Blue Jays: An unorthodox tournament style scheduling scenario

With an uncertain start date for the MLB season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jonah Birenbaum of theScore wrote an article of how MLB can create its schedule for whenever the Toronto Blue Jays season starts.

One of his ideas was a tournament style where all 30 teams would enter a modified double-elimination tournament to play out the season.

Based on a randomized schedule maker done by theScore, the Jays were faced off in a best-of-11 game series against the St.Louis Cardinals. In this article, I will do a position by position analysis of the Jays and Cardinals and predict who would win the series.

Rotation

Blue Jays:

  1. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  2. Tanner Roark
  3. Chase Anderson
  4. Matt Shoemaker
  5. Trent Thornton

Cardinals:

  1. Jack Flaherty
  2. Dakota Hudson
  3. Miles Mikolas
  4. Adam Wainwright
  5. Kim Kwang-hyun

The Jays have the 2019 MLB E.R.A. leader in Ryu who holds a career E.R.A. of 2.98 across 6 seasons in the major leagues. Behind him, they have solid fill-ins that contain the likes of Roark, Anderson and Shoemaker who are all solid major league pitchers.

Roark is 74-64 with a 3.71 E.R.A. in his career, Anderson holds a 3.63 E.R.A. over the past 3 seasons and despite it being a short sample size, Shoemaker posted a 1.57 E.R.A. in 28.2 innings last season before injuring himself. Also, Thornton did solid in his first season in the big leagues making 29 starts.

In the second half of last season, Flaherty showed that he’s one of the up and coming pitchers in the game as he was arguably the most dominant pitcher in baseball after the all-star game. Hudson went 16-7 with a 3.35 E.R.A. over 32 starts while Mikolas’ 2018 season (18-4, 2.83 E.R.A.) was a lot different from his 2019 season (9-14, 4.16 E.R.A.). Wainwright, a 14 year MLB veteran, can still pitch some solid baseball even at the age of 38 and is a guy the Cards can count on.

Regarding Kim, no one has a clue about him as the Cardinals signed him out of Korea in the offseason. While he was a solid pitcher in Korea, playing in the major leagues is a lot different from playing in the Korean Baseball League and it’s anyone’s guess in regards to how he would do against major league hitters.

Both the Jays and Cardinals rotation can definitely go toe-to-toe against each other. They both have a pitcher that’s a clear cut number 1 over the rest of their respective rotations and both teams have major league calibre pitchers from spots 2-5.

The Cardinals do have a stronger rotation that consists of star calibre pitching in Flaherty and veteran experience in Wainwright. While Kim may struggle to adjust to the major leagues, there’s also the possibility that he thrives in his first season in North America as the Jays or any other team wouldn’t have any notes or scouting reports on him.

Advantage: Cardinals

Catcher

Blue Jays:

Danny Jansen
Reese McGuire

Cardinals:

Yadier Molina
Matt Wieters

The Jays have a very young catching duo in Jansen (24) and McGuire (25). Between them two combined, they have appeared in 182 games and have combined to hit just .230 with 23 HR. Jansen does provide solid defence behind the plate as he was a Gold Glove finalist for the 2019 season with his .995 fielding percentage and catching 34.3% of would-be base stealers.

The Cardinals possess arguably the best catcher in our generation in Yadier Molina. 16 years and counting spent in the major leagues, the future Hall-of-Famer has a slash line of .282/.333/.405 and was no slouch in 2019 slashing .270/.312/.399 with 6 SB, a lot for a catcher especially considering Molina is 37 years old.

Molina is gifted defensively as he is the recipient of 9 Gold Glove awards with a career fielding percentage of .995 behind the dish and has caught a whopping 67.3% of base stealers over his whole career. Meanwhile, Wieters is no longer the All-Star catcher he used to be as he’s batting .227 since coming to the National League, but he’s fine to spell Molina for just one game to provide him with some rest when needed.

