Blue Jays Mid-Season Report
Half the season has been played, the All-Stars have been named, and Toronto is still 2.5 games back of the newly instituted 2nd wild card position. They’re sitting in the bottom of the AL East tied with the Red Sox, and to say their season has been stellar is really pushing it. Pitching has been the main issue for the team north of the border, having seen 7 different pitchers placed on the DL.
Sergio Santos was brought in to be the closing ace that everyone in the Majors knows Toronto was lacking. With 30+ saves last season with the Chicago White Sox, Santos was touted as solution to all of their late inning pitching woes. His first appearance of the season showed him blowing the lead in the 9 th, was booed off the mound, and people became skeptical less than 20 pitches into his stint as a Blue Jay. 5 innings pitched, 5 earned runs, 9.00 ERA and 2 out of a possible 4 saves pretty much sums up short outing with the club. Right after returning from witnessing the birth of his child, he was placed on the 60 DL with the first of many of Toronto’s pitchers going down.
There was an odd week when Toronto had 3 of their starters go down to injuries. First was Brandon Morrow, followed by Kyle Drabek, and finally Drew Hutchison. Morrow was having an All-Star worthy season before injuring an oblique muscle. A 7-4 record is respectable, but it was the other numbers that mattered. 3.01 ERA, 3 complete game shutouts, a WHIP of 1.00 and 67 strikeouts in 77.2 innings pitched. Arguably Toronto’s best pitcher, it was devastating to the club and was truly the beginning of many struggles ahead of the Jays.
Kyle Drabek won’t be available for return for at least a year, as he required Tommy John surgery. Drew Hutchison was also diagnosed with a need for Tommy John, but after a second opinion, it was noted that it would not be necessary after all. The other two pitchers to succumb to injuries were Jesse Litsch and Robert Coello, which truly demonstrates why the club is sitting on a 43-43 record heading into the break.
Batting has not been much of an issue as of late, but earlier in the season was a major point of focus for improvement. Early on, it looked like All-Star slugger Jose Bautista was going to be tailing off from his past 2 seasons of performance. With only 3 home runs in April, another unlikely face was emerging in the organization that was going to turn fans opinions around completely.
Edwin Encarnacion was a major target of criticism last season, even pegging the nickname “E5”, coined after committing several errors when filling in at 3rd base, an unfamiliar position in his defense. This season however, was a complete opposite player. At one point, leading the club in RBI’s and HR’s, Encarnacion was the projected Blue Jays All-Star, not Bautista. For this period of time, it demonstrated how eager Toronto fans were to have a winning team on the field. From public enemy number one, to the golden boy leading the team, Encarnacion has now seen both sides of fans. Ugly and praising him.
Colby Rasmus got off to an extremely slow start, but after moving to the 2nd position in the batting order behind 3rd basemen Brett Lawrie, he showed exceptional promise and has taken off ever since. By moving Lawrie and Rasmus to the first two slots of the batting order, manager John Farrell demonstrated his vast baseball knowledge, and now looks like a genius after a few weeks of offensive success.
Although Toronto has had success offensively; some players are routinely slumping, and then resurging in the line-up, looking at Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson, and Rajai Davis in particular. All have shown promise, and have also shown why Toronto is in need of improvement in their respective positions. Escobar is a gem defensively, but struggles very often with the bat. Johnson is a respectable fielder, but when he steps up to the plate you don’t usually know what to expect. Then, there’s Davis. Rajai has speed that his hard to compare to anyone in the league, but that’s about it. There was a small period of time when his bat was extremely active, and Toronto got behind him in full force. Defensively though, he is someone you need to really worry about. His inexperience in the field has led most to believe that calling someone like Travis Snider up, or finding a more permanent and consistent LF through trades is imminent.
All in all, Toronto has had a sub-par 1st half. Not to say that it wasn’t expected, because it was. Fans knew that the product on the field was pretty much the same team as last year, and when that happens, it’s hard to contend when past dictates you won’t. If Toronto wants to contend, they need to spend money or trade up. The second half will be interesting to watch to say the least. Fans expect Bautista to put up similar numbers that were posted before the break. Last season, Bautista led the MLB in homers with 30 at the break, but only hit 13 in the 2nd half of the season. It is ridiculous to think that players can play the same way 162 games of the season, but that’s what people expect. Being the only player to ever lead the majors in 3 simultaneous seasons in home runs, Bautista will once again be a focal point for the team. Pitching needs to improve drastically, more specifically Ricky Romero, if Toronto wants to stay in the hunt for that coveted 2nd wild card position.
We’ll see what happens in the coming months, but I expect Toronto to once again miss out on the playoffs if they don’t improve before the trade deadline.
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