by Adam Greuel… I have decided to do a top 15 players list for each position.
The entire player’s career will be looked at with more emphasis put on how they have played in the last two or three years.
No. 15: Pekka Rinne
2008-09 Stats: 29-15-4, 2.38 GAA, .917 SVP
Career Stats: 30-16-4, 2.39 GAA, .917 SVP
Drafted 258th overall in 2004, Rinne broke out this year and took the number one position in Nashville away from last years surprise rookie, Dan Ellis.
Rinne has been overlooked due to the great season of another rookie goalie, Steve Mason.
Rinne is extremely big for the goaltending position and covers a lot of net when in the crease.
He also has put up great numbers at every level and has great motivation to keep performing well with Dan Ellis being his backup and looking to be the No. 1 goalie in Nashville again.
No. 14: Jonas Hiller
2008-09 Stats: 23-15-1, 2.39 GAA, .919 SVP
Career Stats: 33-22-2, 2.28 GAA, .921 SVP
The surprise of the 2009 playoffs, Hiller was able to claim the No. 1 position in Anaheim after Jean-Sebastian Giguere’s struggles early on in the season.
Hiller had a good regular season, but really proved his worth in the playoffs by leading a one line team to within one game of the Western Conference Finals.
Hiller has a track record of winning high-pressure games and possesses quick lateral movement and plenty of confidence in his butterfly style.
He is already 27 years old, so it will be interesting to see if he is not just a one-year wonder.
No. 13: Tomas Vokoun
2008-09 Stats: 26-23-6, 2.49 GAA, .926 SVP
Career Stats: 217-211-60, 2.56 GAA, .915 SVP
Vokoun is a goalie that has been in the league for a long time, but has yet to get the recognition he deserves.
Playing with the Nashville Predators and Florida Panthers has not exactly helped him get that recognition, but those teams have always known that they are going to get consistently good play from their goalie.
Vokoun is extremely tough to get a read on from a shooter’s perspective because he’s unpredictable.
He can also get red hot for long stretches and has superb agility. His career save percentage of .915 is superb.
No. 12: Chris Mason
2008-09 Stats: 27-21-7, 2.41 GAA, .916 SVP
Career Stats: 85-64-19, 2.55 GAA .914 SVP
Chris Mason started the season off cold, but turned it around and led the St. Louis Blues on an improbable run to the playoffs after being as low as 14th in the conference at one point.
Mason has strong legs, which help him move well laterally, and owns a wealth of experience.
He accepts a backup role and is a solid team player. He has gone from backup to starter on both franchises that he has played with.
No. 11: Steve Mason
2008-09 Stats: 33-20-7, 2.29 GAA, .916 SVP
Career Stats: 33-20-7, 2.29 GAA, .916 SVP
An unlikely candidate to win Rookie of the Year at the beginning of the season, Mason took over in Columbus after a knee injury sidelined Pascal Leclaire.
Mason did not disappoint, leading the Jackets to their first ever playoff appearance while leading the league in shutouts and winning the Calder Trophy.
For Mason, positioning and poise are his two biggest strengths in stopping the puck.
He has maturity beyond his years and already displays big game makeup.
No. 10: Marc-Andre Fleury
2008-09 Stats: 35-18-7, 2.67 GAA, .912 SVP
Career Stats: 111-85-26, 2.87 GAA, .907 SVP
A big talent, Fleury has always been immensely skilled, but a lot of people questioned whether he had the mental makeup of being able to win the big game.
Fleury answered those critics with two solid playoff runs in the last two years, with the last one ending with him holding the Stanley Cup over his head.
Fleury has outstanding quickness and lateral mobility and never gives up on a play. He is capable of making highlight reel saves and can thrive with lots of shots. He needs to become more consistent to become an elite goalie.
No. 9: Cam Ward
2008-09 Stats: 39-23-5, 2.44 GAA, .916 SVP
Career Stats: 120-77-18, 2.81 GAA, .903 SVP
Cam Ward struggled after his shocking 2006 playoff performance when he won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP and the Stanley Cup.
Fortunately for him and the Hurricanes, Ward turned it around this season and was able to lead Carolina to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Ward has an ideal body for the netminding position and an exemplary attitude.
Ward also loves the pressure of tending goal in big games and never crumbles under pressure.
No. 8: Nikolai Khabibulin
2008-09 Stats: 25-8-7, 2.33 GAA, .919 SVP
Career Stats: 299-267-82, 2.67 GAA, .908 SVP
Nikolai Khabibulin wasn’t playing very well in Chicago before this year, but push came to shove as the Blackhawks signed Cristobal Huet, giving Khabibulin extra motivation to perform much better then he had been.
Khabibulin was able to lead the Blackhawks to the Western Conference Final this year.
Khabibulin plays an electrifying, acrobatic style that leaves fans on the edge of their seats and has the game breaking ability to win games by himself.
He is capable of playing a ton of minutes each season.
No. 7: Evgeni Nabokov
2008-09 Stats: 41-12-8, 2.44 GAA, .910 SVP
Career Stats: 249-162-56, 2.38 GAA, .911 SVP
Evgeni Nabokov had a pretty good season last year, leading the San Jose Sharks to first place in the conference and winning 40 games for the second year in a row after a couple of injury plagued seasons.
Unfortunately, Nabokov was once again outplayed by his counterpart in a playoff series and needs to come through this year or Sharks fans are going to start to get sick of him.
