Every Monday during the 2016 season, 500 Level Fan will take a look back at the week that was, giving readers a snapshot of all things Blue Jays, including three top stories and the Blue Jay player of the week.
This is what happened in week 14.
Week 14: July 4 – July 10
Record: 6 – 1
Season-to-date: 51 – 40
AL East: 3rd, 2 games behind Baltimore
Wild Card: 2 ahead of Houston
- Rolling Along
Remember the frustrations of April and May? Remember the days when the hitters weren’t hitting, the bullpen wasn’t performing, and guys like Donaldson, Tulo, Edwin, and Martin were flailing at pitches and striking out a ton? Yeah, me neither. The Jays rolled into the All-Star break with another outstanding week of baseball, going 6-1 against two of the top team in the AL Central (and also two of the teams chasing them for the Wild Card). Kansas City came to town and managed to score only 7 runs in a three game sweep, before the Tigers came to Toronto and promptly lost three of four. When the week came to an end and the dust settled, the Jays had outscored those teams 37 to 15, and had cut the gap behind the first place Orioles to a mere two games. And if you want more reason for optimism, think of things this way: the Jays are 51 – 40 and have been playing for a while without Jose Bautista, survived a horrific eight game slump from Marcus Stroman, and pitched essentially the entire first half without vintage Brett Cecil. The 51 first half wins are the most since 1992, a year that ended pretty well in Toronto. Things are looking up.
- All-Star Heaven
The 87th All-Star game is set for tomorrow night in San Diego and besides from the amazing uniforms (seriously – I think they’re great!) the game will be very memorable for Blue Jays fans. For the first time since 2006 (Troy Glaus, Roy Halladay, B.J. Ryan, Alex Rios, and Vernon Wells) the Jays will be sending five players to the Midsummer Classic. Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Marco Estrada were named reserves last Tuesday. Michael Saunders received over 17-million votes in winning the Final Vote – the second Jay to win that competition. And Aaron Sanchez was deservedly named as a replacement for Boston’s injured Craig Kimbrel. Though none of Toronto’s All-Stars will get a shot to participate in tonight’s HR Derby, all but the injured Estrada should get a chance to help deliver home field advantage to the AL in the World Series. And for the first time in a while, that could prove to be very, very important for a contending Jays club.
- They’re Back…
Perhaps the most surprising stat of the first half is this: at the All-Star break, three of the top-10 ERA’s in the American League belong to Blue Jay starters. Marco Estrada (2.93) is in third, Aaron Sanchez (2.97) sits fourth, and J.A. Happ (3.36) has the 10th best ERA in the AL. And while those stats are incredible and show that Toronto’s pitching has been criminally underrated this year, none of those guys represent the most important hurlers of the second half. No, those would be R.A. Dickey and Marcus Stroman, two guys who had wildly inconsistent and rollercoaster first halves, but who are showing signs of turning things around. Dickey had yet another miserable April, finishing the month with a 6.75 ERA, but has been absolutely terrific since. In 14 starts from May onward, Dickey is 6-6 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and an average of 6.4 innings per start. In two starts last week he completely dismantled the Royals and Tigers, allowing only 3 ER and 10 H in 14 IP. Stroman has also come back from the dead in a big way. After an eight-start stretch that saw his ERA rise almost two full runs, he shut down the Indians on Canada Day, before pitching 8 innings of 2-run, 3-hit ball against Kansas City on Wednesday. If those two guys can keep it going in the second half, there may be no stopping this team.
Player of the Week
R.A. Dickey, SP
A huge week for the maligned knuckleballer: 2-0, 14 IP, 10 H, 5 BB, 13 K, 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
on the Farm
A look at how the minor league affiliates are doing
AAA – Buffalo: 50 – 41, 4th place, 6 GB
AA – New Hampshire: 40 – 48, 4th place, 22.5 GB
A+ – Dunedin: First Half: 33 – 36, 5th place; Second Half: 14 – 5, 1st place
A – Lansing: First Half: 36 – 34, T-5th place; Second Half: 14 – 5, 1st place
A (Short Season) – Vancouver: 13 – 11, T-1st
The Look Ahead
The 87th All-Star game followed by a trip to Oakland
July 12 All-Star Game
July 15 – 17 at Oakland