June 26, 2013

Can the Blue Jays Still Be Playoff Contenders?

By - Brad Heerschop

With the NHL season coming to an end on Monday night, the North American sporting world is left with one option; Major League Baseball. Canadian sports fans, in particular, feel a certain lull this time of year, as they are left without their favorite game.

As everybody knows, the NHL is a staple in Canada, and the excitement of the Stanley Cup Finals are normally followed by a long offseason full of hockey anticipation, and little else.

This year is looking a tad bit different, though. It seems Canadian interest has shifted from pucks and ice to America's "national pastime." Why? Because Canada's only MLB team is currently one of the league's hottest clubs on the diamond.

Photo by: Getty Images
Fresh off a dismal 73-89 record in 2012, the Toronto Blue Jays were considered by many to be World Series contenders heading into this season. Canada's largest city was abuzz in the name of baseball for the first time in almost 20 years.

In November, the Jays were part of a blockbuster trade, acquiring the likes of Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. In what was called a fire sale for the Miami Marlins, Toronto unloaded some prospects and a few key players on their roster in hopes of changing their existing mantra of mediocrity.

With the big trade, along with the additions of Maicer Izturis and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, it looked like ownership was serious about making the Jays a legitimate threat again in baseball's toughest division.

However, until recently, all the spending seemed for naught. The club got off to an abominable 10-21 start to the season. Fans and media alike began to brace themselves for another sub .500 year and yet another missed postseason.

But not so fast. Since May 5th, the Blue Jays hold their division's best record and are right back in the thick of things. Toronto still sits in last place, but are only 6.5 games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox, and only 2 games back of the fourth place Rays.

Before their 4-1 defeat at the hands of Tampa Bay on Monday, the Blue Jays had won 11-straight, averaging 6.4 runs per game over the stretch. The streak tied the longest in franchise history.

Adam Lind has been a nice surprise this year, batting .330 so far, up from .255 last season. Edwin Encarnacion has 21 home runs and 63 RBI on the year, good for second and third, respectively, in the American League.

In spite of the mediocre play (by his standards) of Jose Bautista, Toronto's bats are what have them in the mix at 38-38. The Jays live by the long ball, currently sitting second in all of baseball with 98 homers.

If they can get their pitching on track, Toronto has the potential to be one of the best teams in the league by the time it's all said and done. At the moment, they have the ninth-worst ERA in baseball, and find themselves in the bottom half of most statistical pitching categories. Still, with some of the names they have in their starting rotation and bullpen, they're certainly capable of turning that aspect of their game around.

As the season nears the All-Star break, the Blue Jays are one of the hottest clubs in baseball. If they can keep it up, they may just find themselves back in the postseason for the first time since 1993.

1 comment:

  1. The only teams you can cross off the playoff contenders list for sure are Houston and Miami.