The 2014 season has ended. Other teams are still playing and the Toronto Blue Jays are not. That will take a bit of time for me to process. But, I cannot take too long. There is bound to be a flurry of blog posts dissecting the Blue Jays season that was. So, to get a jump on it, I present you with a two part series that looks at this past season from two different angles. Part 1: Toronto Blue Jays: A Quantitative Study. Part 2 will present a qualitative study.
Wikipedia offers this basic definition of Quantitative research: “investigation of social phenomena via statistical, mathematical or numerical data or computational techniques…Quantitative data is any data that is in numerical form such as statistics, percentages, etc. In layman’s terms, this means that the quantitative researcher asks a specific, narrow question and collects a sample of numerical data from participants to answer the question. The researcher analyzes the data with the help of statistics. The researcher is hoping the numbers will yield an unbiased result that can be generalized to some larger population.”
Basically, we are going to use numbers and statistics to answer one simple question:
Was 2014 a good season for the Blue Jays?
Numbers can be debated ad nauseum (partly why I don’t really like looking too hard at them) and you can find a stat to prove whatever theory you wish. I’m just going to look at the highlights to determine if this season was a success.
-Firstly, we’ll start with the final numbers. The Blue Jays finished with a record of 83-79. That was good for 3rd in the AL East and landed them 13 games back of the division winning Baltimore Orioles. The team scored 723 runs and allowed 686, which gives them a +37 run differential.
-The team drew 2,375,525 fans, which put them 7th in the American League. This number is down slightly from last season.
– The team finished with a line of .259/.323/.414/.736 Their OPS mark is 2nd in the AL. The Blue Jays finished near the top of the AL in most offensive categories: HR- 2nd (177), Runs- 4th (723), Hits- 4th (1435). All of this is a good sign. But, if you look a bit further into the numbers, you find some weaknesses; weaknesses that are not conducive to winning: The club hit 282 doubles (6th) and 24 triples (10th). This highlights the reliance on the home run.
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Yes, the team hits for power, but it is almost all or nothing. They are 12th in stolen bases (78), but 3rd in caught stealing (21). They sit in 6th spot in the walk AND strike out category with 502 and 1151 respectively. On the surface, the offense looks strong, but they are lacking the little things that can win you games: effective speed and situational hitting. All or nothing doesn’t work.
-There are some who might say the pitching hasn’t been that bad this year. The staff accumulated a 14.1 WAR. But, the truth is, it kind of has not been pretty. Maybe it hasn’t been as bad as we feared, but…The Blue Jays sit in 9th spot with an ERA of 4.00. They are also 9th in wins (83), Hits (1400), ER (642) and strikeouts (1199). They rank 11th in HR (151) and 12th in BB (490). Their combined WHIP is 1.310 with 8.7 h/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 7.5 K/9. They rank 11th in innings pitched, which they will need to improve upon if they are going to contend.
As well, a stat that stands out to me is the mere 45 saves. They totalled 18 blown saves. If those saves had been converted, the team would be in the playoffs…probably. For the most part, the starters have been good-ish. 2014 is the first year in club history where there were 5 starters who recorded 10+ wins.
While the team’s pitching may have been…reasonable…with an offense that relies so heavily on streaky power, they have to be that much better. If the offense is going to hammer out bomb after bomb EVERY night, you don’t worry so much about the pitching; it just has to get you through. But because of how up and down that kind of offense is, pitching can’t afford to just get you through.
There were some individuals who had success this season and I would be remiss if I did not mention them:
–Melky Cabrera– The soon to be free agent (?) had a nice bounce back year. It is funny what having a tumor removed from your spine can do for you. The Melkman pretty much carried this team up until his slide back to first that ended his season. In 139 games, Melky hit 35 doubles, 16 HR, 3 triples, 73 RBI, 43 BB and just 67 strike outs! His line of .301/.351/.458/.808 is what will garner him a nice raise next season and possibly beyond. Melky’s WAR of 3.1 is certainly worth a return to the Blue Jays.
–Dioner Navarro– This is one guy that I was pleasantly surprised with. I’d like to think it is not just because of who he was replacing, either. Navarro slashed .274/.317/.395/.712 and collected 22 doubles, 12 HR and 69 RBI. He even chipped in 3 stolen bases! The flip side of that though is how many bases he allowed to be stolen. His defense has been the subject of much criticism. And, it is kind of deserved. He allowed 58 stolen bases while only throwing out 15 (21%). Yikes!
–Jose Bautista– I think this has been a great year for Jose. In fact, you could argue it has been one of his best as a Blue Jay. His line of .286/.403/.524/.928 netted him 158 hits, 27 doubles, 35 HR, 103 RBI, 104 (!) walks and 96 K. He’s worth a whopping 6.0 WAR. For comparison, the great Mike Trout is worth 7.9, Miguel Cabrera– 4.9, Victor Martinez– 5.3, Giancarlo Stanton– 6.5. You get the idea. Bautista has been among the league’s best. Hopefully, the Blue Jays can pull everything together over the next 2 years before his contract expires.
There are so many different ways to look at numbers and stats. The above is just a basic glance into some of them. Ultimately, it was an attempt to quantify whether the 2014 season was a success for the Toronto Blue Jays. Over all, I think we can say that this season was NOT a success from a quantitative standpoint. There are a number of areas that need improvement if this team is going to produce numbers and statistics that will equate to winning. At the end of the day, the number that matters is the record at the end of the season.
Stay tuned for our follow up to this post: 2014 Toronto Blue Jays: A Qualitative Study. Feel free to leave your thoughts below.