Let’s just stop and talk about the AL East for a second. The American League East, in all its greatness, has all FIVE teams with a record over .500, and all of them are within 7 games of first place with roughly 80 games to go. How can you not be excited for any divisional matchup? This week, the Red Sox have a four-game series with the en fuego Toronto Blue Jays, the recently created superteam of the division. Let’s get it started.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS – 39-38, 5th place in the AL East
The Blue Jays, as was widely publicized, basically traded for half the Marlins’ players & payroll to become the preseason favorites to win the division. That’s all they’ve become, really, up until two weeks ago, when the Jays decided not to lose and win instead. And win they did, as Toronto tore through team after team on their way to an 11-game win streak. The Rays slowed them down a bit, but now they come into Boston to take on yet another divisional rival. Can they keep winning? The Red Sox will try to stop this trend.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
1 – Jose Reyes – SS – .395/.465/.526 (in 43 PA)
- Old-school type of leadoff hitter: fast, puts the ball in play, left-handed. Loves pulling doubles down the right field line.
- Not the healthiest guy. Just returned from an ankle injury that cost him nearly 11 weeks on the DL + rehab.
- Below average fielder. He’s had a negative UZR in each of his last five seasons (-0.9, -4.6, -3.3, -3.1, -1.1).
2 – Melky Cabrera – LF – .278/.320/.364
- Still the same Melky we saw on the Yankees, middling power and whatnot. Has yet to use a glove effectively since 2009.
- PEDs or not, Cabrera is not an on-base machine. Difference between his average and his OBP has been roughly 50 points for his whole career.
- Even with the suspension, he had one of his best years last year and had a 4.4 fWAR in 501 PA. Angel Pagan & Adam Jones had the same fWAR over an entire season.
3 – Jose Bautista – RF – .247/.346/.476
- Three seasons removed from his 54-homer campaign, and the man is still pulling & crushing homers to left. Had a .447(!) OBP in 2011.
- The average is dragged down by a sub-par .253 BABIP. It’s scary to know that he still has room for progression this year.
- So far, this has been his best season in the field. Bautista is eight runs above average with the glove. Unsurprisingly, he has the highest fWAR on the Jays as well.
4 – Edwin Encarnacion – 1B – .271/.354/.536
- All power, all the time. However, it took him until the 2012 & the 2013 seasons to have consecutive years with an Isolated Power mark over .200.
- If the ball isn’t flying out of the park, Encarnacion doesn’t really get lucky with balls in play. Owns a .277 career BABIP.
- Has progressively gotten better with his strikeout rate over the last few years. Owns a career-high BB/K of 0.90 this season.
5 – Adam Lind – DH – .324/.388/.533
- Lind has recently sold his soul to the devil to regain the ability to hit like it’s 2009 (.305/.370/.562) again. Oh, and has a .363 BABIP too. Just throwing that out there.
- Career wRC vs. lefties: 62. 2013 wRC vs lefties: 133. It’s progress (not really), I guess, but my fantasy team’s loving this hot streak.
- Lind has shown real improvement in plate discipline, however. He’s swinging less at pitches out of the zone, and making his contact count.
6 – J.P. Arencibia – C – .227/.255/.450
- If there’s one thing the Blue Jays have in abundance, it’s power. Arencibia is no different. If he makes contact, it’ll be some hard contact.
- His walk rate is an even 3.0%. His strikeout rate? 30.6%. File this under “Things pitchers love to see”.
- For a guy hitting sixth, a wRC of 88 really doesn’t lend itself to an argument for him to stay there. His .450 SLG, however…
7 – Colby Rasmus – CF – .246/.321/.472
- It has to be difficult for a guy with a 33.2% strikeout rate to have a 2.3 fWAR. But look everyone, Colby Rasmus has done it!
- Much improved with his glove since his days with the Cardinals. 5.7 UZR this season, which is worlds better than anything he did in St. Louis.
- Finally getting the benefit of a BABIP over .300 for the first time since 2010. If only he’d cut down on the whiffs.
8 – Maicer Izturis – 3B – .229/.266/.339
- Career bench player pressed into service ever since Brett Lawrie got hurt in May. Not the best guy you can have as a backup.
- Little power to speak of, and is probably best used as a pinch-runner with his 91 career stolen bases. A shame this isn’t the NL.
- Hampered by a .234 BABIP, but even with a regression to the mean, still won’t be much of an improvement.
9 – Emilio Bonifacio – 2B – .211/.236/.317
- I just keep staring at his 2.8% walk rate and wondering if he’s ever taken four straight balls at any time in his career.
- Some of his value comes in his ability to play second & third base, along with any of the outfield positions. Only posted a positive fWAR in right field, however.
- One speedy son of a gun. Stole THIRTY bases in just 274 PA last season. Still couldn’t muster a wRC higher than 79.
Who’s hot? – Last 14 days:
- Edwin Encarnacion (4 HR, 11 runs scored, 11 RBI)
- J.P. Arencibia (3 HR, 6 RBI, .414 wOBA)
Who’s not? – Last 14 days:
- Jose Bautista (7-for-54, 1 HR, 28 wRC)
- Melky Cabrera (.021 ISO, .277 SLG, .264 wOBA)
(I’ll keep these short for brevity’s sake.)
Seems like an old Yankees-Red Sox matchup, right? While Lester tries to get himself out of one hell of a nasty slump, Wang will try to hold off regression with is 2.18 ERA and his 3.63 xFIP & 4.35 strikeout rate. Amazingly, Wang hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two starts, and the teams he faced were the Orioles(!) & Rangers(!!).
This time, Webster might just go for the record of most swinging strikes with 10 earned runs given up. On the other hand, Johnson looks like a pitcher primed for some regression to the mean, as his strikeout & walk rate are near career norms, but his HR/9 is unreasonably high. His 4.60 ERA is a full run higher than his 3.61 xFIP.
We’ve seen enough of Doubront to expect one of three things – a lot of strikeouts and 6 innings pitched, a lot of walks and 5 innings pitched, or the rare gem. Rogers loves playing with fire, as his 5.28 strikeout rate and .274 BABIP aren’t conducive to prolonged success.
If we don’t see at least 3 homers combined in this game, I’ll be disappointed. Buehrle is still being Buehrle, toting a mid-4 ERA, FIP & xFIP, and simply not getting injured.
The Red Sox have a chance to bury the Jays in the AL East basement. The Jays have a chance to claw their way back up the standings. Four AL East divisional games, and wins mean much more this time.