With the playoffs rapidly approaching, the Blue Jays are right in the heat of the American League postseason race. While the Jays have sat in a playoff spot for the vast majority of the season, they’re still only a few losses away from being on the outside looking in.
Now more than ever, it’s important to look at the other contenders in the American League and how the Blue Jays stack up against them.
To look at this, I’m going to break the AL postseason contenders into three tiers; playoff hopefuls, likely playoff teams, and playoff locks. With all that said, let’s get started.
Playoff Hopefuls: Baltimore Orioles, Minnesota Twins, Chicago White Sox
This group is a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from the White Sox, who were heavily favoured to win the AL Central entering 2022, to the Twins, who had little to no expectations for this season, to the Orioles, who were almost universally expected to once again be one of the worst teams in baseball. Despite this, all these teams find themselves in a similar situation, sitting a few games back of a playoff spot with just over a month to go.
The Orioles, who sit 2.5 games back of the Mariners for the final Wild Card, have been the biggest surprise of the 2022 season.
They currently have a 6-3 record against Toronto this season with 10 more games still to be played and have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past few months. Led by rookie catcher and former number one overall MLB prospect, Adley Rutschman, they’ve just found ways to win ball games as of late. After years of having little to no offensive output, they’ve finally put together a league-average offense, but that’s not what their biggest asset has been.
Despite abysmal starting pitching, they have an elite bullpen, even after trading closer, Jorge Lopez, to the Twins at the deadline. Headlined by guys like Felix Bautista, Dillon Tate, Cionel Perez, and Keegan Akin, their bullpen has a combined ERA of 3.19, which is fourth best in MLB, behind only the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers. This has given them the upper hand in lots of close games and could make them deadly in a short playoff series.
On paper, the Jays would appear to be the better team, but as their matchups with Baltimore thus far have shown, that isn’t necessarily the case. They’ve struggled to rack up runs on the Orioles’ less-than-stellar starting pitchers, and have honestly played some of their worst baseball against them. Despite this, I think the Blue Jays match up favourably against them in a potential postseason meeting.
In a situation where the Jays would have their best starters on the mound, I don’t think the Orioles would be able to limit the offense enough to allow their bullpen to win them the game. I recognize how much they’ve struggled against Baltimore this year, but I think the talent gap between teams is so large that in a winner take all situation, I wouldn’t worry too much about the O’s.
The Minnesota Twins have also been a bit of a surprise this season, as they led the AL Central from late April through early August. They’ve since fallen off, sitting four games back of both the division and the final Wild Card spot, but are still very much in the postseason race.
Led by hitters like Luis Arraez, Carlos Correa, and Byron Buxton, they’ve had one of MLB’s better offenses in 2022 and added relievers Jorge Lopez and Michael Fulmer at the deadline to help shore up their bullpen. Unsurprisingly, their starting rotation has been their biggest issue this season, and with trade deadline acquisition, Tyler Mahle, now on the 15-day IL it’s still very much a concern.
With the postseason rapidly approaching, it’s time to start looking ahead at how the Blue Jays stack up against the top teams in the American League.
Much like the Orioles, the Twins have given the Blue Jays everything they could handle this season, taking the season series 4-3. Unlike the Orioles, the Twins have not been hot lately, having not posted a winning month since May, and have been plagued with inconsistency all year. If they had a fully healthy roster, they could be a legit threat in a postseason series, but that is a huge if, as the vast majority of their team has had some sort of setback throughout the season. No matter which way you look at it, this is a favourable matchup for the Jays.
Chicago White Sox
As I mentioned before, the Chicago White Sox entered 2022 as runaway favourites to win the AL Central, but with less than a week left in August, they sit tied with the Twins five games back of a playoff spot. This whole season they sort of just hung around, not being particularly good but not particularly bad either, which has kept them in the postseason race to this point.
Their offense has taken a huge hit this season, ranking 19th in runs per game, after finishing top-eight in each of the past two seasons. Their pitching has been similarly lacklustre, currently sitting 20th in runs allowed per game, despite a Cy Young contention caliber season from Dylan Cease, and a pleasant surprise in Johnny Cueto. Players like Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Yasmani Grandal, and Yoan Moncada, have all had atrocious years despite entering with high expectations, and have led to a team that’s seemed lost all season.
The Blue Jays took the season series 4-2 against the White Sox and were without question the better of the two teams when they faced off. Despite their struggles, this team still has a very easy remaining schedule, with series against teams like the Tigers, Royals, A’s, Rockies, and Diamondbacks remaining, so they could certainly find a way to sneak into the postseason should another team or two struggle down the stretch. In a potential matchup with Toronto, I imagine the Jays would be heavily favoured, and while it’s not inconceivable that Chicago could win, I like Toronto’s odds.