The Toronto Blue Jays have now won 10 games in a row, and are getting back in the hunt in the AL East/Wildcard race. Conventional wisdom tells us that the Jays will need to reach a 90-72 record to ensure a playoff spot, and while currently 37-36, that means they will have to close out on a 53-36 tear.
For the Jays to reach the playoffs, their 14-20 record vs division opponents will certainly have to turn around. So with 89 games remaining, 38 of those being division games, lets begin the discussion of why or why not the Blue Jays will be playing in October.
This discussion will bounce back and forth between the Rage Machine and Mr. J
Start us off Rage?
RM: The Jays are bound to implode based on three simple facts: an overused bullpen, a lack of sustainable starting pitching, and the overhype of the Jose Reyes return. One man does not win a pennant race and the collection of arms currently assembled will have no meaningful games to play by September 10 at the very latest.
J: Your use of the word facts leads me to believe you don’t understand the meaning. Lack of sustainable starting pitching? Dickey has been nothing of this dominant Cy Young winning self this year, he is someone I see having a strong second half. Yes, Wang and Rogers have filled in admirably, but the return of Morrow and continued success of Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson will keep the Jays heads above water.
As for Reyes, I think you are underestimating the impact of his return. His injury has forced Melky into the leadoff role and Bautista in the 2 hole. With Reyes returning to form, he will be another guy on base for the mashing trio of Bautista, Encarnacion, and Lind.
RM: Holding any hope to Morrow et al is a lost cause. Buehrle will forever be a 190-210 inning eater but so was Livan Hernandez and look how that turned out. Morrow and Johnson will gimp out again, a matter of when and if AA had any shred of GM knowledge, he’d deal one of them, preferably Johnson due to the updated rules on compensatory first round picks. It’d be a small return but considering how they heisted him from Miami, anything more than a tuna sandwich and a washing machine is good value.
I’m merely looking at one man being deemed lord and saviour. Yes, it will be a reshuffle for the Jays batting order but we’re not looking at a consistent hitting team. There are only two men on this roster with an over .300 batting average, with R. Davis and A.Lind, that is not acceptable for contending teams.
J: No hope is being held on Morrow to make 15 quality starts after the all star break, but if he can make 10 starts with an ERA in the high 3’s that will certainly help the Jays cause, as for Josh Johnson, I think dealing him is a strong possibility, but not if the Jays continue to win and are close to the top come July 31.
I agree on your assessment of batting averages, but once Reyes comes back, he’s another .300 guy, and Melky is on a slide yet still hitting at a .276 clip. The quality bench players including DeRosa, Bonifacio, and Rajai Davis certainly will let some guys take days off down the stretch. Inserting Reyes at the top gives you a top half of Reyes-Melky-Bautista-Edwin-Lind, while still having power capable guys in Arencibia and Rasmus following. Not to mention I think Bonifacio should be given more starts at second, because if he improves he can be a key #9 hitter, essentially adding a second leadoff man with excellent speed.
RM: Reyes will not be a .300 hitter right away (for obvious reasons, very few players can pull that off) so adjusting for correction, won’t see consistent hitting until 1.5-2 weeks into his return. It’ll be an improvement over Kawasaki despite the rabid fan base he’s acquired. It’s like Johnny Mac is playing all over again! The bench is not that highly touted, it’s average at best because of the constant rotation of players due to injuries. Durability has been a problem of the Jays for a number of years, could it be linked to the Astroturf, perhaps but I have no concrete data to support said claim. Plus, when will Bautista go down for yet another season ending ailment? That’s a question any Jays supporter needs to answer because this man does not make it to September on a regular basis.
The real joke that will be revealed soon enough will be the bullpen. Guys don’t magically start pitching so masterfully and remain at the level. Looking dead at Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar, and Brett Cecil. Cecil is the biggest time bomb of the bunch because he’s a light switch guy to the extreme (either on all the way or horribly off). Those numbers will revert back to career averages minus one whole earned run but that’s still significant.
J: I think you are misguided in your opinion on the bullpen. Success is not a prerequisite to future success, and although the numbers are ridiculous, guys like Loup and Delabar have pitched well out of the pen before. Cecil is a special case because this is the first time he has been exclusively coming out of the pen in the pros, comparing his stats from when being a starter is comparing apples to oranges. Not to mention he came out of the pen in college and did so successfully, so there is no cause for concern in my eyes. Counting on a Bautista season ending injury is hopeful as the two seasons before lasts he played in 149 and 161 games respectively.
I haven’t even mentioned the pending return of 3B Brett Lawrie, any contribution by him is simply gravy for this line up. Once this winning streak is snapped I expect the Jays to play above .500 ball for the rest of the year. Meaning, that come mid-September they should be in the race for the division or wild card, as their last 15 games are against division opponents.
Over a month ago while the Jays were struggling I gave them a magic number of 50, the number of wins needed at the all-star break to be in contention in the second half, and if they continue to play the way they have the past few weeks they will be in that position.
RM: Your ability to pump these guys’ tires is extraordinary. Regardless of past performance, these type of streaks never end pleasantly. Gibbons will have to manage the rough waters when the fall off happens in the next week or so. I almost forgot about Lawrie. Maybe the time off has made him realize that being a hot headed prima donna isn’t going to cut it. Solid bat and glove but his baggage makes Colby Ramsus’ look like a carry on.
50 wins! This man is huffing the Toronto smog like no tomorrow. They’ll be lucky to reach 81 wins overall but stranger things have happened in baseball. Cheers to the Jays and remember there’s only three months until hockey season.
J: We will re-evaluate the state of the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday July 15th before the Home Run Derby. Until then, lets ride this streak!