An uneducated expectation is a dangerous weapon. Just yesterday, while looking over the CAIRO projections one more time, I stumbled upon the Toronto Blue Jays’ modest 74 wins. The Jays fooled me last season – I joined in the fray that figured they would finish below an upstart Baltimore Orioles’ club – with an unexpected brand of offensive voodoo that resulted in roughly 750 runs. They hit a lot of home runs (257; 46 more than the next highest total and more than the Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, and Albert Pujols combined) and they made a lot of outs (fifth lowest on-base percentage in the league). There’s a reason the Jays are the only team in league history to hit more than 250 home runs and score under 800 runs.
Offenses driven behind low on-base percentages and high slugging percentages have existed throughout the history of the league (with league context being key in defining what a high slugging percentage defines). But recent seasons have led to a proliferation of these offenses. Perhaps we should take to calling them the Joe Carter offenses in honor of the Blue Jays’ legend with a slugging percentage of gold and an on-base percentage of tinfoil. I fully understand that even if the Jays returned the same lineup they would be unlikely to replicate their 2010 feats. Still, I wanted to know how the teams alongside the Jays fared in the year thereafter.
I focused in on recent seasons and found three comparable teams. The 2009 Texas Rangers, the 2006 Chicago Cubs, and the 2001 Milwaukee Brewers. Here’s a look team-by-team.
The 2009 Rangers
Hit: .260/.320/.445 with 224 home runs
Scored: 784 runs
The closest thing we have in recent years to the Jays’ offense, the Rangers decided to mix things up for the 2010 season and parted ways with Marlon Byrd, Hank Blalock, and Andruw Jones. They responded by hitting hit .276/.338/.419 with 162 home runs. The increased on-base percentage outweighed the loss in slugging percentage and home runs as the team scored three more runs in 2010 than they did in 2009.
The 2006 Cubs
Hit: .268/.319/.422 with 166 home runs
Scored: 716 runs
The differences between the 2006 and 2007 Cubs are numerous. The team replaced Todd Walker with Mark DeRosa, Juan Pierre with Alfonso Soriano, and Ronny Cedeno with Cesar Izturis. The team hit .271/.333/.422 along with 151 home runs while scoring nearly 40 additional runs thanks to upping their on-base percentage while maintaining their power output.
The 2001 Brewers
Hit: .251/.319/.426 with 209 home runs
Scored: 740 runs
The loss of Jeromy Burnitz combined with Geoff Jenkins missing time and Alex Sanchez becoming the fulltime centerfielder saw the Brewers’ offense of 2002 hit .253/.320/.390 with 139 home runs and 627 runs. Milwaukee did manage to steal roughly 30 more stolen bases, so there’s that.
Unless the Jays add a designated hitter, they’ll essentially return the 2010 cast in 2011, making this team the truest continuation of any team involved in this post. CAIRO projects the Jays will finish under 700 runs scored in 2011 and maybe they will. There’s something to be said for the availability heuristic, though, and that’s why Toronto’s offense is one of the more intriguing units to watch for next season.