The best teams in baseball win games, the worst teams do too.
When you think about the best teams in baseball, you find that a 1st place team is only going win about 100 games in a season at best -- 108 is really really good. Conversely, the worst teams in baseball might get away with 60 wins -- 54 is really really bad.
So, how do bad teams win and great teams lose games?
Dumb luckSometimes, teams win games due to dumb luck: a caught line drive by a fielder in a exactly the right place can save two runs while a blooper to left field can score two runs, which is precisely what happened to the Jays against Colorado on June 17th. In the top of the 8th inning, Colorado had runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out and Lind made a wonderful play to catch a smoked line drive. In the bottom half of that inning, Maicer hit a bloop single to short left which plated Davis and Colby. And that's the difference between a W and a L.
Pitching miscuesYou can't expect every Jays starter to go out there and have a quality start every time out. They are going to make mistakes because it is EXTREMELY difficult to pitch well every time you are on the mound. Pitching is extremely mental, but it is physical too. Sometimes your fastball cannot work because you can't connect the mind to the body. That's what happened to Esmil last night, leaving him only with a working breaking ball. It happens.
Hitting outagesWhat is supposed to happen when your pitching doesn't work is your batting is supposed to pick it up for you. But the bats will run into a pitcher sometimes who stymie you, or you run into a part of the lineup who is just not hitting well (Cabrera and Bautista). If Edwin and Lind have an off night as well then it becomes extremely difficult to manufacture and score runs.
Putting it all together
The fact is that the combination of the three leads to a perfectly playing team to lose 1 game of 3. What happens between winning between 1 and 2 games of 3 is a function of the team's true skill. In the case of the Blue Jays, you are looking at a team with below average infield and LF defense, an unexpectedly overperforming bullpen, an unexpectently underperforming starting rotation, and inconsistency (save Lind and Edwin) in the starting lineup. This leads to a .500 team that is susceptible to streaks.
Bringing back Lawrie and Reyes (and yes, sending down Kawasaki) will improve the IF defence dramatically and should improve the offense too. Putting Edwin at 3rd and letting Cabrera DH for a few days in a row will improve his legs so that he can play better defensively in LF and let Rajai get some playing time. The time to do this (give Cabrera's legs some rest) is now before Lawrie gets back.
The starting rotation is what it is. Lately they've been very good. RA Dickey is not going to have a good season and there's no improvement. Josh Johnson I predict will be on fire as he tries to get a monster contract. Mark Buehrle is fine. Esmil Rogers pitched only 75 innings last year and he's only good for about 8 more starts berore he will be pulled. Chien-Ming Wang has been great so far, but we'll see how he does in Boston against his AL East rivals who know him well. By that time (after the All-Star break), reinforcements in Brandon Morrow and JA Happ should be ready.
And offensively, the players need to get on a roll collectively. Bautista has been very streaky, as has Cabrera, Arencibia and Rasmus. Adding Reyes back to the front of the lineup will increase scoring opportunities and speed at the start of the lineup.
PredictionsThe Jays have now shown that they are a good team. Defense has improved as Bonfacio, Reyes, and Izturis get used to the turf. Offense is very very good on most nights and will improve with the return of Reyes and then Lawrie. Starting pitching will be an issue for RA Dickey only. The bullpen I think will continue to shine. In short, if the team can score 5 runs a game and the starting pitching can leave the team with a lead after 6 innings this team will win alot of games, many more than they will lose.
My prediction now is that the playoff race for 2nd place in the AL East goes down to the wire, with the Jays fighting it out for the 2nd wild card spot between any one of the four AL east teams, with about 92 wins. The last 15 games that the Jays play are against AL East contenders and I think it's these games that will determine the playoff picture in the AL East. Look for Texas or Oakland to take a wild card spot with whoever finishes in 2nd in the AL East to take the 2nd wild card.