Behind the dish, this would be a matchup of young catchers against veteran catchers. Having lots of experience catching at the big leagues is crucial as it helps in regards to calling a came, controlling pitchers, adjusting to hitters and other aspects of catching a ball game. The Cardinals check all the boxes in regards to qualities in major league catchers while the Jays catchers have some developing to do.

Advantage: Cardinals

First base

Blue Jays: Travis Shaw

Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt

The Jays signed Shaw in the offseason to a one year, $4 million deal and will presumably be the Jays primary first baseman. Shaw struggled horrendously last season to a .157/.281/.270 slash line but did fare much better over 296 games between 2017 and 2018 where he combined to slash .244/.347/.497 with 63 HR. Both Shaw and the Jays are banking on a bounceback season.

The Cardinals have Goldschmidt at first who is one of the better first basemen in the league. He didn’t have his best season in his first year with the Cardinals but still put up a respectable .260/.346/.476 slash line with 34 HR and 97 RBIs.

The Cardinals are clearly stronger at first than the Jays are as Goldschmidt is a much better player than Shaw.

Advantage: Cardinals

Second base

Blue Jays: Cavan Biggio

Cardinals: Kolten Wong

Biggio played in exactly 100 games in his rookie year where he slashed .234/.364/.429 with 16 HR. With 2019 being his first year, he wasn’t exactly expected to be an impact player right at the start but he did show potential along with plate discipline as he walked 71 times which helped contribute to a good OBP of .364. As he gains more experience playing at the highest level, he’ll be able to adjust and adapt to major league pitching.

Wong has been a major league player for 7 years where he’s put up a slash line of .260/.332/.388 with 655 hits, 265 RBIs and 83 SB. He had a solid 2019 where he slashed .285/.361/.423 with 136 hits and a career-high 24 SB while only getting caught 4 times. He received his first Gold Glove and a Defensive Player of the Year award for his strong defence in 2019 as well.

Biggio is just getting started on his big league career while Wong has been in the big leagues for a while. Both players are very similar and the advantage can go either way at the keystone in a Jays vs Cardinals matchup.

Advantage: Tie

Third base

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.n
Cardinals: Tommy Edman

Coming into the 2019 season, there was no prospect more hyped up than Vladdy who was the most hyped prospect in recent memory. In his first season, Vladdy didn’t live up to the hype everyone hoped but he still did fine with a .272/.339/.433 with 15 HR and 126 hits. He did struggle mightly defensively but his bat is what everyone was excited about.

Edman also made his major league debut in 2019 where he played in 92 games recording a slash line of .304/.350/.500 with 99 hits and 15 SB. He appeared at 5 different positions on the diamond for the Cardinals but his primary position was third.

Edman put up a better slash line than Vladdy did in their rookie years but Vladdy is the superior player as he possesses more power and is a better all-around hitter.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Shortstop 

Blue Jays: Bo Bichette

Cardinals: Paul DeJong

Bichette was another hyped up prospect leading up to his major league debut and he lived up to the hype by slashing .311/.358/.571 with 61 hits in 46 games. He also flashed the leather defensively playing great defence at the games’ most arguably important position. Bichette made a huge impact in his first year and he should only get better going forward.

Ever since his debut year in 2017 where he slashed .285/.325/.532, DeJong has struggled to replicate that success as he’s combined to bat just .237 over the past two seasons while failing to register an OBP of .320 or higher in 2018 or 2019 although he did put up career-high numbers in multiple statistical categories in the 2019 season.

Bichette is a better talent than DeJong is due to his dynamic play, both offensively and defensively.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Left Field 

Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr.n
Cardinals: Tyler O’Neill

Gurriel Jr has quietly been a solid player for the Blue Jays since he made his major league debut. Over 149 games at the major league level, he’s the owner of a .279/.320/.499 slash line with 35 HR, 85 RBIs and 157 hits. While he did struggle early in the 2019 season which led to a demotion, once he was called back up, he tore the cover off the ball while not making an error in his new position of left field.

