If we rewind the clock about 1 month back to June 9th, the AL East was finally taking shape after surprising balance over the first 5 weeks. It might have been the opposite of what pre-season predictions forecasted but after 2 months of balance the Blue Jays where running away with the division leaving its rivals in their dust. The Standings looked like this:
No one expected the Blue Jays to continue to play .600 ball but even with slightly better than .500 ball they could maintain a lead deep into the final months. Since June 10th the Blue Jays have gone 8-17 setting up the stage for a return to balance in the AL East. As of today July 17th, here is an updated look at the standings:
The top 3 spots are still held by the Orioles, Blue Jays and Yankees with the Orioles now securing the #1 spot. The Yankees have not improved much and continue to float around .500 with the Red Sox also keeping the same winning % or shall we say loosing %. The Rays have been on fire going 17-9 to put them only 8.5 games back in a still weak division.
What this balance does is keep every team in the race. When the Rays where 15 games back and the Blue Jays showed no signs of stopping, it was easy to write the Rays off. However if this trend continues the Rays might think twice about selling off their highly valued assets like David Price and Ben Zobrist. Just 4 weeks ago Price was as good as gone but with anther few weeks of winning the Rays could find themselves within 5 games of first and 2 months left for an exciting AL East showdown. The Rays still might look to move Price now if the perfect return presents itself but this sure has to be complicating the situation.
What exactly has happened to the Blue Jays? First off we can see that the overall offensive production has dropped. Here are some April, May, June, July (6 games) numbers.
IS0 – .159, .210, 144, 146
HR – 32, 48, 28, 6
Runs – 122, 165, 105, 15
Walk Rate – 9.1, 8.8, 8.4, 6.5
SO Rate- 19.6, 18, 18.2, 19
AVG – .251, .276, .248, .221
OBP – .326, .343, .315, .276
WAR – 3.9, 7.9, 2.7, -.2
On the pitching side the Blue Jays have actually improved since their poor start. Over the past 30 days as a team they are siting around an ERA of 4.00 and have seen a large improvement from the previously disastrous bullpen. It’s not great but also not terrible and right around the league average. There is not much to say about the pitching as their problem has been the offense during this poor run. The Blue Jays have been living on power hitting and have seen a large decline in overall power and home runs. Added is that their overall hitting/on base has declined resulting in a significant loss in run production.
The Blue Jays face a challenge going forward with Edwin Encarnacion expected to go on the DL, Jose Bautista and Adam Lind have been nursing injuries while Brett Lawrie is also on the DL. This would be a great time for Jose Reyes to be effective, Colby Rasmus to go on his annual tear and to find a 3B/2B option to replace no longer working Juan Francisco/ Steven Tolleson platoon.
The Orioles have grabbed 1st place for now but the next few months could very well see multiple teams swap positions. No AL East team has yet to maintain a prolonged run of success creating the up and down trend we have seen in 2014. The Yankees have made the first trade getting Brandon McCarthy to help their rotation and we should expect a few more moves for the Orioles and Blue Jays before the trade deadline.