No one expected much from the Toronto Blue Jays in 2005. But surprisingly, prior to the all star break Toronto pitching managed to remain in the American League top 10 while their battling ranked 5th overall in the AL with a collective .268 team average. Unfortunately for Toronto it was all downhill from there as they slid to a final disappointing 80-82 record and fell 15 games behind the Red Sox and Yankees to end their season in 3rd place.
Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells (.269 28 97) provided most of the Blue Jays’ power numbers in 2005 with former Arizona Diamondback and newly acquired Shea Hillenbrand (.291 17 82) helping by splitting time between 1st and 3rd base. The rest of the infield produced much of the team’s offensive in 2005 including 2nd baseman Orlando Hudson (.315 10 63) and 3rd baseman turned 1st baseman Eric Hinske (.262 15 68). Starting pitcher Roy Halladay (12-4 2.41) was clearly the star of the starting pitching staff before he suffered a broken bone in his left leg in early July. And closer Miguel Batista kept the Blue Jays in the race during the first half compiling an impressive 4-2 record prior to the all star break with 15 saves. However, Batista simply wasn’t the same pitcher in the 2nd half of the year despite 16 saves. After the all star break Batista only posted a 1-6 record with a less then stellar 5.35 ERA. Starters Josh Towers (13-12 3.71), Gustavo Chacin (13-9 3.72) and Ted Lilly (10-11 5.56) helped to keep the 2005 pitching efforts admirable.
Off Season Moves:
Much to the delight of Toronto fans, management made two aggressive off season moves to upgrade their pitching staff for 2006. The first was signing free agent and former Baltimore Oriole closer B.J. Ryan (1-4 2.43 36 saves in 41 opportunities)) and the other was taking advantage of the Florida Marlins fire sale by adding starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (12-12 3.44). The Blue Jays also added offensive punch by trading pitcher Dave Bush for 1st baseman Lyle Overbay (.276 19 72) and trading away Orlando Hudson and closer Miguel Batista for slugger Troy Glaus (.258 37 97).
The Blue Jays will jump out of the gate with a very solid pitching staff in 2006. Expect Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Ted Lilly and Gustavo Chacin to form an impressive starting rotation. Burnett pitched over 200 innings in Florida last season so he will prove to be a fine addition to the Blue Jays staff. The acquisition of Oriole closer B.J. Ryan over spotty Miguel Batista will be a vast improvement in the bullpen. Troy Glaus will finally provide some much needed protection for slugger Vernon Wells. One interesting consideration will be how the Blue Jays handle juggling Hillenbrand, Eric Hinske and Troy Glaus at 3rd base. Hillenbrand and Hinske will most likely DH with leftfielder Reed Johnson (.269 8 58) and rightfielder Alex Rios (.262 10 59) rounding out the rest of the Toronto lineup. If the starting pitching can hold up, and the bats can remain productive expect the Blue Jays to keep the summer interesting in 2006.