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Thoughts on the Blue Jay second half

Reading this, over at Camden Chat, reminded me how happy I am to be a Blue Jays fan. I'm looking forward to the second half. Not that I'm kidding myself into think we will be in contention or anything, but there are a lot of things I'm excited about.

A quick digression, I was on an internet radio show the other day, and got asked the question 'what do the Jays have to do to stay in contention in the second half?' Now, in my very limited experience in being interviewed, questions like this are the ones that I have the hardest time coming up with an answer. Ones that start with a premise that I disagree with. What do the Jays have to do to stay in contention in the second half? The real answer is 'build a time machine, go back in time a couple of months, and arrange to win 6 or 7  games that they lost'. But you can't really say that, nor do you want to say something that makes the nice person who asked to talk to you look stupid.  End of digression

Things I'm looking forward to seeing in the second half:

  • Jose Bautista. Perhaps the dumbest argument I've ever been a part of, on here, happened this winter. Someone was trying to explain to me that Jose Bautista had a low BABIP last season (.233) because he hit so many home runs. Home runs, in his world, were singles that just happened to clear the wall. Thankfully, this year, Jose, even though he is hitting even more homer runs to this point, has a .321 BABIP. Why is his BABIP better? His line drives are up a tic (15.4% compared to 14.1% last year and he's hitting more ground balls (38.6% from 31.1% last year) and balls are falling in for him a bit more. So he's gone from a low average, home run hitter, to a guy that should, if he continues to hit like this, be AL MVP. Do you think he can hit 60 this year?
  • Starting pitching. I shouldn't say it out loud but it looks like our rotation has come around. Ricky Romero has been his usual self. Brandon Morrow has the highest WAR (2.6) among the pitchers. Batters hit .271 against him in May but are just hitting .214 since the start of June. Brett Cecil has had two good starts in a row, not much, I know, but it is a start. Carlo Villanueva has surprised everyone (there is a voice in my head yelling 'trade him now' as I can't imagine his trade value ever being higher). And Jo-Jo has been ok for a 5th starter type, though the 6.11 ERA in June has me worried. 
  • Seeing more of our young batters. If there has been a theme to the last 3 or so years of Blue Jay history it has been that we have given too many at bats the to Brad Wilkersons of the baseball world. Guys that really can't help us in the future and aren't helping us in the present. Between them, Jayson Nix, Juan Rivera and Corey Patterson had 744 plate appearances in the first half of the year. I am a lot happier watching Eric Thames and Travis Snider than those three. I'm hoping this is a sign that, in the future, we won't be seeing stopgap type players as much. 
  • Brett Lawrie. Brett twittered "Hand felt fantastic during Bp and infield, now only thing to do is go out and compete"  yesterday. I'm hoping he sees play in Vegas by next week then, all going well, he's up here around the start of August. 
  • Bullpen. I'm curious to see how John Farrell handles the bullpen, in the second half. Francisco has been almost very shade of awful imaginable. I don't know what I'd do with the closer role. Likely give it to Jason Frasor and hope for the best. Farrell has a lot of arms in that pen, figuring out the best way to use them has been his biggest challenge of the first half, and I'm not sure that he is any closer figuring it out. 
  • The trade deadline. I've given up on trying to outguess Alex, but he has a number of interesting trade pieces. Any of right-handers in the bullpen could be traded. Carlos Villanueva has more value now than any of us figured he ever would. Maybe Aaron Hill? Odds are he'll make a deal that none of us see coming. He's got lots of trade pieces and he never seems to be afraid to make a deal. We might have an interesting couple of weeks. 

What are you looking forward to seeing in the second half of the season?