Nabokov has lightning-quick reflexes and the ability to snatch a sure goal away from opponents. He also challenges shooters well and plays with confidence.
No. 6: Miikka Kiprusoff
2008-09 Stats: 45-24-5, 2.84 GAA, .903 SVP
Career Stats: 204-125-42, 2.46 GAA .912 SVP
Although last season was a down year for Kiprusoff, there is no question that he still possesses the ability to win a game on his own when his defensemen decide to take the night off.
Kiprusoff seems to be declining, but I think it can be explained by the fact that Mike Keenan has always played his starting goalies too much.
For his sake, Brent Sutter better be able to trust the backup more than Mike Keenan did.
Kiprusoff uses sound positioning to play an effective stand-up style. He isn’t easily rattled and is able to bounce back from a bad goal. He also has ice water in his veins.
No. 5: Henrik Lundqvist
2008-09 Stats: 38-25-7, 2.43 GAA, .916 SVP
Career Stats: 142-83-34, 2.31 GAA, .917 SVP
Henrik Lundqvist has only been in the NHL for four seasons and they have all been good.
He has 30 or more wins in each season and would have won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season if he did not have the misfortune of starting off his NHL career during the same time as Alexander Ovechkin.
Lundqvist excels under pressure and can make spectacular saves look routine. He has performed at a very high level in just about every league or tournament he’s played in.
No. 4: Niklas Backstrom
2008-09 Stats: 37-24-8, 2.33 GAA, .923 SVP
Career Stats: 93-45-22, 2.24 GAA, .923 SVP
Niklas Backstrom is already an elite goaltender after just three seasons in the NHL and he had his best season this year despite the Minnesota Wild not making the playoffs—it’s not his fault he cant score goals as well.
Backstrom is very focused when on duty and owns a wealth of high-level experience—he has represented his country multiple times in international events.
He also possesses good technique and he’s cool under pressure.
No. 3: Tim Thomas
2008-09 Stats: 36-11-7, 2.10 GAA, .933 SVP
Career Stats: 109-73-27, 2.62 GAA, .918 SVP
After toiling in Finland and the AHL for many years, Thomas finally broke out in 2005-’06 and surprisingly won the Vezina Trophy this season for goalie of the year.
Thomas can come up with spectacular saves from out of nowhere and had plenty of success while toiling in the European elite leagues. He is the consummate team player.
No. 2: Roberto Luongo
2008-09 Stats: 33-13-7, 2.34 GAA, .920 SVP
Career Stats: 230-232-64, 2.57 GAA, .919 SVP
Roberto Luongo won 33 games this past season despite missing 24 games with a groin injury, an amazing accomplishment.
Luongo also set the record for most wins in a season (47) three years ago.
Luongo is a true franchise goalkeeper and may be the starter for Canada’s 2010 Olympic team.
He has an awesome combination of size and supreme command of the butterfly style. He can also steal games for his team.
No. 1: Martin Brodeur
2008-09 Stats: 19-9-3, 2.41 GAA, .916 SVP
Career Stats: 557-299-128, 2.21 GAA, .914 SVP
The always durable Brodeur finally missed time this season after being hit on the elbow by a slap shot. It marked the first time he didn’t appear in at least 65 games since the 1994-95 lockout.
Fortunately, he came back with enough time to break Patrick Roy’s record for most wins in a career and he will break Terry Sawchuk’s shutout record next year.
Brodeur is simply one of the best puck-handling goaltenders of all time and has the ability to dominate a contest. He also excels in games with low shot totals due to his superior concentration.
by Adam Greuel… The Toronto Blue Jays have had a storied history since the franchise’s inception in 1977. The Jays were MLB’s best franchise from 1983-1993, and the rosters included numerous star players.
These players ranged from Dave Stieb to Jack Morris, Jimmy Key to Tom Henke, Joe Carter to Roberto Alomar, and many more.
The Jays brought life to baseball fans in Toronto with their amazing play during the early 1990s, a period that saw them win two consecutive World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.
In this list, I count down the 10 best seasons in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.
Best Position Player: Roy Howell- .316 AVG, .386 OBP, 10 HR, 44 RBI
Best Pitcher: Jerry Garvin- 10-18, 4.19 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, 244.2 IP, 127 K
Looking at the record, you might think I`m crazy, but this was the year that Toronto finally got their major league franchise. The city proved they were worthy of having the franchise when the team finished fourth in attendance despite more then 100 losses.
The Jays started their first season in Toronto at the old Exhibition Stadium as they played the Chicago White Sox in a snow storm. The first game in franchise history was won by a score of 9-5.
By the time the season was over, the Jays finished 9.5 games behind their expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners, but 13.5 games ahead of the New York Mets all-time worst first year performance.
Best Position Player: Lloyd Moseby- .280 AVG, .368 OBP, 18 HR, 92 RBI
Best Pitcher: Dave Stieb- 16-8, 2.83 ERA, 1.135 WHIP, 267 IP, 198 K
The Jays were able to post their first winning record ever just the year before 1984 and they followed it up with the exact same record. The signs were there that the Jays were nearly ready to break out.
Although they still finished 15 games back of the Detroit Tigers, the Jays were a young team and used the experience they gained to their advantage in later, more successful seasons.
Best Position Player: Carlos Delgado- .292 AVG, .385 OBP, 38 HR, 115 RBI
Best Pitcher: Roger Clemens- 20-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, 234.2 IP, 271 K
The Jays experienced some down years after the two World Series wins, but looked to be finally turning the corner after a successful 1998 season that saw them finish four games back in the wild card race.
