Toronto Blue Jays: The Baseball Gods Are Smiling on the Blue Jays
By Charles Kime
Baseball Gods are fickle. Take yourself back to the dog days of August just a few short weeks ago, and recall the despair many Blue Jays fans felt as their odds of making the playoffs fell under 5% on August 27th as per FanGraphs. Going into the games that night, the team was 66-61 and 6.5 games back of Boston and 9.5 games back of New York for the two Wild Card spots. The Jays were coming off a brutal 6-10 stretch that included a 4-8 road trip against the Angels, Nationals, and Tigers.
Since then, fans have cheered for a completely different team. The Jays ripped off a torrid 15-2 stretch in games from August 27th through September 13th, while the Yankees collapsed in a 4-12 swoon over that same stretch. Toronto supplanted their rival Yankees in the Wild Card standings after a four-game sweep in New York and three more wins in Baltimore.
Since August 27th, the Baseball Gods Are Smiling on the History-Making Toronto Blue Jays
A FanGraphs analysis by Ben Clemens of the soaring Jays breaks down the likelihood of how the Jays now find themselves in a Wild Card spot. He notes that in 16 games since August 27th,
"it’s hard to go 14-2. You’re going to need to win close games virtually 100% of the time to put up such a good record. In this 16-game stretch, the Blue Jays have done just that. They’re 5-0 in one run games… they’ve simply been unbeatable in close games."
Since then, the Yankees’ odds of making the playoffs have fallen from 97.8% to 55.1%, while the Jays’ odds have risen from 4.6% to 73%. Pounding your division rivals in the Yankees, Orioles, and Tampa Bay on Monday night certainly helps. The Yankees didn’t hold a lead once in last week’s four-game sweep by Toronto. As per MLB, it’s “the first time they haven’t led in a series of four-plus games since June 23-25, 1924, against the Washington Senators (New York has played in 1,250 series of four-plus games since then).”
As for the Orioles, the 22-7 humiliation they suffered Sunday followed their Manager Brandon Hyde trash-talking Jays ace Robbie Ray and Orioles pitcher Fernando Abad body checking Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on Friday night. The Jays went on to score 47 runs in the weekend series, the most runs the Orioles have allowed in a four-game series since the 48 they gave up from August 8-12, 1993 against the Tigers.
The offense has been outstanding, hitting .331 with 36 home runs and 114 runs scored in their first thirteen games in September. As per Buster Olney, that makes them the first team in modern MLB history to do that over any 13-game span.
In the 18 games since August 27th, five Blue Jays batters have an fWAR above 1.0: Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 1.3, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 1.2, Teoscar Hernandez 1.2, Marcus Semien 1.0, and Bo Bichette 1.0.
The starting pitching has also been incredible; as Ben Clemens notes in his FanGraphs article on the 16 game stretch he looked at from August 27th,
"the Jays’ rotation has been more than that. They’ve looked excellent in addition to being durable — a 27.9% strikeout rate (second in baseball), 7% walk rate (11th-best), 3.65 FIP (sixth-best), and 3.64 SIERA (third-best) all underscore that their 3.99 ERA, fifth-best in the majors over that span, has been earned."
How Likely Was this Turn of Events?
According to Ben Clemen’s analysis, the odds of the Blue Jays making up 9.5 games on the Yankees in the Wild Card race over a 16-game stretch between August 27th and September 12th were 0.006%.
"I plugged in the actual game odds and simulated this 16-game stretch a million times… The Jays went 14-2 or better 1.5% of the time, nearly seven times as frequently as you’d expect if every game was a pure tossup… Aside from a four-game series in New York, Toronto hasn’t had much to say about the Yankees going 3-12 since August 27, falling from 9.5 games ahead of Toronto to a game back… the odds of [the Yankees] winning three or fewer games (again, using a million simulations of our exact odds) are roughly 0.4% [over that 16-game stretch]. If these two events were independent, you’d expect them to happen together once every 16,500 simulations, or 0.006% of the time."
In other words, the Baseball Gods have been smiling on the Toronto Blue Jays and their fans since August 27th. The odds of this improbable turnaround since then were less than 1%. They’ve hit better than any team in modern MLB history so far this month of September and have turned their season around.
As a long-time Jays fan who cried on the last weekend of the 1987 season, this fan certainly is well aware of just how fickle those same Baseball Gods can be. But with just a few weeks left in the season, and head-to-head games still to come versus the Rays and Yankees, the Blue Jays are in control of their destiny. They’ve just got to stay in the Wild Card playoff spot because anything can happen if you make the postseason.
Just get in, then anything can happen with this offense and starting pitching. Let’s go Blue Jays!