To use an appropriate word, the Toronto Blue Jays' 2013 season has been interesting.
That's putting it very lightly.
After getting off to a horrendous start, the Jays have pulled themselves back into relative contention in the American League. The goal was to get back to .500 by the All-Star break. That came sooner than expected, with the team reaching that mark in the third week of June.
The Jays have since fallen back below .500 with a few weak performances against the AL East-leading Red Sox.
Despite their recent successes and even more recent struggles, the Jays seem to have developed something of an identity. They aren't making the same stupid mistakes they were making at the beginning of the year, their defence has improved, and they have just received their star shortstop back in Jose Reyes.
With their proper leadoff man back and their ace starter throwing strikes, the Jays seem more complete than ever—even with Melky Cabrera and Brandon Morrow on the disabled list.
Here are predictions for each important Blue Jay in the second half of 2013.
The Blue Jays have been getting some nice production out of their outfield so far in 2013.
Starting with Bautista, who, despite not producing like he did in previous seasons, is still on pace for 30 home runs. He has also posted a solid, if not spectacular .344 on-base percentage through 78 games this year, rounding out an above-average OPS of .815.
Predicting how the Dominican will perform in the second half of the season is quite difficult.
In 2010, Bautista raised his game after the halfway point, while in 2011, his performance dropped off significantly. Look for him to bump his average up and increase his run production with Jose Reyes batting leadoff again.
Year-End Stat Line: .260/.370/.501, 39 HR
Cabrera was placed on the Jays' 15-day disabled list with left knee tendonitis on June 28, which will cut into the left fielder's production moving forward. This injury seems to be the culmination of Cabrera playing through discomfort for the majority of the season, limiting him to a questionable .684 OPS.
When he returns, manager John Gibbons may slot him in behind Reyes as was the plan in April. If that happens, Cabrera will be put in better hitting situations, allowing him to raise his average and power numbers.
Playing through pain can cause problems, and Cabrera is much better than his paltry .362 slugging percentage suggests.
Year-End Stat Line: .294/.331/.410
Rasmus has arguably been the Jays' most consistent player in 2013. His numbers in April, May and June are very similar, although perhaps the most encouraging change is Rasmus' increase in walks.
In April, Rasmus walked only six times. That number rose to nine in May and has already reached 11 in June. His strikeout numbers—while still incredibly high—have dropped, and he's taken his OPS from .737 in April to .815 in June.
Despite those inspiring trends, the bad news for Jays fans is that Rasmus is almost always worse in the second half of the season.
Throughout his career, Rasmus' collective stat line in the first half of the season is a solid .261/.334/.477, while in the second half, he drops off to a .209/.276/.339 line.
Year-End Stat Line: .236/.310/.432, 177 SO
In the Jays' infield, we have to start with Lind, who's enjoying a great comeback after being placed on outright waivers just a year ago.
Lind has already matched his home run output from 2012 in more than 100 fewer at-bats. However, easily the biggest change in Lind's plate approach has been his patience. In the three seasons following his 2009 breakout campaign, Lind walked once every 15 plate appearances. In that 2009 season, he walked once every 11 plate appearances.
So far in 2013, Lind has walked once every 10 plate appearances and has a .321 average to go along with it. He has also raised his pitches per at-bat to 4.02, back where it was in 2009.
To put it simply, the Jays have their all-star designated hitter back.
Whether he can maintain his pace remains to be seen. In 2011, Lind had a similar start to the season, batting .300 through 67 games before dropping to a .197 clip during the next 58. It is very unlikely Lind continues to hit above .300, but his improved discipline and plate approach seems to be paying off.
Year-End Stat Line: .297/.365/.515
Encarnacion has been the Jays' most productive hitter in 2013, hands down.
Even during his struggles in April, Encarnacion was hitting home runs, buoying his OPS, allowing him to raise his game in May and June. June in particular has been a phenomenal month for the Jays' first/third baseman. Despite his average dropping from .292 in May to .270 in June, his OPS rose from .869 to .947 thanks to an increase in home runs, a drop in strikeouts and a rise in walks.
And like Bautista, Encarnacion will only benefit from the return of Jose Reyes to the top of the Jays lineup.
Year-End Stat Line: .274/.360/.550, 44 HR
While Reyes' injury was perhaps the nail in the coffin of the Jays' first half of 2013, his return may be the candle that ignites their second half.
When Reyes went down with a gruesome-looking ankle injury in April, it seemed as though the team may not recover. At the time, the shortstop was hitting .395 with five stolen bases in only 10 games.
He was doing exactly what the team needed from him.
Since returning from injury, Reyes is hitless in eight plate appearances, but that will change quickly. He's shown no signs of being hampered by the injury and is his usual energetic self. A return to form seems in order for the Jays' leadoff man.
Year-End Stat Line: .312/.376/.476, 20 SB
Arencibia is the Blue Jay who frustrates fans the most.
Despite hitting above .300 while in Triple-A, Arencibia set a career high after posting a questionable .233 average in 2012. So far in 2013, that has dropped to .223, and perhaps even more frustrating is the fact that Arencibia's on-base percentage has fallen in every professional season throughout his career.
His 2013 mark stands currently at .251.
In layman's terms, that is a horrible stat.
A more detailed description shows that Arencibia is the worst catcher in the major leagues for getting on base.