The 1998 Jays combined speed and power that made them one of the best offensive teams in the MLB. Unfortunately, the pitching rotation could not keep up and that is why they couldn’t keep up with the teams ahead of them.
Best Position Player: Willie Upshaw- .306, .373 OBP, 27 HR, 104 RBI
Best Pitcher: Dave Stieb- 17-12, 3.04 ERA, 1.137 WHIP, 278 IP, 187 K
1983 was a great season for the Jays because they were finally able to post their first ever winning record in its seventh season in the MLB. They finished nine games back of the first place Baltimore Orioles.
The Jays finished with a league high .277 batting average as a team and held first place for a grand total of 32 days throughout the season, but their inexperience shined through during the stretch run.
Best Position Player: George Bell- .308 AVG, .352 OBP, 47 HR, 134 RBI
Best Pitcher: Jimmy Key- 17-8, 2,76 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 261 IP, 161 K
Looking at this season from an outsiders perspective might give someone the impression that this season was a pretty successful one, but it was also the most disappointing season in franchise history.
Throughout the year, the Jays were in a battle with the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL East. The two teams were set to face off in a series to end the season with the Jays ahead by one game.
Unfortunately, the Jays were without Tony Fernandez for the series and were swept to finish two games out of a playoff spot. All games were decided by one run.
Best Position Player: Fred McGriff- .269 AVG, .399 OBP, 36 HR, 92 RBI
Best Pitcher: John Cerutti- 11-11, 3.07 ERA, 1.300 WHIP, 205.1 IP, 69 K
The Jays combined good pitching and hitting to make the play-offs for the first time in four years in 1989. They actually started off terribly bad, going 12-24 until manager Jimy Williams was fired, making way for hitting coach Cito Gaston to take over the reigns.
The Jays went an amazing 77-49 under Gaston, finishing two games ahead of the second place Baltimore Orioles.
Unfortunately, the Jays lost the ALCS series 4-1 to the very powerful Oakland Athletics that had great sluggers such as Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.
Best Position Player: Joe Carter- .273 AVG, .330 OBP, 33 HR, 108 RBI
Best Pitcher: Juan Guzman- 10-3, 2.99 ERA, 1.183 WHIP, 138.2, 123 K
Before the 1991 season began, the Jays completed a trade with the San Diego Padres that would forever change the franchise for the better. They traded Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff for Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, the best trade in franchise history.
With these two players now on the roster, the Jays were able to finish seven games ahead of the second place Boston Red Sox, but they lost the American League Championship series in just five games to the Minnesota Twins.
Best Position Player: Jesse Barfield- .289 AVG, .369 OBP, 27 HR, 84 RBI
Best Pitcher: Dave Stieb- 14-13, 2.48 ERA, 1.140 WHIP, 265 IP, 167 K
The 1985 Jays had it all: Starting pitching, relief pitching, power, speed and they combined it all to fall just short of the only 100 win season in franchise history.
The Jays would end up playing the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs, taking a 3-1 series lead and leading many to believe that they would make their first ever World Series appearance.
Unfortunately, the offense would falter and the Royals would take the last three games of the series.
Best Position Player: John Olerud- .363 AVG, .473 OBP, 24 HR, 107 RBI
Best Pitcher: Juan Guzman- 14-3, 3.99 ERA, 1.452 WHIP, 221 IP, 194 K
“Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.” These words, said by Tom Cheek, still ring through many Jays fans heads when thinking about how good the Jays used to be.
Carter’s World Series winning home run off of Phillies pitcher Mitch Williams is the best moment in the history of the franchise.
1993 was an amazing season for the franchise as Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar finished 1-2-3 in batting average respectively and Olerud flirted with a 400 average for a while.
Best Position Player: Dave Winfield- .290 AVG, .377 OBP, 26 HR, 108 RBI
Best Pitcher: Juan Guzman- 16-5, 2.64 ERA, 1.146 WHIP, 180.2, 165 K
There was no contest for the best season in franchise history, as 1992 is the season that the Jays finally broke through and won it all. They finished four games ahead of the second place Milwaukee Brewers.
The Jays blew by Oakland in the ALCS and defeated the Atlanta Braves in six games, with the last game ending when Mike Timlin fielded a bunt and threw to Joe Carter for the final out of the greatest season in Toronto Blue Jays franchise history.
By Adam Greuel… BJ Ryan has come out recently with his disapproval of being under-worked. He believes he needs to pitch on a consistent basis in order to get back to where he used to be.
However, I believe that Ryan is just a shell of his former self, and will never again be able to regain his All-Star form.
BJ Ryan has had an up and down stint with the Toronto Blue Jays ever since signing a five year, $47 million deal in 2006 to become the Jays’ closer and shore up the bullpen.
His first season went exactly the way the Jays hoped it would go, as Ryan saved 38 games in 42 opportunities with a 1.37 ERA in 72 and one-third innings pitched.
Then, after appearing in just five games during the 2007 season, the bad news was announced: BJ Ryan needed Tommy John Surgery and would not pitch again that season.
He would come back earlier then expected and took over the closer’s role once again during the first month of the 2008 season. He ended up pitching well, saving 32 games in 36 opportunities and finishing with a 2.95 ERA in 58 innings of work.
However, there were signs that Ryan would never again be the dominating closer he once was.
