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Blue Jays need to play at 1993 pace to make postseason

Toronto Blue Jays v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

We have a Guest Post from Joe Rossignol of Thanks Joe.

The Toronto Blue Jays are off to an ugly start.

Following back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series in each of the last two years, the Blue Jays have opened the 2017 season with a franchise-worst 6-16 record. That’s bad enough for dead last place in Major League Baseball.

Six games behind in the race for the second wild card. Eight games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the lead in what is shaping up to be a tough American League East division. The only team yet to record back-to-back wins this season. Fourth fewest runs.

Few expected the Blue Jays to be this bad.

With 140 games to go, the Blue Jays might still have time to turn things around. But to keep their postseason hopes alive, the team will have to start winning at a pace it hasn’t pulled off in nearly a quarter century—that’s not a typo—and it’ll have to be soon.

Blast From The Past

In the five seasons since a second wild card was added in 2012, 86 wins are the fewest that have been needed to lock down the spot—a mark set by the Houston Astros in 2015. Last season, the Blue Jays needed 89 wins to play a tiebreaker game for the spot with the Orioles.

For a chance to play October baseball for a third consecutive season, the Blue Jays will likely need in the neighbourhood of 87 wins on the season—give or take a few games. To accomplish that feat, the team would need a winning percentage of around .578 hereon.

Last season, only four teams hit that mark. Two of them, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians, faced off in the World Series. The other two, the Texas Rangers and Washington Nationals, won their respective divisions. Nobody said it would be easy.

The Blue Jays have not finished .578 or better in a full season since winning back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

They came close in 2015, finishing the season with a .574 mark and clinching the American League East division, but that roster was an offensive juggernaut, recording a league-best 891 runs and 232 home runs while hitting a respectable .269 as a team.

Winning at a 1993 or even a 2015 pace hereon seems unlikely, but the beauty of sports is that anything can happen.

Early Struggles

So far, not a lot has gone right for the Blue Jays this season. And they’ll have to pull off any potential turnaround without the services of Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders, who combined for 169 of the team’s 759 runs last season.

A lack of offensive production has been a major reason for the team’s poor performance in April so far. Toronto managed just 78 runs through its first 22 games—only the San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Kansas City Royals scored fewer.

José Bautista, who cannot be forgotten as a six-time all-star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, is hitting just .163 with one home run through his first 80 at bats. Those stats are markedly lower than the 108 runs and 40 home runs he belted in 2015 while batting .250.

Devon Travis, who hit .300 or better over the past two seasons, is another under performer so far, hitting just .129 at the plate. His incredibly slow start follows minor surgery on his right knee that forced him to miss nearly six weeks of Spring Training.

Add Russell Martin, Steve Pearce, Chris Coghlan, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the list of Blue Jays hitting below the Mendoza Line, or .200. For those unfamiliar, that’s considered to be the minimum acceptable batting average for a professional baseball player.

The Blue Jays’ struggles extend beyond the plate. A rash of injuries has sidelined four of the team’s best players this month, including all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and starting pitchers J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez.

Meanwhile, the bullpen continues to be problematic, with the performance of closer Roberto Osuna most concerning as of late after committing three blown saves in four chances.

Moving Forward

On the bright side, starter Marcus Stroman has been particularly stellar on the mound recently. In his last outing, he threw an efficient 99 pitches in a complete game to earn the win in a 6-2 victory against the Los Angeles Angels on April 23.

Martin and Bautista are finally starting to heat up at the plate, as well, while Justin Smoak, Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera, and Ryan Goins have been hitting the ball well too.

While some might say “it’s still early,” one thing is clear: the Blue Jays are going to have to play like it’s 1993—or 2015 at the very least—hereon. Whether the team can build any momentum, and if and how soon they break out, will ultimately determine their fate.