In a short season, a team like the Toronto Blue Jays could make the playoffs, but ZiPS projections aren’t optimistic
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Theoretically, the Toronto Blue Jays could qualify for the postseason quicker than we thought just a few months ago. Assuming MLB continues to push this season to completion, a 60 game sprint and expanding the playoff pool to 16 teams means that we may not have to wait as long as we thought to see Canada’s team in the playoffs. As exciting as that is, it is still a longshot, especially if you follow ZiPS projections.
It is always fun to think about how many home runs Vladimir Guerrero Jr.might hit, or how many times Randal Grichuk will strike out, how many guys Hyun-Jin Ryu might strike out or how many at bats Rowdy Tellez might actually see. Well, thanks to Fangraphs, we don’t have to wonder as they have various projections all in one place. Recently, Dan Szymborski updated the 2020 ZiPS playoff chances. It is an ever evolving experiment since things in MLB change so often these days. However, he has given us an up to date list.
At the start of this odd 2020 season, the Blue Jays had a projected record of 27-33. That seems a little rough given the nature of the talent they have heading into this season. It certainly flies in the face of all the confidence we’ve heard from GM, Ross Atkins. It also flies in the face of fans who are actually quite excited about their Blue Jays. The general feeling can be summed up by saying this is a better team than they’re given credit for, which can fuel players into having more success than people think.
At the beginning of the season, Toronto had a 37.3% chance of making the playoffs, 17.4% chances of a Wild Card spot, 5.6% chance of winning the division and a 1.4% chance of winning the World Series. Their playoff chances increased by 20.9% just based on the new format of the season. So, for Major League Baseball, who want to see as much revenue as they can from increasing the playoff pool, this is exactly what they want to see. Of course, ZiPS doesn’t think the expanded format will impact the Blue Jays’ chances of winning it all, since that only increased by 0.3%.
Of course, if you were to ask anyone in baseball, the “just get in” attitude is very much alive. There are teams all around the league who feel that if they can just make it into the postseason, anything can happen and they have a legitimate chance of success. That might be especially true of a young, talented and hungry group like the Toronto Blue Jays.
Because 2020 is a short season, the same attitude may apply. A single game, or series, can have an impact on their playoff chances. As Szymborski points out, the difference between winning a series and losing it can have a major impact on your chances. On July 28, after the opening series in Tampa Bay and Washington resulted in a 2-2 record, the ZiPS projections had the Blue Jays’ projected record unchanged at 27-33, but their playoff chances increased to 40.5%, Wild Card to 18.6%, AL East to 6.3% and World Series to 1.6%.
Likely, after Tanner Roark was effective on Tuesday, the projections likely change, even if a little. And, as every game passes, the chances will increase or decrease accordingly.
Fans of the Blue Jays will point, not necessarily to wins and losses, but to HOW the games were played thus far as reason to take the over on current ZiPS projections. We saw great pitching performances from starters, including Thomas Hatch an Anthony Kay and we’ve seen home runs and even some manufacturing of runs. Toronto looked in position to win all three games against the Rays (but for a couple of bullpen decisions) and have handled the reigning World Series champion Nationals rather nicely.
The math doesn’t agree, but this is a dangerous Blue Jays team, certainly more dangerous than folks might think. Are they a perfect team? No. Do they have question marks? Yes. BUT, have they hit their stride and started to fire on all cylinders? Nope. They need to sort out their bullpen, or at least the usage thereof. They haven’t really seen Grichuk’s bat come alive, nor Vlad’s for that matter. We haven’t seen the debut of Nate Pearson yet. Their closer is hurt and, perhaps their best player, Bo Bichette, is dealing with some hamstring tightness.
A lot has to go right for the Toronto Blue Jays to surpass their ZiPS projections, but there is a very real sense that this roster can actually do just that. Call it naive, call it ‘pie in the sky’, or call it realistic. Either way, you’d be correct.
*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.