Ryan was never a guy that was going to blow his fastball by a hitter and he had lost three MPH on his fastball—alarming at the time, but not yet a catastrophe.
Also alarming was Ryan’s lack of control. He walked eight more batters in 2008 than in 2006 despite pitching 14 fewer innings.
These two things made sure that Ryan never made it easy on Jays fans when he came in for his inning of work. There was never a save where Ryan could just go one-two-three. By the time the third out was recorded, there would be two guys on base and Ryan would be sweating bullets.
Which leads us to this year. Ryan had lost a couple of more MPH on his fastball at the beginning of spring training, and his control had gotten even worse then the prior season.
This was alarming to many, but the Jays still decided to use him as the closer to begin the season. It didn’t last long, as Ryan blew two of his first four save opportunities—looking absolutely brutal in the process.
Ryan was actually put on the disabled list after an April in which his ERA ballooned to 11.12. Scott Downs took over and looked great in the process, meaning that Ryan would not close upon his return.
We are now closing in on the All-Star break and Ryan is looking no better. In 20 and one-third innings, his ERA sits at 6.53, and he has walked an amazing 17 batters.
It is beyond me how Ryan actually believes he deserves more pitching opportunities to get back in a groove. Is it going to help him with his control or throw faster? I highly doubt it.
Haven’t the Jays given him plenty of chances this season, including his last appearance in which he gave up three runs and cost the Jays another win?
Thankfully, Cito Gaston feels the exact same as me, and will only use Ryan in mop up duty.
Sorry, Ryan. Your time has passed and you will no longer be a viable option for any team that has thoughts of contending.
By Adam Greuel… Well, we are finally at the midway point of the 2009 regular season and it is very easy to describe the Toronto Blue Jays so far. The season has been up-and-down and the Jays are extremely inconsistent.
With the injuries and struggles this team has had, 11 different pitchers have started a game for this years team and 22 pitchers have appeared in a game this year.
After starting the season 27-14, the Jays have gone 15-27 since May 19, the beginning of a brutal nine-game losing streak. While this season turned from great to severely disappointing, there has still been many positives this year to look forward to.
Rod Barajas- .267 AVG, .303 OBP, 8 HR, 39 RBI
Barajas has been better then expected this year and had an average above 300 not to long ago. He handles the pitching staff extremely well, as evidenced by the fact that the pitchers ERA is half a run better when Barajas catches then when Michael Barrett or Raul Chavez catch.
Lyle Overbay- .264 AVG, .384 OBP, 9 HR, 41 RBI
He looked like he was finally starting to turn the corner after breaking his hand two years ago, but he has slowed down a bit in the last couple of weeks. He has given the Jays superb defense at first base and has been a lot better this year then last year.
Aaron Hill- .299 AVG, .340 OBP, 19 HR, 56 RBI
Hill was a mystery heading into this season due to the fact that he missed most of last year with a bad concussion after colliding with former Jays short stop David Eckstein. His play this season has answered all doubters as he has been the best hitting second basemen in the entire American League.
Marco Scutaro- .282 AVG, .382 OBP, 6 HR, 33 RBI
Many people doubted that Scutaro would be able to get the job done as the lead-off hitter and every day shortstop, but he has proved many people wrong. He is among the league leaders in walks and has even provided some pop in the leadoff position. He has also provided some good defense and speed on the base paths.
Scott Rolen- .332 AVG, .392 OBP, 6 HR, 30 RBI
Scott Rolen has been a pleasant surprise this season and has made trading Troy Glaus for him before the 2008 season easier to handle. While he doesn’t have the power he used to, Rolen’s high average and good defense is great to have. He just recently extended his hit streak to 21 games.
Adam Lind- .310 AVG, .385 OBP, 17 HR, 55 RBI
Lind has emerged this season as a young slugger that will be a force to reckon with for years to come. Linds surge has been great for the Jays and if Snider can turn things around, they will have a nice one-two punch for an extremely long time.
Vernon Wells- .252 AVG, .303 OBP, 8 HR, 37 RBI
Wells season has been extremely disappointing this year as he has struggled to just keep his on-base percentage above 300. Despite being the highest paid player on the team, he has had the worst season of any starting position player so far this year.
Alex Rios- .260 AVG, .318 OBP, 9 HR, 38 RBI
Rios has been another huge disappointment this season, but he still has been better then Wells. He is maddeningly inconsistent and has been able to show some flashes of brilliance. He still may be able to turn it around during the second half of the season.
Roy Halladay- 10-2, 2.56 ERA
Halladay is well on his way to once again being a top contender for the AL Cy Young award, but might not win it due to an injury that has cost him four starts and at least a couple of wins. I don’t know what the Jays would do without this guy!
Brian Tallet- 5-6, 4.38 ERA
Tallet started the season in the bullpen, but was moved to the rotation after a season ending injury to Jesse Litsch. Tallet has been inconsistent as a starter, throwing a gem one night and then getting rocked in his very next start. Control has been a big issue with him.
Scott Richmond- 6-5, 3.69 ERA
Richmond started off the season extremely well, even winning rookie of the month award in April. Although he has slowed down considerably, he has proved to be a good option for the Jays and has shown that he still can have a good start every now and then.
Ricky Romero- 6-3, 2.85 ERA
Grade: B Plus
Another rookie regular on the Jays pitching staff, Romero has excelled at the major league level this year despite never being able to put together a good season during his time in the minors. Romero has been a nice surprise and will be a fixture in the rotation for years to come.
