August 23, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (10) hits a two run home run during the fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

EE Rising

I just caught the Jays lineup for game two of the double dip with the Yankees.  And despite focusing on my pint of pale ale while waiting for the significant other to show up and join in on the Wings Wednesday jamboree, I felt compelled to get something on paper.

As everyone is perfectly aware, this season has been an exercise in frustration.  Dominated by injuries, Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia, etc. And by some rather horrific slumps, a few of which have lasted pretty much the entire season: Brett Lawrie (again), Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus, Yunel Escobar, Kelly Johnson (he may belong on injuries list as well), et al.  But when you look at today’s lineup which is missing Edwin Encarnacion, it sorta gives you the shivers thinking about how bad this season would have been if not for his contribution.

After eight seasons of putting up replacement level numbers, Edwin has made a pretty significant stride forward in 2012.  He has

Aug 17, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (10) is congratulated by third base coach Brian Butter field (55) after hitting a 2-run home run in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Rangers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

had a career year in every statistical category bar BABIP where he is about thirty points below league average.  And, of course, he crossed the fourty homer plateau.  Not bad for a guy that was dfa’d by the Jays two years ago.  After being picked up by Oakland and subsequently re-acquired by the Jays, things didn’t start off so hot in 2011.

Late in spring training, EE was handed the full time job at third base.  Not such a good move as Edwin struggled mightily both at the plate and in the field.  Leading some of the fans to call him some rather cruel names. E-5 comes to mind.  Things started to pick up in June though, and lasted through the summer as Edwin OPS’d .905 from June through August.  Despite a pullback in September’s numbers, there was still some reason to be optimistic heading into 2012.

Based on EE’s career arc, this optimism would have been very guarded.  With Lawrie now entrenched at third, it was up to EE and Adam Lind to cover the 1b/DH positions.  With Lind having struggled (to put it mildly) the past two seasons and Edwin only two years removed from a dfa, this was a rather large stretch.

So, it doesn’t make up for all the bad breaks the Jays have suffered through this season, but Edwin’s season has to be considered a pleasant surprise.  Putting up fantastic numbers pretty much every month (May was a bit sluggish).  And you can’t really claim Edwin has had much lineup protection this season.  The team’s best hitter, Jose Bautista, stumbled out of the gates and was basically shut down by July.  With Edwin taking his place in the three hole, he has had such luminaries as Adam Lind and Yunel Escobar hitting behind him.  Both sporting wOBAs under .300.  Not exactly a murderer’s row.

As I mentioned above, his numbers this year cannot be attributed to luck.  There are numerous reasons for Encarnacion’s 2012 success.  He made a swing adjustment, keeping his top hand on the bat through his swing,  keeping the barrel of the bat through the zone longer.  With his quick hands, he has been able to wait longer in the load, allowing him to recognize and swing at better pitches.  And, I don’t think his off-season program with Robinson Cano cannot be over-looked.

This season, the Jays rewarded EE with a three year plus option extension.  With question marks hovering over virtually every position for the Jays in 2013 it is imperative that Edwin continues to produce.   A slight regression, especially in the home run numbers, may be inevitable, but as EE is twenty-nine, he should be entering his prime offensive years.

This season has been a struggle.  With fifteen games remaining in this black hole of a year, there are three things I’ll be wishing for when watching the games.  No more injuries, the continued development of Adeiny Hechavarria, Moises Sierra, and Anthony Gose, and Edwin Encarnacion’s single armed home run trot.

Tags: Edwin Encarnacion

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