Will the acquisition of starting pitcher Yu Darvish help the Los Angeles Dodgers make the World Series?
The Toronto Blue Jays have not made the postseason since 1993 when they won their last World Series Championship and thus they were the feel good story of the first half of the 2014 Major League Baseball season. On June 6, the Blue Jays donned a record of 38-24 and they were in first place in the American League East with a six-game lead over the second place New York Yankees. Since then the Blue Jays are only 13-25. Their six-game lead over the Yankees has evaporated and they are now four games behind the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East. A season that started off so promising is slipping away from the Jays, but the ship can be righted.
The Jays got the season off on the right foot because they were clicking on all cylinders. The Blue Jays were getting quality starting pitching from the likes of Mark Buehrle and they had one of the best lineups in MLB led by All-Star outfielder Jose Bautista and first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. Toronto was even holding its own against good clubs. In May, the Blue Jays swept a three-game series against the American League West leading Oakland Athletics and in June they were able to sweep the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. In spite of being based in Canada, things have changed for the Blue Jays in a New York minute.
The injury bug has caught up with the Jays as third baseman Brett Lawrie has been on the disabled list since June 22 with a broken finger. Encarnacion has been sidelined since July 5 when he suffered a quad injury. And Blue Jays designated hitter Adam Lind has been on the disabled list since July 7 with a non-displaced fracture in his foot. The result has been that a once potent Blue Jays lineup has taken it down a notch. This season the Blue Jays offense is second in the American League lead in home runs with 119. The Jays are also third in the AL in slugging percentage (.422), and fourth in runs scored (446). But over their last 10 games before ten games before the All-Star break, Toronto’s offense only managed to produce 24 runs. It is very important for the Jays offense to produce runs due to the lack pitching of pitching that they are getting which was highlighted by last night’s 14-1 shellacking at the hands of the Boston Red Sox.
This year the Blue Jays team earned run average of 4.17 is 11th in the American League. Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle began the season with a record of 10-1 to go along with an earned run average of 2.10 as he appeared to be an AL Cy Young candidate. But since June 1, Buehrle is 0-5 with three no-decisions and his earned run average has jumped to 2.86. Starting pitcher R.A. Dickey is 7-10 this season with a 3.95 earned run average. Behind Buehrle, Dickey has been the second best pitcher for the Jays this season, but he has not been anywhere near as dominant as he was when he won the National League Cy Young Award in 2012 as a member of the New York Mets. The Blue Jays also have 12 blown saves this season which is tied for seventh in the AL.
When this team got off to a good start I said that Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos needed to inquire about getting another starting pitcher if they were going to remain in the playoff hunt. Now the Blue Jays could also use some bullpen help as well.
The Blue Jays missed out the opportunity to acquire starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs when he was traded earlier this month to the A’s. The Tampa Bay Rays are starting to get hot which means that starting pitcher David Price more than likely will not be put on the open market this season. The Mets have dangled starting pitcher Bartolo Colon out there on the market and the closer that we get to the July 31st trading deadline the more pressure that I will see shift to Anthopolous as far making a moving to improve Toronto’s pitching. The Philadelphia Phillies are floundering in the basement of the NL East and they have pieces that the Blue Jays could use in All-Star second baseman Chase Utley, starting pitcher Cliff Lee, and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon to get them over the hump. Relief pitcher Addison Reed is in his first season with the Arizona Diamondbacks. This past June former Major League Baseball manager Tony La Russa took over as the Diamondbacks chief baseball officer. The Diamondbacks have been stuck in last place in the National League West all season. La Russa is not attached to any of the current players on the Diamondbacks team and he could put Reed and his 23 saves on the trading block.
As far as pitching goes the dominoes are beginning to fall as the Los Angeles Angels recently acquired All-Star relief pitcher Huston Street from the San Diego Padres. Combine the Street trade with the Samardzija deal and Anthopoulos is running out of pitchers that can improve the Blue Jays for the stretch run.
Lawrie, Lind, and Encarnacion will all soon be returning to a Blue Jays lineup that includes Bautista, shortstop Jose Reyes, and outfielder Melky Cabrera. The Blue Jays can hit with anyone in baseball, but they must be able to pitch in order to be a viable playoff threat. The Blue Jays have enough hitting to win the AL East as 85 wins might do it this season. But if Anthopoulos fails to sure up their pitching it could be a mute point.