This article is a couple of days too late, really. A couple of games back the Jays were on an 11-game winning streak and were on top of the world. Since then they have lost two games but then stopped the bleeding emphatically by pounding the Mets 8-0 on Wednesday night. They are 12-2 in their last 14 and a much better team now than they were a couple of weeks back.
From a betting perspective, this run of success has also turned them from a betting disaster to a team slightly better than a break-even proposition. So, can this last? Are they going to be the contender they seemed capable of being before the season? Or are they going to come crashing back to earth like so many teams before them? Here's a look:
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Hollow streak: Eleven wins are 11 wins, but this is not the most impressive winning streak a team has ever assembled. Two wins against the Nationals to start it off were sound. But then they swept the Astros - a team that has been punching above their weight all year and isn't as good as their record, which their recent play has proven. Then it was a Marlins team that defines pathetic this year and a really underwhelming Boston squad with all sorts of issues. They get credit for beating teams that they should be beating, but it really doesn't prove that much.
They went on to play their best opponent of the stretch in the Mets - which isn't saying much because the Mets are overachieving and have plenty of issues - and dropped the first two of the series. There will be tougher stretches of games, and what they have done lately tells us nothing about how that will go for them.
Offense: You can be critical about plenty of things with this team, but the offense sure isn't one of them. They scored 88 runs in their 11-game streak. While that is obviously above their norm, it really didn't feel like they were dramatically overachieving. The fact is that this is a team that can mash. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion are elite sluggers. Josh Donaldson is making a case that he is the best third baseman in baseball. Russell Martin seems to love playing in his native land, and he has been an excellent addition. Chris Colabello has been fantastic situationally at the plate, and Justin Smoak has climbed off the scrap heap and put together an excellent season in the right spots.
This is a team that can hit with anyone, and barring major injuries - which is always a major concern with Bautista and Encarnacion - they should be able to keep scoring runs all season. Their production really is amazing. They have scored 369 runs this season. No other team has scored 300.
Pitching: And here we have the issue. The team has allowed 292 runs, which is better than just six teams - and none of those teams are any good. That's a problem. Mark Buehrle has been the steady journeyman he always is, and Aaron Sanchez has been a useful youngster when healthy. Beyond that, though, the rotation has had issues. R.A. Dickey is a highly-hittable knuckleballer. Drew Hutchison has his moments, but when he's bad it's like he is throwing underhanded. Four different guys have tried to be the fifth starter, and none have pulled it off on a permanent basis. Combine that with a pretty average bullpen and a closer role that has been an adventure, and you have a team that just doesn't have the pitching it needs to contend over the long term. Which is pretty much always the story with the Jays, it seems.
They need to improve their pitching, but that is going to come at a cost - either one of the young pitchers who promise to be useful in a year or two or a bat. Tough decisions are waiting to be made.
Division: The good news is that the AL East, for once, isn't a total powerhouse of a division in which teams need to be perfect just to have a chance to contend. The Jays are right in the mix - two games out of first. The problem, though, is that there is a massive logjam of teams in the division, and all of them are good but flawed in different ways. Tampa Bay, improbably, is leading the division. The Yankees are right with them, and the Orioles are tied with the Jays. Only the Red Sox seem to have more issues than they can handle. It means that divisional games are going to be particularly important this year and that there is going to be less margin for error than usual in the hunt for the divisional win.
At this point the second-place team in the AL East would have a wild-card spot, too, but that race is just as tight as the division right now. This team absolutely can't afford to falter. That makes me nervous.
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