On May 23, in this very space, I wrote:
One of the classic truisms in baseball is that you never judge a team by their worst stretch of games. The Jays are better than they have been playing. But they probably won’t get better in time to be a factor in the pennant race. (Feel free to laugh at this six weeks from now if they go on a winning streak.)
It looks like I won’t have to wait six weeks. At the time I wrote this, the Jays were 19-26, and had just lost 11 of their last 13 games. They went 4-4 in the next eight, and have since completely stopped losing. They are now 34-30, and are bunched among the league leaders in the AL East.
What happened? A bunch of things:
- The starting pitching improved. The Jays allowed 4.76 runs per game in their first 45 games, and have given up 3.67 runs since.
- Jose Reyes returned to the lineup on May 25, and has gotten a base hit in every game but one since his return.
- Josh Donaldson has been amazing. I understand, intellectually, why the Oakland A’s traded him. But, after watching him pulverize baseballs and field grounders with his bare hand at third, I have to wonder: what on earth was Billy Beane thinking? You win games by finding guys like this, not trading them away.
One thing that I said on May 23 is still true: a team is never as good as it looks when they’re winning, or as bad as it looks when they’re losing. This is exceptionally true of the 2015 Jays. It’s sobering to recall that the 2013 Jays immediately fell into the well after going on their 11 game winning streak, going 9-19 and dropping out of the pennant race.
Still, it’s possible that the 2015 Jays could simply bludgeon their opponents into submission. They have scored far more runs than anyone else despite not firing on all cylinders. Donaldson has been otherworldly, and Chris Colabello is still hitting 112 points better than his 2014 average of .229, but Bautista has been battling shoulder trouble, Encarnacion has been struggling, and Devon Travis and Michael Saunders are still out with injury. The Jays’ hitters could, unbelievably, do even better than this. Let’s check back in another six weeks, or even three weeks, and see where we are. For now, it’s best to look at the American League standings and enjoy that feeling of happiness.