In part five of this five-part series, we take a look at the Toronto Blue Jays and their chances to reach the postseason.
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Toronto is officially where closers go to die. B.J. Ryan, after his move from Baltimore a few years back, was beset with injuries, and now the formerly consistent Francisco Cordero has been demoted from his former role. This season, he has an ERA over six. Fellow reliever Carlos Villanueva has been rocky, though the major trouble area with this team lies in its hitting. Brett Lawrie leads the team with a .270 batting average. Only Yan Gomes, who has so far played a handful of games, has been hitting better. First baseman Adam Lind has only recently started to hit with some consistency, with two of his three home runs coming in May. And once thought of five-tool player Colby Rasmus has yet to live up to the potential the Blue Jays saw when they acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals.
Even if the Blue Jays have not hit for average, they have continued last season’s trend of successfully swinging for the fences. Jose Bautista, after almost single-handedly torpedoing my fantasy baseball team in April, is back. While his average is still low, especially when compared to his last two seasons, he now has 12 homers. Edwin Encarnacion, the team leader in RBIs, has almost equaled the number of long balls he hit all of last season. He has capped his early season domination with six stolen bases. The Blue Jays have also been getting solid offensive production from behind the plate. Catcher J.P. Arencibia has helped his pitching staff rack up the wins by having 26 RBIs. It is, however, these pitchers who have been responsible for Toronto’s winning ways. Led by ace Brandon Morrow and his 54 strikeouts, the Jays can make the claim that they have the best starting rotation in the game. One of these starters, Kyle Drabek, has now fully justified his place in the trade that brought Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies, with the former’s ERA now being the lower of the two. The team’s relievers have, for the most part, matched the starters in terms of consistency, led by Darren Oliver and the three runs he has surrendered in 15 innings.
Toronto can hold off the Red Sox with their pitching. However, to finish with a better head-to-head record against the Rays and Orioles, their hitting will have to become more consistent as solo homeruns, even hit in bunches, will not be enough. The Yankees are the trickiest issue, for they will heat up in the latter half of the season. Toronto will have to find ways to score lots of runs against the Bronx Bombers’ bullpen.
The Blue Jays can join another American League East team in the one game wild card. And they might be able to win it all if, led by Brett Lawrie, they improve upon their not-exactly-successful umpire intimidation tactics.