Jesse Carlson- 37.1 IP, 5.06 ERA
After last seasons emergence, Carlson was expected to be a huge part of our bullpen, but he has really struggled. Teams have started to pick up on his funky delivery, and I am not sure if he will reutrn to last years form.
Brandon League- 36.1 IP, 5.45 ERA
League has great stuff and untapped potential, but he has never been able to put it together and he is another reliever who has struggled mightily this season. He has the stuff to turn it around though.
Shawn Camp- 35 IP, 4.11 ERA
Grade: C Plus
Camp will never be a top reliever in the major leagues but he has been pretty good for the Jays this season. He has done good in long relief situations and his ERA right now is the best he has had in any season throughout his career.
Jason Frasor- 27.2 IP, 1.95 ERA
Frasor came into this season with a new pitch in his arsenal- a changeup. It has turned him from one of the worst relievers in the bullpen to the one Cito Gaston likes to turn to most. Frasor has been absolutely dominant this season and a great surprise for the Jays this year.
Scott Downs- 27.1, 1.98 ERA
Scott Downs has been absolutely filthy this season, especially after taking over the closers role from the struggling BJ Ryan. Unfortunately, Downs rolled his ankle while batting in an inter league game and hasn`t pitched for a while. But, when healthy, Downs and Frasor are the best one-two punch in the Majors.
Photos by Paolo Cescato and James “The Lens” Patterson
By Adam Greuel… As we approach the middle of the season and the All-Star break, I thought it would be a good idea to see how our position players stack up against the rest of the league.
To be eligible for the batting average and on-base percentage category, a player must have 150 at-bats or more up to this point in the season.
Catchers: Out of 21
AB: 214 (8th)
OBP: .303 (16th)
BA: .266 (8th)
HR: 7 (T-10th)
RBI: 37 (3rd)
R: 23 (T-11th)
OPS: .728 (15th)
Average Rank: 10.1
First Basemen: Out of 29
AB: 185 (26th)
OBP: .402 (7th)
BA: .276 (T-18th)
HR: 9 (T-20th)
RBI: 41 (17th)
R: 26 (26th)
OPS: .921 (12th)
Average Rank: 18
Second Basemen: Out of 30
AB: 334 (1st)
OBP: .344 (16th)
BA: .305 (4th)
HR: 19 (1st)
RBI: 56 (1st)
R: 48 (T-5th)
OPS: .856 (4th)
Average Rank: 4.6
Third Basemen: Out of 32
AB: 243 (18th)
OBP: .397 (5th)
BA: .333 (3rd)
HR: 5 (T-19th)
RBI: 29 (T-18th)
R: 41 (T-8th)
OPS: .883 (T-7th)
Average Rank: 11.1
Shortstops: Out of 29
AB: 308 (1st)
OBP: .386 (3rd)
BA: .286 (10th)
HR: 6 (T-8th)
RBI: 32 (7th)
R: 58 (1st)
OPS: .808 (7th)
Average Rank: 5.3
Outfielders: Out of 93
AB: 314 (1st)
OBP: .302 (79th)
BA: .248 (70th)
HR: 7 (T-44th)
RBI: 36 (32nd)
R: 46 (T-14th)
OPS: .694 (74th)
Average Rank: 44.9
AB: 312 (2nd)
OBP: .321 (64th)
BA: .263 (48th)
HR: 9 (T-29th)
RBI: 37 (31st)
R: 38 (T-33rd)
OPS: .744 (53rd)
Average Rank: 37.1
Designated Hitters: Out of 11
AB: 290 (1st)
OBP: .385 (2nd)
BA: .307 (2nd)
HR: 15 (1st)
RBI: 52 (1st)
R: 45 (1st)
OPS: .930 (2nd)
Average Rank: 1.4
As you can see from these numbers, nearly every hitter on our team is somewhat close to the top and pulling there weight except for the outfielders.
The numbers look a lot better this year then last, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we combined this year’s hitting with last year’s pitching. One can only dream.
By Adam Greuel… This is my second Minor League report, and I hope it will keep you updated on all the latest that is going on with the very best Toronto Blue Jay prospects.
Las Vegas 51’s (AAA)- (33-44, last in PCL Pacific South Division)
Things have not been going well for the 51’s in their first year of being affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays as they have the second worst winning percentage in the entire league. There have been only a few positives on this team so far.
One of them has been recent signing David Dellucci. Although he has only had 52 at-bats, Dellucci is hitting .288 with three home runs and six RBI’s.
Another pleasant suprise has been Russ Adams, who was just recently called up by the Toronto Blue Jays. He has hit .319 in 72 at-bats, with just one home run and nine RBI’s. If Adams does not produce at the MLB level, expect Dellucci to be called up in his place.
Meanwhile, there has been plenty of huge disappointments in Las Vegas. After being sent down, top prospect Travis Snider has only hit .258 in 31 at-bats and has been on the disabled list since May 31st.
In the last minor league report I reported that JP Arencibia was starting to turn the corner, but he has been hitting poorly for most of June. Overall this season his batting average is at .236 and he has hit eight home runs to go with 40 RBI’s.
Things appear to be going even worse for the pitchers on the team. After his extremely good start, Fabio Castro has finally fell back down to earth. He has a 4.31 ERA in his last ten starts and has actually walked (24) more batters then he has struck out (23) during that span.
David Purcey is still struggling with his control as well, the reason why he was sent down is because of his lack of control. He is 0-2 with a 4.08 ERA in the minors this season and has walked 36 batters in only 64 innings.
