Monday, May 26, 2014

The Blue Jays Flourish as the AL East Flounders


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What a week for the Toronto Blue Jays.

They're winners of six straight, and the Blue Jays also swept the defending World Series Champions on the road and they just swept the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics.

The Blue Jays have also won 11 of their last 13 games, 16 of their last 21 games, and currently own  the fourth best record in the American League.

And by the way ... I'm not sure if you've heard yet, but the Blue Jays are currently in first place. As my wife said to me over the weekend ... "how is that even possible?"

My first inclination was to respond in disbelief myself, but the explanation for the Blue Jays resurgence is actually fairly simple. Where everything broke wrong for the Blue Jays last year, everything is going right for them this year.

The current incarnation of the Toronto Blue Jays are playing like what they should have in 2013. The Blue Jays are beginning to display a semblance of why they were pedaled as a World Series favourite just one year ago.

Overall, the pitching has been fairly solid, the starting lineup continues to swat home runs at a ridiculous pace, the Blue Jays are also manufacturing runs, and the bullpen has reverted back to its consistent self.

Combine that with the overall mediocre performance of the teams in the American League East, and that has been the recipe for success for the Toronto Blue Jays as of late.

The Blue Jays have flourished where the division has floundered.

It's almost as if the Blue Jays can do no wrong, which in many ways reminds me of the 11-game win streak the team put together last June. During that run, they were also receiving timely hitting and solid starting pitching.

In five of those games during the 11-game win streak, Chien-Ming Wang and Esmil Rogers combined to make five starts and went 6.1 innings or more in each of those games. And then the clock struck midnight and they turned back into pumpkins.

However, this time the Blue Jays are no longer relying on journeyman pitchers to carry the load of team decimated by injuries. As noted by Shi Davidi, the Blue Jays are no longer handcuffed by players without options.

Most importantly, the Blue Jays are no longer set up to fail; the way the roster is currently constructed, it is built to succeed.

There could definitely be improvements; second base continues to be an area of concern long term, and depending on what happens with the back end of the rotation, the Blue Jays could still use another arm in the starting rotation.

But for the moment, the team is overcoming those shortfalls and is exceeding expectations overall. The Blue Jays are slowly beginning to look like a formidable foe in the American League East.

The burning question most people have is whether this run by the Blue Jays is sustainable over the rest of the season. Sure, they've looked tremendous the past week, but that's just one week out of the entire schedule. The season is still barely a third of the way finished.

Many would caution against getting too excited about this current run, but I say enjoy the moment. Considering how soul-crushing the past two seasons have been for the Blue Jays fan base, take comfort in any bit of happiness this team provides right now.

It's still far too early to start throwing out the "P" word, but given the way the Blue Jays have been playing, it's hard not to be optimistic.

Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

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