The Toronto Blue Jays are looking to improve on a 95 loss season, but what is a reasonable expectation for improvement?
The Toronto Blue Jays lost 95 games in 2019. At times, it was painful to watch. Sure, there were young, exciting players coming up, but overall, it was a bad year. The good news is that the club is said to be making efforts to improve upon 95 losses and that should be a rather easy task to do. But, how much of an improvement is possible?
The first thing to acknowledge is how the Blue Jays performed once they had their full compliment of those young position players we’d been hearing so much about. Once Toronto’s lineup featured Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.(when he was healthy) things looked much different.
The first half of the season, the club had a 34-57 record. For the second half, their fortunes improved to the tune of a 33-38 record, putting them closer to being a .500 team. The argument can be made that the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays will more closely resemble the team we saw in the 2nd half of 2019.
Obviously, there is a huge need to fill the rotation out, but let’s take the time to think on this a bit…or at least have some fun by taking liberties with math. Newly acquired Chase Anderson is projected to put up 9 wins. Let’s assume he takes the spot of Clayton Richard, who was supposed to be in the 2019 rotation and made 10 starts. Richard won a grand total of 1 game. Again, this is silly math, but that looks like an improvement of 8 wins.
Even if Toronto picks up just one more starter, they could be improving upon their 2019 output. Let’s say that starter is Michael Pineda. He’s not a to level starter, but he certainly is not a dumpster dive find, which makes him the kind of starter Toronto could land. He’s projected to see 11 wins. Aaron Sanchez and his 3 total wins in 23 2019 starts are no longer in the picture, which would create a boost of another 8 wins. By silly math, that’s 16 more wins in 2020.
Clay Buchholz started a dozen games and won 2. Let’s also remember the Blue Jays started 2019 with Edwin Jackson. So, it isn’t too hard to envision an improved rotation in 2020. Anthony Kay saw some starts and could take a step forward in his development. Trent Thornton pitched 154 innings and showed signs of effectiveness mixed with signs of the opposite. Could he improve his consistency? If so, the Blue Jays rotation alone could look to improve by 15 or so wins. It could happen, right? That would make the Blue Jays an 82-80 team.
Again, the above features some funky math and could likely be done better with a lot more research into the nitty gritty of projections. But, the purpose here is to simply start a convo about how much improvement can be made in 2020.
If we want to take this a bit further, we can use some more rather loose math and look at how much improvement the offense can make. The first place to look would be to third base. Vlad Jr had a rookie season that yielded 0.4 fWAR. Marred by a -10.4 Def score, he could have put up more wins than that. Arguably, his age 20 season didn’t give us the offensive production we’d dreamed on. But, what if he can take a step forward with 514 plate appearances under his belt? He’s protected to hit 25+ home runs and slash .294/.363/.863 on his way to putting up almost 4 fWAR. 4 more wins for the 2020 Blue Jays to put them at 86 wins.
Bichette put up 1.7 fWAR in just 46 games. One has to wonder what that could look like over a full season next year. Let’s say we just double it as he will certainly play in 92 games. 86 wins just went to 88. What if Danny Jansen can actually find a consistent bat? His terrific defense was responsible for his 1.4 fWAR in 2019 as his offense got him am Off score of -16.3. His 2018 saw an Off score of 2.1 over 31 games. We could add another win to Jansen since he’s projected to put ~2 fWAR in 2020. That’s 87 wins.
Obviously, none of this math really means anything. But, you get the idea. When trying to improve on 95 losses, a team wouldn’t need to do much, not a team like the Blue Jays. They’re young, talented and have money to make improvements. When thinking about how many ore games Toronto could win in 2020, the idea of turning 20 losses into wins doesn’t sound that crazy when you stop to think about it. It’s tough for a team to improve by 20 wins from one season to the next; it’s a lot of improvement, really.
But, without doing much of anything this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays very well could improve by 20 wins, which would give them an 87-75 record. Seeing that would probably cause a chuckle from a lot of fans. All of the above is based on several things going right, which is not always the case. So, it would be fair to say that 20 wins is wishful thinking. But, to consider that this team is at least .500 team might just be realistic and the Blue Jays might want to share this article with some attractive free agents.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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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.