The Blue Jays have had a lot go wrong for them this year, and one has to wonder what could have been if the team had been as healthy as they were last year. According to my “MLB The Show” season, it could have been a great season.
I know this is a little off the wall here, but with the Blue Jays dropping another game by way of the shutout to the Tampa Bay Rays, I decided it might be more fun than talking about another late season loss.
As we’re all aware, the Blue Jays have had a lot of bad luck this season when it comes to injuries, and several key players have been on the shelf for significant chunks of the schedule. Things weren’t supposed to go this way at all, but here we are on August 25th with the Blue Jays in dead last in the AL East and pretty much completely out of the playoff picture with their recent string of losses.
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a baseball nerd (shocker, I know), and because of that I have played along with the season on my Playstation on MLB the Show, and I’m one of those weirdos who will keep the roster exactly as it is in real life. As you can expect, my team is doing a little bit better than the real life Blue Jays, as I currently sit 1.0 behind the Red Sox for first in the AL East, and have a 3.5 game lead in the Wild Card (for those snickering, c’mon… I play on a high level and it’s hard to hit!).
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I know this is just a video game, and it’s just my version of how things play out, so as I asked above in this article, I will ask you again: bear with me here. The biggest difference between my team and the current version of our beloved Blue Jays has been health, and that translates to any version of reality when it comes to baseball. The only players to miss significant time on my team have been Kevin Pillar (12 games), Jose Bautista (7 games), and Marco Estrada (3 starts), otherwise everyone has stayed healthy other than a nick or two, here and there.
For the real life Blue Jays, here is a list of those who have missed more than 10 games:
- Josh Donaldson
- Troy Tulowitzki
- Devon Travis
- Steve Pearce
- Russell Martin
- Luke Maile
- Darryl Ceciliani
- Anthony Alford
- Aaron Sanchez
- J.A. Happ
- Francisco Liriano
- Joe Smith
- and I could go on, but I think you get the point.
One of the most significant is Aaron Sanchez, who has been on the disabled list for all but 36 innings in 2017. This, in a season that he was finally going to be free of any innings restrictions and fully unleash his fury on the AL East. Instead he’s been on the DL four times, and while he’s throwing on flat ground at the moment, we still don’t have a timetable for his return.
Sanchez was 15-2 last season with an American League leading 3.00 ERA. He made 30 starts, threw 192.0 innings, and was ultimately worth 4.9 WAR according to baseballreference.com. Not having him around this year has had a significant impact on the team and the rotation, and has resulted in the Blue Jays turning to guys like Mat Latos, Casey Lawrence, Nick Tepesch, Chris Rowley, Joe Biagini and more. The fill-in options have been decent to varying degrees, but there’s no denying the impact Sanchez’s absence has had on the team’s success.
In my season, he’s currently 14-4 with a 2.11 ERA, performing even better than he did last year in real life. I think that’s the type of season we all dreamed about from the budding ace, so it’s been frustrating to see him on the sidelines. Hopefully he’ll be able to return to the mound before the end of the year, even if it’s as a member of the bullpen as has been suggested by John Gibbons, and can re-set for 2018 and continue his growth as a front line starter.
The second most significant difference in my team to the 2017 Jays is Troy Tulowitzki, who is currently in the MVP discussion in my video game version. In 115 games video games played, Tulo is hitting a robust .344 with 25 home runs and 79 RBI to go along with his customary gold glove calibre defence. Back in reality, the 5 time All-Star has only played 66 games this year, and .249/.300/378 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. He’s currently on the disabled list and it’s unlikely we’ll see him on the field again before spring training.
Tulowitzki finished the year with 0.2 WAR, and unfortunately was never able to get things going at the plate. It never appeared as though the veteran was fully healthy for any extended period either, and hopefully 2018 will give him a different fate. In my video game version, Tulo would likely be closer to the 5.3 WAR player he was with Colorado in 2013, but even last year’s mark of 3.3 would have been a big help for the Blue Jays.
If we’re talking about just those two players, we’re talking about a difference of 3.1 for Tulo, and 4.8 for Sanchez. That’s just shy of eight wins, and that’s the difference between being a playoff team and being where they are right now.
I realize it’s not that simple, and maybe the whole point about my video game season results distorts the overall point, but missing two All-Stars like that for the majority of the season has had a significant impact. When you add the games lost by former All-Stars in Happ, Liriano, Donaldson, Martin, and many other depth pieces, it adds up to make a lot of sense.
I know every team has to battle injuries and that’s no real excuse for this, or any other team in the big leagues, but you can’t help but wonder what could have been for this group if they could have stayed healthy. Hopefully 2018 will bring us that answer, as it looks like most of the gang will be back for another turn, and hopefully with it we’ll see a healthy season from Sanchez, Tulowitzki, and all of the Blue Jays’ stars.