Blue Jays 1992 vs 2007 (Part 2 of 10)

First Base
In 1992 the helmet-wearing, former third round draft pick John Olerud manned the first base bag for Toronto. Olerud, 23, who had suffered a brain aneurysm while at Washington State University, was a top two-way player in college but had a sweet batting stroke that wowed scouts. He did not play a game in the minors for the Jays and hit .375 in six games after signing with the Jays in 1989. Three years later he batted .284 AVG/.825 OPS during the Jays’ regular run. He hit only 16 homers and drove in 66 runs, both well below average numbers for a first baseman. Olerud walked 70 times in 138 games. Olerud went on to hit more than .300 in the playoffs.

Other players who spend time at first base for Toronto in 1992 included Pat Tabler (34 games), Domingo Martinez (seven games), Joe Carter (four games), Ed Sprague (four games), Jeff Kent (three games), and Mike Maksudian (one game).

In 2007, first base will be manned by another first baseman known more for his line-drive swing than his power. Lyle Overbay, 30, had a solid first year for the Blue Jays and batted .312/.880. He drove in 92 runs and hammered 22 homers. Overbay also showed a knack for hitting doubles and finished the 2006 season with 46, while Olerud hit only 28 in 1992. Both Olerud and Overbay had .994 fielding percentages during their respective seasons.

Jason Phillips, Adam Lind, John Hattig and possibly Frank Thomas could see time at first base for the Blue Jays in 2007.  None of players mentioned should see extended playing time if an injury occurs to Overbay, although Lind is the best bet for the future.

Edge: Overbay (2007)

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Blue Jays 1992 vs 2007 (Part 1 of 10)

There is a reason why sports teams play the games, instead of simply flying into the playoffs at the beginning of the season. You cannot predict the outcome of the season unless you play the games. No one predicted the Detroit Tigers would knock the New York Yankees out of the first round of the playoffs and make it into the World Series, let alone play .500 ball. No one outside of Boston was heavily favouring the Red Sox to break the curse in 2004. Or how about the Marlins of 2003? That is the magic of professional baseball.

Anyone can look at the Toronto Blue Jays’ off-season and say it was a disappointment. Quite possibly it looks a little more disappointing than it actually was, simply because of how active – and successful – the Jays were the previous off-season when they landed A.J. Burnett, B.J. Ryan, Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus. But teams, aside from those in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, cannot afford to sign the cream of the free agent crop each and every year.

Admittedly, the year 1992 was a different story for fans in Toronto. The Blue Jays were at the top of the heap in the American League. They had a $49.4 million payroll, while the New York Yankees – still mired in mediocrity from the ‘80s – had a payroll of only $34.9 million. In fact, Toronto had the highest payroll in baseball, with Oakland in second place at roughly $48 million. The Jays were big spenders in the free agent market and General Manager Pat Gillick was known for moving prospects at the July trade deadline to acquire the missing pieces of the puzzle. A strong farm system, helped by the unique ability to scout top Latin talent, played a huge role in the big club’s successes. And it did not hurt that many free agents saw Toronto as a great place to play, for many of the above reasons.

It has been 15 years since the Toronto Blue Jays departed on the 1992 season, which as we all know, was the beginning of the most exciting year in the history of Canadian baseball. It culminated with the Jays knocking off the Philadelphia Phillies and bringing the World Series title north of the border for the first time in the storied history of Major League Baseball.

So, how does today’s Jays’ team compare to the historical 1992 version 15 years later? Let’s find out.

Catching
In 1992, an Ohio native by the name of Pat Borders could be found squatting behind the plate night-in-and-night-out for 138 games. Offence was not his strength. He managed a .242 batting average, an OPS of .675, 13 home runs and 53 RBI. Behind the plate, Borders, 29, had a .991 fielding percentage but allowed 11 passed balls. In the post-season, Borders went on to hit .318/.775 in the ALCS and .450/1.250 in the World Series. He was named the World Series MVP for his efforts.

