Toronto Blue Jays
In the early going of 2018, the Blue Jays looked as if they might have a shot at regaining their perch of power. After back-to-back ALCS appearances in 2015 and '16, the Blue Jays took a nosedive in 2017 and ended up finishing in fourth place, but on May 1st they were 16-12 and could reasonably hope for Wild Card contention. Then the month of May crushed those hopes. Aided by our own James Paxton's no-hit performance against them on May 8th, Toronto lost 19 games in May to spur Jays fans from shouts of "we still believe" to "wait 'til next year."
Right now, Toronto sits at 10 games under .500 and has to consider that a marginal success, given the underperformance of nearly everyone on the team. Their best hitter by stats this year was pitcher J.A. Happ, 2-for-6 with a walk in two interleague games, which tells you something about the Jays' offensive woes. Of the regulars, former Mariners Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales lead the way batting in the .250s. There is one bright spot in the lineup if you're a Jays fan, though, and that's rookie infielder Lourdes Gurriel (brother of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel). Since his latest recall from the minors, Gurriel has raked, batting .423/.438/.648 in 17 games; unfortunately for him, he hurt his leg in the July 30th game against Detroit, spraining both his knee and ankle in an awkward slide at second base trying to stretch a base hit into a double.
Meanwhile, having traded away Happ to the Yankees, Toronto's pitching staff relies on rookie Ryan Borucki, who's just five weeks into his Major League career; Mariner castoff Sam Gaviglio; and three veterans having bizarrely awful seasons, Jaime Garcia, Marco Estrada, and Marcus Stroman, who've combined for a 10-21 record and 5.43 ERA. Their bullpen is an unknown quantity now, as it got a makeover after the trade deadline—John Axford, Sueng-hwan Oh, Aaron Loup, and suspended-and-facing-criminal-trial Roberto Osuna were all dealt away in the past few days.
Players to Watch
Marcus Stroman: A Cy Young contender last year, Stroman had a first half for the ages in '18, and not in a good way. He hit crazy eights on his ERA (8.88) after five starts, and though it's gotten steadily better since, by game 81 of the season he was still at 6.80. He may be recovering his mojo, though, as he finished July with a 3-2, 3.86 mark for the month. Not great, but a far sight better than what came before.
Russell Martin: It's tempting to look at Martin's 2018 stats and write them off as an aberrant bad season. But it's really the good years—2014, 2015(ish)—that are the anomalies. Since leaving the Dodgers in 2010, Martin's composite line is .233/.337/.402. He's been valuable from time to time, but he just normally isn't much with the stick. More interesting is the fact that despite that sad bat, Martin has seen time at positions other than catcher this year—he's started games at third, left, and even shortstop.
Kendrys Morales: The ex-Mariner DH is perhaps the best hitter in the Blue Jays' lineup, but "best Toronto hitter" is faint praise, a little like "best Zack Snyder movie." Just like the uneven mess of Snyder's Superman films, Morales' 2018 stats are a testament to mediocrity. The switch-hitter has been solid when batting lefty, though, and is one of the few Toronto players to show improvement over last season. He's gotten better as the season wears on, and just completed his best month in two years, batting .338/.459/.574 in July.
John Gibbons: Despite a history of confrontation with his players, Gibbons appears to be well-liked and those he's had tiffs with often later compliment Gibbons on how he handled their situation. He can be a disciplinarian when it comes to what he perceives as a lack of effort, grousing, or the spreading of discontent.
Back in December, NBC Sports ranked Major League managers based on their "handsomeness," and Gibbons placed 30th out of 30 (Mariners manager Scott Servais placed 24th). "That kind of brought me down to my knees a little bit," Gibbons told reporters. "But, you know, hey, beauty’s only skin deep but ugly’s to the bone.”
Justin Smoak: He never gelled as a Mariner, but Smoak has finally reached some level of Major League success north of the border. The key piece the M's wanted when they traded Cliff Lee to the Rangers way back in 2010, Smoak was touted as a superstar in the making, but with Seattle only managed to bat .226 over 4½ seasons. Always a solid defensive first baseman, the switch-hitter was claimed off the waiver wire by Toronto prior to the 2015 campaign and finally put things together last year, earning an All-Star selection and posting a .270/.355/.529 line with 38 home runs. This year he's regressed somewhat, but in the Jays' lineup of underachievers he's among the best they've got.
|Toronto Blue Jays||(1977 - present)|
|World Champions:||1992, 1993|
|Division Titles:||1985, 1989, 1991, 2015|