’08 M’s, Meet the ’07 Blue Jays
Since it’s the topic we can’t get away from, here’s something I thought of in the last few days – if the Mariners make the Erik Bedard deal and have the pitching rotation of Geoff Baker’s dreams, is there a comparable recent team that was built on similar principles?
I think there is, and ironically, it’s the Toronto Blue Jays of 2007. Isn’t symmetry fun?
Seriously, let’s take a look at the concepts. Those in favor of the Bedard deal essentially argue that having Bedard-Felix-Silva-Batista-Washburn is such a good rotation, and that starting pitching is so vital to team success, that the team becomes an instant contender. Two aces, two innings eaters, and no unreliable guys who have no track record to sabotage things? How could this fail?
I present the ’07 Blue Jays.
#1 Starter: Roy Halladay, the definition of an ace. 225 IP, 3.71 ERA.
#2 Starter: A.J. Burnett, inconsistent but sometimes dominating. 165 IP, 3.75 ERA
#3 Starter: Dustin McGowan, electric arm but command problems. 170 IP, 4.08 ERA
#4 Starter: Shaun Marcum, strike throwing innings eater. 159 IP, 4.13 ERA
#5 Starter: Jesse Litsch, good command contact guy. 111 IP, 3.81 ERA.
Toss in a bullpen trio of Jeremy Accardo (2.14 ERA), Scott Downs (2.17 ERA), and Casey Janssen (2.35 ERA), and the Blue Jays pitching staff last year was the prototype for what the pro-Bedard camp wants the Mariners pitching staff to look like. Two dominant guys at the front of the rotation, solid guys at the back end, innings eaters in the middle, and a shutdown bullpen capable of holding leads.
Not surprisingly, the Blue Jays strength in run prevention led to a 4.00 ERA, second in the American League. Since pitching is the name of the game, this strong combination of power arms and depth carried them into the playoffs, right?
Uhh, no. They finished 83-79 with a run differential of +50 runs – solid, but not a real contender, especially not in the American League. Why didn’t they win more games?
Easy – they didn’t score enough runs. Troy Glaus, Frank Thomas, and Alex Rios were good but not great, and while they got strong supporting performances from Matt Stairs and Aaron Hill, Vernon Wells forgot how to hit again and Lyle Overbay was one of the few first baseman alive as bad as Richie Sexson. The lack of production from several line-up spots killed rallies, and their overall reliance on right handed hitters made them an easy matchup for teams with good right handed pitching.
So, lets see – a line-up with several good but not great hitters, some black holes offensively, and an over reliance on RH bats – where have I seen this kind of offense before? Oh, right, in Safeco Field every night.
Seriously, just run through the comparisons in terms of run production.
Catchers: Zaun and Johjima are basically a push
Corner Infielders: Overbay/Glaus and Sexson/Beltre are about as even as you could get.
Middle Infielders: McDonald/Hill and Betancourt/Lopez are pretty even as hitters.
Outfielders: Stairs/Wells/Rios and Ibanez/Ichiro/random RF is pretty close to a push.
DH: Thomas blows Vidro out of the water.
These offenses are basically the same. You could argue that there are minor differences, but nothing drastic enough to eliminate the comparison.
If the Mariners follow the ’07 Blue Jays formula, they’re very likely to replicate the ’07 Blue Jays results – a decent team that is a big step behind the elite clubs in the American League.
Swapping Adam Jones for Erik Bedard pushes the Mariners towards being Toronto West. And, despite the hyperbole about the amazing transformative powers of having two lights out pitchers at the front of your rotation, the formula fails if the team isn’t good enough overall.
And they’re not – the M’s could have made themselves contenders this winter, but instead, they signed Carlos Silva. Making a disastrous trade for Erik Bedard and replacing Adam Jones with the carcass of Luis Gonzalez and his veteran entitlement wouldn’t make them a contender – it would make them a sad organization hoping for a miracle in lieu of a real plan.