The recently sent down Brad Mills was still struggling at the time the Jays called him up, he was only called up because the Jays had no one else to turn to. Mills is 1-8 on the season with a dismal 4.48 ERA and he finished with a 14.09 ERA in two starts at the MLB level.
Brett Cecil is lucky that he is still pitching for the Jays after his last start. He has fared no better in the Minors this year as the promising lefty has gone just 1-5 with an ugly ERA at 5.69.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA)- (32-43, Fifth in EAS Northern Division)
The Fisher Cats have gone from first place to second last since my last Minor League report, definitely not a good sign.
The best player for the Fisher Cats has been 25-year old Brian Dopirak. He has hit .311 with an amazing 18 home runs and 57 RBI’s. He doesn’t project to be a major leaguer though, as indicated by the fact that he is already 25.
Meanwhile, Brian Jeroloman, another catcher that the Jays are high on, has hit a disappointing .252 with only four home runs and 16 RBI’s.
Top prospect David Cooper has also disappointed with a minuscule .243 average and just three home runs to go along with only 19 RBI’s.
Fortunately, there has been two pitchers that have been great for the Fisher Cats this year since Fabio Castro has been promoted to AAA Las Vegas.
The best has been Reidier Gonzalez, who has gone 3-5 with an amazing 3.18 ERA in 79 and one-third innings. He only has 55 strike outs, but opposing batters are hitting only .238 off of him.
Another good pitcher for the Fisher Cats has been Luis Perez. Perez is 4-6 on the year with a nifty 3.41 ERA and a team leading 89 and two-thirds innings. Hitters are hitting only .220 against him and he has struck out 72 batters.
Unfortunately, World Baseball Classic sensation Leon Boyd has been awful since being promoted from Dunedin. In 14 appearances he has a 9.88 ERA in 13 and two-third innings and has walked 14 batters.
Dunedin Blue Jays (A)- (36-35, Fourth in FSL South Division)
Things have improved for the Dunedin Blue Jays since my last report as they are now above 500 and have climbed out of last place for the time being.
They have been led by three players offensively, with Darin Mastroianni leading the way. He has hit .325 this season with 26 RBI’s and has just recently been called up by AA New Hampshire.
Eric Thames has also been a pleasant surprise down in Dunedin. He has hit .308 with two home runs and 30 RBI’s. Moises Sierra has been another good hitter for Dunedin as he has a .311 batting average with four home runs and 36 RBI’s.
It hasn’t been all good though as a couple of top prospects have been struggling all year. Justin Jackson is hitting just .237 with no home runs and just 15 RBI’s. Meanwhile, Kevin Ahrens is hitting just .233 with two home runs and 22 RBI’s.
A couple of players are standing out on the pitching side of things, especially Kenny Rodriguez. Rodriguez has a 6-2 record with a tiny 1.97 ERA and 52 strikeouts in just 59 and one-third innings.
Tim Collins is still going strong as he has struck out 63 batters in just 42 innings and he has a 6-3 record to go along with a 2.57 ERA.
As you can see, there are a lot of good things to go along with the bad things. Lets hope the struggling prospects can turn things around and that the players currently playing well can keep it up.
By Adam Greuel… With the 2009 NHL Awards show coming up tomorrow in Las Vegas, I think it is time give everyone my predictions.
This is the first time the event has been held in Las Vegas; the inaugural event in a three year agreement with Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
This year’s event will bring together players, celebrities, business partners and fans more than ever and will provide more opportunities for all to participate in the celebration.
Lester B. Pearson
The Lester B. Pearson Award is presented annually to the “most outstanding player” in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHLPA.
My pick: Alexander Ovechkin —
For the first time ever, three Russians are up for both the Lester B. Pearson and Hart trophies. This shows just how good Russia is at developing forwards with immense skill and talent.
Personally, I think the choice is easy in Alexander Ovechkin. The three finalists are not the only ones who can receive votes—and there is no doubt that Crosby will steal some from Malkin—as there are people who believe Crosby is the more valuable player on the Penguins.
Also, Pavel Datsyuk is extremely talented, but there is no doubting the help he had. With a supporting cast of Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski and Marian Hossa, you are not likely to win the MVP award.
There is no doubt that Ovechkin had help in the likes of Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, but the surrounding casts in Pittsburgh and Detroit were much better, and Ovechkin once again led the league in goals. Its just too bad Ovechkin missed three games or else he could have won the big four individual awards for the second year in a row.
Hart Memorial Trophy
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The Hart Memorial trophy is awarded annually to the “player adjudged most valuable to his team” in the National Hockey League.
My pick: Alexander Ovechkin —
The Hart Trophy is a little different than the Pearson Award, as this one is voted on by the Writer’s Association and is supposed go to the most valuable member of an NHL team. Not just the best overall player.
Going by this criteria, how can you not choose Ovechkin? Both Malkin and Datsyuk had tremendous seasons, but are they even the most valuable players on their teams? If so, it’s by a very slim margin.
One could argue that it is Sidney Crosby on the Penguins and Nicklas Lidstrom on the Red Wings. That is why I think Ovechkin is the clear choice for this award.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s goaltender who is “judged to be the best at this position.” At the end of each season, the 30 general managers of the teams in the National Hockey League vote to determine the goaltender who was the most valuable to his team during the regular season.
