I think it’s fair to say that to this point, the 2022 season has largely been a disappointment for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Entering the season as one of the favourites to win the American League, the team has struggled to find consistency all year long, and with the final stretch of the season rapidly approaching, they’re still fighting to hold on to a Wild Card spot. The team has struggled immensely in August and has yet to win a series this month, but despite that, I think this team still projects well down the stretch.
Prior to last night’s game, the Blue Jays were averaging 3.5 runs scored and 4.5 runs allowed per game over 14 games thus far in August. Compare this to their season total of 4.7 runs scored and 4.3 allowed, and it’s clear that something hasn’t been working this month. Many people are understandably concerned about this. With the Yankees currently spiralling and the other teams in the playoff hunt starting to win more, this is an important time for the Blue Jays to win games and the criticisms that they’ve been receiving are certainly warranted, but I don’t believe that these issues should persist.
In situations like this, where a small sample size produces extreme results, these results are likely to regress to the mean, which simply means producing less extreme results and in this case, winning more. The Jays’ current rough patch is a perfect example of this. Despite a 6-9 record in August thus far, they’re only been outhit in five of those nine losses. Prior to that, they had been outhit in 14 of their past 20 losses. The odds of losing a game that you weren’t outhit in are obviously much lower, so the fact that the Jays have done it in four of their last nine losses is a massive outlier. The point here is that while the Blue Jays obviously haven’t played well during these past few series, this is more likely than not, an anomaly. This team is better than they’ve played of late, and I think this is something that applies to the season as a whole.
As of right now, the Jays have a team OPS+ of 115, which is second best in the majors, behind the Yankees and tied with the Dodgers, and an ERA+ of 101, which is slightly over league average. Every single team with a top three OPS+ in MLB and an ERA+ of 100 or better since 2016 has made the postseason, with the exception of the 2021 Blue Jays, who would’ve made the playoffs had there been three wild card spots like there are now. Again, the point of this is that the Blue Jays are better than they have shown, and the odds are pretty good that they only get better down the stretch by regressing to the mean. Aside from that though, this team is far too good to be struggling this much, and I would expect this to change down the stretch.
The Blue Jays have eight hitters with at least 320 plate appearances, and every single one of them has an OPS+ above 100, making almost every single one of their starters on any given day, an above-average hitter in 2022. This is with players like Bo Bichette, George Springer, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. producing at a lower rate than they did last season.
If even one of those guys begins to hit as they did in 2021, then that could provide a massive boost to an offense that’s in desperate need of consistency. It’s not just the offense that I think will be a big boost down the stretch, the Jays’ pitching could be primed for success in the coming months. Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Ross Stripling have all proven themselves as valuable pieces of the rotations so far this season, and despite his immense struggles this year, the Blue Jays are somehow still 17-7 in games that Jose Berrios has started. Add this to a bullpen that’s been solid throughout most of the season and will benefit from the additions of Anthony Bass and Zach Pop, there’s no reason why the Jays can’t be one of the better teams in baseball down the stretch.
Obviously, the 2022 Blue Jays have issues, I’m not trying to deny that, but I think now more than ever I’ve seen a lot of panic and doubt surrounding the team.
These concerns are warranted, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t share some of them. Right now though, the reality of this situation is that with less than 50 games left in the season, the Jays are right in the thick of the postseason race and have plenty to be optimistic about.
I won’t try to claim that this is one of the best teams in baseball or that they should be favourites for the World Series, but I think this team has a lot to show down the stretch, and I expect them to look more like the team we all know they can be.