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The Week Ahead: Moment of truth for Blue Jays

May 30, 2010, 10:18 PM EDT

wells-vernon-blue-jays-100530.jpgThe Yankees, Red Sox, and perhaps, the Rays. That was the common thinking on how the AL East race would go entering the season.

The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t listen to those projections and enter the week at 30-22. They’re only in third place and 4 1/2 games back. But their record would be good enough for at least second place in any other division, and would lead the AL West and NL East.

How are the surprising Jays doing it? Quite simply, they are hitting the ball very, very hard. Led primarily by Jose Bautista (15 home runs), Vernon Wells (pictured, 13) and Alex Gonzalez (10), Toronto leads all of baseball with 85 home runs. And it’s not even close, with the Reds and Red Sox tied for second with 67. They also rank first in doubles, first in slugging percentage and second in runs scored.

The offense has survived slow starts by Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, and more than offset a pitching staff that has been predictably mediocre.

They’ve also been somewhat fortunate with the early season schedule, playing 20 games so far against the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and Indians, and going 16-4 in those contests.

But things change a bit this week things change a bit, as the Blue Jays play host to the two best teams in baseball – who also happen to be division rivals – in the Rays and Yankees. After that, they head to Tampa for three more games before embarking on an interleague road trip to Colorado and San Diego.

It’s a tough couple of weeks to be sure, and will probably bring the Jays back down to Earth a bit. But get through this stretch with a decent showing and maybe we’ll start to believe.

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH
Phillies at Braves, May 31-June 2:
The Phillies have been struggling to score runs and now must face Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe. The NL East is getting pretty interesting.

Rockies at Giants, May 31-June 2: In addition to the Ubaldo Jimenez-Tim Lincecum matchup on Monday, we get Jeff Francis vs. Matt Cain on Wednesday. Both teams remain in the thick of the NL West race. 

Reds at Cardinals, May 31-June 2: Cincinnati enters the week with a one-game lead over the preseason favorite Cardinals atop the NL Central. Watching Albert Pujols smash three bombs on Sunday can’t help the Reds’ confidence that they’ll stay there long.

Braves at Dodgers, June 3-6: Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Dodgers have been playing much better of late, climbing within two games of first place in the NL West. On top of that, they’re scheduled to get Andre Ethier back on Monday, who has been on the disabled list since May 18 with a fractured pinkie finger, yet still leads the team in home runs and RBIs. Things are looking up in Los Angeles.

Padres at Phillies, June 4-7: Guess which of these teams has a better record entering the week? I’ll give you a hint: The notoriously thrifty Padres are actually considering adding payroll via the trade market instead of trading away star slugger Adrian Gonzalez.

ON THE TUBE
Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Phillies at Braves (ESPN)
Wednesday, 8:15 p.m.: Reds at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Marlins at Mets (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Brewers at Cardinals (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rays at Rangers (FOX)
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.: Brewers at Cardinals (ESPN)
*Check local listings

And for those of you who have asked for a schedule of MLB Network games, you may find that here.

Are you on Twitter? You can follow Bob here, and get all your HBT updates here.

  1. Mark - May 30, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    Woah the Braves in two of the series-to-watch? I can’t believe Craig didn’t write this.

  2. Mark - May 31, 2010 at 7:52 AM

    “The offense has survived slow starts by Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, and more than offset a pitching staff that has been predictably mediocre.”
    Very disappointed with that comment. The Jays are fourth in the majors in XFIP (4.00), and fourth in FIP (4.00 as well). The ERA isn’t pretty, but they strike out a lot of hitters and do a very good job of keeping the ball on the ground. The defense makes the pitching staff look bad, but the pitchers are a hell of a lot better than mediocre.

  3. Paul Martin - May 31, 2010 at 8:49 AM

    Finally a Blue Jays story. By the way, I have seen little evidence that the Yankees are one of the two best teams in baseball. They are only 1 game ahead of the Jays. You have also not noticed that Toronto’s top 3 starters (Marcum, Romero and Cecil) are very good. The Toronto bull pen is also quite good.

  4. Flipsy - May 31, 2010 at 9:07 AM

    Now that’s a weak story.
    5 series to watch, all from the NL. NOthing going on in the AL? Well, I guess it’s a foregone conclusion that the Jays will drop out off the Wild Card race which renders the Jays-NYY series irrelevant. Along the same lines, as others already pointed out, the Jays starters have been surprisingly good. The bullpen has been weaker than in past years, but calling this a mediocre is a bit much.
    And while I don’t really believe they will content the fact that Hill and Lind (and Overbay) have not been producing mean that the offense may stay on course. And I doubt their pitching staff will turn into the Indians or Orioles.
    Almost everyone expected the Jays to be in contention for the no 1 pick next year. Clearly they have shown that they are much better than that. But of course, that’s not that interesting of a story. Let’s write about how they will crush and burn this week and how shitty the attendance is. Maybe we can even write about relocation.

  5. Flipsy - May 31, 2010 at 10:27 AM

    Btw: The Jays pitching staff is so mediocre that it ranks first according to some (advanced) metrics:
    http://www.fangraphs.com/teams.aspx?pos=all&lg=al&stats=pit&type=1&season=2010&month=0
    Which of course means that they rank near the top in most conventional measures. Some fact-checking please.

  6. Codebeard - May 31, 2010 at 2:37 PM

    @Flipsy
    You can’t take one or two “advanced” stats and claim that tells the whole story. I can throw a couple out that say they’re mediocre.
    Their ERA+ is 99 (100 is considered an average team, the AL average is actually at 101 right now), their WHIP is 1.322 (good for 6th, just above league average), and their BB/9 is right the league average of 3.5.
    There’s a few areas where they excel, there’s a few where they’re not as good. They’re not dominating, so they’re average-to-fairly-good.

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