MLB Betting: 2011 Toronto Blue Jays preview
By: Brad Young
Thursday, March 10, 2011
The Toronto Blue Jays have a problem with geography, and this has nothing to do with the fact that they are the lone team in Major League Baseball that resides in Canada. Toronto plays in arguably the toughest division in baseball, the American League East, and not the much easier AL Central.
The Blue Jays are a respectable 25/1 to win the AL pennant, but that ranks fourth in the AL East behind favorites Boston and New York (5/2) and Tampa Bay (10/1). Toronto is also a 50/1 long shot to capture its first World Series since Joe Carter was running around the bases in the early 1990s. Other teams with 50/1 odds entering the season are the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Florida and Oakland.
The Blue Jays finished in their customary fourth spot in the division compliments of an 85-77 record, 11 games behind Tampa Bay and 10 games out of the wild card. But Toronto is expected to fall off that pace from last year, and has been installed with a season win total of 77 games.
The Blue Jays clubbed a league-record 257 home runs last year, but outfielder Vernon Wells and his sizeable contract have been shipped off to the Los Angeles Angels. Toronto is hoping that slugger Jose Bautista can repeat his incredible 2010 season that saw him hit 54 home runs along with 124 runs batted in.
New manager John Farrell is moving Bautista from right field to third base, hoping his offensive numbers don’t suffer.
First baseman Adam Lind hit .305 with 35 home runs two years ago before falling to .237 and 23 last season. Second baseman Aaron Hill also saw his numbers take a dip last year, while Edwin Encarnacion hopes to rebound from injuries that limited him to just 332 at-bats.
The Blue Jays won’t just try to outslug teams, and acquired speedy center fielder Rajai Davis who has 91 stolen bases the past two years. Youth will also be served with outfielder Travis Snider and shortstop Yunel Escobar, but this team will have a hard time reaching last year’s win total.
Speaking of youth, Toronto’s pitching staff is expected to see some growing pains. Shaun Marcum is now a member of the Milwaukee pitching staff, meaning Ricky Romero (27-18, 3.99 ERA the past two years) and Brandon Morrow (10-7, 4.49 ERA) will have to pick up the slack.
Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Marc Rzepczynski also figure to contribute to the starting rotation.
There are no stars in the bullpen, but it appears to be a serviceable bunch that should help this team avoid the AL East basement. Shawn Camp enters spring as the likely setup guy, while hurler Jason Frasor figures on being the closer. Jesse Carlson will be a lefty specialist, while Casey Janssen appears slotted for long relief.
Toronto will be hard pressed to match last year’s win total behind a younger and cheaper lineup. The Blue Jays are expected to go through some growing pains this season that could pay dividends down the road. Playing against the big three teams in the AL East is never easy, but this team will finish ahead of Baltimore once again and retain their usual fourth-place slot.
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