The Blue Jays are in First Place. Wasn’t This Supposed to Happen Last Year?

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Blue Jays

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, the Blue Jays were the chic pick to achieve some big things in the American League.

They imported Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey in blockbuster trades to add to a strong 1-2 offensive punch of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.

Then they became like many other teams that seemed to win the offseason (1992 Mets, 2012 Marlins for example) and their big budget hit was a major flop.

Now what was supposed to happen last year appears to have taken shape for the Blue Jays, who are the division leaders in the American League East.

Better late than never.

That might be among the things fans and followers of the Toronto Blue Jays must be thinking after watching how May unfolded with them in first place for the last 11 days and leading the division after May 31 for the first time since July 6, 2000.

The Blue Jays led the Majors with a .700 winning percentage by winning 21 of 30 games.  They ended that month by leading the American League with 165 runs, 286 hits, 48 home runs, a .277 average, and a .831 OPS.

And that’s just at the plate.

On the mound, the Blue Jays were equally as good, leading the Majors with 18 wins from their starting pitchers. To gain an insight into that aspect of Toronto’s month just look at Buehrle’s game log, which consistently saw one quality start after another as May ended with him improving to 9-1 and on a five-game winning streak that he extended Sunday against the Kansas City Royals.

Getting back to the plate, it was quite the month for Edwin Encarnacion. He led the Majors with 16 home runs, 22 extra-base hits, a .763 slugging percentage, and 33 RBI. Those home runs set a new Blue Jays record for home runs in any month and were the most in any month in the league since Sammy Sosa’s 17 home runs in August 2001.

In a 16-game span to end the month, Encarnacion was on a tear. He batted .333 with 12 home runs and 21 RBI as well as an insane 1.395 OPS.

It’s not like the Blue Jays show has just been Encarnacion either.

Reyes reached base in 26 of the last 28 games, Adam Lind finished the month with eight multi-hit games over the last 13 starts.

Bautista has reached base in 56 of 58 games with a hit in 43 of those games. He is 12-for-27 over his last seven games, leads the Majors with 47 hits, 114 times on base, and has a league-best .442 on-base percentage.

Things have gone so well for the Blue Jays offensively that their lowest average by any of their current starters is the .239 by third baseman Brett Lawrie and that average has surged up with him batting .303 in his last 31 games.

And because of that, the Blue Jays are leading the Majors with 82 home runs and have home runs in 13 of their last 15 games. They slugged 48 in May, the most in a month since the Blue Jays had 54 in May 2010.

The Blue Jays and Royals are the only two teams that have yet to appear in the postseason since baseball expanded in 1994. These same teams participated in the first best-of-seven ALCS in 1985 and the won a combined three championships in a span of nine years.

The Blue Jays have had this kind of team before with big sluggers and an ace. It just seemed like the Yankees and Red Sox were always in their way.

This year could be different if the Blue Jays continue to play well while mediocrity reigns below them.

Larry has covered sports in various capacities for the better part of a decade. He spent eight years working for SportsTicker and now covers the Yankees and Nets for Metro New York newspaper and other outlets. Also Larry is a co-author of a baseball blog at gothamhub.com