Pull up a chair while we talk about all things Blue Jays-related.
Healthy discussion is always encouraged!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #16 – Firing on all Cylinders

Is this finally the Blue Jays team we all hoped, and thought, we would see last year? It’s Monday, May 26th, 2014, and our Toronto Blue Jays are sitting atop the American League East, with a two game cushion over the venerable New York Yankees. This a position the Blue Jays, and many of us long-suffering fans, haven’t enjoyed in many moons.

Over the past two weeks or so, the Blue Jays have won six in a row, nine of ten and have climbed from the basement of the AL East all the way, via express elevator, to the penthouse, compete with mirrored ceilings, a 360 degree view of the city and multiple heart-shaped bathtubs (yes, I’ve spend far too much time thinking about what it would be like in a MLB penthouse). Incredibly, the Blue Jays are still only 13-11 at home, so there’s lots of room for improvement in that regard. Just to be a naysayer for a quick second, there are as always many “buts” involved that have to be considered, such as:
  • It’s still insanely early to be getting too excited
  • Everyone else in the AL East is playing terribly. Horribly, awfully, terrible. Like, on par with the Houston Astros. Yes, that bad.
So, maybe we should temper the optimism/excitement just a smidge. Yes, we should all enjoy this hot streak for all that it is: we’re cheering for a winning baseball team! But it’s obvious we’re a wee bit ahead of ourselves in celebrating a season that is only one-third completed and planning the World Series parade route. However, I’d
be willing to say that many of us can’t remember a time when the Blue Jays were playing this well. Who am I kidding? Of course I can: it was 1993 and Joe Carter was circling the bases like a manpossessed while Mitch Williams walked dejectedly off the SkyDome mound. Sorry, I don’t mean to tempt fate by comparing our 2014 Blue Jays, a team that’s 51 games into their season, with an incredibly deep, World Series-winning team, but there we go, Pandora’s Box has been opened. Nothing we can do now but watch.

Just about every facet of the Blue Jays is performing well and firing on all cylinders; pitching – both starting and relieving – hitting, defense, speed and even the elusive, mysterious element: luck. (Please refer to the 2013 Boston Red Sox to see the gold-standard for “Lucky” teams).

Let’s take a quick gander (yup, GANDER) at everything that’s going well right now:
  • Edwin Encarnacion is enjoying a hot streak the likes of which few have ever seen, including 12 homers
    so far this month
  • Jose Reyes is finally looking like the player the Blue Jays thought they were getting after The Trade® with the Miami Marlins (and frankly is a player I was none-too-sure even existed, having heard so much about his abilities. After all, I only had the opportunity to see him play a handful of times, given that he was a life-long National Leaguer prior to the 2013 season). He’s the team sparkplug at the top of the lineup that has literally taken games over in the past couple weeks with his speed alone
  • The starters team ERA is almost two full runs less than it was last year
  • Casey Janssen is back from the DL as the closer, and providing a stabilizing force in the bullpen
  • In addition, Dustin McGowan has reclaimed his rightful spot in the bullpen after his foray into the starting rotation was deemed a failure
  • Anthony Gose is like a new, and probably better, version Rajai Davis (which, incidentally, shouldn’t be overlooked. Gose is my X-Factor for the rest of the season – even when Colby Rasmus is back from his
    stint on the DL, Gose should be kept as the fourth outfielder)
  • Brett Lawrie continues to amaze with his defensive prowess at third base, and surprisingly, is playing a pretty solid second base, when necessary, to make room for Juan Francisco in the lineup
(And by the way, one of the reasons to point all of the above out is because it’s utter folly to think that every one of those players will keep up their current pace. Players slump, players streak. That’s baseball in a nutshell)

Does this pic apply here? No!
But it's Alison Brie wearing a Blue Jay hat!
Turn that frown upside down, Alison.
To what do the Blue Jays owe this sudden resurgence? Is it the untraceable, immeasurable “team cohesiveness”? Or is that a fallacy perpetuated by the same people who trumpet pitcher wins and eschew WAR and WHIP and OPS? Are the Jays truly a “team” now, after last year’s feeling-out period, or are a large number of players simply playing better at the same time? This is, after all, pretty much the same team as last year, minus Josh Johnson, Rajai Davis, part of Emilio Bonifacio and a couple of other spare parts. Methinks it was more likely a case of a much-ballyhooed team struggling at the starting the season, then getting decimated by injuries, which they in turn didn’t have the depth to overcome, which led to further struggles.

The same question remains for the Blue Jays, as it does for every baseball team, hell every other sports franchise, professional, amateur or otherwise: can they maintain this torrid pace? The answer is as ubiquitous as the question: No, of course not! The point worth remembering though, is that they definitely have the pieces, (and finally the roster, so says Shi Davidi) to make a run of it. I mean MY GOD, even JA Happ is on a run of quality starts I don’t think anyone saw coming.

It seems these halcyon days have also made us forget about Brandon Morrow and Sergio Santos currently biding their time on the disabled list. Should we even be expecting anything from them when their time is up? I’d say yes and no: “Yes” to Santos, who seemed ill-suited to the closer role (which is odd, considering he was the closer for the White Sox, a far more stressful baseball town than our fair city). He should be able to slide in to the eighth-inning setup man role co-occupied by Brett Cecil, Steve Delabar and McGowan; “No” to Morrow, who seems to have lost it.

Hopefully the Blue Jays can keep this up and they won’t fade as the season continues. In any event, it’s providing a heck of a lot of optimism amongst fans and is causing a stampede of late-comers and casual fans to jump en masse onto the bandwagon.

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