My pick: Steve Mason —
What Mason did this year for the Columbus Blue Jackets as a rookie was nothing short of amazing. He took the team on his back and led them into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Mason went through the stretch run with mononucleosis, proving he could play in big games.
Nicklas Backstrom had a fine season, but I am of the belief that the Vezina winner should at least carry his team to the playoffs. Minnesota also had an extremely tight defensive system under former coach Jacques Lemaire.
Tim Thomas also had an amazing season, but if you look at his roster, he had a lot of help. With a defense that consisted of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman on the top pairing and forwards such as Marc Savard, David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder scoring goals, Boston was a well balanced team.
It will be a tight race between Mason and Thomas, and should be exciting to find out the results.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The James Norris Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s top “defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position.” At the end of each season, members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association vote to determine the player who was the best defender during the regular season.
My pick: Zdeno Chara —
This should be a close race between Chara and Lidstrom with Green a distant third. While 31 goals is an amazing accomplishment for Mike Green, a defenseman’s first job is to defend and Green is far to below the defensive level he should be at to win the Norris Trophy. This year’s playoffs certainly proved that.
Many people believe Lidstrom had an off season, at least by his standards, but the truth is that from mid-November on, Lidstrom was his usual dominant self, leading the Wings throughout the season. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to keep his stranglehold on the Norris Trophy due to one guy, Zdeno Chara.
Chara was the driving force for the Bruins and many people believe he should be up for the Hart Trophy over Pavel Datsyuk. Chara scored 19 goals this season while shutting down the top players in the league. His presence alone intimidates players. This should be a tight race between him and Lidstrom.
The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.” The voting is conducted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the conclusion of each regular season to determine the winner.
My pick: Steve Mason —
My personal belief is that this is not even close and it will likely be reflected in the voting. Steve Mason went above and beyond in his rookie year compared to Ryan and Versteeg.
Don’t get me wrong, Ryan and Versteeg had very fine seasons. Ryan’s 31 goals in just 64 games is an incredible achievement and he should be a force to reckon with in the future.
Meanwhile, Versteeg had a coming out party, getting 22 goals and 53 points while being a great dressing room guy. I’m sure no one had him in their top three rookies to begin the season.
It’s hard to argue with Masons numbers: first in shutouts, second in GAA and ninth in wins on a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs. If Mason wins both this award and the Vezina, he will become just fifth goaltender in league history to do so.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. The winner is selected by a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association following the regular season.
My pick: Pavel Datsyuk —
Another trophy that may come down to the last vote is the Selke award. I believe Datsyuk is the front runner due to his win last year and the fact that he also had 97 points this year.
Yes, I know the award doesn’t take points into effect, but if you don`t think it effects the voting then you are crazy. This is more like the award for best two way player because there are better defensive players then these three that might not score more than 10-15 points a year.
Either way, all three of these players know their way around the defensive end of the ice and either all of them deserve to win it. When the nominees were named, I thought it was ridiculous that Zetterberg was not named, as his work against Getzlaf and Crosby in the playoffs should have proved just how good he is.
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy
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The Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, formerly known as the Lady Byng Trophy, is presented each year to the National Hockey League “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” The voting is conducted at the end of the season by the members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Martin St. Louis
My pick: Martin St. Louis —
Kind of a tough award to predict on and an award that does not mean much in the hockey world. Pavel Datsyuk has won it the past three years, but I think they will award it to St. Louis to change things up a bit.
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams Award is awarded annually to the National Hockey League coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.” The winner is selected by a poll of the National Hockey League Broadcasters Association at the end of the regular season.
My pick: Andy Murray —
This is an easy one for me as Murray led a very young team to the playoffs with a 25-9-7 second-half record, the best in the NHL. He also did this with many injuries to deal with.
Todd McLellan had a fine season in his first year as a head coach, but the Sharks are always near the top of the standings and the depth on his roster was unmatched by many teams.
Claude Julien also had a great year by leading the Boston Bruins to first place in the Eastern Conference, but looking up and down his roster shows that he also had many weapons to work with. There is no doubt in my mind that Murray should be coach of the year.
By Adam Greuel… Although two of the Toronto Blue Jays three minor league affiliates are struggling to win games, many prospects are shining this season and are showing the fans that the Jays definitely have a bright future ahead of them.
Las Vegas 51’s (AAA)
While the wins might not be piling up like the Jays have hoped for, there are several prospects on the team that have the Jays drooling. JP Arencibia, Toronto’s catcher of the future, is one of them.
After a slow start to the season, Arencibia has been tearing the cover off the ball, hitting .385, five home runs, 14 RBI and walking six times in his last 10 games. The walks are a big thing for him because he is not known for having patience at the plate.
Arencibia’s average is still only at .256, but he is showing power with his seven home runs, and is improving a lot as the season continues to roll along.
Another big surprise is starting pitcher Fabio Castro. Castro was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies last year in the Matt Stairs trade and has been nothing short of phenomenal, splitting time between New Hampshire (AA) and Las Vegas.
Overall this year he is 4-0 between the two levels with a minuscule 0.94 ERA in 48 innings pitched. Not on the radar at the beginning of the season, he is definitely improving his stock with this incredible start.
Last but not least is young left-hander Brad Mills. After a horrid start to the season Mills had lowered his season ERA to a very respectable 3.63 and has pitched 45 innings this year. His 0-5 record is more indicative of the slow start the offense has had then Mills pitching.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA)
The Fisher Cats are off to a good start and a lot of that has to do with the pitching. Fabio Castro helped a lot, but is now in AAA, but the Fisher Cats continue to win without him.