The back-up catchers on the 1992 Blue Jays did not see a lot of action. Greg Myers, 26, appeared in 22 games and batted .230/.656. Randy Knorr, 23, appeared in eight games and .263/.721. Ed Sprague saw time at a variety of positions, including 15 games as a catcher. Overall, the 24-year-old utility player hit .234/.620.

In 2007, Gregg Zaun is expected to see the majority of playing time. In 2006, while platooning with Bengie Molina, Zaun hit .272/.825 in 99 games. He produced 12 homers and 40 RBI in roughly 200 at-bats less than Borders. Six years older than Borders, Zaun’s numbers could decline in 2007, although offensively he should do no worse than Borders circa 1992. Zaun also has shown a willingness to take the free pass, with 41 walks in 2006. Borders managed only 33 in his campaign. Defensively, Zaun had a fielding percentage of .994 with four passed balls. The 36-year-old catcher is also known for being a vocal leader in the clubhouse and on the field.

Veteran Jason Phillips appears set to see the majority of time backing up Zaun in 2007. Phillips, 30, has a career average of .254 in more than 1200 at-bats for Toronto, Los Angeles (NL) and New York (NL). In 25 games for Toronto in 2006, he batted .250/.650. He has power, limited speed and can play a respectable first base. He has a career fielding percentage behind the plate of .995 and .993 at first base. Prospect Curtis Thigpen and defensive specialist Erik Kratz will be waiting in the wings in Syracuse, along with recently signed veteran catcher Sal Fasano.

Edge: Zaun/Phillips (2007)

Next up: John Olerud vs Lyle Overbay (First Base)

Pitching- Danny Hill

Danny Hill RHP
Height: 6’0’’ Weight: 200
Age: 11/81 Signed: 2004 (3-Missouri) Options: 3
Repertoire: 89-92 sinker, slider, splitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

 

1.59

 

 

11.0

 

 

9

 

 

3-6

 

 

.220

 

 

NYP

 

 

2005

 

 

2.04

 

 

17.2

 

 

16

 

 

7-12

 

 

.239

 

 

A-

 

 

 

 

 

3.22

 

 

50.1

 

 

47

 

 

21-29

 

 

.250

 

 

A+

 

 

2006

 

 

5.54

 

 

74.2

 

 

90

 

 

30-62

 

 

.299

 

 

AA

 

Secondary Stats:
Vs Left: .308
Vs Right: .291
Bases Empty: .271
Runners On: .333
Scoring Position: .323
WHIP: 1.61
GO/AO: 1.45

Notes: Hill is a sinker/slider pitcher who doesn’t strike out many guys. He needs to allow fewer hits and his GO/AO was only 1.39 in 2006, which is a bad sign as he faces better opposition. Hill was a senior sign out of college and was expected to move quickly but hasn’t. He has a medium, compact, athletic frame with broad shoulders. He utilizes a three-quarter arm angle and his fastball has riding life with occasional sink. Hill is aggressive and not afraid to pitch inside. He flashes a quality three-quarter tilt slider, with tight, sharp break. Hill is a good athlete. He looked over-matched at double-A but there was some thought that he was pitching hurt.

Pitching- Tracy Thorpe

Tracy Thorpe RHP
Height: 6’4’’ Weight: 250
Age: 12/80 Signed: 2000 (11-high school)  Options: 3
Repertoire: 93-98 mph fastball, change, curve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

 

3.64

 

 

59.0

 

 

39

 

 

30-53

 

 

.192

 

 

A+

 

 

2005

 

 

3.67

 

 

34.1

 

 

32

 

 

10-33

 

 

.242

 

 

A+

 

 

 

 

 

3.89

 

 

37.0

 

 

30

 

 

17-36

 

 

.233

 

 

AA

 

 

2006

 

 

2.91

 

 

55.2

 

 

33

 

 

29-62

 

 

.169

 

 

AA

 

Secondary Stats:
Vs Left: .200
Vs Right: .157
Bases Empty: .179
Runners On: .164
Scoring Position: .238
WHIP: .113
GO/AO: 0.42

Notes: Thorpe has nasty stuff but he cannot stay healthy. He needs better command of his pitches – and it has finally started to come. Scouts love Thorpe’s stuff but would like to see the right-hander put it together in a little faster manner. Thorpe began the 2005 season with the Dunedin Blue Jays, and started off slow before reaching a stretch in which he became unhittable. Thorpe is a solid athlete, having been recruited for college football. He was the 2002 Man of the Year for his efforts off the field with children. He had labrum surgery in 2002, but rebounded quickly and has been healthy the last two seasons. He touches 98 mph and settled in at 93-97 mph with his fastball. He is still wild, but has improved the command of curve and change. Thorpe has toyed with a splitter. He struggled in the Arizona Fall League after the Jays added him to the 40-man
roster for the first time.

