TORONTO, Ont. – As the curtain comes down on perhaps the most frustrating of all Blue Jays’ seasons, we continue to reveal who the Jays themselves thought stood above the rest in 2013.
Every season I have taken an anonymous poll of all Blue Jays’ uniformed personnel – players, coaches, manager – as well as a couple of members of the front office, asking them to select their Blue Jays’ Most Valuable Player, Pitcher of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Pleasant Surprise of the Season.
I’m always impressed by how willing everyone is to participate in the anonymous process and by just how seriously everyone takes their votes, and this year was no exception.
Todd Redmond was the Blue Jays’ Rookie of the Year and his fellow freshman Ryan Goins took the Most Pleasant Surprise prize – you can read about those awards and see the entire voting breakdowns here
Pitcher of the Year Award
Clearly, the starting rotation was the weak link for the Blue Jays in their first last-place finish in the American League East in nearly a decade, and the bullpen was the team’s saving grace, so it’s a bit surprising that it was a starter who picked up the hardware, but in a season that started slowly and finished with him getting knocked out of a game by a line drive to the leg, Mark Buehrle won the 2013 Pitcher of the Year.
Buehrle finished the season 12-10, second on the team to R.A. Dickey in both wins, losses and games started (with 33), and didn’t miss a single start. The veteran lefty reached double digits in wins and threw at least 200 innings for a 13th straight season and had the lowest ERA among qualifying Blue Jays’ starters at 4.15 – only the second time his ERA has been over 4.00 since 2006.
He got off to an awfully slow start – after giving up seven runs in the third inning of his May 6 start in Tampa Bay, Buehrle had an ERA of 7.58 with an ugly 1.658 WHIP and an OPS against over .900. Buehrle wound up going six innings in that game, and the Blue Jays came back and won. From that point on, he pitched to a 3.37 ERA, 1.274 WHIP and opponents’ OPS around .700.
Buehrle was the only one of the Blue Jays’ off-season acquisitions who came as advertised, both on the field and off.
There was only one landslide victor among all the Blue Jays’ end-of-season awards, and it was an absolute no-brainer to name Edwin Encarnacion the 2013 Most Valuable Player.
Encarnacion led the club with 36 home runs (eight more than runner-up Jose Bautista, who was the only other Blue Jay to hit as many as 25 homers) and 104 RBIs (31 ahead of Bautista, who was second). His 90 runs scored easily outpaced the second-place Adam Lind’s 67 and he had 283 total bases – Lind was second with 230.
Want more? Encarnacion’s .904 OPS led the club by 48 points. He was tops in on-base percentage at .370 – one of only three Blue Jays above .350. He slugged .534 – Colby Rasmus’ .501 was the only other to top the .500 mark. Heck, he even led the club with five sacrifice flies.
For the second straight year, Encarnacion was the Blue Jays’ most consistently productive offensive player, despite having a wrist injury that required surgery in the season’s final fortnight. The 30 year-old didn’t shut it down until the pain was too much to him to bear – and yet still managed an .875 OPS in September.
He was the only Blue Jay to reach 500 at-bats in another Jays’ season devastated by injury and played 142 games, second on the team to Adam Lind’s 143. The difference there? Edwin started all 142 games he played, Lind was only in the starting line-up 121 times.
In Encarnacion, the Blue Jays have found a superior offensive performer – he’s been among the best in the game two years in a row – and if his teammates can stay as healthy as he has over the past two seasons, the team will take a huge step towards delivering in 2014 on the promise it showed going into this year.