The calendar has flipped to June and the Toronto Blue Jays are still in first place. Just allow that to sink in for a few seconds.
After wrapping up a 5-2 week, the Blue Jays now have 34 wins on the season – second most in the American League and tied for the third most in all of baseball. Toronto’s +39 run differential is the third best in baseball, and they remain the only team in the AL East with a positive run scored plus/minus. Everything seems to be clicking.
What impressed me most about last week was the fact that the team overcame a bit of adversity. As I wrote on Friday, the Jays have a history of collapsing at the end of a long winning streak. After losing a heartbreaker to the Royals on Thursday night, a typical Blue Jays squad would lose three or four straight and 8 of 10. However, this year’s team shook off another loss on Friday to thoroughly dismantle KC on Saturday and Sunday.
That, if anything, should give fans hope that this year’s version of the Blue Jays just may be for real.
Here are three things from week 9:
Week 9: May 26 – June 1
Record: 5 – 2
1. Edwin the Record Setter
We all knew that Edwin was hot, but last week he became record-setting hot. With two huge home runs off of James Shields on Thursday night, EE tied the great Mickey Mantle for the AL record of 16 HR in May, falling one bomb short of the overall record set by Barry Bonds.
It was quite the month for Edwin, as he posted video game-like numbers: .281 average, .763 slugging, 1.132 OPS, 16 HR, 33 RBI, 26 R, and 16 BB. He solidified the middle of Toronto’s lineup, providing protection for Bautista and Lind, which ultimately lead to the two of them having huge May’s as well. As a reward he will now be eternally linked with Mantle, and I’d be shocked if he also isn’t given the AL Player of the Month Award as well.
And for those who were hoping that the end of May would bring the end of Edwin’s power surge, think again. He homered on Sunday to start June off with a bang. Just in case we need it, the record for HR in June is 15. Start counting.
2. Welcome to the Show
Technically he already made his major league debut, and has already appeared in five games before this past weekend, but for all intents and purposes, Saturday was Marcus Stroman’s “real” debut. He was called up to make his first career major league start in place of Drew Hutchison, and despite the short notice he fully lived up to the hype.
Stroman fully befuddled Kansas City over 6 innings, allowing a single run on 5 hits, striking out 6 while (impressively) walking zero. He had full command of all of his pitches, including his slider, which he used to absolutely destroy Eric Hosmer in the first inning.
After such an outstanding performance, the main question now is what’s next for Stroman? With Hutchison pushed back until Tuesday and Liam Hendriks sent down to Buffalo, does that mean he will receive a second start? Logic would dictate yes. There is nothing to gain from putting the team’s top pitching prospect in the bullpen, so it’s either start him or send him down. If I was in charge, I would keep Stroman in the rotation until his performance told me otherwise. But, sadly, I am not in charge….
Whatever happens, Stroman deserves another shot. Here’s hoping he gets it.
3. What a Month!
On Saturday afternoon, the Jays finished the month of May with a 12-2 thumping of the Royals. They currently sit in first place in the division, a feat that seemed like an impossibility at the beginning of the season. After making only minor changes to the team that finished dead last in 2013, not much was expected of the Jays. Needless to say, they have shattered all expectations to date.
To see how much better this team is than last year, let’s do a simple comparison of the AL East standings as of May 31.
This season, the Jays were 33-24, with a +35 run differential. They topped the AL East by 2.5 games over the Yankees, and had a 4.5 game advantage over Texas for one of the Wild Card spots.
Last season was a nightmare. The Jays sported a record of 23-32, and a -42 run differential (the next worst team in the division was +18). They sat in dead last, 9.5 games back of Boston, and were 8.5 games back of Oakland for the last Wild Card. They had the second worst winning percentage in the AL, ahead of only Houston.
The turnaround has been staggering, and while it’s still too early to call them the AL East favourite, I think we can safely say that the Blue Jays might be, possibly, a contender.
But keep it quiet – we don’t want to alert the rest of the league….