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To spell my boredom and the lack of baseball, I simulated the 2020 season for the Toronto Blue Jays, using OOTP21 (Out of the Park Baseball 21) and I turned it into a vlog that streamed on the General Manager Games Channel. Below, you’ll find the first episode (the audio improves as we go along) if you want to follow from the beginning but, SPOILER ALERT, I’ll talk about how the season went below! So, if you want to watch from the beginning, click the YouTube video but if you want to cut to the chase, keep reading!
So, as you can see from this season summary, it was a pretty good season for the Jays. We finished 87-75, finishing in second place in the American League East, about 23 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays who ran away with the division, winning 116 games. We had a great road record (even better than at home) and the team played fairly consistently over the course of the season.
While our batting average wasn’t great (11th in the AL), we hit for a ton of power, finishing 3rd in the AL in both extra-base hits and home runs and we were the best base-running team in the AL.
Pitchingwise, we were generally mid-to-back of the pack, particularly bad in giving up home runs (see more below about that).
Here’s the year-end hitting stats for the Jays. It’s ranked according to at bats and if you look right at the top, with a stellar 7.7 WAR, is Vladdy Guerrero with the kind of season that we all want to see him have. 40 HRs, .318/.396/.588 slash line, OPS pushing 1.000. Vladdy earned several MVP votes, finishing 4th in MVP voting, was the Batter of the Month for September and an All-Star. On the downside, his fielding wasn’t great and I was planning to have him play 1st base in spring training 2021.
Bo Bichette racked up 3.9 WAR, hitting .265/.345/.452 with 23 home runs and 30 stolen bases. According to the game, I think he probably could have been better as a shortstop but he did play there exclusively in 2020.
Next ranked by WAR was Lourdes Gurriel at 2.8. He hit a solid .271/.317/.483 with 25 home runs and 11 stolen bases but played in just 135 games, missing some time with an injury. Randal Grichuk followed with 2.6 WAR, hitting a fairly usual .239/.306/.489 with 36 home runs (a career high). Travis Shaw, in his first Blue Jays season had 2.1 WAR, hitting .220/.334/.421 with 29 home runs. I extended his contract at $4.4 million for the 2021 season.
One of the bigger surprises was Derek Fisher’s solid year. He started out hot and cooled off but still compiled 1.9 WAR with a .236/.323/.463 slash line, hitting 24 home runs in 116 games. Billy McKinney had 1.4 WAR in just 77 games, hitting .265/.335/.462 with 12 home runs and warrants another look on the major league team in 2021. Joe Panik was pretty solid, giving the Jays 1.0 WAR in 44 games, hitting .298/.373/.468 while Rowdy Tellez was very solid at the beginning of the season but fell off, hitting .231/.320/.456 with 17 home runs in 85 games, before getting traded to the Boston Red Sox for J.D. Martinez.
Two of the biggest disappointments were Danny Jansen (0.3 WAR) with a .204/.291/.293 slash line and Cavan Biggio (0.3 WAR) with a .217/.306/.324 slash line. Biggio lost playing time with Joe Panik on the team. Reese McGuire spent part of the year in the minors after he hit .176/.286/.282 while J.D. Martinez, in 56 games, was underwhelming, hitting .269/.328/.401.
Despite missing about 11 starts, Hyun-jin Ryu was our ace, earning 3.6 WAR and posting a 3.21 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, striking out 114 and walking 21 in 126 innings. Nate Pearson came up on May 8 and was instantly one of our best pitchers, earning 3.0 WAR with a 9-5 record, a 3.46 ERA, 1.15 WHIP while striking out a breathtaking 178 batters and walking 46 in 137 2/3 innings. Ken Giles was pretty good (earning himself a contract extension), throwing 60 innings but accumulating 2.1 WAR with 32 saves, a 1.95 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, striking out 90(!). Wilmer Font was next in WAR with 1.3 in 90 1/3 innings, posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, striking out 122. Anthony Kay was next with 1.1 WAR, throwing 138 innings with a 3.72 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 130 innings and 58 walks.
