There’s an old truism in sports that says that good teams and players know how to win, even when they’re not at their best. We saw it recently in the Stanley Cup playoffs when Pittsburgh beat Columbus. We saw it last week during the World Cup when Brazil and Argentina both won despite not playing very well. We used to see it with Tiger Woods all the time.
I think we saw it last week with the Blue Jays.
Something was clearly off with the team as they rolled into Baltimore. Balls that were leaving the yard a week before were now being caught. Players were striking out more and taking fewer walks. Clutch hits with runners in scoring position vanished. Runs, which were plentiful in the past few weeks, suddenly dried up.
But the Jays found a way to split a 4-game set with the Orioles and maintain their lead atop the AL East. Yes they are now 3-6 in their past nine, but something tells me that the Jays teams from the past few season would have been 1-8.
Here are three things from week 11:
Week 11: June 9 – June 15
Record: 3 – 4
1. Roster Shuffling
If there is one thing that Alex Anthopoulos loves to do, it’s manage Toronto’s big league roster. He makes roster moves more often than any GM in the game, often out of necessity. This past week was no different. On Wednesday Kevin Pillar was sent back to Buffalo for Bobby Korecky. Then on Thursday, Korecky was shipped back down for Darin Mastroianni. However, Mastroianni didn’t last long, as he was shipped down on Saturday to make room for the returning Sergio Santos.
There will certainly be more moves to come. Colby Rasmus is on the verge of returning from a hamstring injury that has kept him out for what seems like an eternity. When he comes back, what happens to Anthony Gose? Was Pillar’s demotion a clear signal that Gose will stay on the big league roster? What should we make of the rumours that Munenori Kawasaki is heading back to the Jays roster? What will become of the Lawrie / Francisco 2B / 3B merry-go-round?
Those are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and with a first place club there will be more weight on the answers than ever before. Your move AA.
2. Joey Bats = Best
As I mentioned above, the Blue Jays went through a rare power outage last week, as balls that were flying out of the ballpark in weeks past were no longer clearing fences. This outage impacted everybody, even the great Jose Bautista.
But even though he wasn’t hitting home runs, Bautista continues to be the best player on the team, and one of the best in all of baseball. He registered a hit in all seven games last week, going 9 for 25 for a .360 AVG. He drew 3 walks, hit 4 doubles, drove in 3 runs, and scored 3 runs. His OBP was .448 and his OPS .968. He even stole a base for good measure.
His season batting average now sits at .314 and his season OPS at .981. He is carrying the team offensively, playing terrific defense, and finally acting a true leader. Gone are the days of Bautista mouthing off at umps and acting like a whiner. It’s no surprise to see him leading the AL in All-Star votes as a result.
3. Aaron Sanchez Getting Close
While the big league team was having a grind-it-out type of week, there were some very exciting things happening in the minor leagues. Toronto’s top pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez is now one step away from the big leagues after being promoted to AAA Buffalo last week.
Sanchez is one of the top rated prospects in all of baseball, ranked #19 by mlb.com. He began the year in AA New Hampshire and posted a 3.82 ERA over 14 starts, striking out just under a batter per inning. Though he struggled in his debut on Saturday (4 runs in 4 innings, with 6 hits and 4 walks), the fact that he is now within spitting distance of the majors is very encouraging.
Replacing Sanchez in New Hampshire is Daniel Norris, who destroyed opposing hitters in Dunedin and is another one of the Jays big prospects. After dealing away many of their top rated youngsters in the Reyes and Dickey deals, the Jays system was thought by many fans to be barren. But with Sanchez and Norris moving up, with Marcus Stroman currently set in the major league rotation, and with rave reviews about the Jays haul in last week’s MLB draft, perhaps things are looking up. The future looks bright.