Is There Still Hope For the Blue Jays in 2013?

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After Toronto (with a little help from some awful umpiring) gifted a win to Tampa Bay last night, the team finds itself in a brutal position through 45 games:

Dead last in the AL East.

Nine games under .500.

Ten games back of the first place Yankees.

Seven games back of the second Wild Card.

In short, it’s not where anybody expected the team to be on the morning of May 22nd. And I really do mean anybody – fans, experts, writers, and players.

So the question is – is this season over? Faced with such an uphill climb (the Jays are only ahead of Houston in the entire American League), is there any hope that they can still earn the franchise’s first playoff spot since 1993?

I think there is.

Is the task ahead improbable? Yes. But is it impossible? No.

Last season through 45 games, the Oakland Athletics had a better record than Toronto, but were still under .500 and trailed the first place Rangers by 5 games. They finished the season 72 – 45 to claim the AL West title. (For those counting, the 2011 Brewers, 2011 Diamondbacks, and 2010 White Sox were each under .500 at this point of the season and won 72+ games to the end of the year). Yes the circumstances are different, but the same finish by Toronto would give them 90 wins. Would that be enough for a Wild Card? 93 wins were required last year, so it might not be. But it would still be close.

The main reason why I still think there is at least a little bit of hope is because 2013 has been for the most part a worst case scenario season. Seriously – look at the best and worst case scenarios for several players:

Jose Reyes

Best Case – Proves he is still a beast at the top of the order

Worst Case – He’s injury prone and misses a big chunk of the season

R.A. Dickey

Best Case – Proves 2011 and 2012 were not flukes and dominates

Worst Case – Regresses due to new league and due to age

Mark Buehrle

Best Case – A solid #3 or #4 starter

Worst Case – Regresses due to new league and due to age

Melky Cabrera

Best Case

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– Plays with a chip on his shoulder and proves that he can hit without PEDs

Worst Case – Playing clean saps him of his power

Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis

Best Case – Provide solid defense at second base, get on base a lot, and score runs

Worst Case – Can’t handle second base, and prove awful at the plate

Josh Johnson

Best Case – In a contract year, has a career season

Worst Case – The injury prone pitcher hits the DL and misses a lot of time

For the seven new additions to the team, I would say that the worst case scenario has happened for ALL SEVEN!!! But can that kind of bad luck really last? Dickey and Buehrle have started to turn it around, and though Melky isn’t hitting home runs, he has started hitting a lot of doubles lately. Both Reyes and Johnson will be back relatively soon. And throw in guys like Brandon Morrow and Brett Lawrie who can’t possibly continue to play this badly, and you have a bit of reason for optimism. Things have to get better!

So that brings us to the next question. How can they turn it around?

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Though it sounds like a cliche, the Blue Jays have to focus on one series at a time. To look at the standings, to look at the record and the deficit they face in the division is too much. To say they need to win 75 of the next 117 games is too much. But to focus on one series at a time – that is an achievable and reachable goal.

Looking at the schedule, the Blue Jays have 117 games remaining. One is this afternoon’s series concluding tilt with the Rays. The remaning 116 games can be broken down into series.

The Jays play three 2-game series, 26 3-game series, and eight 4-game series. (Note: the August 20-22 set in New York will most likely become a four-game series from August 19-22 after last weekend’s rain out).

If Toronto splits the 11 2-game and 4-game series, that gives them 19 additional wins. If they then win each of the 26 3-game sets, that gives them an additional 52 wins, meaning they would finish 71-45. Win today, and that matches Oakland’s win total from last year.

Is it realistic that the Blue Jays will win EVERY SINGLE 3-game set the rest of the season? No, probably not. But if they lose five of them, they can just as easily win five of the 4-game series to make up for it. Plus, don’t forget that Toronto has yet to play Minnesota and Houston, two of the worst teams in the AL. They have 13 games upcoming against them.

The point is, breaking down the season into manageable 3 and 4 game sets makes the task seem much more achievable.

I’m not saying it will happen.

But I’m saying that with 117 games left to play, I’m not ready to write-off the 2013 Blue Jays just

yet.

And neither should you.

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