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Projecting the 2021 Jays: worst case scenarios

A bunch of scenarios that hopefully don’t come to pass

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Having looked yesterday at the best case scenarios from 100 simulated outcomes for the 2021 Blue Jays, today’s we’ll close things out by looking at the opposite side, the left tail of the distribution where much more goes wrong than right. Also known as the ballad of the 2013 Blue Jays outside of three weeks in June.

Related: Projecting the 2021 Jays: team win distribution

1. 68 wins

Not surprisingly, this worst case outcome is the results of a lot of bad luck, as a bad 29 WAR team loses nine of those in translating production to the standings. This is the biggest single drag in all 100 simulations (by multiple wins), so that’s a major driver of what would represent a terrible season, but even without of that would still be a very appointing result at 77 wins.

It’s pretty much an across the board letdown. Surprisingly, this isn’t a scenario where the tea is completely ravaged by injures, with only Teoscar Hernandez and Randal Grichuk missing significant time. That being said, they are a factor as most only have about 500 PA and no one exceeds 600 so there’s consistently bench players in the lineup who are cumulatively replacement level.

But even when in the lineup, many struggle. Teoscar and Grichuk are replacement level; Rowdy Tellez, Alejandro Kirk and Danny Jansen combine for 1.5 WAR. Cavan Biggio has a disappointing, below average 1.5 WAR season. The other five regulars are actually productive, posting 3-4 WAR seasons. That results in respectable positional total of 21 WAR.

The same cannot be said of the pitching. Hyun-Jin Ryu is misses most of the year and is just solid when on the mound. The other starters are reasonably healthy, but not very productive. Robbie Ray and Tanner Roark are replacement level, Ross Stripling and Steven Matz decent but miss time. The bullpen is terrible, replacement level with an ERA above 5.00.

Silver linings? Nate Pearson emerges to be an above starter, and there was some SP help from the farm (so something like Kay being a quality option of Manoah getting called up).

2. 71 wins

This is a slightly less extreme facsimile of the first scenario, a 29 WAR teams that merely loses six wins translating it in the standings (the second worst outcome).

Other than that, the major difference is that starting pitching is surprisingly decent. Ryu misses a couple months but is good otherwise, Ray rebounds to his 2015-17 form of 3+ WAR. Stripling and Matz are poor, but Tanner Roark is a solid backend type and Pearson roughly average. the rotation is undermined by a weak bullpen with a high 4.00s ERA, with only a couple relievers being good options (Chatwood and Borucki specifically).

The letdown here is the positional group flopping, with a total of 18 WAR for the regulars being about a 10th percentile outcome, and poor depth further undermines that. Springer, Vlad, Bichette, and Biggio miss significant amounts of time, and no one produces more than 3 WAR (though Soringer does that in half a season, so very productive when on the field).

Overall, the interesting takeaway here is one can still get an awful season even if the expected Achilles heel of starting pitching not only isn’t a major letdown but is in fact quite solid.

3. 72 wins

By total WAR, this is the weakest team with the team totalling just 25. That would work out to 73 wins, but unlike the above teams they’re only mildly “unlucky”, slipping one win from that expectation.

The rotation completely falls apart, with Stripling the team leader at 1.6 WAR (low 4.00 ERA over 105 innings). Pearson has the best results, but only throws 40 innings; beyond him there’s not the huge injury issues that might be expected with the others throwing at least 100 innings. It’s just that no one is very good, so cumulatively it’s a rotation ERA over 5.00. In the bullpen, the core options are alright, but the depth options are terrible and undermine them. That’s actually a common element to all these really bad outcomes, so perhaps that’s a good sign for the real 2021 Blue Jays.

Here the pitching issues are couples with disappointing position issues. Springer and Guerrero have impressive 5 WAR seasons, but no one else exceeds 2 WAR resulting in a mediocre total of 18 WAR.

4. 72 wins

This team is broadly similar to the one above, with the starting pitchers being a little bit better but that two win improvement offset by poor variation in the production-to-wins translations.

Other noteworthy points of interest

  • The single worst rotation was a staff that put up just 1.4 WAR (5.42 ERA over 665 innings, though got some positive contribution beyond that from depth options). The bullpen for that scenario was abysmal too, but they still won 75 games due to okay positional work
  • There’s a 74 win team that got a robust 25 WAR from its position players, and even decent starting pitching. It was undermined by terrible depth, terrible relief, and bad luck (arguably, that last point wouldn’t be so much luck as a reflection of the other two).
  • Injury wise, the worst hit simulated team a 79 win team that gets only about 3,500 PA from the 11 regulars (fittingly, Grichuk and Kirk got lots of playing time here). It was saved from disaster by the players being pretty good when healthy, and decent starting pitching.