What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
The Blue Jays have done it. They've avoided the perils that come with being an overhyped team going into the season. They made the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. They conquered the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles, and are the champions of baseball.
Toronto's transformation started with the rotation. The Blue Jays rotation had a 4.82 ERA in 2012, one of the worst marks in all of baseball. In 2013, they sliced that mark all the way down to 3.57, led by 2012 Cy Young winner RA Dickey. Dickey replicated his 2012 season, throwing 222 innings with a 2.88 ERA and 215 strikeouts. Not bad for a guy who was thought to be a one-year wonder. Behind Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson both remained healthy and each had 200 inning seasons, Mark Buehrle had a typical Buehrle saeson, and Ricky Romero bounced back after a disastrous 2012.
Offensively, Jose Bautista was back and better than ever. Bautista won the AL MVP award, smashing 47 homers and posting a 1.021 OPS while powering the Blue Jays offense. Jose Reyes stayed healthy on the Rogers Centre turf, stealing 43 bases at the top of the Blue Jays order. With Emilio Bonifacio stealing 31 bases in the nine-spot of the order, the duo created havoc on the bases going into the Cabrera-Bautista-Encarnacion heart of the Blue Jays order. Speaking of Melky, he showed no ill effects after his PED suspension in 2011, busting out another 200 hit season and looking like an absolute bargain at $8 million per year. Encarnacion may have been the most important member of the Blue Jays lineup though, because he gave Bautista a hell of a lot of protection while hitting 34 homers behind the MVP.
Toronto's bullpen also did a good job for the season. Sergio Santos returned from shoulder surgery in 2012, and looked like the guy that broke out in a big way in 2011 with the White Sox. Santos stole the closer's job from Casey Janssen, but that's not a knock on Janssen at all: he was just better suited to be the setup guy in front of Santos. The rest of the pen was solid, especially veteran Darren Oliver, who continued to roll right along in his 40s.
The Blue Jays ran the AL East all season, finishing the year with 97 wins and the top seed in the American League playoffs. In the ALDS, Toronto swept the AL wild card Rangers in three games, overpowering a gassed Texas team. In the ALCS, the Blue Jays took on the Detroit Tigers, and the defending AL champion fell in five games to a dominant attack led by Bautista's bat and Dickey's arm. Finally in the World Series, Toronto took on their former Canadian bretheren, the Washington Nationals. The Blue Jays won the series in six games (as they had their other two World Series wins), and a big series from Canadian Brett Lawrie is what carried them to the championship.
It was a team of hype going into the year, but once fall set in, it was clear that this team was more than hype. The Blue Jays really were that good, and all of the manueving from Alex Anthopolous this past winter resulted in a title.