Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections see Blue Jays finishing higher than you'd think

Algorithm gives the Jays a 64.5% chance to make the playoffs.

Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox v Boston Red Sox / Paul Rutherford/GettyImages
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Baseball Prospectus has released their updated PECOTA projected standings for the 2024 season, and in what comes as a surprise to many, their model predicts that the Toronto Blue Jays will finish in 2nd place in the AL East with 88.2 wins, behind only the New York Yankees at 94.4 wins. That would place them as the top AL wild card seed for the postseason in October.

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA is BP’s proprietary sabermetric system for forecasting MLB player and team performance, which combines their player performance projections (here) and aggregates the results into runs scored and runs allowed, which is then used to run season simulations 1,000 times and project a range of possible finishes in the standings. PECOTA stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm.

And fun fact Toronto fans, but current Blue Jays’ vice president of baseball strategy, James Click, spent a few years at Baseball Prospectus after graduating from Yale, helping to maintain their PECOTA algorithm. He was then hired as an intern by Tampa Bay in 2005 to help build a database for their then 28-year old GM Andrew Friedman.

88 wins for Toronto would mark a slight regression from 89 last year and 92 in 2022, and is tied with Minnesota for the fifth-best projected win total in all of baseball, behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (101.1), Atlanta Braves (100.7), Houston Astros (95.0) and Yankees (94.4).

They give the Blue Jays a 16% chance to win the AL East title, a 64.5% chance to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season, and a 4.7% chance to advance to the World Series, which is well behind their favourites Atlanta (18.7%), the Los Angeles Dodgers (17.1%) and Houston (12.1%).

As per Phillip Martinez of SNY, “What’s surprising to most is how PECOTA believes the AL East will shake out. Behind the Yankees, Baseball Prospectus projects the Toronto Blue Jays in second with 88.2 wins, and the Baltimore Orioles -- coming off a 101-win season and the addition of Corbin Burnes-- in third with 86.6 wins. The Tampa Bay Rays (86.2) and the Boston Red Sox (79.8) round out the division.”

After adding free agents Justin Turner, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Yariel Rodríguez and bringing back Kevin Kiermaier for a second season, the Blue Jays will run it back with largely the same hitters and pitching staff from 2023. The front office is betting on internal improvement from the hitters to improve their chances.

PECOTA has the Blue Jays projected to score 780 runs, which is 34 more than in 2023 and tied with the Mets for the 7th most in baseball after the Diamondbacks (793), Reds (795), Yankees (827), Astros (839), Braves (855) and Dodgers (879).

They see Toronto allowing 699 runs for a run differential of +81. That would be the 7th least runs allowed this season, which implies a regression of 28 runs by a pitching staff led by Cy Young finalist Kevin Gausman that only allowed 671 runs last year, the 6th least in MLB.

After a tough offseason for Jays fans, we’ll take the 64.5% odds of making the postseason again. "Just get in and anything can happen" is a fair mantra for a Blue Jays team nearing the end of its current competitive window. Let's go Blue Jays!