As everyone but Roy Halladay heads home for the All-Star Break, many of them will be reflecting on the first half of the season. It’s safe to say that it’s been quite an eventful season so far. The Jays cut ties with Frank Thomas, cleaned house on the coaching staff, and saw many players land on the disabled list. Despite all those things, in order to contend the Blue Jays will need to step it up in the second half to make things interesting. Let’s evaluate how they’ve done so far.
If there’s one thing that’s been the saving grace of the 2008 Blue Jays, it’s been their starting pitching. The starting pitching ranks in the top 3 in the league in ERA, thanks to consistency from Roy Halladay and Shawn Marcum. A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan have been fairly good, but always reliable for K’s and delivering quality starts. Jesse Litsch is coming into his own as a 5th starter, but has show a little shakiness of late. Overall, I think the Jays starting pitching is the best in the league - when they’re all healthy.
Where the pitching has excelled this season, the hitting has disappointed. Lack of clutch hitting, no clear clean-up hitter, and a tendency to ground into double plays have killed the team this far. Former coach John Gibbons shuffled the lineup seemingly every day to find a good combination, but could never find a suitable lineup. Not one Jay has more than 10 homeruns this season, and that has hurt them when it comes to making late-inning surges in games.
So far this season, the Jays bullpen has been very dependable. The loss of Casey Janssen early really left the team scrambling to find a setup man, but Jesse Carlson emerged as a steady arm in late innings. Also, the return of B.J. Ryan has restored a lot of confidence in the Jays bullpen, as he has saved 20 games in 22 opportunities.
Again this season, the reserve players and callups from the minor leagues have really stepped up and performed well this season. Since there have been so many injuries this season, players like Marco Scutaro and Joe Inglett have seen a lot of playing time. They have shown that they are indispensable, and have performed well in the absence of starting players. Also, the decision to callup Adam Lind from the minors has proven well, as he looks to be a superstar in the future.
All things considered, I think the Blue Jays have done okay this season. Hitting has obviously been the big hurdle in the first half, but with Cito at the helm things look to be different. So far, the Jays have been as high as 5 games above .500, to 5 games below .500. I wouldn’t say that we can throw in the white towel just yet; if the young talent can perform to expectations, thing could get interesting this fall.