5 Things the Toronto Blue Jays Can Take Away from the 2012 Season
There's been a lot of discomfort for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012.
It's been difficult to put together a solid lineup, let alone a consistent one. The Jays have used eleven starting pitchers this season because of the fall of injured players.
Seldom did you see the same faces game after game.
I'm not trying to regurgitate what's already been said about Toronto, so I won't. Instead, there are things the Blue Jays can take away from this season that will make them a better club next year.
And at this point, next season (and even the offseason) is something to look forward to.
For that reason, no one should be writing off 2012 as a bust. Every game isn't a throwaway, or meaningless, but instead it's an opportunity to capitalize.
I'm not talking about missing the playoffs again, I'm talking about the ample amount of talent Toronto has on its hands, arguably more than it has ever had, and what they're going to do with it.
This is a list of upsides Toronto can take away from the 2012 season.
Toronto Is Among the Leaders in Home Runs...Again
If you were to look at the Jays' home run numbers for the past few seasons, you'll notice something—they are constantly among the best.
In 2008 Toronto finished a mere 24th in MLB in home runs with 126. If you were born today, you'd think that was absurd and unheard of.
Toronto and home runs tend to go hand in hand these days.
In 2009, the Jays shot up to fifth in the majors with 209. The following season, they one-upped themselves yet again, finding themselves at the very top with a whopping 257 (Boston was second with 211).
Since then it's become tradition in Toronto to hit home runs, and although the Jays finished fifth last season with 186, they're among the best in 2012 with 165. Good for third.
Although Toronto is well out of playoff contention, the ability to hit the long ball has never left them. At the very least, the players and fans can always count on their boys to hit it high and deep, win or lose.
And for the non-Jays fans who have snuck their way onto this page, if you're skeptical about "the man in white," Toronto has 80 bombs on the road and 85 at home.
Meaning they can hit home runs anywhere and anytime.
A Test Run for the Rookies
Although it isn't ideal to see your starters go down with ailments, there has been a certain amount of hype surrounding the guys looking to temporarily fill their shoes.
You may not see the significance of these guys yet, but you soon will.
In September, most of these guys were likely to get called up anyway, but because of the injuries, Toronto's been able to give these guys a shot at the bigs sooner rather than later.
Some of them have flourished, while it's evident that others have stuff to work on. Although many people might be thinking some players aren't major league ready yet, let me assure you of one thing: you're right.
Of course they aren't ready, because major league ready is too broad. Seldom will a player get the call and absolutely tear it up right away. If they do, that's phenomenal, but if they don't (which is more than likely), they have the opportunity to go into the offseason with a specific blueprint.
Although it's possible Toronto's been losing games because it has sent out what appears to be the Las Vegas Blue Jays, it's not a bad thing.
Toronto has the advantage of playing their rookies now, meaning they'll be more than ready when 2013 comes around instead of being new to the league.
The Emergence of Edwin Encarnacion
I think I speak on behalf of all Toronto fans when I say Edwin Encarnacion has been the most pleasant of surprises for an offensively challenged Toronto team.
Last season, Encarnacion was booed by his hometown fans after disappointing with his lackluster fielding and average hitting. His .272/.334/.453 numbers with 17 home runs were good, but in hindsight, no one expected much.
He wasn't much to brag about in the field either, as his .892 fielding percentage at third and .980 at first landed him in a spot where John Farrell knew the ball wouldn't get hit to him—DH. In total, he made 12 errors in 61 games in the field.
But beyond that, it now seems like a distant memory.
With Jose Bautista on the DL, Edwin has been carrying the offensive load in 2012, batting .293/.389/.574 with 34 home runs and 88 RBI.
Not only that, but he's been playing Gold Glove defense for the birds, committing only three errors in 64 games thus far.
It's beyond me how Encarnacion wasn't an All-Star selection, but regardless, he's been an offensive catalyst for the Blue Jays at a time when they most desperately needed him.
Running the Bases
In baseball you need to adopt a specific style of play in order to succeed, based on the talent you have on your team.
Manager John Farrell has put emphasis on the running game before the season started. Since that time, he's been true to his word, sending runners you wouldn't expect in counts you wouldn't expect.
Let's break down Toronto's criminal record on the base paths in 2012.
With 105 stolen bases, they sit second in the American League only behind the Tampa Bay Rays, but there's more to Toronto's game than that.
The Blue Jays have an even 30 steals of third base, having been caught only seven times. They've also done so with nine players (not only Rajai Davis, who has 17 of them).
What's even more interesting is Toronto's ability to take the extra base this season. The stat (XBT%) gauges the percentage of times a runner advances more than one base on a single or more than two bases on a double, when possible, via Baseball Reference.
The league average for the percentage of extra bases taken is 40%; the Jays are far beyond that with an average of 48%.
There is a mind-set being ingrained into the Blue Jays' system, and it's exemplified by this year's top draft pick, D.J. Davis, who might as well be a younger Rajai Davis in terms of speed, but with a lot more offensive upside.
This is the kind of baseball Toronto has played this season, and if they can continue to do so in the future, it will pay great dividends.
The Ability to Overcome Adversity
Every organization, team and player will be faced with adversity, but in the case of the 2012 Jays, adversity is an understatement.
It gets very redundant when Toronto fans talk about how a team decimated by injuries is the reason they had a slim chance to succeed.
But to the non-Jays fans who made it through the length of this slideshow, let me tell you that the collection of injuries was the No. 1 factor Toronto couldn't showcase its abilities.
But alas, I stress time and time again that there's nothing anyone can do. Instead, look at it as a chance to grow.
Toronto has faced more adversity this season than anyone in the majors. Not only have the Jays been dismantled by the plague, they've had to do so in the daunting A.L. East.
Unfortunately that's baseball, and if anything, this will be the reason for even more hype going into the 2013 season.
Everyone expected Toronto to do well this season, but considering they've had to use rookies for the majority of it, holding their ground in 2013 would be considered underachieving.
I'm predicting a playoff run with the health bar at near full next season.
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