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Blue Jays: An updated look at their (good) postseason chances

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates a two run home run in the third inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 18, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 18: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates a two run home run in the third inning during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 18, 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /
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Despite the fact that the Blue Jays have lost several close games this year, they’re not very far out of the postseason race in the American League.

With the extra-inning victory over the Orioles on Tuesday night, the Blue Jays improved their record to 9-11 on the season. As strange as it sounds, that also means they’re officially one-third of the way through the regular season schedule.

Looking back on the first twenty games, there are an awful lot of “ifs” and “buts” that could have led to a much better record for the Blue Jays, as they’ve dropped six games by two runs or fewer already, and have let several leads slip away. Despite those frustrating losses, they haven’t put themselves out of the playoff picture just yet, and if they can continue their strong hitting of late then things could even get interesting.

For those that may have forgotten, the league and player’s association agreed to an expanded playoff in 2020 that will see 16 teams qualifying for the postseason, which includes eight coming from each league. While the Blue Jays are playing in a “super-division” that includes the NL East and teams like the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, and Philadelphia Phillies, it’s how their record stacks up against their AL counterparts that matters.

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As of the end of play on Tuesday night (concluding with Kenta Maeda’s near-miss for a no-hitter), here’s where the Jays sit in the American League race.

  1. Yankees (16-7)= .696
  2. A’s (16-8)= .667
  3. Twins (16-8)= .667
  4. Rays (15-9)= .625
  5. Cleveland (14-9)= .609
  6. Astros (13-10)= .565
  7. White Sox (13-11)= .542
  8. Orioles (12-11)= .522
  9. Rangers (10-12)= .455
  10. Blue Jays (9-11)= .450
  11. Tigers (9-12)= .429
  12. Royals (9-14)= .391
  13. Angels (8-16)= .333
  14. Mariners (7-18)= .280
  15. Red Sox (6-18)= .250

Believe it or not, the Blue Jays are just 1.5 games out of that eighth and final playoff spot, even with so many missed opportunities.

*Edit- The original publication of this article did not fully explain how the playoff format works below, and more text has been added to correct my mistake, and any confusion. 

If you have a look at the teams below them in the standings, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The Tigers, Royals, and Mariners were supposed to be among the league’s worst teams, and slowly but surely they’re finding their way to the bottom. As for the Red Sox and Angels, both clubs look like they’ll be about ready to write off this peculiar season after awful starts to their respective schedules. I legitimately thought the Red Sox would miss the playoffs, but who saw them being this bad?

Ahead of the Blue Jays are a few teams that I believe they could catch, if a few things work in their favour of course. For starters, I don’t believe the Orioles will be a legitimate factor in the postseason race, even if they’ve been an exciting team to watch over their first 23 games. From there they would have to leapfrog a team or two like the Rangers, White Sox, or maybe the depleted Astros, and I don’t know that it’s out of the realm of possibility.

In moments like these, I like to turn to trusty ol’ Fangraphs to see how they’re calculating the Blue Jays chances. They factor in several variables like a team’s record, schedule difficulty, health of the roster, and more, and as of Tuesday evening they like the Blue Jays at 32.7% to make the postseason, and 0.5% to win the World Series (so you’re telling us there’s a chance!). If we list Fangraphs’ postseason odds in order, it looks something like this:

  1. Yankees= 99.7%
  2. A’s= 98.7%
  3. Rays= 98.6%
  4. Twins= 98.5%
  5. Cleveland= 96.0%
  6. Astros= 95.4%
  7. White Sox= 85.2%
  8. Blue Jays= 32.7%
  9. Rangers= 24.6%
  10. Angels= 20.7
  11. Orioles= 19%
  12. Royals= 13.9%
  13. Tigers= 10.4%
  14. Red Sox= 5.8%
  15. Mariners= 0.7%

Notice the big difference? Suddenly the Jays have moved up to the eighth and final spot, at least in terms of the odds as of August 19th. For clarification’s sake, the way it works is there will two teams from each division (i.e.- Yankees & Rays from the AL East right now), for a total of six, and then the top two teams from the rest of the AL will get the final two spots.

Does that mean they’re going to make it to the postseason? Not at all, but it’s encouraging to see that their fate could be in their own hands here. Despite being currently behind the Rangers and the Orioles in the standings, the oddsmakers see more potential for Charlie Montoyo’s young squad. That’s not to say that they have an easy schedule at all though, as their last 40 games include 10 against the Yankees, who they haven’t even played yet this year.

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Of course, things could change in a hurry since this season is being played during a pandemic, and we’re seeing that to the extreme with teams like the Marlins, Cardinals, and currently with the Reds. Hopefully the Blue Jays can avoid that type of scenario, and the same goes for the rest of the league, and that way the talent will determine the results. If that’s the case, there’s a decent chance the Blue Jays could play some playoff baseball this year. I think it’s fair to say that stranger things have happened.

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