Jays From the Couch looks at whether there really is reason for pessimism in the future of the Toronto Blue Jays
My mother was born and raised in Clydebank, Scotland just west of Glasgow. I grew up with her telling me to “caaalm dooon” at times, as I was probably a typically excitable kid. Toronto Blue Jays’ president Mark Shapiro was on the Jeff Blair show earlier today, and the responses I’ve seen from Jays fans on Twitter has been a continuation of the offseason to date – basically apoplectic – and I think they would do well to listen to my mother.
I’ve seen normally reasonable writers and analysts comment that they will cancel their season tickets if the Jays don’t spend more money. There seems to be a broad consensus that the holes in the outfield, first base, the outfield corners, backup catcher and the bungled departure of Edwin Encarnacion, means that the Jays are destined to mediocrity in 2017. I’ve seen fans spew vile nonsense about the current front office and their acumen/intelligence/integrity. Even the normally level headed Jonah Keri recently authored a bit of a hit piece that was riddled with very thin rationale. Even our very own Chief Editor took to Twitter immediately following the interview and expressed a sort of despair, while I thought to myself, “That Shapiro guy sounds like he is doing exactly what I would do!” I think Jays fans need to CAAALM DOOON.
Mr. Shapiro made a vitally important point during the interview, which was to point out that the offseason is not yet complete. But just for fun, let’s take a look at 2017 Jays team projections at Fangraphs based upon the current roster. The Jays are projected to have an 82-80 record and finish third a good ways behind the Red Sox and just a game behind the Yankees. Let’s remember that these projections are intended to be analytical tools and not magic eight balls.
With that being said, the projected run differential for the current roster for 2017 is just a +8, with projected runs scored per game of 4.66 versus runs against per game of 4.61. My first observation regarding these numbers is that the 4.66 projection is just behind the actual 4.69 runs per game scored by the 2016 Blue Jays. That may be counter intuitive based on the fact EE and Jose Bautista are not part of the 2017 projection at this point, but that is how the current roster projects. However, I believe that the more important projection is the 4.61 runs against per game.
I don’t know if the models that derive these projections are proprietary, but I have been unable to find any specifics on how RA/G is calculated by Fangraphs. I am going to make an assumption that may be false, but I believe it is a reasonable one – it is likely some sort of projection which rolls up the current roster of pitchers using aging curves and FIP. This introduces where I believe the projection is flawed, as the Blue Jays have assembled a pitching staff which one could call a “FIP-buster”.
The repertoires of Marco Estrada, JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez (particularly the first two) have resulted in run prevention that far outperforms what something like FIP suggests “should” happen. The Jays staff had an ERA 3.79 and RA/G of 4.11 – both good for 6th in all of MLB. In contrast, the staff’s K/9 ranked 14th and FIP ranked 11th. I think the 4.61 projected RA/G is too high, and that something closer to 4.3 to 4.4 is more reasonable even if Estrada and/or Happ revert enough to offset the potential for Marcus Stroman improving. That sort of run differential results in the Jays projecting to around 85 to 88 wins with the current roster.
Obviously, there are significant risks to any projection. For the Jays, the lack of depth is particularly concerning, and particularly so in the starting rotation. Gosh forbid Josh Donaldson were to land on the DL for an extended period of time, and/or the front office isn’t able to stitch together a bullpen like they did in 2016. If my framework is reasonable, then just signing Bautista or patching together 2-3 WAR with a couple of platoon pieces would place the Jays firmly in AL wild card contention and possibly contention for the East if the Red Sox suffer some bad luck.
*Featured Image Credit: C Stem- JFtC
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