Shaun Marcum – 2007 sleeper alert

As it stands right now the Toronto Blue Jays have a
projected bullpen of:

Closer: B.J. Ryan
Set-up: Brandon League
Short: Jeremy Accardo
Short: Jason Frasor
Long: Scott Downs
Swing: Shaun Marcum
Lefty: Brian Tallet

The biggest issue with the bullpen is the lack of
experience. Only Ryan can be considered a true veteran, although Downs is probably knocking on that door. The depth is not
overly strong either.

Triple-A insurance likely would come in the form of
hard-throwers Ryan Houston or Tracy Thorpe, both of whom have no major league
experience. From the left side, Davis Romero will likely provide some insurance
for Tallet, whose lack of command could knock him out of the majors at any
second.

Minor league free agents Beau Kemp, Jean Machi and Geremi
Gonzalez are other options, but Gonzalez is the only pitcher with MLB
experience. And though he tore up the winter league, Gonzalez is a
below-average major league pitcher. Neither Machi nor Kemp have spent time
above double-A.

Eventually, minor league starters Ismael Ramirez, Josh Banks
and Ty Taubenheim will find themselves in the bullpen in the major leagues,
given their repertoires and past history.

Most likely to exceed expectation:

1. Shaun Marcum

Marcum was the everyday shortstop for Southwest Missouri State, while also serving
as their closer. He had a solid debut for the Blue Jays in 2003 as a short
reliever. At Auburn,
Marcum averaged 12.44 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and only 1.85 walks
(BB/9). As well, he allowed only 3.97 hits per nine innings (H/9) during his 34-inning
stint.

After the season, the Jays decided to give Marcum, and his
four-pitch repertoire, a shot at the starting rotation. At worst, the
experiment would give Marcum valuable innings of experience, which he missed
out on as a two-way player in college. He began 2004 in full-season ball in Charleston. The low
minors continued to be no challenge for Marcum as he posted ratios of 9.46 K/9,
1.82 BB/9 and 7.29 H/9 in 79 innings. He was rewarded with a midseason promotion to Dunedin. Marcum again
dominated by posting ratios of 9.39 K/9, 0.52 BB/9 and 9.65 H/9 in 69 innings.
Interestingly enough, his strikeout ratio stayed pretty much the same but his
walk ratio decreased significantly to the point he had a mind-boggling 18.00 strikeout-to-walk
(K/BB) ratio. While his BB/9 ration decreased, Marcum’s H/9 ration increased,
no doubt because he was in the strike zone more often.

It was clear that Marcum was ready for an even bigger
challenge and he received that in 2005 with a promotion to double-A New
Hampshire. And it was clear that there were much better hitters in double-A
than in single-A ball as Marcum’s K/9 ration dropped to 6.75, while his BB/9
ration settled in at 1.69 and he allowed 7.43 H/9 in 53 innings or work. The
K/9 was below average, but both his walk and hits ratios were still
above-average and right around his career norm.

Despite some signs that the opposition was starting to catch
up to Marcum, the Jays challenged him again with a mid-season promotion to
triple-A. Marcum threw 103 innings in Syracuse and his  numbers surprisingly improved: 7.81 K/9, 1.56 BB/9 and 8.20 H/9.

In September of 2005, the Jays again promoted Marcum, this time
for his first taste of the major leagues. Working out of the bullpen, he
struggled with his command. – something that had never happened to Marcum in
his pro career. In eight innings (five games) Marcum did not allow a run, but
his posted ratios of 4.50 K/9, 4.50 BB/9 and 6.75 H/9. The hits were down, but
the walks were way up – almost three BB/9 more than his minor league average.

