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The Who Jays?

By on June 7

Entering the 2010 season, the Toronto Blue Jays were predicted to throw in a lost season in large effect from losing so much talent.

The events surrounding Toronto’s offseason are well documented. Ace Roy Halladay wanted out of The J.P. Ricciardi Disaster.   After another disappointing season, the Jays sensed their window of contention had passed, and sought to turn their single proven commodity into the biggest return of the century. Fortunately for the Jays, Ricciardi was given the boot before, well, booting another deal. Instead of a “Retiardi” as it one might aptly call it, newly crowned GM Alex Anthopoulos spun Halladay to the Phillies for a robust injection of young talent–most notably prospects Brett Wallace and Kyle Drabek.

The moment Halladay’s bus ticket was punched for Philly, the Jays were considered non-factors in the East for 3 years minimum as they boarded the S.S. Rebuilding. For the first time in what seemed like ages, “experts” up, down, left, right were calling for a team OTHER THAN the O’s and Rays to finish last in the East. That is actually a big deal. All this negative Jays vibe centered around one question: who the heck were the Blue Jays without Roy Halladay? How could they possibly be good without The Doc?

Yet here we are nearly 60 games in and Toronto is just a handful of games out of first, and neck-and-neck with the Red Sox for 3rd in the division. So somebody must be pitching and hitting on their team, and pretty well at that. If fact, the Jays are 4th in ERA and xFIP and 5th is OPS and wOBA. That is, they are pitching and hitting exceptionally well. As Jerry Seinfeld once said–who are these people?

Instead of breaking down each arm on the farm and every bat with a stat, I’ll highlight some noteworthy performances from each side of the diamond exemplifying the Jays success this season and where they’ll be in the second half.

From the pitching side, Ricky Romero arrived at the show in ’09 while making 29 starts and going 13-9. After a ROY-contending season, Romero has taken his game to new level. He’s striking out over a batter an inning (9.07 K/9), walking fewer (3.49 BB/9), with fewer homers (7.9% HR/FB), and a ridiculous ground ball rate (GB% 56.5%). Romero’s not an emerging ace; he’s already performing like one. But in addition to Romero, the Jays have young arms like Brian Tallet, Brett Cecil, and Mark Rzepczynski, each having fair success at the majors.

In addition to the young guys, there’s also Shaun Marcum’s return from Tommy John surgery. In impressive fashion, Marcum’s been acting as if he hadn’t missed ’09 at all, pitching to 5-2 record and helping solidify a young rotation. And yet the Jays will likely be welcoming back Dustin MacGowan from the DL later this season as well. MacGowan’s another solid arm to jump right into the fire. Why can’t this happen in Baltimore?

Then there’s the lineup, otherwise known as the part of the Blue Jays that makes absolutely no sense. Think Ty Wigginton on a team level. For example, OF Jose Bautista. After playing for 5 teams over the past 7 years, Bautista has spontaneously figured out hitting. Having never plunked more than 15 HR in any one season, Bautista has already launched 18 dingers already. He’s on pace to hit 52. Yes, 52. Same story with OF Vernon Wells. Hit a total of 30 jacks ’08 and ’09. He’s currently on pace for 40. I know–it doesn’t make any sense. You’ve also got guys like SS Alex Gonzalez stepping it up.

So while the “no names” do their best Pujols impersonation (or maybe it’s Bonds?), there are a few Jays gone MIA. After a .305/.370/.562 line in ’09, Adam Lind has limped out of the gates at .212/.275/.373. Same deal with Aaron Hill, whose lingering injuries have hampered him from getting it going. There’s plenty of time for these guys to rebound, but the early results are craptastic.

So when you put all this data together, what does it get you? The slew of emerging arms and healing veterans has the makings of a plus rotation with lots of depth. But as we know, young arms + injury prone arms = the best board game ever (hint: Risk, lots of it). The ceiling here is pretty high, but the floor is also pretty low. Now sprinkle in this ridiculous offense. While, the current performance of their lineup was not exactly predicted, it was totally unrealistic given 2009′s performances…unless you take away their two best hitters from ’09 (uhh…Lind and Hill). And this is why I do not foresee the offensive behavior continuing for the Jays. Later this season, you’ll see Jays stay in games with their pitching, but they’ll struggle to score runs at the same pace. Rebounds happen. Players come back to earth. And with it, competitiveness will struggle (see Orioles, Balitmore).

And when that happens, the universe will be back to normal. Jose Bautista will understand we can’t be expected to remember his name. Vernon Wells will once again realize he’s more talented at insulting fans than playing baseball. The real Blue Jays will return from migration. That is, The Who Jays will return to Toronto.

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