The blueprint for success for the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays was evident even before the team reported for Spring Training. Have your stars perform well - especially in the lineup - and you can get away with some holes.
The Kansas City Royals had below replacement-level play from second base on their way to a Wild Card spot and eventually the World Series. They also had replacement-level play from their DH. Both were way below the American League average for those positions. The San Francisco Giants had just over replacement level play from their second baseman. Point is, there are many ways to get to the playoffs and having an above average second baseman doesn't need to be there.
The Blue Jays got OK production from that spot and really, there were too many guys who filled in to name. But since his recall in May, Devon Travis took the spot and ran with it. He wasn't great, but he was better than the Tolleson/Goins/Kawasaki group that has been there. He'll be the starter in Game One of the ALDS.
The lineup worked to perfection. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Reyes all stayed productive - and healthy. In fact all four may get some MVP votes. Michael Saunders was really good in his first season in Toronto and helped out that left field spot. Russell Martin wasn't as good as he was for Pittsburgh but he was much better than most people thought. Justin Smoak also showed signs of what made him a top prospect with Texas and Seattle.
I really don't think the Mariners want to see this team in the ALCS - if that happens.
All in all, this team's offence was one of the best lineups in the league and everybody stepped up when they got a chance. But that's not the story. The story was the pitching staff.
R.A Dickey finally - finally - had that season most have been waiting for. It wasn't quite his breakout year with the New York Mets, but he would have been the team's top pitcher if it wasn't for Marcus Stroman. Stroman, in his first full season, was really good and above and beyond what anybody would have thought. He cemented his name in the Opening Day starter spot for the foreseeable future.
Mark Buehrle was Mark Buehrle. Not quite 2014, but above average in what is the four spot in the rotation. Drew Hutchison and Daniel Norris were both incredible. Norris was so good, he made the decision to keep Sanchez in the bullpen easy. Sanchez didn't pitch badly, but he got some huge eighth inning outs and even some saves as he split the closing duties with Brett Cecil. Steve Delabar also had a big bounce back from his disappointing 2014 season.
The AL East was not as bad as some people thought, and the Blue Jays needed to fend off the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. 94 wins was enough to get there and leave the other two teams battling for the Wild Card.
In the playoffs, the Blue Jays will need to continue their balanced lineup with their unexpected above-average pitching staff. I don't know how John Gibbons will pick his playoff rotation after Stroman and Dickey, but that's a good problem to have. And with Russell Martin behind the plate, everyone improved themselves especially the young pitchers.
Finally, playoff baseball comes back to Toronto. What a way for Paul Beeston to go out.