TAMPA — Reports of a lack of power in the Blue Jays lineup have been greatly exaggerated.
While it’s true that the Blue Jays will open up in 2011 without the 31 home runs provided by Vernon Wells and the 20 supplied by both catcher John Buck and Lyle Overbay and nobody on the planet expects Jose Bautista to come close to the 54 he hammered last season, they will still have plenty of thump in their lineup when they come to the plate this season..
As it stands now the Jays’ lineup sports six players who are capable of hitting 25 or more home runs. There’s Bautista, second baseman Aaron Hill, who hit 26 in an off-year, first baseman Adam Lind (23), DH Edwin Encarna cion (21), right fielder Juan Rivera (15 in 416 at-bats last season but 25 the year before) and left fielder Travis Snider (14 in 298 at-bats).
That may seem like a stretch to some but not to hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, the chief architect of last year’s Jays blitzkrieg that produced a major-league best 257 homers.
“I think this team will be fine,” Murphy said. “Of course we lost some big bats but I’d say that Rajai (Davis) is going to have to get on base and other guys are going to have to drive in runs. I think Lind will have a good year and Hill will have a good year and we’ll have other guys pick up and make up for it.”
In looking for a player who he thinks will add to his past numbers in a big way, Murphy tagged Snider.
“Snider can definitely pick up one of those guys (who left) load,” he said. “He should be able to handle it and Eddie should be able to pick up another one. So we should be fine there. This is a power club, we’re fine.”
Hill, meanwhile, isn’t concerned about his team having any power outages.
“We’re losing some power with the guys that are no longer here but I think that everybody one-through-nine can hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Hill said. “I don’t think anybody feels that we have a power shortage on the team. Seeing the guys during the game and seeing the guys during BP there’s going to be the threat of the long ball one-through-nine.”
While the Jays like to talk it up about how they expect to diversify their offence and have added speed with the acquisition of centre fielder Rajai Davis, they will still pretty much live and die by how many homers they slug and how many doubles they ring off the walls and drive into the gaps.
However, they will have more stolen bases and attempt more hit and runs instead of just swinging from the heels. In the close, low-scoring games, being able to play some “small ball” will have added importance under new manager John Farrell.
“We have a power-hitting team but at the same time for us to get to the next step, to get to where we want to go, we also have to do some of the little things which everyone is capable of doing,” Hill said. “It’s not going to take away the aggressiveness of the guys. We’re still going to be looking for that pitch, whether it’s first pitch or whatever that we can drive out of the ball park.
“But it’s going to be a time and place for everything. We may put more emphasis on getting the guy over and the speed we have in the lineup. As far as our speed, it hasn’t changed much other than a guy like Rajai coming in and Snider (Travis) can swipe some bags. It’s just the aggressiveness we are taking on the basepaths and it’s showing in spring training. It’s fun watching the guys get down the line and taking an extra bag, just pushing the envelope a little bit.”
And it never stops being fun when you’re into your home run trot either.