Not having made the playoffs since winning back to back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays purchased the Miami Marlins and relegated the National League East team to act as a glorified Quadruple-A team. They weren’t quite done however, adding another All-Start to their roster, trading for the 2012 National League CY Young Award winner: R.A. Dickey.
On paper, Canada’s team looked sensational and was the popular choice by many writers, analysts and experts to win the often vaunted American League East. The general public was down-trodden on the Red Sox chances of winning the division, coming off of a dismal year, having completely forgotten how many injures Robert Valentine was dealing with, including that of his own pride and ability to placate and compromise. The Yankees, a team that’s hated by almost everyone that isn’t a Yankees fan, were looking to bounce back after a Playoff run that had them looking like a little league team at the plate also were handed a face full of injuries before the season even began, with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all scheduled to miss much of the season.
We assumed the Rays would battle the Blue Jays for the top spot in the division, and although the Orioles were a wonderful story last year, most stat heads assumed there would be some major regression, and there was no chance that Baltimore could manage to duplicate the same amount of success in close, late game situations.
So after a decade of losing, the Blue Jays finally won something. Unfortunately, that something doesn’t come with any accolades or awards, and no one remembers it or cares three months into the season. Being the offseason champions gets the fan base excited, palpitates the heart of ESPN editors, and sells a lot of tickets and merchandise. What it doesn’t do is guarantee winning; short term or long term. It doesn’t guarantee that the new fans you’ve won over will stay; it doesn’t guarantee the ability to woo new free agents, swaying them to move to a different country with higher taxes. It does however mean that the organization is committed to doing whatever they need to, to win. It does mean that the owners are finally willing to trust their GM. It does mean that the owners are finally willing to spend money.
In a sports environment, where so many owners are content maintaining a miniscule salary, and sending out the proverbial collection basket to all of their loyal fans, and to the other organizations a la revenue sharing, it is wonderful to see a front office who has been in that category for many years finally break out of the pit, and break out they did. And I for one appreciate it.
Opening Day came and Opening Day went. The Blue Jays came rushing out of the dugout and from the word go, stumbled and bumbled their way to a 13 and 21 record. The one shining ray of light though was the play of Jose Reyes. Through the first 10 games Reyes boasted a batting line of .395/.465/.526 with 5 walks and 5 steals and that wasn’t even the best part. His sensational defense was the best part, and it is what the Blue Jays missed the most when Reyes went all Reyes on everyone and injured his ankle sliding into second base. Reyes’ defense was never more appreciated than when the trio Munenori Kawasaki, Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio led the Blue Jays to a 9 and 18 record (currently 15 and 21, since the Blue Jays started winning) when Reyes went down. Thus far Kawasaki, Bonifacio and Izturis have combined for 13 errors, leaving an open, gaping, cesspool of a wound in the middle of the field.
For the math obsessed, stat nerds out there (me included), their combined Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average (the number of runs, above or below average, the player was worth based on the number of plays made) is an unbelievable -8 (-4 Izturis, -2 Kawasaki, -2 Bonifacio.)
The terrible defense, along with the non-existent offense Reyes’ three replacements have given to the Blue Jays in his stead has lead to the offseason champions to be currently ranked 5th in the division with a 20 – 27 win/loss record, a -37 run differential and 8.5 games behind the division leading New York Yankees.
Most Recent Trend
During the last 10 games the Blue Jays are 7-3 against opponents including all four division rivals and the defending champion San Francisco Giants with a +19 run differential. The offense is turning around, and is now producing in a way fans thought that they would, scoring double digit runs in 4 of the 7 wins.
Not much to say here, R.A. Dickey is finally healthy, and is starting to pitch like he did last year when he won the National League CY Young Award. Josh Johnson was terrible before landing on the DL and still isn’t back to the Major League roster, although he has started rehabbing. Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle have been nothing short of atrocious. So far Buehrle is 1-3 in 10 starts with a 1.410 WHIP and has 40 earned runs in 61 innings pitched compared to last year when he had 84 in 202.1 innings pitched and has given up 11 homeruns already compared to 26 all of last year. His Hits per 9 innings (H/9) is up from last year so is his HR/9, and walks (BB) per 9 innings pitched.
Morrow so far is 2-3 in 9 starts with a 1.471 WHIP and has 32 earned runs in 52.1 innings pitched compared to last year when he had 41 in 124.2 innings pitched and has given up 11 homeruns already compared to 12 all of last year. His H/9 is up from last year, so is his HR/9, BB/9 and his strikeout per 9 is down. His strikeout per walk rate is also the lowest of his Blue Jay career.
So what does all of this mean? Honestly I don’t really know. The fan boy in me wants to say that all of the Blue Jays issues have been solved; the offense is about to go on a clobbering spree, and when Josh Johnson comes back he’ll be great again and Reyes will be sensational and healthy for the remainder of the year.
The truth is I don’t’ know. I think the offense will continue to be great and when Reyes comes back the defense and offense will get a boost because Reyes will be replacing two of the black holes in the middle of the offense and defense. I think Dickey will continue to have a great season as long he stays healthy. I do think Morrow is done, he no longer has potential, this is his 7th year in the league and he is what he is, not good. I think Johnson is done too; he hasn’t been very good for a few years now because he hasn’t adjusted his style to fit his diminished abilities. And Buehrle gives up too many fly balls to be productive in the AL East where every stadium is little league friendly.
My prediction is this, the Blue Jays offense will carry the team into contending for one of the Wild Card spots, but the pitching just will not be good enough to do any kind of winning in the playoffs. If the Blue Jays do make the playoffs though, who really cares if they win a game, it’ll be the first time in a decade, and I will be happy just to see them compete.