had any kind of success. Overall the pitching staff was a disappointment and needs improvement.  On the surface the numbers support this argument as Toronto Blue Jays pitchers allowed 761 runs which was the 4th highest total in the American League.  Refer to Chart 2 for American League runs allowed by team.

Chart 2 - American League Runs Allowed by Team
Runs Allowed
Kansas City762
Chicago White Sox706
NY Yankees657
LA Angels633
Tampa Bay614

Again, the above totals ignore home park factors and when the number of runs allowed at home are adjusted to equalize any advantage/disadvantage, the totals look very different.  The 2011 Toronto Blue Jays adjusted total runs allowed is now 706, which is good enough for 8th lowest of the 14 American League teams and 11 fewer runs than the league average number given up.  Therefore, since both numbers are now right in the middle of the pack for the American League, you could say that the Jays pitching was league average in 2011.

Therefore, while I believe that both the offense and pitching needs some improvement before we can truly call the Blue Jays a team ready to compete for a playoff spot, the analysis above suggests that it is actually the Blue Jays offense that needs the greatest amount of improvement.
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  1. Interesting analysis...and good to see you writing again!

    Do you think full seasons from Lawrie/Rasmus/Johnson are enough to propel them into the upper half? Will it be enough to make a difference?

  2. I just haven't been able to find any time to write as work, kids and household responsibilities have taken up all my time. Hopefully I can find the time to continue posting articles.

    As for the Jays, I do think the addition of those players will help, however I think what will help even more is not giving at bats to players like John MacDonald, Mark Teahan, Jayson Nix, Mike McCoy, Chris Woodward, Juan Rivera, DeWayne Wise, Adam Loewen, etc. I added up the outs at one point that these players made and it was something like the equivalent of 48 games worth of outs.

  3. Very interesting. I think this just goes to show you that the AL can mash and the NL can pitch. When you combine the leagues we seem like a powerhouse hitting team and a softball tossing squad, but isolate the leagues and were middle of the pack for both!