If you happen to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan, you’d be excused for feeling just a little sad while looking at the team’s lineup these days.
Yet, despite the team’s steep slide towards a seemingly never-ending rock bottom this season, Edwin Encarnacion remains unfazed. No matter how many of his brethren from the Opening Day lineup have come and gone with injuries, he’s remains resolute. Not even being surrounded by what is reasonably a triple-A roster has hurt the veteran’s production this season.
In fact, if anything, he’s actually thriving in the challenge.
Whether the motivation factor is something that tangibly affects a player’s performance a separate debate altogether, I think it’d be fair to say that it couldn’t have been too much fun to play for the bluebirds this year. Despite this, has managed to do what none of his teammates have been able to do — be healthy enough to stay on the field and perform at a consistently high level.
Even while he was hitting just ,238/.319 in April to start the season, the slugger crushed enough home runs to put his OPS at a reasonable .843, which turned out to be his lowest month-to-month mark of the season.
He’s steadily improved in just about all aspects of his game at the plate since then (.869, .949, 1.030 OPS from May-July), and is only heating up even as the Blue Jays were busy dropping series left and right to teams like the Houston Astros in the dog says of summer.
Currently on a seven game-hitting streak that includes three home runs, the 30-year old has started September on fire with a .429/.529/1.000 triple-slash that boosts his second-half OPS to 1.002 (versus .885 in the first), That number isn’t just merely good — it’s elite.
To do it with little other than pride to play for, and in a lineup where Rajai Davis is actually a legitimate middle of the order bat at no. 5 shows an element that the team hasn’t seen from the veteran, and is a big step in the maturation process of his career from an inconsistent player who was essentially cut by two teams in a year, to an All-Star who can lead by example.
It’s this kind of consistency that the Blue Jays will need going forward, and if for whatever reason the team decides that Encarnacion’s partner in crime, Jose Bautista, is expendable in the near future … well, you know why.