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Around The League: Blue Jays Head Into Break Last In AL East

Well, here we are. Four days off The Blue Jays have had a frustrating first half to say the least. They’re eight-and-a-half games out of the division and five back of the second Wild Card. Let’s review.

American League East

Boston Red Sox 50-39 (0 GB) +65 run differential 

The Red Sox roll into the All-Star break with close to their largest lead of the season. They began last week by taking two of three from the Rangers in Texas, but closed out the first half by dropping three of four to the Rays in Tampa Bay. Thankfully for them, though, the Yankees have made life easy by continuing to play at a non-playoff team pace.

Anyways, the Sox are three-and-a-half up on New York and Tampa Bay at the break, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve seen them play their best baseball yet. Their longest winning streak of the season was six, which came in May, and they boast an offence that’s just above league average despite having a lineup with a considerable amount of talent. Their starting pitching is clicking now that it’s healthy and their bullpen has been excellent, but the offence remains somewhat concerning. The Sox are last in the AL in home runs and a few of important players in their lineup — namely Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez — are slightly underachieving with the bat. Still, if you’re 50-39 with a plus 65 run differential at the break and you haven’t hit your stride yet, things are good.

Also, even if Pedroia isn’t having a world beating offensive season, he still does shit like this:

New York Yankees 45-41 (3.5 GB) +98 run differential 

After flying out of the gate to start the season, the Yankees have gone limp. They went 30-20 in April and May, but have gone 15-21 since, and have allowed the Red Sox to take a sizeable lead in the divison. Last week, they dropped two of three to both the Blue Jays and Brewers at home.

A combination on injuries, mediocre pitching, and an inevitable return back to normal for the offence has led to New York’s slide down the standings. Realistically, despite what their hot start would have suggested, this is where they belong. The Yankees were never going to run away with the AL East in 2017, instead they were a good bet to grab a Wild Card spot if some young players hit the ground running.

Aaron Judge has led the way offensively with an MVP-calibre first half, but the rest of the Yankees lineup features a lot of holes. Chris Carter, who was DFA’d, was miserable at the plate, Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley have both been underwhelming, and the guys who were hitting, like Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks, and Matt Holiday, have been injured. Their starting pitching has been just OK, their bullpen has faltered under pressure, and if the bats aren’t compensating, this team isn’t going to be successful.

Also, if this guy can’t keep it up in the second half, things could get ugly:

Tampa Bay Rays 47-43 (3.5 GB) +16 run differential 

Last week, the Rays looked like a playoff team. They split a two-game series with the Cubs which is, well, whatever at this point, but they took three of four from the Red Sox in Boston in a very impressive display. This Rays team is an interesting case. They have a potent lineup featuring players who can hit for power at virtually every position, but their pitching is trash and it holds them back from ever going on a prolonged winning streak.

According to Baseball Reference, they rank 27th in baseball in wins above average for all pitchers, while almost every other position is well above average. They’ve also done a pretty impressive job at navigating through injuries. As of right now, Tim Beckham, Kevin Kiermaier, Colby Rasmus, and Matt Andriese are all on the disabled list, and at no point during the season have they fielded their ideal 25-man roster.

They’ve done a good job staying above water to this point, so if the Rays ever get healthy, they could sneak up on everyone. They’ll be an interesting team to keep an eye on in the second half.

Baltimore Orioles 42-46 (7.5 GB) -78 run differential 

The O’s had a miserable week, getting swept in Milwaukee by the Brewers and splitting a four-game series with the Twins in Minnesota. They started strong, going 15-8 in May, but fell back down to earth in May and June as their putrid pitching staff started to crack. All in all, they’ll head into the break seven-and-a-half games back of the division.

In order to be successful, the O’s need to score a lot of runs and their bullpen needs to pitch a lot of good innings. That hasn’t happened. Their offence has been good but not great this season. Chris Davis has been injured, Manny Machado and Adam Jones are underachieving, and veteran depth players like Welington Castillo and J.J. Hardy have been all over the grid. Zach Britton has missed a good chunk of the season with injury, massively weakening the O’s bullpen as everyone else has had to move back a spot. Add all that up and you have a massively flawed team that has a lot of work to do in the second half.

Toronto Blue Jays 41-47 (8.5 GB) -64 run differential 

Speaking of massively flawed teams, the Blue Jays roll into the break in last place in the AL East, eight-and-a-half games out of the lead. Last week was a weird one. They took two of three in New York, which was exciting, then took two of four from Houston, but got completely drilled on two separate occasions.

They had a miserable April, a great May, and a miserable June. As much as we want to believe that the team from May is the real version of the Blue Jays, a recent stretch in which they went 6-9 against Tampa Bay, Chicago, Texas, Kansas City, and Baltimore, teams they need to beat in order to be competitive, it’s difficult to believe otherwise.

The Jays pitching has been good this season. Their starters have been solid, though maybe not as good as expected because of injuries, but the bullpen has been excellent. The bright spots pretty much end there. Justin Smoak, of course, has enjoyed a breakout first half, but the Jays rank below average in every position in terms of wins above average other than first base and centre field.

The Wild Card

New York Yankees 45-41 (0 GB)

Tampa Bay Rays 47-43 (o GB)

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Minnesota Twins 45-43 (1 GB)

Kansas City Royals 44-43 (1.5 GB)

Los Angeles Angels 45-47 (3.0 GB)

Texas Rangers 43-45 (3.0 GB)

Seattle Mariners 43-47 (4.0 GB)

Baltimore Orioles 42-46 (5.0 GB)

Toronto Blue Jays 41-47 (5.0 GB)

Detroit Tigers 39-48 (6.5 GB)

Oakland Athletics 39-50 (7.5 GB) 

Chicago White Sox 38-49 (7.5 GB) 

The more important set of standings to pay attention to for the Blue Jays at this point is the Wild Card. They’re only five games out of the second seed, but they have seven teams to jump over to grab a playoff spot. It’s certainly going to be an uphill battle.

  • Barry

    I want the Jays to go on a run and become buyers if for no other reason than to avoid the inevitable bellyaching that will occur if they’re sellers and the internet knuckledraggers think the Jays should have been able to trade Jose Bautista for Team X’s top three prospects by sweetening the pot with Ryan Goins.