Apr 20, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Brandon Morrow (23) reacts after he was taken from the game in the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Blue Jays: Can They Finally Win Their Division?

Despite the Toronto Blue Jays lackluster ways over the last 20 years, there was a time when the Blue Jays were a formidable force to be reckoned with.  From 1989-1993, the Blue Jays consistently found ways to not only go far in the postseason but to also dominate the opposition when it came to the World Series as they won them back to back years from 1992-1993.  However, after the MLB Player’s Strike of 1994, the once red-hot Blue Jays inexplicably fell off the map just as quickly as they had once emerged as one of the scrappiest teams in baseball.  Yet, despite the Blue Jays downtrodden ways over the last two decades, this team has appeared to have at least established some continuity not only within their bullpen but also within their now cohesive dugout.  Although the Blue Jays may not have the most competitive roster in baseball, they have at least put themselves in a position to excel where they have come up short so many other times in the past.

While there are a plethora of teams with well-versed bullpens such as the Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, the Blue Jays have quietly shut down nearly every opponent they have gone up against this season.  In their victories, the stingy Blue Jays haven’t allowed their opponent to score more than three runs per game.  Out of the Blue Jay’s entire dynamic bullpen, starting pitcher Mark Buehrle has been an inspirational veteran who has taken his team to one well-earned victory after another.  Out of the 28 innings he has pitched, Buehrle has recorded a sensational ERA of 0.64 while striking out 19 batters in his first four victories of the season.  However, while Buehrle’s rejuvenated pitching prowess is nothing short of awe-inspiring, relief pitcher Brett Cecil has gotten off to an impeccable start as he hasn’t allowed a single earned run and has successfully struck out 12 batters in the eight games that he has pitched this season.  It seems that Cecil’s illustrious accolades from last year have carried over seamlessly to this year as his confidence in throwing pitches over the strike down has only gotten better while his patient demeanor has lent itself well to taking down one tenacious batter after another.

Although the Blue Jays lights out pitching has been vital to this teams impressive start, their offense has also slowly found its stride this season.  While the Blue Jays infielders in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes haven’t faired particularly well when it comes their on the plate contributions (both have batting averages of .243 and .167 respectively), their out fielding line up has more than picked up the slack for this finicky offensive team.  Left fielder Melky Cabrera has hands down been the Blue Jays most prolific hitter with a batting average of .337 along with four homeruns and five RBI’s.  Although right fielder Jose Bautista may not have the clutch batting proficiencies of Cabrera (.254 batting average), he is the Blue Jays best base hitter with 12 RBI’s and has an instinctual knack for not swinging at deceptive pitches (.450 OBP).  Unquestionably, the Blue Jays offense is still an intriguing work in progress.  If Encarnacion can shake off the rust to transform into the sensational base hitter he was last year (104 RBI’s during the 2013 season) and if Jose Reyes can remain patient with himself long enough to emulate his reliable batting average of last year, the Blue Jays could potentially developed into a fine tuned base hitting franchise.

When all is said and done, the Blue Jays are a compelling competitor that is still waiting to realize it’s true potential as both a stingy defensive unit and as a well-oiled offensive machine.  Although the Blue Jays haven’t separated themselves from the pack as a legitimate division threat just yet, they have at least asserted themselves enough to stay relevant in a highly contested AL East division.  If the Blue Jays can continue to rely on their potently poised bullpen while their offense continues to develop, this ball club could be competing for their first playoff berth in over two decades by the end of this season.      

Tags: MLB Toronto Blue Jays

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