Greg Walker knows a few things about hitting. The former power-hitting first baseman spent most of his playing career with the Chicago White Sox before eventually transitioning to become their hitting coach for nine years.
He's now employed as the Atlanta Braves hitting coach.
The additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to the existing line of Brandon Morrow and Rickey Romero gives the Blue Jays possibly the best rotation in baseball.
There isn't another rotation in baseball that can throw hitters off as much as the Blue Birds with their mix of a knuckler, power pitchers and finesse pitchers.
"I think it's going to be a factor, I really do. It will be interesting to see how they set it up. Bottom line is, all five are really good."
It's not just Walker that sees the potential in the Jays. Las Vegas odd-maker Bovada.lv currently has the Blue Jays as the favorite to win it all with odds of 15-2, followed closely behind by the Dodgers and Angels of Los Angeles at 17-2.
Those on the Blue Jays roster believe it too. When asked about the excitement of the Blue Jays now being contenders, recently acquired pitcher R.A. Dickey stated to the National Post:
“You know, a lot of people say these things at the beginning of spring training and the beginning of all new things. But I think in this particular case, the reason it feels so good is because it’s so true. You don’t feel like you’re trying to convince yourself of the things that you’re saying.”
What makes Toronto's situation different than those of last year's Miami Marlins, who signed signed several big-name free agents, is that Toronto already had a strong base to begin with.
Jose Bautista recently told Sportsnet's Evanka Osmak that he got "goosebumps" just looking at their new roster.
"Well [I felt] excitement like with all the other deals that happened earlier this off-season. We have a pretty good team, we had a pretty good team before all these moves and we just became that much better and it’s something that the fans and everyone in Canada should be really excited about because we’re in it to win it."
Former Blue Jays pitcher Dan Plesac had a positive outlook for the Jays as he commented through twitter.
"...the way I see it on Dec 17th : 1. #BlueJays 2. #rays 3. #yanks 4. #orioles 5. #redsox."
R.A. Dickey will undoubtedly be the Jays ace, and what he covets the most is consistency. Perhaps one of the most overlooked positives for the Jays this upcoming season is the Rogers Centre. Former Blue Jays knuckler Tom Candioti comments to MLB.com.
"It's really a great place to pitch. I pitched with the roof open, I pitched with the roof closed, and I always preferred the movement of the ball and the consistency of the movement with the roof closed because it was the same every inning."
It is good to note that Dickey throws his knuckler so hard that the environment has less effect than it does on other knuckleball pitchers. However, it's still nice to think that in the past three years, Dickey has a 1.72 ERA over almost 53 innings in domed stadiums.
Wherever the Blue Jays end up this year or the next, no one can fault Alex Anthopoulos for seeing an opening in the AL East and taking a swing at it.
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