The Blue Jays showed some definite signs of life over the weekend, taking two out of three over Boston to cap a tough seven game road trip against the Bosox and Tampa Bay. However, six weeks into the season, the Jays still find themselves third from the bottom in the American League at 15-24 and with the 27th best record in the Majors.
There is still time for a complete turnaround and a run to the playoffs. Consider that Oakland was 37-42 on July 1 and 13 games out in the West and still edged out Texas to win the AL West in the final series of the regular season.
Still, I wondered how this current edition of the Blue Jays compared to the 2006 Jays. That was John Gibbons' best season at the helm and in his first stint with the team. They finished the year at 87-75 - second in the East, a game up on Boston and 10 back of the Division winning Yankees. It was the Blue Jays' first time finishing above third in the Division since their last World Series victory in 1993, and their second most victories to the 88 recorded by Tim Johnson's crew in 1998.
Grant you, we're still relatively early in the 2013 campaign but some basic numbers really stick out. The '06 team hit a collective .284 while the '13 team at this point is batting .237. The on base percentage was .348 in 2006 vs .301 now and the OPS was .811 then and .708 now.
The two teams' ability to hit homeruns are relatively equal, and by the end of this season the 2013 squad could very well hit more than the 199 - the '06 squad did.
The 2006 Blue Jays had five regulars who hit over .300, in Lyle Overbay (1B), Frank Catalanotto (LF), Vernon Wells (CF), Alex Rios(RF) and Shea Hillenbrand (DH) and one more off the bench in utility outfielder Reed Johnson.
The 2013 Jays only have one hitter over .300 in Jose Reyes and he's likely out until the All-Star break. He is their second best hitter at least in terms of average at the moment. Rajai Davis, .284, is also out with an oblique strain.
The 2006 team also got incredible production from two of the key positions - catcher and centre field - and the two corner infield positions. Overbay hit 22 homers and drove in 92. At third, Troy Glaus blasted 38 homeruns and drove in 104 runs. Vernon Wells batted .303 with 32 homers and 106 runs batted in, and catching combination of Benji Molina and Gregg Zahn hit 31 homers and drove in 97 runs.
Interesting that Glaus was the only one on the team to strike out over 100 times at 134. If you look at the 2013 edition, seven players are on pace to break the century mark in K's, including Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion Colby Rasmus, J.P Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio and Brett Lawrie. Rajai Davis would be part of that club too, if he was a regular and was healthy.
On paper, at least, if everyone was healthy (there's that word again), the 2013 Jays would probably have the better pitching staff. Yes, the 2006 squad had Roy Halladay and his 16-5 record, but he was the only one on that staff that included lefty Ted Lilly and A.J Burnett to pitch over 200 innings. Closer B.J Ryan had his best season with the Jays in 2006 saving 38 games, but this year's Jays have Casey Janssen who already has 10 saves and a 0.69 ERA.
If the current system had been in place, the 2006 Blue Jays would not have made the postseason. In fact, they would have finished fourth behind the team that got it. Detroit finished second in the Central that year with 95 victories – eight more than the Blue Jays. The White Sox missed the playoffs with 90 wins and so did the Angels with 89.
In today's world, the White Sox would have been in as the second wild card and the Angels would have missed by a game.
Jays pitching coach Pete Walker and hitting coach Chad Mottola were both active players on that 2006 team and Casey Janssen made 19 starts for that squad.
The fact the 2006 team won 87 games and still didn't come close to the wild card speaks volumes about how well the Blue Jays are going to have to play over the final four and a half months just to get close to the postseason.
The Cleveland Indians are the hottest team in the majors right now. Yes, Terry Francona's Cleveland Indians. They've won 12 of their last 14 and pulled into a first place tie in the Central with Detroit. They're hitting .305 over that span with 24 homeruns. The Indians also lead the majors in homers with 49 - three more than the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays kick off Interleague play on Tuesday night with a quickie two-game home stand against the World Series Champs, the San Francisco Giants. Over the years the Blue Jays have not done well in these games against the National League which came into play in 1997. The Jays are 132-151 over 16 seasons. Only Baltimore, KC and Houston have a worse winning percentage amongst American League clubs and remember; the Astros only came into the American League just this year.
The Yankees have the best Interleague mark all-time at 170-112. St. Louis is tops of the National League clubs at 125-110. The American League has won the series the last nine years running.