The first half of the season has come to close for the Toronto Blue Jays, and for some … not a moment too soon. It’s been a veritable roller coaster of ups and downs since Opening Day, but overall it’s been a first half of frustrations for the Blue Jays.
Yesterday’s 11-10 loss to the Kansas City Royals was essentially the Blue Jays’ first half in a nutshell.
Starting pitching that faltered early, a bullpen full of relative unknowns who were forced to pick up multiple innings, a potent offense that nearly pulled off the improbable comeback, sprinkled in with several baserunning blunders and routine plays missed.
Yepp, that pretty much sums up the first 91 games of the season for the Blue Jays. So for those masochists who might want to relive the craziness that was the first half, feel free below.
The Struggling Starting Rotation
Starting pitching was an area in which the Blue Jays’ front office likely felt very comfortable about going into Spring Training. A bevvy of high-upside young arms combined with the veteran stability of Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey looked like the recipe for success.
But after the injuries to Marcus Stroman, Daniel Norris’ struggles, plus losing Aaron Sanchez and having Drew Hutchison seemingly fall off a cliff, the outlook for starting pitching no longer looks so positive.
The Blue Jays’ lack of starting pitching was something that was apparent for most of the first half, hence the revolving door on back-end starting pitchers which included Scott Copeland, Todd Redmond, Matt Boyd and most recently, Felix Doubront.
Calling up a series of spot starters may be a strategy that might work the odd time here or there, but for the Blue Jays, they just haven’t had consistent results from that position … late alone most of their starting pitchers.
The Blue Jays have used nearly every internal option to fill that void, and the point has come where they absolutely need to go outside the organization to improve the starting rotation.
If Toronto wants to continue to contend long into the system, they can no longer rely on the Felix Doubront’s and Scott Copeland’s of the world to get them there.
The Jose Reyes Criticism
You won’t find another player who was a bigger lightning rod for ridicule than Jose Reyes. He was the recipient of constant scorn, whether it be for baserunning mistakes, or more commonly .. making errors at absolutely the worst possible time.
It all really came to a boiling point when Jerry Howarth strongly voiced his displeasure with the Blue Jays starting shortstop and opening pined for Ryan Goins to replace him. This only intensified as Reyes missed several routine plays in key situations.
Wouldn’t you know it, but Reyes also let another routine ground ball slip under his glove during yesterday’s game, and that eventually sparked what would be the Royals’ first comeback of the game.
As much as some people are calling for John Gibbons to find a defensive replacement for Jose Reyes late in games (or in some cases, to bench him entirely), that’s simply not an option.
Reyes is one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, plus not to mention … benching their star shortstop would immediately creative a very tenable situation for the Blue Jays.
Unless some sort of trade is made, for better or worse … the Blue Jays will forge on with Jose Reyes at shortstop.
The Bullpen Woes
Toronto’s relatively unproven relief corps was a subset of the squad that received a great deal of ire from onlookers early in the season. But surprisingly, the Blue Jays’ bullpen was fairly middle-of-the-pack in the first half.
Again, the bullpen was an area of concern for the Blue Jays as of day one of the offseason and the relievers remained mostly unchanged. Because of that, John Gibbons was forced to thrust rookies like Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna into the spotlight.
Unfortunately, only Osuna proved to be a viable relief option and was one of the best surprises about the first half for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, it may have proved to be too much too soon for his cohort, Miguel Castro, as he’s still making his way back to the team.
The two relievers that seemed to be a lock this season have had a polar opposite effect, and that’s Brett Cecil and Aaron Loup. They looked to be the most dependable relievers in the Blue Jays bullpen and they’ve both had a tumultuous first half.
It still remains to be seen whether the Blue Jays have struck gold on Bo Schultz and Ryan Tepera, but transitioning Liam Henriks into a reliever has proved to be a good move. The jury’s still somewhat out on Steve Delabar, though.
The bullpen is one area of the team which Alex Anthopoulos might be able to get away with keeping the same, but if he wants to increase the team’s chances of making the postseason, he really should get at least one reliever in trade to bolster the bullpen.
Too Many Missed Opportunities
Thanks in part to a great deal of parity within the American League, the by no stretch of the imagination are the Blue Jays completely out of it. At only one game under .500, they’re still in a decent position to when the second half opens up.
But when I reflect on the first half of the 2015 Blue Jays season, what I’ll remember most are too missed opportunities. There were a lot of games the Blue Jays should have won and ultimately didn’t.
I’ll think back on games like yesterday where they absolutely had no business coming back from a seven run deficit, but they did. And in the end, the Blue Jays just couldn’t secure the lead.
With this amount of firepower in the Blue Jays lineup, virtually no lead was safe for opposing teams. But the same was also very true of the Blue Jays themselves. Despite the fact that they could score a boatload of runs, sometimes even that wasn’t enough.
This Jays’ starting lineup is a great mask for a lot of deficiencies on the team; it can make up for a poor starting performance and it can allow this team to stage a late comeback. But once the offense dries up, that’s when the weaknesses on this team become very evident.
Here’s what’s most frustrating about the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays – not only are the Blue Jays squandering a golden opportunity to go for a wide-open division title, but they may be wasting the incredible offensive output from a once-in-a-lifetime starting lineup.
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