The good times are rolling in Toronto.
What a week for the Jays! Two consecutive three game sweeps of the Rockies and the Orioles, coming on the heels of a four game sweep of Texas, has stretched the winning streak to 11. Overall, they have now won 15 of the past 18 games.
We all knew (or hoped) that the Jays weren’t as bad as they looked in April and May. Sloppy defense, atrocious pitching, and an anemic offense had the team spiralling out of control, and heading towards the Astros and Marlins for last overall.
And just as they weren’t as bad as they looked then, they’re probably not as good as they look now. But that’s not going to stop me from enjoying it, and if the weekend crowds were any indication, it’s definitely not going to stop thousands of others from piling back on the bandwagon.
Here are three things from week 12:
Week 12: June 17 – June 23
Record: 6 – 0
1. The Anatomy of an 11 Game Winning Streak
On June 9th, the Jays lost a game they probably should have won, at home against the Rangers. The next day they travelled to Chicago and were blown out by the White Sox. The back-to-back losses left the team with a record of 27-36. They were dead last in the AL East, 7 games back of fourth place Tampa and 12 back of first place Boston. They trailed by 10 games in the Wild Card standings, and were suffering a run differential of -37.
Of course, things have changed significantly since then. Eleven games, eleven wins – a franchise record tying streak. Here are a few facts about the streak:
– With a record of 38-36 the Jays have caught Tampa Bay (and surpassed them via winning percentage).
– They have cut the deficit to Boston from 12 games to 5.
– They have cut the Wild Card deficit from 10 games to 3.
– The run differential has improved from -37 to +6.
– The much maligned starting rotation has gone 7-0 with an average of 6+ innings per start, an ERA of 2.65, and a WHIP of 1.19.
– The bullpen has been incredible: 27.2 IP, 4-0 record, 0.65 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, and a 10.08 K/9
– The offense has averaged 6.36 runs per game
– Edwin Encarnacion has hit 4 HR, driven in 12 runs, and increased his OPS by 52 points
And let us not forget this: the Jays have won 11 consecutive games, with Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, Brett Lawrie, and Jose Reyes playing 0 innings, Jose Bautista batting .186, and R.A. Dickey putting up a 5.40 ERA and 1.63 WHIP during the stretch.
2. Munenori Kawaski – Legend
What a week! Kawasaki was already enjoying
a cult following in Toronto. His antics, his crazy interviews, his bowing, and his genuine unbridled enthusiasm has endeared him to fans all over the city.
But last week cemented him as an absolute legend. Friday night, with Toronto trailing the Orioles 6-4 in the seventh inning, Kawaski stepped to the plate and launched a game tying 2-run homer off of Tommy Hunter – his first career HR. The ensuing roar from fans in the Rogers Centre was the loudest I have ever heard. Chants of “Ka-wa-sa-ki!” rained down, and it was pandemonium when he came out for his curtain call. Then in the ninth, with the winning run on base, Kawaski came to the plate with a chance to provide the walk-off, and the chants rang out again. Even Encarnacion got into the act, chanting his name while seated on the bench.
Overall, Kawasaki appeared in four games last week. He went 4 for 12, with a triple, a homer, two runs scored, and three RBI’s, bumping his season OPS from .629 to .670.
Is he an elite hitter? Absolutely not. Is he one of the top-15 shortstops in the American League? Not a chance. But there is something about him that makes him seem essential and irreplaceable on this ballclub. With Jose Reyes due back this week, it will be interesting to see what Anthopoulos does with his Japanese fill-in.
3. Cecil the Best
From 2009 to 2011, Brett Cecil started 65 games for the Blue Jays. He had a winning record (26-22) but really wasn’t all that great (4.61 ERA, 1.40 WHIP).
A terrible 2012 (5.72 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) in which he spent time as both a starter and a reliever, and suffered both injury and loss of velocity, threatened to end his career with Toronto. He came into Spring Training this season as one of many battling for a roster spot.
Cecil ended up making the big club, and the Jays have to be happy that they brought him north. He has been nothing short of spectacular this season. His season stats speak for themselves: 39 IP, 3-0 record, 1.38 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 44 strikeouts to 10 walks. But it is what he has done lately that sets him above every other reliever in the AL.
Brett Cecil has not allowed a hit since May 28th. In that game, he allowed the first batter he faced (Andrelton Simmons of the Braves) to single to LF. Since that single by Simmons, Cecil has faced 44 batters and given up a grand total of zero hits and three walks. And of those three walks, two of them were intentional passes. Take away those, and only one batter of his past 42 that he has actually pitched to has reached base. That is a WHIP of 0.02! And it’s not as if he’s getting lucky by having batters hit right at guys – he has also struck out 16 batters, for a K/9 ratio of 10.54. In a game last Wednesday against Colorado, Cecil faced three batters, and threw nine pitches – all strikes, striking out two.
Looking at all major league relievers with a minimum of 35 IP, Cecil’s 0.69 WHIP is the best of the bunch by a comfortable margin (second best is Pittsburgh’s Mark Melancon at 0.86), and his ERA of 1.38 ranks third. Of all the bright spots in Toronto’s bullpen so far this year, Cecil has been the brightest.