The Toronto Blue Jays may be considered underdogs, but they are about to enter what should be a rather exciting 2018 season
The Toronto Blue Jays finished 2017 with a 76-86 record, well out of first place in the division and only avoided last place on the last day of the season. The Wild Card race only provided marginally improved hope, but it ended with 9 games separating Toronto from its third straight postseason appearance. It was painful. Whatever coul dgo wrong did for the Blue Jays last season. Injuries exposed a lack of depth while under performing took care of the rest.
If there was any silver lining to be found it is that the season made it very clear what the team would need to do in the offseason if they were going to compete again. It made winter shopping that much easier. Middle infield depth: check, check. A new right fielder: check. Outfield compliment pieces: check. 5th starter: check. Even the bullpen has been addressed, albeit in less than expensive fashion. Adding multiple arms to compete for jobs is a way to create lots of depth. The only position that could have used some help to not see an upgrade was the back up catcher spot. The argument can be made that Luke Maile is enough to begin the season.
So, have the Blue Jays done enough to compete? Well,a week or so ago USA Today had the Blue Jays finishing 3rd in the division at 79-83, which would also put them out of a Wild Card spot and Minnesota and the LA Angels in. With the acquisition of a reasonably reliable 5th starter, Fangraphs has updated Toronto’s projected record to 85-77. They have the Red Sox winning the AL East and the Yankees claiming the first Wild Card spot with 90 wins. Fangraphs says the Angels will finish with 86 wins, just a game ahead of Toronto.With the Twins and Mariners pr0jected to see 81 wins, the American League looks to be a very exciting race in 2018.
Firstly, it is entirely possible that the projections are just that and any team could perform better, or worse than expected. In the case of Toronto, they could be an example of the former. It is entirely possible that they outperform their expected 85 wins. At BP Toronto, Joshua Howsam did an excellent job of explaining how the Blue Jays just might have discovered, and are acting upon, the new market inefficiency. By bringing in a collection of pitchers who have unique aspects of their fastballs, Toronto very well could be taking steps toward controlling the power (hitters) in the AL East. If this proves to be successful, it could mean an increase in projected wins, as was pointed out to me on Twitter. Projections don’t account for this kind of advantage.
simple way of being optimistic about Toronto’s chances is the Aaron Sanchez effect. Having a full year of a healthy Sanchez could result in more games won than expected. Raising the floor over guys like Ryan Goins, Darwin Barney and the 2017 version of Jose Bautista very well could result in a few more wins. Projections are not an exact science and there is always room for differences, one way or another.
The rest of the American League will be subject to the same thought process. Things could go differently than expected for the likes of the Red Sox. Can they continue to compete without adding any thunder in their lineup? If they decide to take the plunge, would J.D. Martinez be enough to help with that? Can Chris Sale continue to carry their rotation? What exactly is David Price these days? Can Dustin Pedroia stay on the field? Can a new manager have a positive impact?
Can the Yankees slug their way to the postseason? With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, it sure looks they could. Or, will they strike out at an unprecedented rate? Is the rotation enough to keep them in games to bring in their bullpen? With C.C. Sabathia returning and Masahiro Tanaka choosing to stay, do they have what it takes to compete? It sure looks like they will. But, they aren’t a lock.
The Angels have been active this winter, adding the most intriguing story of the offseason in Shohei Ohtani. They added Zack Coart and Ian Kinsler, while adding Justin Upton last season. But, as pointed out by Joe Posnanski of MLB.com, the Angels are hoping a lot goes right for their aging squad. Do we believe in the Twins? What about the Mariners? Can they benefit from some luck, etc to outperform their projections?
All of these questions will be answered when the 2018 season begins. For the Blue Jays they have several questions of their own. Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, Sanchez, etc all bring questions, the answers to which will have a massive impact on their 2018 fortunes. But, this is the whole point. Right now, the projections indicate that there is room for so much to happen. Any team projections could change by 5 easily, which makes this year’s playoff race so interesting. This season will be fun to watch for fans of baseball.
If you’re a fan of the Blue Jays, it will be exciting from start to finish. With any luck, it will finish much better than it did last year.
I'm in a particularly pleasant mood this evening, so I'm gonna go ahead and double down on my prediction that the #BlueJays are a 90 win team in 2018.
I'm not just saying it, and I know what has to happen, so save your breath.
— ⚾ Doyle ⚾ (@Doyle_JFtC) February 17, 2018
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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