Casey Janssen missed all of last year with a torn labrum and is expected to be in the Jays starting rotation before the beginning of June, but he was tearing up the AA ranks.
Janssen had a 0.77 ERA in two starts and has a 0.76 ERA in 23.2 innings in the Minors this year. The Jays are very excited to be having him join the rotation.
Other pitchers contributing to the Fisher cats are Reidier Gonzalez (2-1, 1.84 ERA, 49 IP) and Mark Rzepczynski (6-2, 2.93 ERA, 43 IP, 52 K’s).
It has not been all pitching for the Fisher Cats though as spring training sensation Brad Emaus has continued to hit well in the Minors. Emaus is currently hitting .299 with four home runs, 25 RBI in 144 at-bats.
Dunedin Blue Jays (A)
The Dunedin Blue Jays are off to a bad start and its not hard to see why. While there hitting is good, the pitching has been beyond terrible.
22-year old Eric Thames is leading the offense with a very good .340 batting average. His 24 RBI lead the team but he has shown little power with only one home run so far this season.
While the starting pitching has been bad, there are two relievers in Dunedin that are showing good stuff. 19-year old Tim Collins is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA. The amazing thing is that he has struck out 35 batters in only 21 innings. His ERA was much lower but he has given up four earned runs in his last 2.2 innings pitched.
Another plus on the Jays roster is 22-year old closer Daniel Farquhear. He is seven for seven in save opportunities and has a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings pitched and has struck out 23 batters.
They are also many good prospects in the Jays system that are struggling and could turn it around quickly. Those players are Justin Jackson, Kevin Ahrens, Brian Jeroloman and David Cooper.
All in all, this shows the great depth that the Jays farm has and shows us that the Jays have a bright future for many years to come.
By Adam Greuel… Three games, three losses and I am pretty sure that I just heard thousands of people break there ankles in a rush to jump off the bandwagon.
This was definitely not a pretty series for the Toronto Blue Jays as they lost all three games by scores of 2-1, 8-3, and 5-1. Both the pitching and hitting were inconsistent for the first time all year and Toronto finally has there first three game losing streak of the season.
Probably the worst thing about this is the large amount of people who will now announce the Jays as the flukes they supposedly are. I”m sorry to burst their bubble, but its just three games.
The Jays were in a large hole right from the get-go tonight as starting pitcher Robert Ray had trouble finding the plate early on and gave up a three-run home run to Canadian outfielder Jason Bay.
The Red Sox would get single runs in both the third and fifth innings as well, ending Rays night with that last one.
It was not a good start for Ray, as he managed to pitch just four and one-third innings, giving up five runs (four earned), on six hits, one walk, while striking out just four batters.
Meanwhile, Red Sox starter Jon Lester had one of his best starts of the season, giving up just one run on a Aaron Hill single. He lasted six and one-third innings, giving up eight hits, walking two, and striking out just four batters.
Both bullpens were perfect the rest of the way. The Jays bullpen was the only positive of the series for them, as they managed to hold the Red Sox without a run in all three games.
All I can say is that hopefully Roy Halladay can get us the win tomorrow in Atlanta so we can put this awful series behind us.
Up Next: Roy Halladay (8-1) looks to win his MLB leading ninth game against Kenshin Kawakami (2-5) and the Atlanta Braves.
By Adam Greuel… Chris Osgood will the be the first person to say that he did not have the best regular season and anyone that says it was good is either delusional or crazy, maybe both.
Just looking at the stats will show you how ugly it really was. Osgood’s .887 save percentage was the third worst among all net minders who played at least 30 games and his 3.09 GAA was a full goal higher then last years 2.09.
Fortunately for the Wings, they were the one team who could afford to have such terrible goaltending as they still managed to place second place in the Western Conference.
What made this even more disappointing is this dreadful season came after Osgood signed a three-year extension worth $1,417,000 in the middle of his awesome season last year.
Many believed Osgood to be done. A lot of people said that he was officially at his end, to old and tired after last year’s Stanley Cup Championship to keep playing at an acceptable level. The Wings even sent him home for ten days to collect his thoughts.
After coming back from his break, Osgood played very well for awhile but ended up giving up the soft goals he was prone to during the first half of the regular season.
This was not good. It lead to many people questioning whether the Wings should turn to Ty Conklin for the latest Cup run, even me. How wrong were we? We definitely should have known better then to just kick Osgood to the curb, especially after all he has been through in his career.
Osgood, for one, never doubted himself: “Everybody says Kenny is one of the best GMs in the league,” said Osgood. “Well, there’s a reason why he brought me back.” That reason? It’s because Holland knows that Osgood has a thicker skin then any other goalie currently playing in the NHL.
Who rebounds better after giving up a bad goal then Osgood? A good example is in 1998 when he gave up a center ice goal to the Dallas Stars Jamie Langenbrunner. Osgood played his best game of the playoffs the next game and Detroit went on to win their second straight Stanley Cup Championship.
A more recent example is Game One of the Western Conference Finals. The Hawks managed to score the first goal of the game when Osgood went for a poke check that he probably should’nt have. He proceeded to make 30 stops in a huge 5-2 win.
All in all, Osgood is now 10-3 these playoffs with a spectacular .925 save percentage and 2.32 GAA. Not only that, but he has made me a believer for the rest of his career. In Ozzy we trust!
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