O’Neill, a British Colombian native, has immense power but hasn’t really shown it in the majors as he has just 14 career home runs in 121 games. With power usually come a lot of strikeouts which O’Neill is no different as he’s gone down on strikes 110 times over the past two seasons. His defence is also nothing to drool over either as his career fielding percentage is .953.

O’Neill and Gurriel Jr are very different players. O’Neill is a guy that swings for the fences and absolutely crushes the ball while Gurriel Jr focuses more on contact and getting on base. Both players excel in different aspects of the game but until O’Neill can display consistent power at the major league level, Gurriel Jr is the left fielder you’d want in this series.

Advantage: Blue Jays

Centre Field 

Blue Jays: Randal Grichuk

Cardinals: Harrison Bader

Grichuk, a former member of the Cardinals, has lots of power in his bat but that comes with the inability to hit for solid contact and strikeouts. In his two seasons with the Jays, he’s slashed .238/.289/.476 with 56 HR, 141 RBIs but 285 strikeouts in 275 games.

Like Grichuk, Bader has power in his bat but comes with lack of contact and strikeouts. Bader has spent 3 seasons at the MLB level where he’s slashed .236/.320/.393 with 191 hits compared to 266 strikeouts. One thing about Bader that’s not talked about a lot is his defence which is game-changing.

Grichuk brings power and some speed while Bader brings some power, speed and spectacular defence. Grichuk has power that Bader doesn’t have and Bader can play defence at a level that Grichuk can’t, both teams are pretty even up the middle.

Advantage: Tie

Right Field 

Blue Jays: Teoscar Hernandez

Cardinals: Dexter Fowler

Last season, Hernandez hit a career-high 26 HR while putting up an OPS of .778. He did strike out a lot as he went down on strikes 153 times and questions surrounded his defence as at times, he looked lost in the outfield struggling to track and get under balls.

Ever since Folwer signed a five year, $82.5 million deal with the Cardinals in the 2016-17 offseason, he’s failed to live up to that contract. Over 3 seasons with the Cardinals, he’s slashed .233/.335/.410 which has gotten him benched at times due to poor play.

Hernandez and Fowler are somewhat similar players. Hernandez has power but poor defensive skills while Fowler is a better defender than Hernandez but can’t hit for power the power he can. Despite both being below average contact hitters, Hernandez is providing better value per his contract as he’s only earning $583 500 while Fowler is set to make $16.5 million. The matchup between Hernandez and Fowler is very close but Hernandez seems to have a slight edge.

Advantage: Blue Jays by a small margin

Bench 

Blue Jays:

Rowdy Tellez
Joe Panik
Anthony Alford
Derek Fisher

Cardinals:

Matt Carpenter
Brad Miller
Lane Thomas
Rangel Revelo

The Jays have a combination of power, speed and contact on their bench. Tellez is the Jays power source, they get speed from Alford and contact from Panik who’s a career .271 hitter with 657 hits over 253 strikeouts. All players come with weaknesses though. Both Alford and Fisher have struggled to hit major league pitching as they have a combined batting average of .185, Panik has no power in his bat and Tellez doesn’t get on base too often as his career OBP is .299.

The Cardinals have two notable names coming off the bench for them in Carpenter and Miller. Carpenter is a 3-time All-Star and has a Silver Slugger to his name. He is an on-base machine which is evidenced by his career OBP of .372. He is now a bench player due to a poor 2019 where he slashed .226/.334/.392.

Miller has a career slash line of .241/.314/.419 and hit 30 HR with the Rays in 2016. In 2019 split where he played for the Indians and Phillies, he slashed a career-best .260/.329/.565. The other two players on the Cardinals bench, Thomas and Revelo are very unknown in the baseball landscape. 2019 was Thomas’ first year in the MLB where he appeared in 34 games and slashed .316/.409/.684. Revelo also made his major league debut in 2019 but struggled to a .205/.256/.410 slash line with just 8 hits in 29 games.

