The Blue Jays will open the second half of the 2012 season tomorrow night against the Cleveland Indians at home. Toronto is still in contention for a playoff spot, as they are currently 2.5 games out of a wild card spot, and 9.5 games back from first place in the American League East. In order to keep contending, players will need to step up—pitching especially—and players who are currently playing well need to keep playing well.
Here’s what to watch in the second half:
Brandon Morrow: If all things go right, Morrow could return to action by the end of this months or early August. He was arguably the best pitcher in the Majors at the time of his injury, and the Jays will need him to keep performing if they want to play in October. Before we went on the DL, he was pitching to a 3.01 ERA with 67 strikeouts and a 1.00 WHIP, while also leading the Majors in shutouts in 77.2 IP. He he can return and pitch another 70 or so innings with similar numbers, and Ricky Romero pitches like he did in the second half last year (see below), the Jays will have a nice one-two punch the rest of the way.
Ricky Romero: Ricky was great last season. This season, not so much. He currently has a 5.22 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 76 strikeouts and 58 walks. Any one who’s watched him pitch at all this year knows he’s been struggling, especially with his control, and is tops in the MLB in walks allowed (not a good thing to lead in). But it’s now the second half of the season, which means a somewhat fresh start for Romero. Last season, he was one of the best pitchers in the second half, going 8–3 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 2.20 K/BB and opponent’s batting line of .193/.278/.353. Let’s pray to the baseball gods that he can do it again in the second half this year.
Casey Jannsen: Casey’s been Toronto’s best reliever this year and last year, and he’s also been the saviour in the pen. After Sergio Santos went on the disabled list and Francisco Cordero, well, sucked, Casey stepped up the plate…er, mound and has been lights out in the closer’s role. In fact he’s been so good that the Jays will have a tough time removing him from the ninth inning if and when Sergio Santos returns this year. Since Opening Day of last year, he’s pitched 90 innings with a 7–1 record with 14 saves, a 2.30 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 8.8 K/9 and 4.63 K/BB. Quite good indeed.
Edwin Encarnacion: Today the Blue Jays rewarded Edwin for his great performance with a 3 year contract extension worth $27 million, with a $10 million option for 2017. Because of that I’m sure many baseball fans will have their eye on Edwin to see if he’s turns out to be a bust in the second half. Personally I think he’ll be even better in the second half than in the first, when he hit
Jose Bautista: Joey Bats is, as of Friday the 13th of July, tied with Josh Hamilton for the Major League lead in home runs. With 27 dingers, he is on pace for 50 this year, which would be more than enough to finish at the top for the 3rd year in a row. So why is he a player to watch in the second half? Because, I think he’s going to break his own record—and the Blue Jays current record—of single season home runs. I think he’ll hit between 55 and 60. Sure it sounds crazy, but I think he can do it. He’s hitting .243/.358/.536 with 27 home runs and 65 runs batted in in 317 at bats.