How can Arencibia improve? He can start by taking more pitches.
Arencibia swings at approximately 50 percent of all pitches thrown to him. For reference, Munenori Kawasaki, who, despite a .225 batting average still has a solid .337 on-base percentage, swings at approximately 40 percent.
The Jays' only hope for Arencibia is that hitting coach Chad Mottola finally gets him to be more disciplined. If not, it will be more strikeouts for the Toronto catcher.
Year-End Stat Line: .220/.260/.450
As for the rest of the infield, including Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Mark DeRosa and Kawasaki, they have all contributed to varying degrees.
Bonifacio has been a problem at the plate all year, but his career stats suggest he'll bounce back. Izturis has been very hot as of late, hitting .280 in June. Look for him to get more playing time at second base.
DeRosa has been a huge leader for the Jays so far and has contributed with some absolutely massive clutch hits. Expect him to keep doing more of the same.
And the safest prediction goes to Kawasaki, who is guaranteed to entertain the baseball world in some way before the end of the 2013 season.
The starting rotation has been the cause of and solution to the majority of the Jays' problems this season. On paper, the team has one of the strongest staffs in baseball, but after some injuries and interesting signings, the Jays rotation looks quite different.
Dickey has been battling back issues since spring training. And if his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays is any indication, it appears he's telling the truth.
Dickey threw a two-hit shutout in that game, changing speeds, changing knuckleballs and throwing strikes. The biggest thing in Dickey's success is throwing strikes. The bottom line is that if he's hitting his spots, Dickey can throw his knuckleball in the high 70s with plenty of movement, making him virtually unhittable.
Year-End Stat Line: 16-10, 4.05 ERA
Johnson has been nothing short of disappointing.
Not only has Johnson been hurt for a large portion of the season, but when he has pitched, he has struggled. He has recorded only one win in nine starts, while posting an ERA north of 5.00.
However, Johnson is a much better pitcher than he has showed in 2013.
His last start against the Red Sox was a bit of a nightmare, but Boston has a dangerous lineup that seemed to wear out the tall right-hander. Give Johnson a pass on that start, but he needs to improve quickly in order to give his team a chance to win.
Now that he's supposedly healthy, look for an improvement over his underwhelming numbers.
Year-End Stat Line: 6-7, 4.25 ERA
It has been business as usual for Buehrle in 2013.
The veteran starter has had his ups and downs this season, but he's posting the same numbers he always has for the last decade. He's on pace to just miss another 200-inning season, although that can change with his improved performance.
Buehrle has looked more comfortable as of late, posting a 3.00 ERA in June while throwing 30 innings in five starts.
He'll flatten out and be the same consistent, veteran innings-eater we're used to.
Year-End Stat Line: 10-10, 4.03 ERA
Morrow falls into the same category as Johnson.
He's been injured for a large portion of 2013 and has been disappointing when he has pitched. Morrow suffered a setback in rehabbing his right arm and may be another few weeks before returning to the lineup.
Either way, it's tough to see Morrow return and throw like he did in 2012.
Year-End Stat Line: 5-6, 4.96 ERA
Wang looks like he's going to be a part of the Jays rotation for the remainder of 2013.
With J.A. Happ's status up in the air and Morrow still on the disabled list, Wang has been a nice fill-in at the bottom of the rotation. Apart from his disastrous start against the Red Sox on June 27, Wang has thrown more than six innings in all of his starts for the Jays.
What the team needs from Wang is a consistent, Buehrle-like effort. Eat plenty of innings and give the offense a chance to win games. So far, he's done a mediocre job of that.
Year-End Stat Line: 4-7, 4.55 ERA
It's not ridiculous to suggest that the Blue Jays have the strongest bullpen in the major leagues.
They have thrown the most innings of any staff, have the third-best ERA, the fifth-best WHIP and one of the strongest strikeout to walk ratios.
A lot of that has to do with closer Casey Janssen.
Any team that has a closer with a 0.71 WHIP is likely to have a very strong bullpen. Beyond allowing only six runs in 26.2 innings, Janssen has given up only four walks. His control is staggering and has become almost automatic in the ninth inning.
Year-End Stat Line: 2.12 ERA, 0.815 WHIP, 39 SV
Cecil deserves to represent the Jays at the All-Star Game in July.
Even with Janssen pitching incredibly, Cecil has been the team's best reliever. With a newfound velocity thanks to teammate Steve Delabar, Cecil has posted an ERA below 2.00 and a WHIP below .900.
Unless hitters discover something new about Cecil's delivery, there's no reason to expect his numbers to dip in any way.
Year-End Stat Line: 1.97 ERA, 0.867 WHIP
Steve Delabar and Aaron Loup
Delabar and Loup have been phenomenal at the top end of the Jays bullpen. They both have ERAs below 2.00 and complement each other perfectly. Where Delabar is an overpowering right-hander, Loup is a precision lefty who almost never walks a batter.
Delabar Year-End Stat Line: 1.99 ERA, 1.356 WHIP, 13.0 SO/9
Loup Year-End Stat Line: 1.87 ERA, 1.021 WHIP, 1.2 BB/9
Darren Oliver has been his usual self in 2013. He's struggled against left-handers but has been brilliant versus righties.
Expect more of the same from Oliver.
Year-End Stat Line: 3.12 ERA, 1.342 WHIP