Anytime you are in a division as tough as the AL East, it will be extremely difficult to make that step from bottom dweller, to up and coming team, to playoff contender and finally to World Series contender.
The Toronto Blue Jays have watched every team around them make a serious run at a title, from the New York Yankees winning one in 2009, to the Boston Red Sox winning 3 titles recently, most recently last season. The Tampa Bay Rays have become a force in the AL since 2008 and they haven’t looked back. Even their neighbors in the basement for so long, the Baltimore Orioles, made the postseason in 2012 and just narrowly missed it last season.
So while the Jays are waiting to get good, their division mates have been good, and for a while now.
You can’t say that they haven’t tried. They made a big splash in November 2012, when they made a huge trade with the Miami Marlins that landed them 5 players, but today, only two of those players remain on this team, shortstop Jose Reyes and pitcher Mark Buehrle.
Buehrle was pretty solid for them in his first year with the team and Reyes only played in 93 games because of a left ankle sprain, and he’s missed 17 games this season because of a hamstring injury he sustained on Opening Day.
Buehrle has been their best pitcher by far in 2014, going 7-1 with a 2.11 ERA, but the rest of the rotation, including 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who has been an average pitcher since crossing the border, has been pretty inconsistent and mediocre at best. One of their young guns Drew Hutchison, did throw a complete game shutout against a potent Texas Rangers offense this past Friday, so maybe that is a sign of things to come, but the pitching won’t be the reason they win anything.
This Jays’ offense will determine how far the team goes, and they have been as good as it gets this year.
They rank 1st in the AL with 59 HR’s, 86 Doubles, and a .433 Slugging percentage. They rank 3rd in the AL with 215 runs scored and 2nd with a .758 OPS.
They also take their walks when they have to, with 156 walks, which is good for 6th best in the AL, led by 38 by slugger Jose Bautista.
Speaking of Bautista, he leads the power surge, with 11 HR’s and has driven in 30 runs, which isn’t even tops on the team. 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion leads the team with 31 RBI’s on just a .244 batting average.
Back to Bautista, he has a .983 OPS, and if you think that is amazing, how about Juan Francisco‘s 1.0002 OPS in just a limited role, with only 26 games played and 89 at-bats, compared to Encarnacion’s 45 games played and 172 AB’s.
Even outfielder Melky Cabrera, who only hit 3 HR’s with a .279 avg in his first year with Toronto before going down in August with an ankle injury, is having a rejuvenated season, batting .310 with 6 homers already and a .831 OPS.
He needed to show he could stay healthy and also produce, after getting busted for PED’s during that career year with the San Francisco Giants.
Players like 1B/DH Adam Lind (.500 SLG percentage), 2B/3B Brett Lawrie (24 RBI’s), CF Colby Rasmus (9 HR’s, 19 RBI’s), and backup catcher Erik Kratz (2 HR’s in just 34 AB’s) will make it hard to pitch around those top guys and make this team especially hard to defeat.
The key to the Jays’ making a possible run, and I say possible because they are currently only 1 game behind the Yankees for first place in the East, is this offense. Bautista, Encarnacion and company will be the reason they make it or if they are golfing in October, again.
Don’t forget to visit our Hot Stove MLB Facebook page to share your thoughts on all the latest baseball news!