Week Six (May 10 – May 16) began on a sour note with the Jays self-destructing in back-to-back losses at Fenway Park, continuing their struggles against baseball’s better teams. But the week ended with a flurry of victories: a sweep-avoiding win on Wednesday over the Red Sox followed by a sweep of the AL West leading Texas Rangers back in Toronto.
The Jays now sit at 23-16, 3rd in the AL East and only two games behind the defending world series champion Yankees for the Wild card. It’s still early, but it’s hard not to be excited by this young team.
Here are three things that came out of week six:
1. Leadoff Man Extraordinaire
When Toronto acquired Fred Lewis from the San Francisco Giants for cash on April 15th, it came with little fanfare. But the scrappy Lewis has been a dyanmo atop the Jays order, giving the Jays their first true leadoff man since Shannon Stewart in the early 2000’s.
Lewis was the victim of a numbers game in San Fran, with the Giants eventually deeming him expendable. But one look at his tenure with San Francisco shows that Fred performed well when given the opportunity. In 2008 he hit .282 with a .351 OBP and 21 SB from the top of the Giants order, and though he slipped a bit in 2009, he still looked like a prototypical leadoff hitter – a speedy, base-running savvy, on-base machine.
Since being acquired by the Jays he is hitting .288 with 2 HR, 18 R, 13 RBI, and 3 SB, including a game winning home run off Bobby Jenks. He is also playing great defense, which is key right now with Toronto effectively missing two OF (Snider out with a sore wrist, Bautista subbing in at 3B for Encarnacion). This deal is looking more and more like a steal for the Jays.
2. Power Barrage
Perhaps the most surprising stat thus far in 2010 is that the Toronto Blue Jays lead all of baseball in home runs. Even more surprising is that they lead the category BY A MILE!!!
The Jays have slugged 60 dingers through the first 39 games of the season, a whopping 11 more than the Boston Red Sox in second. The club bashed ten bombs last week alone, including eight in the three game sweep of the Rangers – three of those by Jose Bautista.
Overall, Toronto has four of the top-30 HR hitters in the major leagues: Vernon Wells, Alex Gonzalez, and Bautista (10 each, T-5th), and John Buck (8, T-18th). The long ball is definitely back at the dome.
3. Closing the Door
In 2009, Jason Frasor lead the Blue Jays relief corps with 11 saves. As a team, Toronto recorded only 25 saves – tied for the lowest in the AL. Long gone were the days of Henke and Ward. Even Billy Koch would have been an upgrade.
Well, so far in 2010 the Jays have solved the closer dilemma. Kevin Gregg notched his 11th save on Sunday, giving him the outright lead in the AL in the category, and matching what Frasor had all of last year – in only the 39th game of the season. Gregg has been dominant thus far, going 11/12 in opportunities, with a 2.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and a 22:4 K:BB ratio.
Many are quick to write Gregg off as an early season fluke, but don’t forget that he is not a one-season wonder. Gregg picked up 84 saves over the past three seasons as closer for the Florida Marlins and Chicago Cubs. While the ERA and K:BB totals might be unsustainable, as long as he continues to shut the door on Blue Jay victories, all will be well in Toronto.