If not for a series of happenings, the Toronto Blue Jays could be a playoff team in 2017. JFtC offers up a list of these happenings
The Toronto Blue Jays are not going to be enjoying October baseball in 2017. After two straight trips to the ALCS, they will be forced to experience like the rest of us: in the comfort of their own living room, contemplating what went wrong. Luckily, they won’t have to look very far. What follows is a collection of happenings that made this season’s postseason aspirations nothing but a pipe dream. It should go without saying that this is just for fun and, in no way, should be taken as scientific or mathematical truth.
Osuna Blown Saves
After earning his 9th blown save on Sunday afternoon, Roberto Osuna moved into a tie for most botched saves in MLB. His 35 saves this season are 4th most in baseball. If he were able to convert those nine clunkers, he would have the most in baseball. And, this wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Despite the frustration over blown saves, Osuna is one of the best young pitchers in baseball and is set up nicely to get a hefty raise in arbitration this winter.
That said, personal benefits aside, the whole point of having such a dynamic arm at the end of a game is to protect a lead and nail down a win. Well, Osuna’s nine saves resulted in seven losses for the Blue Jays. At 63-74, the Blue Jays would be in much better shape with those wins. 70-67 would put them just a game back of the 2nd Wild Card spot occupied by the Twins (accurate at the time of writing). We haven’t even touched on anything else that has gone wrong this season and we have one reason the club is out of contention.
DL McBlister Finger
Aaron Sanchez was supposed to be an ace in 2017. After his breakout 15-2 campaign last year, the Blue Jays playoff hopes relied heavily on a full year of starts from the 25 yr old righty. His mix of moving heat and tantalizing breaking stuff was supposed to lead the way for this pitching staff.
Instead, the Blue Jays were the recipients of a grand total of eight starts and 36 innings from Sanchez. He hit the DL with a blister, thought he was OK, hit the DL again, removed half of his finger nail, returned, hit the DL again. The yo-yo health of his middle finger (and the extended DL stint for J.A. Happ) resulted in the likes of Mat Latos, Mike Bolsinger, Casey Lawrence and Matt Dermody making 22 starts. Joe Biagini was supposed to be a solid entity in the bullpen. Instead, his tryout for the 2018 rotation started ahead of schedule, making 13 starts.
Now, there is no guaranteed method – or at least none that is clear to my mathematically challenged brain – to figure out how many games up the Blue Jays would be with a full compliment of starts from Sanchez and fewer from the AAA call ups. But, let’s be conservative and say that, combined with the missing Osuna saves, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Sanchez could have at least resulted in ~5 more wins. That would put their record at 75-62, which would put them easily in the first Wild Card spot and ~2.5 back of the Red Sox for the AL East lead.
Joey ‘Where are Your’ Bats
Jose Bautista is a legend. This doesn’t change with what you’re about to read. But, it would be silly to say that he has been himself this season. He hasn’t. We’ve already had the discussion about what this means for his future in Toronto. Instead, we’ll look at what has been missing this year.
Bautista is sitting on 20 HR and 55 RBI. His HR totals have declined since the year’s he took the league by storm. It would be easy to say that if he just hit more home runs, things would be better. And, they might. But, the reality is more complicated than that. The over 24% strike out rate is an issue as is his 12.7% walk rate (his lowest since his Pirates days). Bautista is pulling the ball less, not hitting for as much hard contact and is seeing his highest SwStr% mark since 2005 (10.3%).
If Bautista were playing closer to what we’re used to, the Blue Jays would be in better shape. Obviously age and decline are starting to take hold of the 36 yr old. But, if you look at his fWAR of -0.3 and his WPA of -0.66, we can get an idea of just how much the team could be impacted. No one could have predicted that he would put up such low figures. We would have expected a ~1 fWAR or a 1-2 WPA. Let’s be generous, because, again, no one would have predicted him producing with such futility. Let’s say a performing Bautista would have added 2 more team wins this year. That would put Toronto at 77-60 and in first place in the AL East.
Now, it is unfair to place all of the blame at the feet of the above three. There are several more reasons the Blue Jays are not heading to the postseason.
- Marco Estrada has gone from 2.18 WPA to -1.39. That’s a loss of 3. Blue Jays: 80-57.
- Josh Donaldson missed a significant amount of time dealing with his calf issues. His WPA went from 4.29 to 2.52 for a loss of 1.77. Considering how he can single handedly impact a game, let’s say that’s another two team wins. Blue Jays 82-55.
- Russell Martin has missed significant time, both by being on the DL and by not performing early on. However, his WPA was at 0.27 last year and is at 0.46 this season. It’s not necessarily what Martin has done, or hasn’t done that is the issue here. Instead, the issue lies in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia (-0.52 WPA) Miguel Montero (0.59 WPA), Raffy Lopez (-0.o8 WPA), Luke Maile (-1.42 WPA) and Mike Ohlman (-0.07 WPA) combination that has had to see playing time. That combo has resulted in -1.5 WPA. Let’s be fair and call it 1 less loss. Blue Jays: 83-54.
Again, this is not meant to be a scientific look at what could have been. In the run of a season, things happen – and don’t happen – to impact a team’s fortunes. And, each team is connected to the others. For example, if the Blue Jays indeed saw an increase in their wins, other teams like the Red Sox would see a change in theirs, etc etc. So, it really is a fool’s errand to take on this kind of examination. It would be even more foolish to put too much stock in this whole thing.
There will be lots of time to think about what could have been as other teams go on to enjoy their own magical postseason moments. When the season ends, you can just respond to the litany of articles about where things went wrong by sharing this post.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison- UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0 cropped form original
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.