Posted by: Asher Roth | May 31, 2010

Holy Wow It’s Been Awhile…

Woah… I just wrote a word. On this page. Remarkable.

All jokes aside, a lot of you are probably wondering why, in one of the most shocking bouts of team (and individual) success in recent memory, the writers of this blog have gone MIA since the start of May.

For this, we sincerely apologize. It’s not as though we have not wanted to write. Pistol Pete has been taking an intense French course in Quebec City where he gets in trouble whenever he speaks English. Thus, if he were caught writing about the Jays, he would likely be kidnapped by bandits in Expos jerseys and catapulted (literally) back across the border into Ontario. Since nobody likes to be catapulted, I’m sure you all can understand where he’s coming from.

As for me, with classes out of the way for a good long while, I have entered the sad life of a supermarket lifer. I have worked overnight shifts, I worked a double-split shift on Saturday (7-1, then  5-11), and I’m being trained to supervise. In the winter, I worked during such events as the Gold Medal final for Men’s Hockey and the Oscars. Thus it’s no shock that I’ve barely watched any playoff action, and always seem to work or be out of the house when the Jays play.

It’s not as though I haven’t paid attention. Don’t think my heart didn’t leap when I was excitedly informed at work on Saturday that the Prophet, Doc Halladay, pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history. I’m aware that the Blue Jays are a game out of the wild card race.

And yes, I am aware of the fact that Jose Bautista is leading the majors in home runs. I don’t understand it, but I’m aware of it.

The reason that I, personally, have been reluctant to talk about the Jays is because I have not had the opportunity to physically WATCH them play. I don’t really feel like I’m qualified to be any sort of voice of reason when I haven’t been able to watch them. The tone of this blog is one of honesty. In a situation where a player, like J-Bau for example, has great numbers, if I had watched all these games, I might be more qualified to say something like “Sure he’s smacking a remarkable number of dingers, but how many of them are solo shots? How does he hit with runners in scoring position?” The truth is, at the moment I’m writing this, I don’t have a clue. I know that the man’s got more RBIs right now than he had all of last season. I also know that he’s about twenty-something RBIs away from driving in more than Vernon Wells did all of last season (oh you thought I was off of that game, didn’t you?).

So what can I say?

Here’s what I think: They’re pretty lucky. They are lucky that the rest of the league outside of the AL East has reached a rather remarkable state of parity. Of all the opponents they’ve had outside the division this year, all of them seem to have multiple holes. The A’s and Indians are teams stacked with players I’ve never heard of. Chone Figgins is hitting terribly in Seattle. The White Sox can be powerful on one day, and meek as mice another.

Yes, the Jays are 30-22. Last year they started off 27-14, but by this point, they had reached their peak and were already tumbling into oblivion. Compared to the rest of the league, they’re kind of balling right now. Only the Yankees, Rays, Twins, Reds (huh?) and Padres (HUH??) have better records than the Jays. Of those teams, only the Rays have more wins.

It’s ironic that about a month ago, when Buck Martinez said the Jays’ biggest asset was their power, I laughed. Turns out I was wrong, he was ridiculously right. For once, they Jays’ lineup poses a huge power threat from top to bottom. Offensively, that’s about all they have going for them.

They are 2nd in the league in runs, but 21st in hits, 25th in team batting average (.244) and 28th in OBP (.310). This would most likely be because they have less singles than just about every other team. They have 10 more doubles than the team in the majors with the second-most. Their 88 home runs are 19 ahead of the second-place Red Sox. The one stat that shocks me is they’re in fact SECOND in strikeouts… and they have K’d a remarkable 47 times less than the first-place Diamondbacks. So, how did the D-Backs take 2 of 3? Again, I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching.

How’s the pitching doing? Well their team ERA of 4.17 is good for 16th, but the stats that stand out for me are the fact that they lead the league in strikeouts and they’ve allowed the 6th-least home runs with 37. Here’s a stat that bears no real significance, but looks pretty good: in terms of team plus/minus in home runs for and allowed, the Blue Jays are a ridiculous +51! Would anyone have called that before the season? Not me.

Now call me a shit disturber, or a pessimist, but I still can’t help but notice a glaring reason as to why the Jays are doing so well, relative to the rest of the league, or division, more specifically.

Take a look at the AL East:

Team W L PCT GB Home Away East Cent West Last 10 Streak
Tampa Bay 34 17 .667 15-12 19-5 14-7 8-5 10-4 4-6 L1
NY Yankees 31 20 .608 3 16-7 15-13 12-7 10-7 8-4 6-4 W2
Toronto 30 22 .577 4.5 14-11 16-11 8-7 11-5 10-8 5-5 W3
Boston 29 23 .558 5.5 16-13 13-10 13-14 8-7 6-1 7-3 W2
Baltimore 15 36 .294 19 9-14 6-22 6-18 4-5 4-11 2-8 L5

Like I said a while ago, this division is what big time war historian nerds would refer to as a battle of attrition. The fourth-best team in the division not only is six games above .500, but it’s the Boston Red Sox. The Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox are the top three teams in the AL Wildcard race. The closest team outside of that box is the Tigers, who are four games back.

For the most part, the reason Boston and New York have not torn it up, and the reason that Tampa has lost six of ten is because these teams have to play each other so many times. Notice that at this point, at the end of May, Boston is 13-14 against AL East teams. They have played 27 of their 52 games (more than half) so far against division rivals. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, have only played 15 in-division games, and are 8-7. Not bad, right?

If we dig deeper, we can recall that the Blue Jays are now 6-0 against the pitiful Orioles this season. This means they are 2-7 against the three much, much better teams in the division. This also means that only 9 of their 52 games have been played against those teams. This makes them 28-15 against teams that are not Tampa, Boston, or New York.

So, am I insulting the remarkable efforts of those who are giving Jays fans the rare chance to see a team full of guys playing well? Can I really rip on J-Bau, John Buck, Edwin Encarnacion, or anybody else for over-achieving? Can I blame Aaron Hill for struggling after returning from an injury? Can I blame Adam Lind for his sophomore slump? Can I look past the phenomenal pitching numbers of Ricky Romero or Shaun Marcum?

I don’t know, because I have not physically seen them play a full game since April.

But I can say this. The team is looking good. Like I said before, I never tire from seeing the team play well. Look at the league leaders, and you’ll see Blue Jays players sprinkled throughout them. It feels good. This summer has an optimism to it. Yeah, Dana Eveland didn’t work out, but Jesse Litsch is on his way back in the next week or so. That’s good news. Brett Cecil’s looking very sharp. Brandon Morrow is showing flashes of the pitcher he still very well could be. With patience, I think he can be a very good 3 or 4 in the rotation.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will focus more on individual performance. I promise it will come in the next few days, and not in July.

Tonight, Matt Garza will try to redeem himself for his last start against the Jays, in which he took the loss. He is 5-2 with a 2.97 ERA. Brandon Morrow’s gonna want to change that 6.66 ERA.

I’ll be working 6 to midnight, but my heart will be at the Dome.

Sorry for the hiatus, balkaholics. Talk to you soon.

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