With yet another average season for the Toronto Blue Jays officially in the books, it’s time to look back at some of the players that made this season memorable.
It’s easy to break down what went wrong and what went right for the Jays in 2011. The offense was filled with power and depth, while the starting pitching was a mystery after Ricky Romero and the bullpen was generally atrocious.
Mix the positives and negatives and you’ve got a .500 team. It’s something Jays fans are accustomed to, but this year had some new storylines and some different players who stepped up along with a few who disappointed.
I’ll take a look at those players as I hand out my awards, both good and bad, from the 2011 MLB season for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Most of us heard the rumours about a great young Canadian prospect at third base before this season. However, the anticipation brought by the former first-round pick that GM Alex Anthopolous traded for still didn’t come close to the realization of how great Brett Lawrie really is after he got called up to the show in early August.
First of all, it was a pleasant surprise that we even got to see a 21-year-old Lawrie in the majors before the September roster expansion. Second, the outstanding hitting and aggressive fielding of Lawrie was so good that it actually exceeded even our highest hopes.
Lawrie came up from the minors with a bang, recording his first major league hit and RBI in his first at-bat. He hit .293 with nine HRs and 25 RBI in just six weeks of action for the Jays and his energetic attitude in the dugout was infectious amongst his teammates.
On the other side of the fence in terms of prospects with high expectations, Kyle Drabeck’s 2011 season was a near disaster.
Drabek was the key piece of the Roy Halladay trade for the Blue Jays, so big things were expected of him coming into his first full season in the majors.
Unfortunately that so-called full season in the majors never happened as Drabek was sent down to the minors in mid-June due to his inconsistency on the mound. From there, things got worse in the minors as Drabek’s ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas was a whopping 7.44.
Despite his poor minor league numbers, Drabek was recalled in September and pitched a total of six relief innings, allowing seven earned runs. Hopefully, Drabek can put his poor season behind him and rebound in 2012.
The first full season at first base for Adam Lind certainly had its peaks and valleys.
He started out with a decent month of April, hitting .274 with four HRs and 21 RBI but suffered an unfortunate injury that kept him out for most of May. However, Lind took off and torched opposing pitchers for a month-and-a-half, hitting .500 with three HRs in just six games in May followed by his .311 average, nine HRs and 22 RBI in June.
The problem for Lind was that as good as he was in May and June, he was equally as bad after the All-Star break. Lind barely hit over .200 for the rest of the season and recorded far fewer HRs and RBI than he did before the break in more games.
At the end of the 2011 season, with the exception of an underwhelming average, Adam Lind’s numbers look fairly solid overall. It’s the way that Lind achieved those numbers that was puzzling though and the Jays organization is hoping they’ll see more of the first-half Lind than the second-half Lind in 2012.
If you read my introduction closely, you would have noticed I described the Blue Jays bullpen as generally atrocious. The reason I used the word generally is because, while most of the Jays relievers were terrible this season, there were times when they showed signs of life and there was even one reliever who was consistently great all season long.
Casey Janssen put up a record of 6-0 this season with an outstanding ERA of just 2.26 in 2011. Janssen only gave up more than one run in three of his 55 appearances and his seven holds would have been much greater if not for the ineptitude of the relievers who pitched after him.
It's too bad that Janssen was generally forgotten about and lumped into an otherwise brutal bullpen by most observers. He was the one bright spot in a pen that needs a huge overhaul this offseason.
While the Blue Jays pitching staff wasn’t very consistent as a whole in 2011, Ricky Romero continued to show the baseball world that he is a legitimate ace.
Romero’s 15 wins on a .500 team with a bullpen that consistently gave up leads was impressive enough. But his 2.92 ERA, his .216 opponents' batting average and his 1.14 WHIP are nothing short of outstanding.
If you thought Casey Janssen was consistent, Romero failed to pitch six innings or more just four times in his 32 starts. He also didn’t miss a start or even leave a game early due to injury once for the second straight season.
Consistency is a key aspect that all the top pitchers in the game have, so it’s good to know that Ricky Romero has that in common with the best of the best.
Much like Adam Lind, you could say that Brandon Morrow was a bit of a roller coaster ride in 2011. The only difference between the two is that Lind has already reached the status of a legitimate middle-of-the-order power threat, while Morrow is still flirting with becoming a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher.
Morrow has such a powerful fastball and a dynamic breaking ball that it’s often frustrating to watch him pitch because you know he has the potential to be a star. He teases us with his brilliance every four or five starts, but he also blows up on the mound every four or five starts and looks pretty ordinary in between.
While Morrow didn’t have an outing as memorable as his 17-strikeout, one-hit shutout performance in 2010, he did have two straight starts where he pitched seven or more innings of scoreless ball this season. Overall though, there weren’t enough of those performances in 2011 for the type of pitching talent that Brandon Morrow has.
The Jays made the biggest midseason trade of 2011 by swiping 25-year-old center fielder Colby Rasmus in a seven-player deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rasmus has always been a player who has shown plenty of promise. However, the Cardinals traded him because his hitting statistics had regressed and because of his apparent attitude problem. The attitude seems to be just fine in Toronto, but his hitting stats actually got worse after joining the Jays.
Rasmus hit just .173 in his 35 games with the Blue Jays this season and has some people wondering if he truly is the budding young star they thought they were getting.
The good thing is that Rasmus is still young, he’s a very good center fielder and this is his first poor year since entering the majors. Then again, he’s also only had one good year in the majors, so there will be plenty of questions about his play heading into the 2012 season.
Was there any question about this one? Jose Bautista proved he’s the real deal and not just a one-year wonder this season by leading the league in HRs yet again and actually improving his average to .304. He also improved his OBP and his OPS and had more than 100 RBI for the second straight season.
Bautista is the battery that makes the rest of the Jays offense run smoothly in the middle of their batting order. Not only did he impress fans and members of the media everywhere with his hitting, but his ability to play multiple positions in the field and play them all well is another reason why he is a strong candidate for the American League MVP, let alone the Jays MVP.
That’s why Joey Bats for MVP is the biggest no-brainer of all the Toronto Blue Jays awards to be handed out for the 2011 season.
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