Blue Jays? More Like…Dis-Mays

So yesterday…or I don’t know, Tuesday (?) the MLB All-Star game was played and had a bunch of players and some stuff happened blah blah blah, and shitty Omar Infante was not actually elected the starting second baseman for the All-Star team and would have thus made a complete mockery of the whole thing, so really, who cares.

All-Star break actually sits 10 games into the second half of the Blue Jays season, with 91 games played already and 71 left to go. And sitting at 4.5 games back (behind 3 teams) for the division and 4 games back (behind 4 teams) for a Wild Card spot, the playoff picture for the Blue Jays is getting increasingly bleak. Franchise history doesn’t look that great for previous Blue Jays teams that have won only 45 of their first 91 games (with the lone exception of the ’89 team that was in the midst of a 77–49 run under new manager Cito Gaston…though that is most certainly not the answer here). For context, the 2015 team’s run differential of +82 through 91 games ranks third in franchise history, just behind the ’91 team (+86, 91-71) and the ’87 team (+102, 96-66) and yet Fangraphs only gives this team about a one in four chance of making the playoffs at this point in time.

But those numbers are based on the performance of the team so far, and it will be an interesting question to tackle moving forward – is this the best we’ve seen of the Blue Jays or can we expect them to improve over the last 71 games?

Obviously a huge part of that question will come down to the possible deadline trades they can make, to import in external players to improve the current roster. And indeed, reports are that Alex Anthopoulos has got his nose in everything, and the Jays have been attached to pretty much every available pitcher alive, including the most available rental guys like Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir and Tyler Clippard, and Jeff Samardzija. And while it’ll be an interesting story in the coming weeks to determine if the current season’s team is good enough and close enough to that crucial part of the win curve to outbid other teams for available arms, or if they have to balance out their short term and long term windows by dealing with younger cost controlled pitchers…the main question is really still how good is the core of this team? Are they holding a hand worth going all in for?

It’s not an easy question. The Toronto Blue Jays on paper are a good team, and have been putting up good numbers – scoring The Blue Jays are actually second in the MLB in run differential, right up there in the mix with the Cardinals, Pirates, Royals, and Dodgers – teams that have reached the 50-win mark already by the All-Star break and the crappiest one still on pace for a 91+ win season. Meanwhile Toronto is a game under .500 – does it add up? Only Oakland has been under-performing worse by measure of BaseRuns versus actual record. Their record is one-run games – largely a random crapshoot – is 10-18, second worst percentage in the entire league. (Again, only Oakland is worse…at 8-22. Ouch.)

The bullpen, a terrifying headache at the beginning of the year and frequent scapegoat for that, is actually not a bad bunch – they’ve put up a decent 3.62 ERA (7th in the AL), in line with a 3.56 FIP (6th). So they’ve been pretty good most of the time…but yes, they’ve picked some bad times to be bad. Second worst (oh Oakland) in the AL by WPA and dead last by measure of Clutch…by just a hideous amount. The good news is that numbers related to win probability and “clutchness” are purely historical and indicative of what has happened but are largely meaningless in predicting future performance, despite the meandering of baseball people that constantly must extol the benefits of specific closer experience over just regular talent and skill. The bullpen actually has very good peripherals, leading to a solid 3.49 xFIP (3rd in the AL). Thus the narrative that we need to sell the farm for an established closer or relief arm, like renown douchey mouth-breather Jonathan Papelbon, might not be completely accurate, especially at the cost of sacrificing our capability to improve in other, more glaring areas.

And I wouldn’t say the league leading offence is one of them – the Blue Jays have cranked out an impressive 486 runs so far this year, a whooping 77 runs more than the 2nd place Yankees. Or the exact same difference between those 2nd place Yankees and the 13th place Rays. And that’s with Michael Saunders returning in August and both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion playing below their usual levels so. If the Jays fall down the stretch, it likely won’t be from a lack of scoring. There have only been three other teams since the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995 that have led the league in runs and missed the playoffs, and the ’11 Red Sox and ’96 Mariners still only ended a few games out.