When 2006 came around, Marcum found himself on the
Toronto-Syracuse shuttle. In April and May, he pitched infrequently in the
majors, making three appearances out of the bullpen he allowed eight hits and
six walks in 3.2 innings of work.

He then spent much of May and the entire month of June back
in the rotation in triple-A. At Syracuse,
Marcum got back on track and posted ratios of 10.25 K/9, 1.54 BB/9 and 8.20 H/9
in 55 innings of work.

As July rolled around, Marcum received the major league call
once again and this time he would spend the majority of the remainder of the
season in The Show. In July, Marcum worked four games out of the bullpen and
also started three games. In 20.2 innings, he allowed 19 hits, walked nine and
struck out 20.

The Jays then slid Marcum into the No. 5 spot in the
rotation for August and September. He struggled with his command in August,
allowing 17 walks in 31 innings, while striking out 19 and allowing 33 hits. In
September, Marcum rebounded a bit by cutting his walks to only six in 23
innings, but he allowed 27 hits. He also stuck out 22 batters. His major league
ratios for the year were 7.22 K/9, 4.22 BB/9 and 10.67 H/9. His WHIP (walks +
hits / innings) was very high at 1.60 (Roy Halladay’s WHIP was 1.10). The most
alarming statistic of Marcum’s was definitely the BB/9. He was averaging more
than 2.5 more walks per nine innings than he did in the minors. Any pitcher can
expect to walk a few more batters in the majors, compared to the minors, but
2.5 is a lot.

Depending on the health of Tomo Ohka and John Thomson,
Marcum could very well start the 2007 season in the bullpen. And it seems clear
that he has little left to prove in the minors. But continuing to swing between
the bullpen and the rotation will likely be a detriment to Marcum’s career. By
plugging him into the pen – and leaving him there – the Jays will allow Marcum
to focus on one role, which could allow him to improve his control. As well,
his 89-92 mph fastball should hit 91-92 more consistently and he could consider
scrapping his curveball and focusing more on his plus slider (his out-pitch)
and his above-average change-up. Those three pitches would give Marcum the
makings of an above-average repertoire for a middle or long reliever. If he can
reduce his BB/9 ratio in the majors to 2 or 2.5, he could become down right
nasty. 

Most likely to disappoint:

1. Jeremy Accardo

Accardo was somewhat of a disappointment after coming over
from San Francisco in the Shea Hillenbrand/Vinny Chulk trade. Accardo, who was originally signed
as a non-drafted free agent out of Illinois State University in 2003, gave up a lot of hits and struck out few batters while with the Jays.

Jays   5.97 ERA
28.2 IP 38 H  9/14 BB/K 4.40 K/9 2.83 BB/9 11.93 BB/9
Giants 4.91 ERA 40.1
IP 38 H 11/40 BB/K 8.93 K/9 2.45 BB/9 8.48 BB/9

Accardo appeared to lack confidence while facing the better
hitters in the American League East and he appeared to have little desire in
throwing anything but his fastball. His K/9 ration is not respectable,
especially for a power reliever. And almost 12 hits per inning is far too many.
I will be shocked if he is in a big league uniform by May, having spent no time
in the minors in early 2007. At this point, Accardo is clearly more of a
thrower, than a pitcher and he needs more instruction… before he regresses into
Adam Peterson. Accardo has the potential to be an above-average reliever if
handled properly, but I highly doubt it will be in 2007.

2. Brian Tallet

One quick look at Tallent and you see a 3.81 ERA, which isn’t
bad at all, However, upon closer inspection, you also see 31 walks in 54.1
innings, which equates to 5.13 BB/9. And he only strikes out batters at a ratio
of 6.13 K/9. On the positive side, he did allow only 7.45 hits per nine
innings. Tallet is OK, but not great, against left-handers, which makes him a
fringe LOOGY. He had a 3.18 ERA against lefties and a 4.10 ERA against
righties. On the plus side, lefties hit 2.55 ground balls per fly ball against
Tallet, while righties actually hit more fly balls against him, than ground
balls. Against left-handed batters, Tallet had ratios of 5.82 K/9, 4.24 BB/9
and 6.88 H/9. Against righties, he posted ratios of 6.27 K/9, 5.54 BB/9 and 7.71.Tallet’s
numbers, no matter how you look at them, are bland, which leaves him on that perpetual
middle reliever tightrope between the majors and the minors.

