A 60 GAME TORONTO BLUE JAYS SEASON GIVES FANS REASON FOR PLAYOFF OPTIMISM
Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase
As I type this, the 2020 Toronto Blue Jays are 26-20, 3.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East standings. The website of record Baseball Reference has given the Blue Jays a 97.9% chance of making the playoffs, a 7.4% chance of flying a pennant at Sahlen Field, and a dizzying 2.9% chance of winning the World Series. Pythagorean projections would place the Buffalo Boys at 34-26 come the end of an unprecedented 60-game schedule. If numbers don’t lie, then the Toronto fan base must consist of 98.6% happy campers.
I’m not sure why I value this 60-game schedule as highly as I do. Perhaps it is the historically challenging circumstances in which MLB has played out its season. Perhaps because it is occurring in my 60th year on this planet and from a numerological perspective that is pretty damn cool. Most likely it is because a shortened season has given so many young rosters a chance to prove they belong in the big leagues. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Toronto, er-Buffalo. Should you post to social media that you believed back in March that a youthful Blue Jays ballclub was capable of what they have achieved, I will respond asking to see the proof of your feathered faith.
Technically, the Blue Jays completed an abbreviated slate of games during the strike-plagued 1981 season. Toronto was a woeful 17-41 in the first-half of the interrupted schedule and while the likes of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby, Jesse Barfield and Dave Stieb saw action in 1981, that Blue Jays team was not nearly as accomplished as the 2020 model. But what about the 7 previous Toronto playoff teams? Let’s examine 60-game samples from each playoff squad on a simple won-loss basis-no wRC, WAR, WHO or WHY.
Since the entire schedule is 60 games long, we should start at the beginning of each playoff season and review what each club did in their first 60 games:
1985- 38-22 1992- 38-22 1993-35-25 1991- 33-27 2016- 31-29 2015- 30-20 1989- 28-32
Making the assumption the 2020 team will continue to win at the same rate as it has through September 13th, this year’s team will finish with a record of 34-26. Good enough to be ranked the 4th best record to start a season amongst this group of Blue Jays teams. Not sure where you stood when the season finally got started in July, but I am jumping for joy when I look at the standings in September.
In fairness, the 2020 60-game sample is similar in pressures and and post-season implications to a final threescore slate of games. So let’s compare today’s 60 game performance to the playoff teams of yore:
2015- 42-18 1993- 37-23 1989- 37-23 1985- 36-24 1992- 35-25 1991- 33-29 2016- 32-28
The 2020 projected Blue Jays would slot in as the 6th best performance over their final 60 games when compared to their playoff forefathers. When I wipe the stardust from my eyes and look past the thrills of the unexpected run through this season, it is a fair comparison. For certain the 2020 Blue Jays are a superior team to the 2016 model, and where this year’s team has exceeded expectations, the 1991 team should have been the first World Series championship team in Toronto. There is no shame in finishing at 34-26 in a season-long pennant race, playing what truthfully are 60 away games.
Because I’m “that guy” and am not satisfied until all points of view have been taken under consideration, I resulted to computer simulations of the 2020 abbreviated season. Baseball Mogul, the simulator I have found to be not only realistic but also more “anything can happen” in its approach to simulations, is also one of the few to offer updates that featured actual 60-game, expanded playoff options.
Making adjustments to the most-commonly used lineups and pitching staffs (but using default team strategies because even now I have no idea what Charlie Montoyo‘s in game tendencies are, I simulated the 60-game 2020 schedule 60 times. The average Toronto record over 60 simulated seasons was 26.2 Wins 33.80 Losses. The Blue Jays finished with only 1 winning record (32-28), never qualified for the playoffs, and placed 3rd in the AL East 12 times, 4th 42 times and last 6 times.
In fairness to the real 2020 Blue Jays, predictive simulation performance is based on historical results and projected progressions of prospects, so by no means should we take any simulation result to be baseball law. But the simulation results determined by played actual 60-games schedules should bring a sense of pride to all fans of the REAL Toronto Blue Jays. To have played .565 baseball to date with a positive run differential is a tribute to the talents and determination we have witnessed so far.
We all fall victim to the flood of sabermetic and performance numbers that wash across our social media feeds and sports outlets. When the Blue Jays were hatched in 1977, most of these numerical guideposts were not even invented yet. Baseball fans had mystical grades assigned by scouts to shine a light on the potential of young players. I vividly remember spending the winter of 1976-77 putting the boxscores and Sporting News final season statistics aside and embracing the unknown of an expansion draft. I no longer flashed the backs of my Yaz, Rice and Tiant baseball cards to my Yankees/Mets/Phillies deluded classmates as proof that next year was the year.
A brand new adventure to the ancestral home of my mom’s family laid ahead, even if I would have to wait torturous months for a 2 or 3 game sample of Blue Jays glory on WPIX or Ron Fairly to be introduced at the All-Star Game. While the 2020 Blue Jays are far from an expansion franchise, their roster has a feel of one given the sheer youth of the majority of its regulars and the number of castoff veterans utilized by Montoyo.
I have said in previous articles and podcast appearances that nobody wants to hear about the labor pains, they only want to see the baby. The 2020 Toronto Blue Jays are certainly the most youthful playoff edition in franchise history. But when the season ends and fans and media look at the wins and losses, they will bask in the glow of one beautiful playoff team, baby.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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