Unlike the start of the 2013 season, the Toronto Blue Jays are in dire need of a quick start to the second half. The Blue Jays finished the first half on a sour note after an electric 11-game winning streak. The Blue Jays desperately needed to win the last two series against the Indians and Orioles, but failed to do so. The offense has not been the same since Melky Cabrera went down with an injury.
So what can we expect in the first two weeks of the second half?
The Blue Jays have a very winnable schedule to start the second half. The begin the second half at home for 10 days. The opening series will be a tough one they desperately need to win against the Rays. Following that series, the Jays are at home to face the Dodgers (long flight from L.A.) and Astros and then go on the road to visit the Athletics and Angels.
After their series with the Rays, the next three opponents have a win-loss record of 180-196, so the Jays really need to come out strong against these weak opponents.
Brett Lawrie at Second Base
Brett Lawrie has moved back to second base, where he played in the Milwaukee Brewers' farm system. The move shouldn't shock many, as the Blue Jays second baseman have been quite poor offensively and Lawrie should contribute nicely in both facets of the game. The energy of Lawrie and Jose Reyes in the middle of the field should be infectious.
Who Will Play Third?
It will be interesting to see how often Edwin Encarnacion is slated to play third. If he can get reacclimated to his old position and not as E6, as he was infamously called, then the Blue Jays could have a great offensive lineup without losing too much defensively.
If EE can stay on permanently at third or on a regular basis, the DH spot opens up for a possible acquisition or for further offense in the lineup. It will be interesting to see how much Maicer Izturis and Mark DeRosa log time at third as well.
Stay tuned for how this shakes out.
An Improvement on the Mound
I believe that the beginning of the second half will prove to be an excellent boon for the Blue Jays starters. Why do I believe that they can get on a roll and have a strong second half? It all starts with health and the schedule.
As previously mentioned the Jays play the Rays, Dodgers, Astros, A's and Angels to start the second half. In terms of offensive run production, the Dodgers and Astros rank 25th and 30th in the league, respectively. Oakland and the Rays have decent offenses but they have been inconsistent on the season. The Angels were a hot mess for awhile but seem to be turning the corner. Moreover, none of these teams rank in the top half (well, I guess the Astros squeak in at 14th) in stolen bases, either.
I think after a tough fought series against the Rays, the Jays can get on a streak against the Dodgers and Astros that can propel them to a very strong second half.
Don't underestimate health either. Dickey has been sore all season and the time off will definitely help him on the mound. Moreover, Sergio Santos should be returning shortly to the squad, as well as starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ and Drew Hutchison. If nothing else, this puts some great pressure on those currently in the rotation to pitch well and keep their spot in the rotation (especially Esmil Rogers). This friendly competition can only help the Blue Jays.
With Reyes now healthy and the Blue Jays offense almost finally at full strength (Cabrera is a few days away from returning), the offense can get in rhythm and start mashing the baseball.
Let's hope that there aren't further calamities that befall the Blue Jays in the second half.