The DiamondView descent through the AL East standings marches on. Please review our coverage of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays for perspective, and if you're a Toronto fan, a depressing reality check.
While the Halladay departure has certainly dominated the coverage of our neighbors to the north, a look at the spread of "talent" among the 2009 starting lineup may illuminate several existing issues and opportunities for improvement.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 4th place 2009 Toronto Blue Jays:
1B LYLE OVERBAY
Lyle's DiamondView shows us Toronto's problem in a nutshell: an average player (32) with below-average defense with at least one major hole in his toolbelt--all at a premium position on the field that is completely dominated by three other teams in the divison. He is an average first baseman with the stick, good for an OBPs of .315, .358, and .372 for the past three years while barely squeezing out an ISO of .151, .149, and .201 over the same period. One might notice that this latest year has actually been an uptick, so expect him to regress to the mean a bit for 2010.
While some would suggest that his value is his glove, even a quick glance at his UZR for the past three years shows a precipitous drop from 3.9 to 2.9 to -0.6 (and that's ignoring his -5.2 in 2006!). And if you're holding out for discipline on the base path, you're holding out for a guy that will never get caught stealing because he never tries. That said, there are Ford Pintos running better than Mr. Overbay here.
2B AARON HILL
Who doesn't love a two-bee with a little power? If you ignore a decent career AVG (.285) but a modest OBP (.337) that puts him below the average major league 2nd Baseman, bricks for shoes and a disappointing glove (UZR has him at -2.3 for 2009 after a 0.7 campaign in 2008), he's awesome!
3B SCOTT ROLEN
Now we're talking. Here's a 3rd baseman that has league average power for a 3B and won't embarrass himself on the base path. He nearly matched his career .370 OBP with a .368 for 2009, and while he's seen a slight decrease in his ability with the glove, he's still surpassing most 3Bs with a 5.6 and 5.7 UZR over the past two years. That said, he's 34, so I say we trade him for a younger guy that has a career line of .260/.341/.448, runs like he forgot something behind him and couldn't catch a ball if it was handed to him. Make the transition a little easier to swallow with a nice pitching prospect and celebrate with fireworks for some nice family fun.
C ROD BARAJAS
Ignoring defense until we apply some catcher metrics (soon, I promise!), we're looking at a guy that eeked out 20 walks in 430 tries while crawling towards a Tony-Pena-Jr-esque .258 OBP for the year. He can't run either. But hey, he's good for the random dinger. Speaking of former Royals, there's little wonder why Toronto jumped at the chance to sign John Buck.
CF VERNON WELLS
Now would be uh-oh time. The 126 Million Dollar Man has league average power for a CF (ISO .140) and can still hold his own on the base-path (17 SB / 4 CS), but that ranking as a fielder is for real. Reeeeal bad. The Phantom Menace bad. The ball is Queen Amidala clunking out her wooden lines and Vernon's glove is the child actor just happy to be in the same movie with that one green muppet that Dad used to like. "Suck at fielding, you will."
LF TRAVIS SNIDER
Did you know that Snider was Ricciardi's first high school player pick in the first round? The good sign here is that he's got the two things a left fielder needs at a young age, with already-league-average-for-a-LF power (2009 ISO .178 in 276 PA) and is better than the average bear in left with the leather. Whether he learns a little more patience at the plate (likely) or improves his base-running (unlikely) remains to be seen.
RF ALEX RIOS
SIXTY NINE MILLION DOLLARS.
SS MARCO SCUTARO
Finally a player in the lineup Toronto fans can be proud of, but his duties now rest in Boston. The 34-year-old did have an above average year for himself in OBP (2009 - .379 vs. Career - .337) but was otherwise a league average shortstop.
If one considers these stats are percentiles, and that Toronto ranks below 50 in three of them, one might begin to understand the problem. Can't get on base, can't run, can't field, and simply not enough power from the guys that have to have it. John Buck will be an improvement at home, but switching Rolen for Encarnacion and Scutaro for Alex Gonzalez probably doesn't make this any better.
Next Up: Baltimore Orioles