If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to make the postseason, they have to leapfrog a few teams. Let’s see how they stack up.
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The Toronto Blue Jays will come back from the All Star break trying to make up some ground in their search for a playoff spot. They will begin 4.5 games out of the Wild Card and 9 out of the division. These are not impossible positions to be in, but they definitely present a rather large uphill battle. For the 2 Wild Card spots, there are no fewer than 7 teams in the mix. Any team that is more than 10 games out will not be considered ‘in the mix’ for this little comparison, even though there is time for the landscape to change. So, let’s see how the Blue Jays stack up against the other 6 teams.
NOTE: It is acknowledged that the following comparison only includes what has been done thus far in the 2021 season and does not take into account expected performance or the countless other factors that go into a team’s final record and playoff position. It’s just meant to be a fun little comparison.
Toronto: .776 OPS, 444 R, 784 H, 130 HR
Tampa Bay: .712 OPS, 440 R, 700 H, 110 HR
Oakland: .717 OPS, 408 R, 705 H, 115 HR
Seattle: .670 OPS, 371 R, 635 H, 110 HR
New York: .718 OPS, 370 R, 692 H, 114 HR
Cleveland: .697 OPS, 379 R, 647 H, 108 HR
LA Angels: .759 OPS, 435 R, 774 H, 123 HR
The Blue Jays have the better offense of any team currently battling it out for a Wild Card spot. Even with the fact that their offense has been top heavy, this lineup is one that will score runs and score them in bunches. We have yet to see Cavan Biggio really perform like he can. As well, the catcher position is one that has been mediocre on the whole, though Danny Jansen has shown signs of bringing his bat to life. We should also acknowledge that Santiago Espinal has been a revelation at third (or maybe it feels that way after witnessing the Biggio experiment), but has not been a typical third baseman with the bat. So, while there is lots to take comfort in, there is room for growth and Toronto knows it. More on that in a bit.
Toronto: 3.99 ERA, 336 ER, 276 BB, 814 SO, 1.26 WHIP
Tampa Bay: 3.50 ERA, 315 ER, 248 BB, 851 SO, 1.13 WHIP
Oakland: 3.80 ERA, 345 ER, 248 BB, 755 SO, 1.23 WHIP
Seattle: 4.41 ERA, 391 ER, 291, 746 SO, 1.28 WHIP
New York: 3.79 ERA, 331 ER, 253 BB, 841 SO, 1.17 WHIP
Cleveland: 4.42 ERA, 369 ER, 312 BB, 814 SO, 1.30 WHIP
LA Angels: 4.90 ERA, 426 ER, 357 BB, 841 SO, 1.40 WHIP
Clearly, the pitching is where the Blue Jays lose some ground to the other teams, but not as much as one might think. If we want to break it down by bullpen, which is where the Blue Jays have struggled most, the numbers look as follows:
Toronto: 3.97 ERA, 145 ER, 149 BB, 356 SO, 1.29 WHIP
Tampa Bay: 3.26 ERA, 138 ER, 125 BB, 410 SO, 1.15 WHIP
Oakland: 3.95 ERA, 127 ER, 107 BB, 245 SO, 1.27 WHIP
Seattle: 4.13 ERA, 160 ER, 124 BB, 353 SO, 1.23 WHIP
New York: 3.58 ERA, 129 ER, 114 BB, 354 SO, 1.16 WHIP
Cleveland: 3.35 ERA, 120 ER, 151 BB, 395 SO, 1.28 WHIP
LA Angels: 4.70 ERA, 186 ER, 174 BB, 356 SO, 1.42 WHIP
It is the bullpen that is bringing the overall pitching numbers down, which will surprise no one. With Robbie Ray being a gamble that has, to date, paid off rather well for the player and the team and Ross Stripling making some adjustments that have led to a nice stretch of starts, this rotation is not looking too shabby. But, they cannot carry the full load. The bullpen has been a mess of injuries and frustratingly poor performances… looking at you, Tyler Chatwood. But, with such an obvious need, the front office will surely continue looking for more fixes like Adam Cimber and Trevor Richards.
Ability to Address Needs
Ross Atkins & Co have very clear needs. In order of importance, they are bullpen, rotation, third base. One could easily flip flop the rotation and third, of course. This is where the club’s real strength comes into play. With a total payroll of $144M and an estimated $51.2M in Luxury Tax space, they have plenty of room to add the salary of a very talented player. As well, they boast a rather well liked farm system. MLB ranked them 7th back in March, while Fangraphs has them as high as 2nd with a future value (FV) of $305M. I prefer to use Fangraphs’ list for this experiment, not because it is more favourable for Toronto, but because it outlines the future value of prospects, which is something front office’s really do care about.
Tampa Bay has a much better system ($530 worth of FV), which they could use to land some help at the trade deadline. But, they are in a unique position where they need to keep their costs low, so trading away a chunk of that future value could hurt them more than a team like Toronto. Cleveland is clearly rebuilding after the winter they had, so would they really look to trade from their 6th best system? Is now the time for them to do that? Seattle is ranked 4th, but are they prepared to deal from their system, when a significant chunk of it is pitching that they desperately need? The Angels have the 23rd best system, so… Oakland is always in cost savings mode and is not likely to bring in top talent. And, even if they tried, they have the 26th best system from which to work. Not a good spot to be in.
The real threat here is the Yankees, who find themselves with the 7th best system. But, here’s the thing: the powerful wallet the Yankees usually have may not be available to them. They sit with under $2M in Luxury Tax space. We know that Brian Cashman has wanted to avoid the penalty for going over the threshold, so are they really going to ‘go for it’? With injuries to their big bats, their solution isn’t as simple as just bringing in an impact player. So, maybe we don’t see them pull off the blockbuster we’ve seen in the past.
Realistically, Toronto may have the best chance of making a run in the next few weeks. They have very obvious needs and find themselves in a position, as an organization, where they can make some serious noise at the trade deadline to address said needs. Does that mean we’ll see a repeat of 2015? ABSOLUTELY NOT. This front office will not empty the cupboards for a one time run, as exciting as that might be. Instead, they’ll look for smart deals, but effective ones. However, that does not mean that they should be aiming low. They can tolerate to gamble a bit more.
The Blue Jays are in a position where they’re loaded with young talent at the big league level, have lots of money with which to work and have a very valuable farm system from which to draw. This is a perfect storm for a team looking to make a playoff push. They might be in the best position of the other 6 Wild Card contenders in this regard. What is even more exciting is that this is not just a one off situation for this season, which it could be for some of the others. This Blue Jays front office has an opportunity to not only make a push this season, but set themselves up for more in the coming years.
*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.