Now if you’re able to remove Wednesday night’s drubbing at the hands of the Indians from your mind, you could easily say that the 2014 Blue Jays could be one of those cubs that just won’t go away.
Obviously there will be many naysayers who will point to the club’s shaky rotation, constantly imploding bullpen, and things like a lack of offensive production from second base as reasons why the Jays will fall away from the pack. So to all you naysayers I will say nay to you, and point you in the direction of the 2013 New York Yankees.
If you haven’t completely blocked the 2013 season from your memory for obvious reasons you may recall the Yankees were not in the best shape last year. Missing Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira for the bulk of the season, as well as significant amounts of time without Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez they were fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. Add to that the fact that they were getting J.P. Arencibia like production from behind the plate, and an incredibly lacklustre rotation with Hirokia Kuroda leading the charge with not much else behind him as C.C. Sabbathia battled through a down year. To put their rotation issues in perspective Phil Hughes was allowed to start 29 times, please don’t ask me why.
So with all that stacked against them the Yankees hung in until nearly the end of the race last season. So how did they do it? Well the answer is finding production in unexpected places hot streaks at the plate from the likes of Vernon Wells and Alfonso Soriano kept the team afloat throughout the summer.
Now I’m sure you’re all thinking well thank you for pointing out that Toronto failed to capitalize on the Yankees down year last year, what does that do for the Jays this year?
And I’ll tell you, to begin take at look at the stat lines of these two players.
Player A: 101 PA: (.300/.366/.544) 6HR 10BB
Player B: 92 PA: (.291/.380/.595) 6HR 11BB
Now Player A is Vernon Well’s during March and April of 2013, as you can see he turned back time and was quite the productive piece for the Yankees over that stretch of time. Player B is none other than your Toronto Blue Jay’s scrap heap reclamation project, the Juan the only Juan Francisco so far this season.
So even though I’m not quite ready to anoint Francisco as the next Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion, the club is getting significant value out of him at the moment. To be realistic Francisco is not likely to sustain his .975 OPS throughout the course of the season but every game he provides value with the bat is something the Jays need.
What makes Francisco even more valuable is that he is now seeing time at third base instead of just filling in for Adam Lind. This is allowing the Blue Jays to do what some brilliant guy suggested months ago and move Brett Lawrie over to second base. Having Lawrie at second is a huge boost for the club as so far in May his bat has been to say the least, fully dimed as he has put up a 1.024 OPS at the plate in the eight games he has made it into this month. This of course means that the Jays are able to keep the Ryan Goins, Jonathan Sanchez and any of their other limp bat second base options out of the starting lineup.
So if the Jays are able to stumble upon and capitalize on a few more unexpected sources of production throughout the season they may be able to fight through some of their other deficiencies and chase down the division lead in an AL East where no odds on favourite has yet to emerge.