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article imageOp-Ed: How are the Toronto Blue Jays doing so far?

By Michael Thomas     May 6, 2014 in Sports
This year, the conversation about the Toronto Blue Jays is largely different from last year's much-hyped and ultimately ineffective run
At the beginning of the 2013 MLB season, the Blue Jays were basking in the glow of positive press — they had acquired in several blockbuster deals Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Cy Young Award-winning pitcher R.A. Dickey. But they spent much of the season with a below .500 record, meaning they lost more games than they won. Their one bright spot was when they tied a franchise record of an 11-game winning streak. They would rise above .500 only briefly before heading back into the hole, finishing off the season with a 74-88 record.
This year the Jays team hasn't changed in a big way, and therefore stand less of a chance of falling victim to expectations. Perhaps their biggest (and arguably most effective) move was to release J.P. Arencibia and bring on regular catcher Dioner Navarrio. They're also in a much healthier position in the American League East — their 15-17 record exactly matches that of Tampa Bay and Boston. The New York Yankees are slightly ahead at 16-15, with Baltimore one step above at 15-14.
So what's responsible for their improvement? Aside from the difficult-to-prove notion that they've "gelled" as a team, their starting pitching is finally starting to come together. If only the bullpen could do the same.
Just like last year, Mark Buehrle is the team's most outstanding pitcher, with a 5-1 record, a 2.25 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. Dickey, as last year, is as unpredictable as his signature knuckleball, though on his good days he is spectacular. Dustin McGowan has had several strong outings, and J.A. Happ showed promise in his shutout season debut yesterday. Brandon Morrow seems to have had the roughest time so far, with a 5.93 ERA and an allowance of 18 runs, second only to R.A. Dickey.
Last year's bullpen was one reason the Jays were still talked about even when they were far below .500, and several of last year's bullpen pitchers are doing well, including Neil Wagner, Steve Delabar and Brett Cecil. Their biggest problem right now is in closing pitching. Sergio Santos has been doing an abysmal job, with an ERA of 10.61 after 12 appearances. With the return of Casey Janssen possible this month, Jays fans might be able to breathe a sigh of relief, assuming Janssen is as good now as he always has been.
Offense as per usual doesn't seem to be an issue. Jose Bautista is as always a hitting powerhouse, with nine home runs and 20 RBIs. Navarro is proving to be an apt catching choice and can hit too, with 15 RBIs and 29 hits. Juan Francisco has played in only 14 games but has managed three home runs, seven RBIs and 14 hits already. He could very well be earning a spot in the regular starting line up, which could spark some competition when Adam Lind returns from the disabled list.
Assuming that the team doesn't run into injuries (and let us pray that Janssen recovers from his injuries soon) the Blue Jays could end up as a bigger threat in this year's race for the post-season.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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