Thursday, June 20, 2013

There's Light at the End of the Tunnel

By
Courtesy of Yahoo/Getty Images
Winners of eight straight. Yes, winners of eight straight. The more and more you say it, the better it sounds.  For the first time in a very long time, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel for the Toronto Blue Jays.

The season isn't even half over, and yet it feels like the Blue Jays have already run the gamut emotions that come with a grueling 162 game schedule. Going into the season, the Toronto Blue Jays were World Series favourites. But it's funny how quickly things can change, not only for the better ... but for the worse.

For me at least, it was a very odd feeling having the Blue Jays pegged as the team to beat.

I remember talking to Mr. 1 Blue Jays Way about this at the Home Opener; how it was so surreal that the Blue Jays were the favourites. Historically, the Blue Jays have always been the underdog, and we wondered if this is what it must feel like for fans of perennial contenders like the New York Yankees.

Not that a season is ever completely over this early in the schedule, but things were beginning to look pretty grim for the Blue Jays. The barrage of injuries was feeling more and more like the brutal summer of 2012; where anything that could go wrong did go wrong.

For a while there, it appeared as though history was doomed to repeat itself. The backups to the backups were even getting hurt. The Blue Jays had more players on the disabled list than any other team in baseball.

And yet in spite of all those injuries, the Blue Jays have finally turned the corner.

Really the goal this first half of the season has been for the Blue Jays to simply get to .500. For a while there, it looked like an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, but believe it or not the Blue Jays are just one win away from crawling back to .500.

There were many people I spoke to who said something to the effect of "all the Jays need to do is rattle off a good 6-7 game win streak and they're back in this". True to form, the Blue Jays have done exactly that and they are effectively back in the hunt.

That's the great thing about baseball; since the schedule lends itself to a lot games being played in a short amount of time, the Blue Jays have made up a tremendous amount of ground in a relatively short window.

Just over one week ago, the Blue Jays were nine games under .500, 12 games back of the Red Sox for the division lead and 10 games back of the Wild Card. Now they're one game under .500 and sit just 7.5 games back of the Red Sox and four back of the Wild Card.

So how the heck have the Blue Jays come back? It's been primarily thanks to some solid starting pitching. Had the starting five started off the season like this, I don't think anyone would've batted an eye because the Blue Jays were thought to have had one of the best rotations in baseball.

But since they underachieved in April and well into May, the starting rotation really had nowhere to go but up. And once the revolving door of waiver claim arms and callups finally stopped spinning for a few minutes, that's when there was at least some semblance of consistency to the starting rotation.

Does anyone expect Esmil Rogers and Chien-Mien Wang to continue to pitch like this? It would be presumptuous to assume they can keep up this pace, but really all the Blue Jays need is a couple of warm bodies there in the back end of the rotation.

And let's not forget the contributions of the bullpen, perhaps the most underrated and unheralded contributing factor to the Blue Jays resurgence. Janssen, Cecil and Delabar are the three big names who have solidified the back end of the pen.

Then of course there's still Loup, Oliver, Wagner, McGowan and Perez. The latter of that list which have yet to really prove themselves, but each reliever has their own unique skill set and are slowly but surely settling into their roles.

It really shouldn't be a surprise that the Blue Jays have one of the best bullpens in the American League. After all, John Gibbons' reputation as a bullpen savant precedes him, so he's simply doing what he's always done ... and that's run a very efficient relief corps.

And then there's the offense. The crazy thing is this lineup isn't even firing on all cylinders right now. Adam Lind has been a revelation and Edwin Encarnacion continues to anchor this offense, but Jose Bautista hasn't even hit his stride yet.

The way this team is performing, once the Blue Jays jump out in front, they do not relinquish the lead. That's why they're 26-0 when leading after seven innings. And during their eight game win streak, Toronto has trailed for only 4.5 innings in a total of 65 innings played.

Let's not forget there are also some very reassuring reinforcements coming in the way of Jose Reyes as early as this coming Monday. So the team who has had absolutely no problem scoring runs as of late will get one of their best run producers back in a matter of days.

Not to rain on everyone's parade, but here's my fear, though ... and I think it's a legitimate one. I'm afraid that these comeback seasons by Adam Lind and Brett Cecil might be wasted. As good as these two have been, are they playing over their heads?

There are some bona fide superstars on this Blue Jays roster who consistently deliver for this team, but I fear there are guys like Lind and Cecil who are just waiting to turn into pumpkins at midnight. And I would hate to see their breakout campaigns overshadowed by a lost season.

That's why I think now more than ever, the Blue Jays should to be buyers at the trade deadline. Alex Anthopoulos needs to do whatever he can to upgrade this roster and make a run at the playoffs. Because who knows if or when guys like Cecil and Lind will have seasons like this ever again.

After all, the Blue Jays are already all-in. If the front office deems that there is still a window of contention in 2013, then they should go for it.

In baseball, people talk a lot about momentum swings; and whether you believe in it or not, things are finally swinging the way of the Toronto Blue Jays. Although it may be nearly half over, things are just starting to get interesting.

1 comment:

  1. Kev Langdon, Mat Duheme, Hunter Slawek, Jeff Staines, Eric Taschnet: go blue jays! best team!!

    ReplyDelete

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