Question: did the
Blue Jays just clinch the AL East title for the first time in 22 years?
I thought they did, but you’d never know that judging from many of the fans on social media. Just one day after celebrating for the first time in two decades, fans were lambasting John Gibbons and Blue Jays management on Twitter for the lineup they put on the field against Baltimore yesterday afternoon. Yes the lineup was sub-par and looked more like a Buffalo Bisons squad, but that’s what clinching the division does – it allows the manager to rest his stars.
“But there is home field advantage to play for!” the irate fans shouted. “We have to stay ahead of the Royals!”
Would staying ahead of Kansas City and securing home field advantage for the entire postseason be nice? Absolutely. But I agree with Shi Davidi who wrote an article on Sportsnet.ca defending the decision to rest players. I’d rather Toronto finish second in the AL with a healthy team, then have them finish first with a few injuries. The conditions in Baltimore yesterday were horrific, and (no offense to them) if somebody was going to slip on the wet grass and get hurt I’d rather it be Matt Hague or Ezequiel Carrera than Josh Donaldson or Jose Bautista.
Besides, even with the two losses the Jays are still in the drivers seat for first. The only way that Toronto can lose home field and have it come back to haunt them is if all of the following come true:
1. Kansas City wins more games against Minnesota this weekend than Toronto does against Tampa Bay.
2. Both Toronto and Kansas City win their ALDS series.
3. The ALCS goes the full seven games.
Possible? Definitely. Likely? Who knows. Definitely not worth banking on.
Even more absurd is the notion that the Jays should be going for it based on who they might play in the playoffs. There is nothing worse than trying to look ahead and plan your own path to the championship. Teams that do that inevitably slip up and fail against so-called “weaker opponents”. How many times in the NBA or NHL have we seen teams finish 6th or 7th instead of 5th because they wanted to face the team in 2nd or 3rd instead of the team in 4th? It rarely works.
Besides, there are pros and cons about all of Toronto’s potential ALDS opponents. Take a look:
New York Yankees
– Jays finished 13-6 against them in the regular season
– They have an old roster that is fading down the stretch (McCann, Headley, Gardner, Ellsbury, and A-Rod are all hitting lower than .235 in September)
– They have a thin rotation that won’t be able to throw Masahiro Tanaka early in the series due to him pitching in the Wild Card game.
– Tanaka owns the Blue Jays, and even though he would pitch the Wild Card game, due to the number of off days in the postseason he can still potentially pitch twice in the ALDS.
– They have a very strong bullpen, especially Betances and Miller.
– They are the Yankees, and one expects a little playoff magic.
– Jays took of 4 of 6 meetings, outscoring them 34-21
– Aside from Cole Hamels the rotation is fairly thin (and Hamels hasn’t really impressed all that much since being acquired: 3.86 era, 1.27 whip)
– Very powerful offense with Beltre, Fielder, Odor, Choo, and Hamilton
– Despite the weaker rotation, Yovani Gallardo went 2-0 against Toronto this year, with a 0.00 ERA in 13.2 IP
– They are fading a bit down the stretch and look ripe for the picking
– They are a very inexperienced team with a ton of rookies
– Have a true ace in Dallas Keuchel, and although he would pitch the WC game, he could also potentially pitch twice
– Jays always seem to struggle against Houston, especially in Houston where they have lost seven consecutive games
– Astros are the second best HR hitting team in baseball
– Probably the most hittable bullpen of the four potential opponents, especially with Huston Street less than 100%
– 646 runs scored is tied for the third lowest in the entire American League
– They don’t have a true ace like Hamels, Keuchel, Tanaka, or Price.
– Mike Trout and Albert Pujols – enough said
There are positives and negatives about any team the Jays might face, and the main thing to remember is that all of them are good. They all made the playoffs right?
But here are a few more numbers that are worth remembering (and are far more important): .792, 877, 3.27, 3.32.
Those represent Toronto’s winning percentage since Troy Tulowitzki’s first game (best in baseball), the number of runs scored by the Jays (best in baseball by a mile), Toronto’s bullpen ERA since the All-Star break (2nd best in the AL), and Toronto’s rotation ERA since the break (best in the AL).
In short, it shouldn’t matter who the Jays play.
They can beat ’em all.