Blue Jays’ Donaldson proving he’s still MVP calibre

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 17: Josh Donaldson
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 17: Josh Donaldson /

The Blue Jays are slowly but surely clawing their way back into the AL Wild Card picture, and are enjoying a red hot stretch from Josh Donaldson to help them get there.

Things are getting awfully interesting in the AL Wild Card picture these days, especially if you’re a Toronto Blue Jays’ fan. Not long ago we had resigned ourselves to the fact that this team needed a fresh start and possibly a retool for 2018, and it was time to accept that 2017 was a bust. Fast forward to mid-August, and suddenly the Blue Jays are unexpectedly closing the gap.

With their win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, the Blue Jays secured a series win and picked up two games on the Rays in the standings. The Blue Jays have been in the basement of the AL East nearly all year, and with that win and a Baltimore Orioles loss, all three teams are now tied with a .488 winning percentage, and are three games out of the second Wild Card spot. The Jays and Orioles each have two games in hand on the Rays as well.

There are plenty of reasons for this recent surge, but perhaps none more prominent than the elite play of Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP hadn’t looked like himself for the better part of the year, missing more than a month with a calf injury earlier in the season, and generally struggling to capture the dominance that he’s been known for in Toronto. It wasn’t as if he was bad, he just wasn’t the star we had been used to watching.

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Now, that’s all a distant memory.

The “Bringer of Rain” has been absolutely on fire recently, with a six game hit streak and hitting in nine out of ten. He’s also 16-32 in that stretch, and has hit five home runs and 10 RBI in the last five games alone. He’s not solely responsible for the Blue Jays’ recent success by any means, but it’s hard to imagine things going this well without him.

On the year he’s now hit 20 home runs and has collected 52 RBI in just 279 at bats and 78 games played. His slash line sits at .272/.397/.543, with an OPS of .940. If you translate those numbers over a full season, you’re probably looking at a strong MVP candidate.

As Ben Nicholson-Smith also noted on Twitter on Friday, Donaldson’s OPS was .939 in 2015, the year he won the AL MVP. Looking at the way he’s been playing lately should be all the proof we need that the Donaldson we saw earlier in the season just wasn’t 100% healthy.

In August the Blue Jays have received that type of MVP calibre performance from their third baseman. It has driven the club to go 7-3 in their last 10, and to have gained a great deal of momentum in the Wild Card race.

Earlier in the season there were plenty of Blue Jays’ fans openly wondering if Donaldson was starting to regress at just 31 years old, and he’s certainly proving that isn’t the case. Now that he’s healthy and locked in at the plate, we’re reminded of how special he is on the diamond, and how important his contribution is to the success of the team.

For all the discussion around the idea of trading him and/or several other pieces prior to the deadline, the despair is starting to feel like a memory as well. They’ve still got an incredibly difficult task in order to leapfrog five teams (in addition to being tied with the Rays and Orioles), but at just three games back it feels like it’s possible. Getting a healthy and inspired Josh Donaldson may have been the biggest key all along.

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