We've played 81 games now, half a season, and I thought that we should take a look at what the major story lines have been for the Blue Jays.
Blue Jays are in first place. Of course this is the major story. i didn't pick them for first, my hope was that they would stay in the race until the trade deadline, and make a couple of improvements and maybe get a wild card spot at the end. After all the folks on Twitter that think they have to be the 'first' to tell me that the Jays season is over, I'm loving every moment we are in first.
Edwin Encarnacion's May. Edwin was just a wow for the month of May. 16 home runs. 33 RBI. A .763 slugging average. Edwin's always been one of my favorites, so it is so much fun to see him doing well and see him happy. His June hasn't been bad, .306/.385/.588 slash line, but in May, every time up you just knew he was going to hit the ball hard.
Jose Bautista. Edwin may have hit more home runs in May than Jose has hit all season, but Jose seems to have almost reinvented himself. He's batting .305. He's hitting to the opposite field. He's taking what pitchers and defenses are giving him and he's making it look easy. I was honestly worried about the effect the Seitzer might have on Jose, but he seems to have been a positive influence. And, on defense, he has 8 outfield assists, including 2 9-3 putouts, coming on consecutive days and he's looking good in the outfield. Now, I don't need to see him play CF ever again, but he's been a pretty good right fielder. Add in that he's getting good marks for being a leader. Last year, when we were losing, he wasn't a leader, this year, we are a winner and he's a leader. Such is life.
Mark Buehrle terrific start: I wonder what odds you could have got, say a year ago, if you said that Buehrle would be 10-4 with a 2.52 ERA at the mid-point of this season. Last year, early in the season, it looked like he was finished or, at best, that he couldn't compete in the AL East. This year he's an All-Star. Yeah, he's 0-3 in his last 4 starts, but they weren't really bad starts. 2 of them would rank as Quality Starts, the other two, he allowed just one run too many in each for them to be quality starts.
The revolving door at second base. We've used seven different second basemen. Seven. All off-season, we were hoping the team would make a move to pick up a second baseman. The good news is that even with a second base being a black hole, we are in first place. The guys that have played the position:
- Ryan Goins: Started the season as our second baseman, or at least the one that would get the lion's share of the playing time in a second base platoon. He played 16 game there before the Jays tired of waiting for the Seitzer effect to take hold. We knew he wasn't going to hit much, but his glove would make up for it. We didn't expect him to hit just .150/.203/.217. There is no glove that can make up for a slash line like that. He's hitting .272/.317/.324 in Buffalo, which really doesn't give you the warm feeling that he could be a major league batter.
- Maicer Izturis: He played 11 games, 10 of them at second base and then fell down some stairs and he's done for the season. He was hitting .284/.324/.314 which might not seem great, but comparing him to the others that have played the position, it's Pete Rose. If he wasn't injured, he'd have the full time job.
- Jonathan Diaz: He came up to play shortstop when Jose Reyes was hurt at the start of the season, so he only played one game at second. If he had been half ways decent, we would have kept him around to play second. He hit .158/.256/.184 in 23 games. In Buffalo he was hitting .163/.337/.275, until we DFAed him to make room for Brad Glenn.
- Chris Getz: He came up, played 10 games at second, starting 6. I figured, hoped, he might be ok. He really wasn't, he hit .160/.222/.200 in 25 at bats. He's retired now.
- Brett Lawrie: He played 32 games at second, starting 26 of them. He looked pretty good there, I thought. He made a couple of errors, but errors happen. He what it is worth, FanGraphs has him at a -2.0 UZR/150. The problem with him at second, for me, is that Francisco has to play third, I'm not a fan of that.
- Steve Tolleson: He's played 35 games at second, starting 16. He had a great May, like most everyone else on the team, hitting .300/.375/.580 for the month. June has been a totally different story, he's hitting just .100/.182/.100. I wonder how much of that is due to the vision troubles he's been having? His defense has looked fine to me, but he's going to have to hit better than .100.
- Munenori Kawasaki: He's played 12 games at second, starting 11 of them. He's hitting .244/.320/.311, not as awful as some. He sees a lot of pitches. He's made 3 errors in his handful of games since coming up. He's entertaining, so unless we can have someone good, I'll take entertaining.
There are other stories:
- Casey Janssen's brilliance (I'm pretty sure the is isn't a coincidence that we started winning when he returned from the DL)..
- The injuries, we've had a lot of them, but, this year, we've been able to survive them. I've seen lots of complaints about the team's lack of depth, but we've had guys step up when someone was injured.
- Steve Delabar's fall from All-Star to Bison.
- Adam Lind's bat. Lind is hitting .342/.433/.526. We owe a huge thank you to Gibby for keeping him away from lefties (at least for the most part).
- The lack of patience the team has shown with players at the back end of the bullpen and the last spots on the bench. We have fallen back to the roster move a day stuff. There have been so many roster moves that I can never remember if Chad Jenkins (he is) or Erik Kratz (he isn't) is on the roster at any given moment.
What do you think are the Blue Jays big stories of the first half of the season?