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2018 Blue Jays: they played to their opponent’s level

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They were really awful against great teams and really good against awful teams

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2018 season now fully in the books, it’s now the time of autopsies of the wreckage before fully turning the books and looking towards the offseason. One thing that has struck throughout the season is how divergent the Blue Jays’ results were depending on the opponent (and their winning percentage). With all 162 games now in, we can break this down in detail.

We can break opponents into roughly three bins of equal total games faced. The first group is the titans of the American League, who all won 97+ games (the four playoff teams save Cleveland, who were under .500 outside their own division). The next are nine mediocre-to-good teams who won between 77 and 91 games (four of these were NL teams against whom the Jays only played 17 games). Finally, the bottom tier of a half dozen teams who win 67 or less games.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

2018 opponents

The 2018 Blue Jays were simply abysmal against the best teams, with a putrid 12-39 record against the best teams. Of note, the Blue Jays played 88 games - over half their schedule - against teams that won 89 games or more (minimum .550 winning percentage), posting a 28-60 record. Against the middle tier, the Jays held their own, just a little under .500. Against the bottom tier, the Jays played at a 105 win pace.

We can see just how lopsided this is. The Jays played 409 points better (0.646-0.235) against the bottom group than the top group. Of course, one would expect better results against bad teams than good teams. But as groups, the good teams only won at 0.630 clip and the bad teams at a .372 clip. That’s a significant difference of 258 points, but the Jays differential is over 50% wider.

Even adjusting the group winning percentage to exclude the results against the Jays and weight by how often each team within played the Jays only moves the gap to 274 points, still about a third smaller than the Jays gap. To an astonishing degree in 2018, the Jays rolled over against good teams and beat up on bad teams.

Compounding this result is how different it’s been to historical experience. For so many years this century, it seemed like every year the Jays hung reasonably tough against the red Sox and Yankees, but failed to beat up on the bottom feeders. So many years when the Rays were awful, the Jays would go 5-7 or 6-6 against them, while the Yankees were practically sweeping season series against the likes of Kansas City and Minnesota.

One year in particular comes mind in this respect quite vividly. In 2007, the six AL teams won at least 88 games. The Jays went a very respectable 35-36 (.493) against them and the NL teams faced who did the same. Against the teams that won 72 or fewer games, the Jays went just 28-25 (.528). There was almost no difference in how the Jays performed against the best teams as the worst teams.