Blue Jays will play 22 of their first 31 games against AL East opponents. Will they sink or swim?
It’s not how a team starts but how they finish. Heading into the playoffs hot can lead to series wins and some exciting baseball; however, getting out of the gate poorly can make it if very difficult for a team to get to the playoffs. A bad month can doom the Toronto Blue Jays entire season?
You might be asking yourself, “Why is this guy being an alarmist?” Well, Jays From the Couch reader, let me tell you why red flags are being raised in my twisted little cranium.
The Toronto Blue Jays open the season on the road with 2 games in Baltimore and 4 games in Tampa Bay. The Blue Jays get their home schedule going on April 11th when they host the National League West’s Milwaukee Brewers for a 2 games series. Ya, the Brewers. The Jays also face the O’s and Boston Red Sox for a pair of 3-game series before heading out on the road.
Toronto plays 13 of the next 16 games on the road with a 7-game road trip, followed by a 3 game homestand (Tampa), ending with a 6 game road trip. Their road opponents are as follows: Los Angeles Angels (4 games), St. Louis Cardinals (3 games), New York Yankees (3 games) and Tampa (3 games).
For those at home keeping count, 22 of Toronto’s first 31 games are against AL East opponents. Despite a down year in 2016 by the Rays and the New York Yankees, the AL East is still a beast. The AL East champs, Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win the division. The O’s have an improved rotation to go with a strong bullpen and excellent coaching. The Rays rotation looks great. The Yankees appear to be the weakest team in the division but they’re the Yankees and should never be underestimated.
The non-AL East opponents the Blue Jays will face during the 31 games (LAA, Brewers, and Cards) aren’t as concerning. The Brewers are a weak rebuilding team. The Angels have good pieces, I’m looking at you Mike Trout, but a weak rotation shouldn’t be an issue for Toronto. The Cards will be a strong contender in 2017 with an improved rotation, bullpen, and offense and should give the Blue Jays a run for their money.
Opponents 2016 Record
Boston Red Sox (3 games)- 93-69
Orioles (6 games)- 89-73
Yankees (3 games)- 84-78
Rays (10 games)- 68-94
Brewers (2 games)- 73-89
Cardinals (3 games)- 86-76
Angels (4 games)- 74-88
Tampa Bay Woes
Over the year the Blue Jays have struggled against the Rays. It doesn’t matter what kind of year the Rays are having, the Blue Jays never seem to fare well against Tampa and even worse when they visit Tampa. The Blue Jays have won just one season series against the Rays in 10 years (11-8 in 2014) with an overall record of 74-110.
2016 was no different, as Toronto finished with a record or 8-11. Since 2010 the Blue Jays are 25-41 at Tropicana Field and 29-35 when the Rays visit the Rogers Center. With 10 games against the Rays to start the 2017 season, the Blue Jays will need to do better than their 41.5% winning percentage (since 2010) or risk entering June with below .500.
Marco Estrada, Russell Martin, Jose Bautista, Steve Pearce, Devon Travis, and Josh Donaldson are all nursing injuries in one way, or another. It’s not like these guys are supporting players. These are core players.
The other factor that should be considered is that the type of injuries that are ailing this group. Back, knee/leg and wrist injuries have a tendency to linger, like all season kinda lingering. Removing one or two of these key contributors from the lineup or rotation drastically weakens the Blue Jays.
The combination of a heavy AL East schedule, a high number of games versus Tampa Bay, and the possible loss of core players is a recipe for a slow start. A poor start can easily be erased by stringing several win streaks together throughout the summer. Let’s hope that Toronto is able to finish the 31 games in question around .500.
My prediction: 13-18
Leave us a comment, predicting what the Blue Jays record will be after the first 31 games.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem
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