A walk off victory allowed the Jays to gain some ground on the Orioles and Red Sox last night, and a pair of trades is generating plenty of buzz in Toronto. Some early morning thoughts ahead of today's afternoon game against the Padres:
1. Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright allowed 8 earned runs in last night's game versus the Detroit Tigers. As a result, Aaron Sanchez now leads the American League in terms of earned run average (ERA) among qualified starters. He's also 2nd in terms of GB%, trailing only Marcus Stroman.
It wasn't long ago that Sanchez looked to be limited to the bullpen. While the stuff was always there, his lengthy frame seemingly led to mediocre balance and poor command. I have to tip my hat to Sanchez, who put it an incredible amount of work this offseason, putting on 25 pounds and coming back stronger than ever before. If the Blue Jays end up winning the division, those two-a-days with Marcus Stroman will be a big reason why. Hard work is paying off.
2. Ten hitters on Toronto's roster have 50 or more plate appearances in July, and eight of them have posted league-average or better offensive production in terms of wRC+. This must be terrifying for the rest of the A.L. East, as the Jays just got Jose Bautista back to boot. Ezequiel Carrera has cooled off dramatically, which may help explain Tuesday's trade for Melvin Upton Jr.
Leading the pack offensively this month is none other than Josh Donaldson. On top of hitting 6 home runs in July, his on-base percentage is through the roof at .459.
3. Toronto's front office seems to specifically target pitchers that consistently generate weak contact. The Jays pitching staff ranks 1st in the American League East for lowest Batting Average For Balls In Play (BABIP), and yesterday's trades could help even further. Upton Jr. is a plus defender in the corner outfield positions, which is one of the only positions where the Blue Jays have struggled in the field.
Since breaking out in 2010, Joaquin Benoit boasts the lowest BABIP in the majors among pitchers with 200 innings pitched. With Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez, and R.A. Dickey also on this pitching staff, Toronto seems to be onto something here.
4. Aaron Loup deserves to be in the major leagues. With all the talk about acquiring bullpen help at the deadline, the Jays should start by simply calling up the 28-year old left-hander. Loup owns a career ERA of 3.19, and has yet to surrender an earned run in 9 AAA innings this season. Although he struggled in the majors last season, his underlying numbers suggest that he deserved much better.
Franklin Morales' velocity is way down, and his salary should be thought of as a sunk cost at this point. Aaron Loup deserves his roster spot.
5. More credit where credit is due: leading off Jose Bautista is smart managing from John Gibbons. Bautista walks so often that he probably needs two FitBits to track his steps, and this skill set is extremely valuable to lead off an inning. In two games since coming off the disabled list, Bautista has already walked 3 times, getting himself on-base for the hottest hitter in baseball: Josh Donaldson. I can't envision too many managers using Joey Bats in the lead off spot, so I have to applaud Gibby for this one.
Finally: Today's Lineup
Melvin Upton Jr. gets his first start in left field for the Blue Jays today, hitting clean up pic.twitter.com/9hoG7q08bE— Arden Zwelling (@ArdenZwelling) July 27, 2016