After three back to back homeruns by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Toronto Blue Jays 11-game winning streak came to an end. During the course of the streak they were able to get their record over .500 and re-enter the tight race for the American League East crown. But now comes the hard part: sustainability. Will the Blue Jays be able to sustain the level of success they had over the course of June?
It is unrealistic to think that this team could rack up 11 straight wins again with minor league talent playing above their heads and filling in for major league talent. The question now becomes whether this team is for real or was this just a hot streak that teams over a course of a 162 game season have a tendency to go through.
The key to maintaining this success lies squarely on one player coming back from the disabled list (DL). Jose Reyes, who is expected to return on Wednesday, should come back into his normal leadoff and starting shortshop duties. Reyes is the catalyst behind the Blue Jays offense and without him producing, the chances of a successful season and playing baseball into October is slim to none.
Reyes’ job as the leadoff hitter is one of the most important for a team whose strength is on offense. The leadoff hitter’s job is to get on base and once in a while push him into scoring position. This is so important because of the trickledown effect a good leadoff hitter has on the rest of the team.
If a guy leads off the inning with a double this means that the pitcher will have to worry about a player in scoring position, causing them to throw their best pitches early and often so their team does not get into a hole early. This allows your best hitters then to see the pitcher’s bests pitches and adjust to how they approach it the next time they go up to bat. This in turn leads to more offense and gives a bigger safety net to your starting pitcher if you’re able to get the player home.
Reyes possesses speed, great contact and the right amount of aggressiveness to lead off. He is able to turn a single into a stolen base and get into scoring position. He is able to turn infield groundballs into hits and with him being aggressive this is going to challenge the out fielders to make perfect throws in order to get him out.
With Reyes in scoring position it allows the rest of the team to be more aggressive and possibly drive in more runs as a result. With Reyes batting at the top of the order the Jays should be able to get to more early leads in games. This gives their pitchers some more insurance going into games. Reyes is also a great contact hitter and because power in baseball seems to come and go with contact you are able to hit more consistently too.
Reyes’ replacement, Munenori Kawasaki is a great story and a fan favourite, but with the return of Reyes and the way the bullpen is playing there is no reason to keep him in favour of Reyes. He is playing above his talent level and it’s time for Reyes to take over. If Reyes is able to return to his 2010 self the Blue Jays will be playing in October; he is the catalyst of the offense because of how he can change games with his speed, contact and aggressive nature.