If you look at both teams’ benches, the Cardinals best bench players are better than the Jays best bench players but the Jays weaker bench players are better than the Cardinals weaker bench players. Due to the Cardinals possessing a Silver Slugger winner who’s a 3-time All-Star and a former 30 HR hitter, the Cardinals have a bit of a stronger bench than the Jays do.

Advantage: Cardinals by a bit

Bullpen 

Blue Jays:

Ken Giles
Shun Yamaguchi
Anthony Bass
Rafael Dolis
Wilmer Font
Sam Gaviglio
Thomas Pannone
A.J. Cole

Cardinals:

Carlos Martinez
Andrew Miller
Alex Reyes
Jordan Hicks
Giovanny Gallegos
John Gant
Tyler Webb
John Brebbia

The Jays have a top-notch closer in Giles who posted a sparkling 1.87 E.R.A. with 83 strikeouts compared to 36 hits for an opponent average of .188 in 53 innings and games pitched. Yamaguchi is coming over from Japan and will be playing his first-ever season in the major leagues and also coming over from Japan is Dolis who hasn’t pitched in a major league game since 2013. With the Mariners last season, Bass appeared in a career-high 44 games where he posted a 3.56 E.R.A. with an opponent average of .179 in 48 innings.

Since he came over to the Jays in a trade from the Mets last season, Font struck out 53 batters compared to 34 hits given up and was relied on quite a bit by Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. Another bullpen arm that Montyo relied on heavily last year was Gaviglio as he was tasked with pitching multiple innings which is evidenced from 95.2 innings pitched over 52 relief appearances. Pannone would be the sole lefty in the Jays pen and Cole was signed by the Jays over the offseason as the front office is hoping that the former prospect has stuff left in the tank.

It wasn’t long ago that Martinez was a former frontline starter but has since transitioned into a full-time reliever and at times has been giving closing duties. While no longer as dominant as he used to be, Miller is still a solid reliever as in 2019, he struck out 70 batters over 45 hits given up in 54.2 innings pitched.

Reyes is a former top prospect who is loaded with potential but injuries have prevented him from showing it as well as the fact that there’s no room for him in the rotation. Instead, the Cardinals have utilized him as a bullpen weapon and has the ability to miss a ton of bats. Hicks is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery but he could be ready when baseball is back and consistently hits triple digits and has an incredible sinker that’s very difficult to hit.

Gallegos and Gant were relied on heavily during the 2019 season and neither of them disappointed as Gallegos had a 2.31 E.R.A. in 66 appearances while Gant appeared in 64 games and recorded 11 wins out of the bullpen. Webb had an opponent average of .172 in 2019 while Brebbia whiffed 87 batters in 66 games pitched.

The Cardinals have one of the deepest bullpens in the game and it could very well be the major league’s best bullpen. The Cardinals have a ton of weapons in the bullpen and in the case that one of them goes down with an injury or struggles, the Cards have a variety of options that can be inserted into their bullpen which include former Blue Jay Brett Cecil and youngsters Daniel Ponce De Leon, Junior Fernandez and Ryan Helsley.

Advantage: Cardinals

To sum it all up the Cardinals have a better rotation, cathing duo, first baseman, bench and bullpen than the Jays do while the Jays are better on the right side of the infield and in the corners in the outfield. Both teams are even at the keystone and in center.

In a best-of-11 series where you have to win 6 games before the other team does, between the Jays and Cardinals, I think it would go right down to the wire and there could very well be a game 11 between these two teams but I do think the Cardinals would win this series since they have better pitching and veteran catchers that can be difference-makers but I would not be shocked if the Jays won a best-of-11 series against the Cardinals.

Next: Blue Jays not benefiting from delay

Who do you think would win a best-of-11? Blue Jays or Cardinals?

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