If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to save their 2017 season, Josh Donaldson will be the hero they need
The Toronto Blue Jays embark on the second half of their 2017 season behind the 8-ball. This is not a silly attempt at over dramatic writing. Before the second half starts in Detroit, the Blue Jays are 8.5 games back of the American League East and 5 back in the Wild Card race. The teams ahead of them in the Wild Card are teams that the Blue Jays should be better than over a 2.5 months span. That wasn’t that case so far this season, but logic dictates that the playoffs are not totally out of reach.
If Toronto is, in fact, going to compete for the remainder of the season, they will need Josh Donaldson to return to his usual form.
Playing in just 46 games this season, the Blue Jays have missed The Bringer of Rain. We’re talking about the 2015 MVP winner, who scored 122 runs, drove in 123 and dropped 41 bombs. We are talking about the guy who finished 4th in MVP voting last season, even though he arguably had a better season as far as his metrics go.
The problem is that we haven’t seen that guy in a while. Now, he’s had his season derailed by calf issues that went on longer than anyone
hoped thought they would. After returning from injury, it took a while for Donaldson’s bat to return. His legs likely not being 100% caused him to collect just eight hits in the last two weeks of June. He hadn’t hit a home run since the 11th of June. The walks were still piling up, so we knew that it was just a matter of time until he came around.
His poor (for him) showing continued into July and the Blue Jays could not gain any ground in the standings. Considered the heart of this lineup, Donaldson couldn’t carry the team through their struggles. But, then something happened. Donaldson’s last four games saw him turn things around at the plate in a big way.
The series against Houston gave us a glimpse of hope that Donaldson has started to get his legs under him and signaled something to look forward to in the second half. Picking up six hits in 16 plate appearances, with 6 walks is enough to give hope to a fan base that is barely hanging on. If he can turn things around and produce at a level we are used to, the Blue Jays fortunes may just follow suit.
Consider this: Fangraphs lists Donaldson’s WPA (Win Probability Added) at 6.01 in 2015 and 4.29 in 2016. If you’re wondering, they explain that an excellent WPA is 6, while a great value is 3. While this metric is not used to predict the future, it does help us emphasize just how important the player has been to the team in the past. To support this, Baseball Reference allows us to see the result of games when Donaldson played. In 2016, the team went 87-68 and in 2015, they went 92-66. Basically, over the last two seasons, the Blue Jays have 45 more wins when Josh Donaldson plays.
The All Star break couldn’t have come at a worse time for Josh Donaldson. He was starting to show signs of breaking out and returning to carry this team on his shoulder, like he’s done for the last couple of seasons. If we are looking for some positivity, we can hang our hats on the display we saw from the 31 year old from Pensacola in the final four game set against the best team in the American League. He looks to be turning a corner.
For the Toronto Blue Jays, this has to be some of the best news they’ve had all season. During his time in Toronto, we have seen just how valuable the Bringer of Rain has been to this team. One could argue that there is not a Trade Deadline move the Blue Jays will make that will impact their fortunes more than having Donaldson return to form. Will it be enough to save the season? Time will tell. But, he is definitely the hero Toronto needs.
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