Next was Wade Davis, who we traded for from Colorado, sending Brandon Drury to the Rockies and getting a minor league pitcher Julian Fernandez in return (with 50% of Davis’s salary being paid by Colorado). Jordan Romano was next with 0.8 WAR, a 3.39 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 94 strikeouts in 66 /3 innings while Rafael Dolis was solid but didn’t strike out a lot of guys. Shun Yamaguchi was used mostly as a reliever and had a very up-and-down season. He struck out a ton of hitters (110 in 77 innings)but also gave up 17 home runs. He performed better after he was sent down to Buffalo for a little while, and hopefully he’ll be better in 2021 but he had 0.0 WAR in 2020. On the negative side, the biggest disappointment was Tanner Roark who had a 6.01 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 158 2/3 innings (leading the team). He struck out 139 and walked 34 but also gave up 37 home runs.
Matt Shoemaker had -1.0 WAR, allowing 31 home runs and a 6.17 ERA in 119 2/3 innings and I didn’t renew his contract. Same for Chase Anderson, who had a 6.78 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in 82 1/3 innings, accumulating -0.7 WAR. Trent Thornton was also disappointing, posting a 6.04 ERA and 1.61 WHIP, accumulating -0.4 WAR in his 120 2/3 innings.
We didn’t just stand pat in 2020. On July 1, we made the first of two big trades, sending Brandon Drury to the Rockies for Wade Davis (COL retaining 50% salary) and 24-year-old righty Julian Fernandez. On July 27, we sent Rowdy Tellez and minor league pitcher Donnie Sellers to the Boston Red Sox, getting J.D. Martinez (BOS retained 10% salary).
Looking to the Future
Setting up the team going forward, there are several things I’d like to do but have some salary constraints going forward. J.D. Martinez didn’t opt out so we’re on the hook for another two seasons at close to $20 million (but Boston is paying 10%). I’ll try to trade him and hopefully he’ll have a bounceback year.
I’m going to look for an upgrade at second base or shortstop with Vladdy sharing 1B duties with Shaw and maybe Shaw playing 3B a bit. If Biggio doesn’t bounce back and Bo doesn’t have better defense, it might be tough. I’m also looking for a better defensive center fielder, although I did get outfielder Yusniel Diaz from Baltimore in exchange for Reese McGuire. There’s another position that we have to look for an upgrade as Danny Jansen just didn’t provide much offense.
So basically, on the offensive side of things, we have a lot of holes. Shortstop was good offensively, Vladdy was the bomb and Lourdes Gurriel was very good. Randal Grichuk was ok, but I’d like a better defensive center fielder. Our right fielders (McKinney and Fisher, for the most part) were fine and Travis Shaw at first base was fine. Catcher, second base and center field is where we want to upgrade.
On the mound, I was really picky about trying to find guys with higher movement ratings. Shoemaker, Roark and Anderson were not very good and since I couldn’t trade Roark, he’s the only one left going forward of that trio.
Of the young pitchers who were supposed to add depth, only Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay stepped up. They’ll both be in the rotation in 2021 with Ryu and maybe Roark, but we also signed a couple of cheaper free agents, getting Zach Eflin and Matt Boyd for contracts under $2,000,000 each. We also traded for Spencer Turnbull from the Tigers, sending Teoscar Hernandez away.
We re-signed Wade Davis after declining the $15,000,000 option on his contract and signed him to a 2-year deal for $5 million each year, with a $2 million buyout after the first year. Basically, that’s less money than we’d have paid him even with Colorado paying half his salary, and if he’s good, we get a cheaper second year (so we’d get two years for $10 million instead of one for $7.5).
We signed Ken Giles for a three-year deal at $11 million per season, getting a $2 million option for the third year. Returning in the ‘pen will be Romano, Font, Dolis and Yamaguchi while Kay and Thornton will duke it out for a rotation spot with Borucki hopefully bouncing back in 2021.
So that’s the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays’ season! Come back soon and we’ll break down the minor league teams in more detail and let you know how some of the other prospects did!
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