There is a harsh reality about the 2010 Toronto Blue Jays, and that is this: they are an all-around weak team amidst an increasingly strong division.
I don't mean this as a criticism of first-year GM Alex Anthopoulos, who has acknowledged that there will be plenty of difficulties in the early-goings as the franchise shifts its focus toward developing young talent and re-stocking the farm system (ironically, the same things that J.P. Ricciardi said he would do when he was hired as GM in 2001). Ultimately, the franchise is moving in the right direction, but that move seems destined to be a slow one.
As far as this season is concerned, it could get ugly. As in, 100 losses ugly. Sure, they have a few nice pieces moving forward (Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Ricky Romero, to name a few), but there are two central reasons that this team looks primed for one of the worst seasons in franchise history.
Firstly, the rest of the teams in the AL East also have nice pieces. Of course, little needs to be said about the defending champion Yankees and an already strong Red Sox team that added John Lackey, Adrian Beltre and Marco Scutaro. The Rays, meanwhile, have another year of growth and maturation under their belts and should improve upon last year's slight letdown.
However, the main concern for the Jays within the division is, believe it or not, the Orioles. They aren't likely to contend for the division crown, but Baltimore has made some significant strides and should vastly improve upon their 64 wins from last year. In addition to a solid core of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts and catching phenom Matt Wieters, the O's added Kevin Millwood and Garrett Atkins, and re-acquired Miguel Tejada.
These changes are not good news for the Jays, who have to play each of their AL East foes 19 times this year. That's 76 of 162 games against strong and/or improved squads, not to mention another 27 games against 2009 play-off teams and three against the World Series runner-up Philles (armed with newly acquired Roy Halladay).
The second reason is more internal – specifically, the pitching staff. Even with Doc in tow last season, the Jays' staff ranked 22nd in the league in team ERA. Of their 10 complete games, nine were courtesy of Halladay. Of their four shutouts, all four belonged to number 32. And just think of what the team needs to replace: 239 innings pitched, 32 starts, 22 quality starts and a 2.79 ERA.
And where are they going to fill the void? Well, you got me. Of the prospective rotation (Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Marc Rzepcynski), no one has come close to matching any of those numbers in any individual season. Throw in a few injuries over the course of the season (these are the Jays, after all) and you could be looking at one big mess.
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Written by Ben Fisher