Before people get all crazy on me – the title of this post is facetious.
I know that we aren’t in the playoffs due to our unfortunate geographic location, which places us smack in the middle of the best division in baseball (and maybe professional sports).
It’s tough to win when three of the best run franchises in the league – not to mention the two richest – are your competition.
But that being said, after watching the Detroit Tigers get to where they are in the playoffs…why not us?
It’s been difficult watching the Tigers do so well, because I honestly believe that the Blue Jays are just as good – if not better.
Sure Detroit won 14 more ballgames than the Jays in 2011. But they played in the AL Central! They were given the gift of playing Cleveland, Minnesota, Chicago, and Kansas City 72 times.
SEVENTY TWO TIMES!!!!
The combined record of those four teams? 62 games below .500.
Toronto on the other hand was granted the pleasure of playing New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay 54 times. Those three teams combined to go a lousy 70 games over .500. No big deal – pretty fair schedule.
Whining about the schedule won’t do any good, so let’s take a look at the actual rosters of the teams.
The offenses are pretty similar. Both teams have one MVP-calibre slugger: Miguel Cabrera for Detroit and Jose Bautista for Toronto. Both have young power hitting catchers, though Alex Avila did put together a nicer season for the Tigers. Detroit has a solid power hitting shortstop in Jhonny Peralta but don’t be fooled – Yunel Escobar’s OPS wasn’t too far behind. The only real advantage is that Detroit had a dangerous DH in Victor Martinez, whereas the Jays utilized Edwin Encarnacion.
But other than that, can you tell me with a straight face that the Tigers have a better offensive team? Look at the names: Ramon Santiago (.695 OPS), Brandon Inge (.197 AVG), Magglio Ordonez (37 years old), Casper Wells, Don Kelly, Andy Dirks. The list goes on.
With young sluggers like Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and Kelly Johnson in the lineup, complemented by players like Adam Lind and Eric Thames, the Jays rise above.
In terms of starting pitching, both teams have a young pitcher that struggled badly with control in their early years (Rick Porcello and Kyle Drabek), and both have 26-year olds who can be absolutely horrendous one outing and Cy Young worthy the next (Max Scherzer and Brandon Morrow).
Yes Detroit has Justin Verlander who pitched out of his mind this season, but was he really THAT much better than Jays ace Ricky Romero?
Verlander, again due to the division, benefitted from being able to face KC, Minnesota, Cleveland, and Chicago in 15 of his 34 starts. Romero, on the other hand, faced Tampa, Boston, and NY in 13 of his 32 starts. So sure, Verlander’s 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP are great numbers, but taking into the account the quality of opposition, Romero’s 2.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP aren’t too bad.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not trying to badmouth Verlander. He had an incredible season, one that was clearly superior to Romero. But the difference isn’t as pronounced as it might seem.
Detroit did have a much better bullpen than Toronto in 2011. Their top-5 of Jose Valverde, Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Daniel Schlereth, and Al Alburquerque combined to produce a 3.23 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 ratio. Toronto’s top-5 of Frank Francisco, Shawn Camp, Casey Janssen, Jon Rauch, and Jason Frasor came in with a 3.61 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 7.1 K/9.
But the postseason, as it so often does, seems to showcase two relievers more than others. Yes Benoit had a nice season, and yes Valverde went 49 for 49 in save opportunities, but Casey Janssen was every bit as effective as Benoit, and Frank Francisco was absolutely dominant in the second half of the season (1.37 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 7 for 7 in saves).
The bottom line is that the Detroit Tigers are the American League Central Champions and are currently battling in the ALCS. Nobody can deny that.
It’s just frustrating to see a team that is no better than the Blue Jays still playing..
If only Toronto was further west…