Pitching- Kyle Yates

Kyle Yates RHP
Height: 6’4’’ Weight: 220
Age: 1/83 Signed: 2004 (13-Texas)  Options: 3
Repertoire: average fastball, curve ball, change-up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2004

 

 

6.75

 

 

9.0

 

 

9

 

 

5-11

 

 

.265

 

 

NYP

 

 

2005

 

 

4.43

 

 

81.1

 

 

82

 

 

19-81

 

 

.265

 

 

A-

 

 

 

 

 

1.91

 

 

75.1

 

 

69

 

 

19-67

 

 

.242

 

 

A+

 

 

2006

 

 

0.64

 

 

14.0

 

 

8

 

 

0-13

 

 

.163

 

 

A+

 

 

 

 

 

3.75

 

 

127.1

 

 

118

 

 

38-102

 

 

.246

 

 

AA

 

Secondary Stats:
Vs Left: .237
Vs Right: .213
Bases Empty: .217
Runners On: .240
Scoring Position: 154
WHIP: 1.23
GO/AO: 0.92

Notes: Yates doesn’t throw hard and he needs to hit his spots to survive in the majors. He has a nasty curveball, which is his out-pitch. He was second only to Casey Janssen for the most improved pitcher in 2005. He continued to improve in 2006, even after a minor hiccup at double-A. He is probably best-suited for relief, which is where he pitched in college. He was a little-known reliever at the University of Texas behind Huston Street and J. Brent Cox, and he caught Curtis Thigpen. His curve is a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Yates’ 88-90 mph fastball is fringe-average, although it can hit 92 mph out of the bullpen. He learned a change-up in the 2004 instructional league, which led to shot in starting rotation. Yates can become too reliant on curve and needs to learn to mix pitches more often.

Pitching- Ricky Romero

Ricky Romero LHP
Height: 6’1’’ Weight: 195
Age: 11/84 Signed: 2005 (6th overall-Cal State Fullerton)  Options: 3
Repertoire: 90-94 fastball, cutter/slider, 12-6 curve, change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2005

 

 

0.00

 

 

2.0

 

 

2

 

 

1-2

 

 

.250

 

 

NYP

 

 

 

 

 

3.82

 

 

30.2

 

 

36

 

 

7-22

 

 

.283

 

 

A+

 

 

2006

 

 

2.47

 

 

58.1

 

 

48

 

 

14-61

 

 

.224

 

 

A+

 

 

 

 

 

5.08

 

 

67.1

 

 

65

 

 

26-41

 

 

.256

 

 

AA

 

Secondary Stats (New Hampshire):
Vs Left: .200
Vs Right: .279
Bases Empty: .224
Runners On: .299
Scoring Position: .348
WHIP: 1.34
GO/AO: 1.31

Notes: Romero profile as a No. 3 starter. He knows how to pitch and he was the first pitcher selected in the 2005 draft. Romero has three solid, major league-ready pitches that he can throw for strikes almost at will, including a fastball that sits at 90-91 mph and touches 93-94. He also has an excellent curve ball and a change-up. Romero gets his highest grades for his makeup, temperament and competitive zeal. He is an excellent student of the game who understands the science of pitching, and is a master at controlling the tempo of a game. He often has one poor inning a game, gets mad at himself and responds by pitching better the rest of the way. He also holds runners well and fields his position as well as any college pitcher. Romero has a fluid, easy delivery. He displays two kinds of fastballs: a slider-like cutter and a nasty sinker that drops late. Romero can change speeds on his 12-to-6 curve ball. Romero struggled in double-A in 2006, but it was his first full season and he struggled with minor injuries earlier in the season and never really got on track.