Another day, another win for the Blue Jays. Last night’s 3-1 victory over the Twins brought the club’s second half record to an impressive 11-6 and moved them into sole possession of the second Wild Card spot in the American League.
But as impressive as the second half has been for the Jays, what’s more impressive is how they have been winning – with pitching.
Yes, that’s right. The Toronto Blue Jays have been pitching the lights out since the All-Star break.
It’s not like the offense has flat out disappeared. They still have the most dynamic lineup in the majors. But the bats that topped the AL in runs (486), OPS (.772), and doubles (178), and were third in HR (115) at the break has slipped to 6th in runs (83), 5th in OPS (.796), 8th in doubles (31), and T-2nd in HR (28). Still good, of course, but not as dominant.
Which all means that the second half turnaround has been fuelled from the mound.
In the first half of the season, Blue Jay pitching was atrocious. The starters ranked 13th in ERA (4.46), allowed the second most walks (170), the third most HR (67), and had the second worst WHIP (1.361) in the entire American League. The bullpen was a bit better, but not much: 7th in ERA among relievers (3.62), and a crazy 17 blown saves.
Those numbers are clearly not good, but the thing is that Toronto’s pitchers weren’t bad. Their track record suggested that better things were likely to come: R.A. Dickey is traditionally better in the second half, Hutchison couldn’t possibly continue to be as bad as he was (or can he?) and a move was certainly going to be made to remove Felix Doubront from the rotation.
Well, even before that huge move was made to get David Price, Toronto’s pitchers started to perform better. The move to solidify Osuna as closer, move Sanchez to the bullpen, and acquire Hawkins and Lowe have also helped a ton. Just look at the second half numbers:
ERA: 2.91, 1st
WHIP: 1.086, 2nd
BB: 22, 2nd fewest
K/BB: 3.14, 5th
IP/Start: 6.18, 2nd
ERA: 2.16, 1st
WHIP: 0.700, 1st
BB: 9, tied for fewest
K/BB: 5.22, 2nd
If you rank all AL pitchers with a minimum of 20 IP post All-Star break by ERA, you will see that Dickey ranks third at 0.92, Price ranks 14th at 2.79, and Estrada ranks 15th at 2.96. All three also rank in the top-10 in WHIP. In terms of relievers, Hendriks, Cecil, and Hawkins have combined to throw 16 innings of scoreless ball with 19 strikeouts and a single walk. Sanchez has a WHIP of 0.18 and 3 holds, while Osuna has notched four saves with a sub-1.00 WHIP of his own.
There’s an old saying that says pitching and defense wins championships. If these second half numbers continue, that saying just might be proven right.
(And even if they don’t, who cares? We’ve got Tulowitzki, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Martin, and on and on and on……)