The Jays came up with a huge win over Boston on Wednesday night, a win that pushed them back above .500. More importantly, that win moved them to within 5.5 games of the second Wild Card. A pulse is a pulse, no matter how faint it may be.
But how realistic are Toronto’s chances at the postseason? Is it even worth getting ourselves excited for a chance at late season glory?
Let’s take a closer look at the schedule and find out.
First off – we can remove the AL East from our outlook. The Jays are 9.5 back of the Orioles with only 29 games left. Baltimore has 30 games left to play, and barring an epic collapse, they should coast to the title. The O’s worst 30-game stretch this entire season happened between May 10 and June 10 when they went 13-17. If they repeat that to close the season, the Jays will need to finish 22-7 to match them. More realistically, Baltimore should be pegged for 15-17 wins, meaning the Jays will have to go on a 26-3 tear just to tie them for first. Very, very unlikely.
Secondly, we can remove the first Wild Card from our outlook as well. The loser of the Oakland / LA battle in the West pretty much already has that sewn up.
So it’s down to the second Wild Card slot, and a one game playoff on the road in California.
The contenders: Seattle, New York, Toronto, and two of Kansas City, Detroit, and Cleveland.
The Blue Jays have 67 wins and are currently 5.5 games back. Here is Toronto’s remaining schedule:
Games Remaining: 29
Home vs Road: 16 – 13
Games vs. teams over .500: 17
The good news is that Toronto has more home games remaining than road games. The bad news is that 17 of the final 29 games are against winning teams. Even worse is that half of the 12 games against sub-.500 teams are against the Rays, a team that owns the Jays, and one 3-game set is against the Cubs who surprisingly have been one of the NL’s best teams since the All-Star break. And one more piece of bad news – Toronto still plays a 3-game series in Tampa and a 4-game series in New York, two stadiums where the team simply has not been able to win.
If there is any amount of positive in the remaining schedule, it’s this: 11 of the final 29 games are against teams that are in the mix for that second Wild Card slot, including four at home against Seattle. Winning those games would be huge.
So how does Toronto’s remaining schedule match up with the rest of the contenders?
The Yankees have a slightly more difficult schedule than the Jays, with 18 games remaining against winning teams, including eight against Baltimore.
The three AL Central teams have the easiest remaining schedules in terms of quality of opponent, but the key to those teams is this: they have a lot of games remaining against each other. Kansas City and Detroit meet six more times, Kansas City and Cleveland meet six more times, and Detroit and Cleveland still have seven more matchups. The best case scenario for the Jays is that either a) one team runs away with the division and the other two split their head-to-head games, or b) all three teams slug it out against each other and split the remaining games. Having two teams beat the snot out of the third would not be good news. It might be in the Jays best interest to hope for option a, and have that dominant team be Detroit. The Tigers close out 2014 with 7 straight home games against the White Sox and Twins, the easiest schedule of the bunch.
And then we get to the Mariners. Currently Seattle is looking pretty good, tied with the Tigers for that last playoff spot. But take a look at that remaining schedule – it is brutal. They are the only team in the mix that will play more road games than home games (18 vs. 12). By the nature of them playing in the AL West, which is home to the two best teams in the American League, 20 of their final 30 games are against winning teams, including a bonus 3-game set this weekend against Washington, the runaway NL East leaders. That’s tough.
So who makes it?
Judging by current records, it will likely take at least 89 victories to grab the second Wild Card spot. As it stands now, it would be hard to bet against Detroit and Kansas City getting in, one as the Central champ, one as the Wild Card.
In order for the Jays to sneak in, they need to get red hot, and stay red hot, until the end of the season.
Likely? No. But stranger things have happened.
22 wins to glory, and it has to start tonight.