And so far we’ve really needed a league leading offence to keep us above water, as the Jays for some reason have just not won unless they put up a metric shit-ton of runs, wasting some great pitching performances along the way, as poor RA Dickey and his undeserving 3-10 record can attest. (Drew Hutchinson has been on the opposite side of things, carrying an 8-2 record despite a 5.33 ERA…yet another indicator of how meaningless pitcher wins are.) Out of all the baseball seasons that have been played since 1901, Toronto’s record in games in which they score less than five runs ranks quite poorly…36th last out of 2422. I mean, that is not good. Especially for a team that’s still around .500. It would be such a shameful thing to waste such a crazy offence, and it’s certainly added to the entertainment value of this season, knowing that the bats can still smash their way back into whatever shitfest their pitchers have handed them.

Reducing the shitfests from the starters is a good place to start, as a staff the rotation’s put up a very mediocre 4.18 ERA that ranks 12th in the AL. Although it’s hard to say how desperately we need an upgrade. Mark Buehrle’s been killing it, doing even better than his renaissance last year. Dickey has had a rough time so far but has actually rebounded well after his annual slow start, putting up a 3.73 ERA since June. Marco Estrada has been a decent find, and is at least showing there might have been something to the mechanic adjustments he made in the second half of last year. Aaron Sanchez had seemingly turned the corner before going to the DL, with four straight start quality starts capped off by an 8-inning, 0-walk win against Houston, and will return after the break. Hutchinson has been the biggest disappointment and just generally a big fucking mess, but still pitching to a very respectable 3.65 FIP and a league leading .358 BABIP, which are both indicative of better results moving forward.

So what the fuck do you do? Wait to see if this team can climb back into the win column before you go for it? Or do you risk blowing all your prospect capital for a short term gain in a season that’s already lost? It’s becoming a very real possibility that the effective window to upgrade the team significantly may already have closed, and that additions now won’t be enough to make meaningful contributions to a 2015 postsesason outcome. Realistically you’d like to acquire guys that can help right away and also next year, but that’s what everyone wants.

There is some merit to having some patience and leaving the young pitching core intact and hoping the offence doesn’t dry up too much next year. But we know already that the 2016 Blue Jays will badly need established pitchers – there’s benefit in shopping for it early, and historically Toronto likes the trade aisle over free agency, despite the relatively deep starting pitcher class coming up. Besides the glorious return of Marcus Stroman, the team will only really have Sanchez and Hutchinson as clear possible starters…and even that is dependent on Hutchinson not suffering a Brandon Morrow type collapse and Sanchez returning his upward trend while working a career high number of innings. There will be a huge chunk of innings gone if the front office feels that Dickey no longer pitches well enough to be worth his $12 million option and the need to carve out a roster spot for ineffective sidekick Josh Thole, and with Buehrle likely departing to either a more established contending team or retiring to the soft, green fields of Elysium. Roberto Osuna still won’t be fully ramped up to handle a full season’s workload next year and Jeff Hoffman has only just reached Double-A.

So that means just Marco Estrada and Daniel Norris as internal options to fill those remaining two or three spots in the rotation, in addition to whatever spring training hodgepodge of Scott Copeland/Matt Boyd/Felix Doubront equivalents they scrounge from the waiver wire scrap heap. Not a very exciting possibility, which makes it more reasonable to pursue a starter with some years of team control left, like Tyson Ross or Andrew Cashner on the Padres, even if the cost would obviously much higher. (I mean…to an extent though, let’s not go crazy.)

Regardless, with the trade deadline on July 31st only about two weeks away, and perhaps with Cincinnati trying to hold their crappy team together only until after hosting the All-Star game to blow it all up, the expectation is that the dominoes will soon start to fall. The AL East, a frothing orgy of good teams with obvious flaws, will likely be won depending on the deadline moves made. If the 2015 Blue Jays end up on the outside looking in it could potentially cost them this season and have broader ramifications on the employment status of this front office, and the larger direction of this franchise moving forward.

Oh and the Raptors and the Leafs did some things too recently.

I swear to you, we put a dozen arrows into him and he just stood back up. These so-called barbarians, these madmen of the north—there is no stopping them.

Reply

About

Destined to fight the world's evil, The WAMBAG endures massive battles involving impossible stunts, races on horse-pulled carriages, and the desecration of enchanting medieval castles (all done with dizzying computer graphics). Not only does the eye candy keep on coming, the tongue-in-cheek writing and deep Transylvanian accents perfect the film with a dose of dark humor.

Search

Subscribe

Atom, RSS 1.0, RSS 2.0 - no idea what the difference is.

Tagboard (!?!)

Apparently PHP7 doesn't support the same function calls I wrote in 2008? I should fix this at some point.

Recent Posts

Archives