TAKING A LOOK: The Toronto Blue Jays

Since we are almost at the half way point of the Major League Baseball season, I thought I would start a new feature at the Random Rants Blog. The way I review movies, CDs and other forms of media is unique. I truly feel that presenting things in a “PRO” and “CON” format is an easy way to place my feelings on “virtual” paper. I decided to pursue a more casual format with this look at my favorite baseball team.

After 77 games have been played so far this season, the Blue Jays are sitting with a win-loss record of 39 wins, 38 losses,a win percentage of  .506, they are 7.5 games behind the division leader and in their last 10 games are 5-5. There has been a tale of two teams in regards of the Jays this year. When the pitching is firing on all cylinders, the hitters go ice cold. However, when the offence is red hot, the pitching staff is throwing batting practice.

THE PITCHING STAFF

The amount of injuries that the pitching staff has encountered in the last few weeks has been ridiculous. Even though he has a win-loss record of 8-2, Ricky Romero has been struggling this season. His ERA is 4.94 and he seems to be fighting himself early in every start, often getting behind by 3 or more runs in the first three innings. For awhile though, they were able to mask his inconsistency because of the solid contributions the team received from Brendan Morrow and the evolution of Drew Hutchinson.

Both were having good seasons when they were felled in an almost identical manner. Kyle Drabek had a very strong start to the season and looked to have finally put it all together but as he started to struggle, he also went down to injury and now will miss atleast 16 months with his second Tommy John surgery.

Brendan Morrow

The Jays are trying to cobble together a starting rotation with a very hittable Henderson Alvarez, a once again recalled Brett Cecil and have signed super veteran Jamie Moyer to a minor league contract. If this is the core of the pitching staff then the Jays and us, their fans, are in serious trouble. Alvarez has all the tools but is not able to put it all together right now, Moyer is almost 50 years old and Cecil has a fast ball that is barely squeaking into the upper 80’s in speed.

The only bright spot has been the emergence of Casey Jassen as the Blue Jays closer. The story was supposed to play out with Sergio Santos running with the job but injuries forced the Blue Jays to use Francisco Cordero in the role but his ineffectiveness forced Jassen into the role and he has excelled. Sporting a 2.64 ERA and having converted 9 out of 10 save opportunities, he has finally solidified a position that has been a headache for the Jays for a long time.

THE BATTING LINE-UP

Jose Bautista

The hitters are all clicking right now since manager John Farrell made a few tweaks to the batting order. After slotting Brett Lawrie into the lead off spot, moving Colby Rasmus to the second spot in the order and sliding Edwin Encarnacion into the clean up spot the runs have been pouring in.

After a very slow start, Jose Bautista has been red hot of late. Even though he is only hitting at .238 average thus far, he has clobbered 26 home runs and drove in 61 runs. Becoming a lead-off hitter has jump started not just Lawrie but the Blue Jays offence. With a .287 batting average, 8 home runs, 30 runs batted in and 11 stolen bases, he has added a hustle to the top of the order it has lacked.

Colby Rasmus

For his entire Blue Jay career, Rasmus never seemed to settle in and get comfortable with the team and his position in it. We all heard of his potential and talent but this season he has been shown it. He has also been red hot of late and is clocking in at a .258 average (which was hovering 30 points lower all season prior to his move to number two in the order) he has hit 14 home runs and driven in 45 runs. Perhaps the most important hitter in the Jays line-up is Encarnacion.

He has finally given protection to Bautista in the order and keeps the pitchers honest by making them pay for pitching around Joey Bats. After strugging last season, Edwin is having a career year. He has hit Ruthian like home runs 22 times so far, driven in 55 runs and is hitting at a .289 average. He has finally given the Jays much needed clean up spot production.

Bautista celebrates Encarnacion’s home run

I like the direction that the team is moving in under General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.   He has brought a new energy and distinct vision to the front office of the team. John Farrell has also provided the same aspects to the team but from the field level.

The Blue Jays have most of the pieces to be a contender but they have a small window to try and put the puzzle together. They need atleast 2 uninjured and productive starters to solidify the rotation. With the new Wild Card format, the Jays can be good enough to make the play-offs but need to address their pitching issues while Bautista and Encarnacion are in their prime and leading the offence.

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