Toronto Blue Jays: 10 Things That Need to Change to Win AL East Title
The Toronto Blue Jays have a great young team that can contend for the AL East in the next few years.
Alex Anthopoulos has done a great job in garnering draft picks and getting young players via trade to help build a nucleus here in Toronto and compete against the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays on a regular basis.
Although they can contend, many things will have to change.
Here are 10 things that need to change in order for the Blue Jays to win the AL East crown for the first time since 1993.
Better Play Against the AL East
In order to win your division, you must play well against your division. Wise words I know.
The Blue Jays played very poorly against the top competition in the AL East. They were
They were 7-11 versus the Yankees (including a five game losing streak), 8-10 versus the Red Sox and an abysmal 6-12 against the Rays for a total record of 21-33.
Simply put, if you flip that number to 33-21, they are in the playoffs.
In order for the Blue Jays to have any chance of grabbing the AL East crown, they must improve their play against their rivals.
Acquisition of a Big Bat
This is even more indicative when looking at the home parks in the AL East (Yankee stadium: short porch in right; Fenway: Green Monster; Rogers Centre, Camden Yards, etc.)
I believe that the Blue Jays really need a big power bat to hit behind Jose Bautista, just like the Cardinals have with Holliday. Jose would then get more pitches to see while the clean-up hitter would be hitting with people on base more often.
In order for the Jays to compete for the AL East title, they need to get that big banger in the four-slot.
Better Relief Pitching
It was pretty evident that the Blue Jays relief pitchers (outside of Casey Janssen) were terrible. Every major reliever at season’s end had an ERA over four (except the aforementioned Janssen and Frank Francisco who finished strong to get down to 3.55 albeit with a 1-4 record and a 5.92 pre-All-Star Break ERA).
Rauch was terrible, posting a 4.85 ERA and 11 saves in 16 opportunities.
I could go on but trust me that they were awful. If the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers proved anything, it’s that a strong bullpen (who they both bolstered at the trade deadline with Adams, Uehara and Dotel, Rzepczynski respectively) can take you to the show.
Young Guns Need to Perform
In order for the Jays to contend, they need their young core to really perform, especially their pitchers.
Guys like Henderson Alvarez, Brett Cecil, Hechavarria, Carreno and even guys like Cooper and Loewen need to come in and make a difference. If the Blue Jays can have Carreno potentially close, have Alvarez or Cecil produce quality seasons in the rotation, then the Blue Jays have a decent shot at making the playoffs.
Drabek Needs to Be “Who We Thought They Were”
Kyle Drabek was the prize in the Roy Halladay deal but was very disappointing in his first season with the Blue Jays. He began the season in the rotation but got consistently worse and even floundered once sent down to the minors.
He really needs to regain some confidence and regain some composure on the mound and avoid the free passes.
If Drabek can fix what ails him and be a dominant young pitcher (which he has the potential to do) he would be vital in the Blue Jays quest for an AL East crown.
Morrow Needs to Pitch to His Expectations
Morrow was primed for a great year this season after finishing strong in 2010. However, what plagued Morrow was a lack of consistency.
His final numbers were disappointing (11-11, 4.72 ERA) yet he did impress in many outings (his final three starts: 21 IP, 11 H, 2 ER, 24 K).
If Morrow can become a consistent No. 2 or No. 3 starter for the Blue Jays and put up a respectable ERA then the Blue Jays can really begin to contend in the AL East.
Travis Snider Needs to Show Why He Was a High First-Round Pick
Snider, Snider, Snider. His career has long been discussed and everyone needs to know if he can be a consistent everyday MLB player. Snider has had some success but, like others on this list, needs to find some consistency for the Blue Jays.
I won’t repeat what I have said in my previous article, but he needs to play to his potential for the Jays to take the AL East crown.
Full Year of Health from Dustin McGowan
McGowan and Morrow seem to follow many parallels. They both have a great arsenal of pitches, both have easy deliveries and can hit the radar in the upper 90s. However, they have both struggled to be consistent.
It is somewhat unfair to say that McGowan is inconsistent, but he needs to put together a full season of success.
If McGowan comes back in 2012 healthy and full of zest, then he can play a big part in rejuvenating the rotation or the bullpen.
Colby Rasmus Needs to Make the Jump
I was ecstatic when the Jays traded for Rasmus. He is a young all-around prospect that has the chance to be great. I believe he is in a great environment here in Toronto to finally make the jump to stardom.
Rasmus has shown that he can play at the major league level (2010: .276 AVG, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 12 SB) and I believe he can begin to blossom into what everyone expects.
Rasmus needs to become the player we envisioned when trading for him. If, as I mentioned earlier, we can attract a power bat to hit cleanup, a 2-3-4 of Rasmus, Bautista and (insert awesome power hitter here) would be exceptional.
Rasmus is one of the biggest keys to the Jays becoming an AL East champion.
In order to be successful in a 162-game grinding season, you need to avoid the long losing streaks. The Blue Jays need to minimize the damage and find ways to win the close games (which was tough considering the quality of their bullpen).
The Blue Jays had a four-game losing streak almost every month of the season (they did not have one in July or May, but in both months had two three-game losing streaks).
Being consistent is integral to becoming a champion and playing against two of the best teams in the whole league on a regular basis makes this much more difficult.
The Blue Jays need all 10 of these things to change in order to capture the AL East crown.