|Image courtesy of Daylife via AP|
Baseball truly is all about bad breaks and lucky hops. Most of the time, the teams with the best players will rise to the top, but occasionally even teams comprised predominantly of replacement level players will catch lightning in a bottle.
If there was one team out there that epitomizes the bad break this season, it would have to be the 2012 Toronto Blue Jays. And if there’s a team that personifies the lucky hop, it’s the 2012 Chicago White Sox.
As it currently stands, the gap between a bad break team and a lucky hop team is around 9 wins. That might not seem like much, but when the gap between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs is razor thin, those wins really do add up.
And here we are with just over 40 games to play, and yet it looks like the Blue Jays will be on the outside looking in while the White Sox are leading the AL Central and barring a complete meltdown, they’ll punch their ticket for the playoffs.
To me, the White Sox are a myriad of lucky breaks: Chris Sale comes out of nowhere, Adam Dunn returns to his old self, Jake Peavy has been a revelation, A.J. Pierzynski puts up a career year, and Alex Rios gives a “you know what'” again.
When you add all those things together, you have a Chicago White Sox squad that will at the very least contend down the stretch. And if you stacked up a healthy Blue Jays roster against the White Sox, I’d honestly say the Blue Jays are the much better squad.
The White Sox have the benefit of playing in the traditionally weaker AL Central, but that’s no excuse for Toronto. They’re not moving any time soon, and the the addition of another Wild Card spot now plays in favour of those strong AL East teams.
There are actually some positive side affects of having 12 players on the disabled list and several members of the starting rotation go down to serious injuries. It means that the Blue Jays had no choice but to dip into their minor league system and fast track some of their prospects.
I don’t imagine the front office could have foreseen calling up as many players as they have from Las Vegas and New Hampshire, but frankly it was necessary for the Blue Jays to keep their heads above the water.
The benefit of having so many young players on the big league roster is the Blue Jays get an advanced look at players they might not have otherwise seen this season. Did anyone expect Moises Sierra or even Chad Jenkins to suit up in a Blue Jays uniform this year?
Obviously some young players are faring better than others, but a lukewarm season at the plate for Anthony Gose doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t evolve into great big league hitter down the road. Just look at Mike Trout.
Just as a comparison, Trout had 40 games under his belt last season with the Angels and picked up 27 hits in 123 at bats. This season, he’s running away with the AL Rookie of the Year Award and quiet possibly the MVP Award, too.
In fact, had it not been for the Angels releasing Bobby Abreu and the injury to Vernon Wells, who knows if Mike Trout would have even gotten the chance to pick up everyday at bats with the Angels this season. It just so happened that everything has fallen into place this season for Mike Trout.
With the injury to Jose Bautista, the Blue Jays get an extended look at Anthony Gose and Moises Sierra where they may not have otherwise. Again, another positive in what has otherwise been a injury-riddled season for this squad.
So with the play of these two players, it allows the AA to decide whether they need reinforcements in the outfield next season, or whether they want to roll the dice with Gose or Sierra as a left fielder next season.
Back in February, Alex Anthopoulos gave this very telling quote about the starting lineup. An even though the Blue Jays are still the walking wounded, I think his theory still applies:
“We don’t need everybody to have a career year. We just need everybody to
be solid and to play to the ability that they have, and I think we’re
going to be a great team.”
It’s simply unrealistic to expect your one through nine to put up career seasons. As we’ve seen, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have taken a step backwards, while Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion have taken huge steps forward and have compensated for their deficit.
The Blue Jays don’t need their starting lineup to have career years in order for the team to contend, they just need to stay healthy. And if there’s one thing that we’ve learned from the 2012 season, it’s that avoiding the DL may be the toughest battle of all.
May all those bad breaks finally be behind the Blue Jays, and let there be nothing but lucky hops on the horizon.