For the first time in 22 years the Toronto Blue Jays are in the Major League Baseball playoffs. How good does that sound?
More importantly, for the first time in the history of this blog I am able to write a playoff preview that features Toronto!
The Jays take on the Texas Rangers in the ALDS, with game 1 set for 3:30 PM tomorrow afternoon. That means we are just over 24 hours away from the most fun yet intense and stressful stretch of baseball games in decades.
Before the games start, however, let’s measure up the Jays and Rangers.
We all know about Toronto’s offense. It was the best in baseball this year, and one of the best in the past decade. But there is more than just home runs to this team. They won five more games than the Rangers for a number of reasons. They outscored them by 140 runs, but also allowed 63 fewer runs. Their starter ERA was almost half a run lower, and the bullpen ERA was more than half a run lower. Defensively the team was also much better than Texas, both by Defensive Runs Saved and Total Zone Rating. About the only thing that Texas did better was steal bases, and one of their top base stealers (Leonys Martin) was sent to the minors in August. In short, Toronto is better in basically every aspect of the game (which of course guarantees nothing in a short series).
Based on the team stats, it shouldn’t be any surprise that on a player-by-player basis the Jays also outshine the Rangers. According to the above WAR chart, Toronto has a sizable advantage at Catcher, 3B, CF, RF, and DH. It should also be pointed out that the WAR figures for Tulowitzki and Revere only capture their time spent in Toronto. If you include Tulo’s Colorado numbers he jumps to a 2.9, and Revere jumps to a 2.6 when including his numbers on the Phillies. Texas might have a slight edge on the bench, but that mainly comes down to the poor WAR of Carrera who likely (hopefully) won’t see much (if any) action.
The Rangers have several big names, but most of them are also real wild cards. Adrian Beltre has been on fire as of late, but Josh Hamilton only started 6 games in September/October and Prince Fielder posted a below average .742 OPS in the second half. Mike Napoli has the ability to hit 3 HR in a game, but also to go 0-for-5 with 5 strikeouts.
Head to Head
Toronto won the season series 4 -2, outscoring the Rangers 34-21.
June 26 – 28 in Toronto:
W 12 – 2, L 4 – 0, W 3 – 2
August 25 – 27 in Texas
W 6 – 5, W 12 – 4, L 4 – 1
Texas’ top performers vs. Toronto:
Rougned Odor – 8-for-14, .571 average, 1.777 OPS, 2 HR
Delino Deshields – 4-for-10, .400 average, 1.238 OPS, 3 R
Elvis Andrus – 9-for-22, .409 average, 1.004 OPS, 2 SB
Yovani Gallardo – 2-0, 13.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 6 K
Toronto’s top performers vs. Texas:
Edwin Encarnacion – 7-for-24, .292 average, 1.153 OPS, 4 HR, 11 RBI
Chris Colabello – 3-for-10, .300 average, 1.064 OPS, 3 R
Ben Revere – 5-for-12, .417 average, 1 SB
David Price – 1-0, 6 IP, 3.00 ERA, 8 K
Roberto Osuna – 2.1 IP, 2 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
A lot, actually. After the All-Star break the Texas Rangers were the third best team in all of baseball with a .622 winning percentage. The only teams ahead of them? The Chicago Cubs and the Toronto Blue Jays. So many people are talking about the NL Wild Card game, about how it pits two of the best teams in all of baseball – and for good reason. But the Toronto / Texas ALDS pits two of the hottest teams in all of baseball against each other. On the morning of July 29th both the Jays and the Rangers were under .500, and each were 8 games back in their respective divisions. Then a few shrewd trades (Price, Tulo, Revere, Hamels, Dyson) re-ignited the teams, sent them on a tear, and the rest is history.
But I give Toronto a bit of an advantage, and here’s why. Because of a brutal bullpen collapse last Saturday, the Rangers had to fight tooth and nail to the final day of the season to wrap up the AL West, while the Jays clinched last Wednesday. Toronto was able to rest starters, get healthy, and set up their rotation, while the Rangers played full lineups and had to burn Cole Hamels on Sunday.
Oh Hello Again!
The Rangers have just one former Blue Jay on their roster, reliever Sam Dyson. Dyson was drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 draft by Toronto and spent 2012 in the Jays system. He pitched 0.2 IP for the big club, allowing 3 ER before being selected by the Marlins on waivers. Texas acquired him at the trade deadline for Cody Ege and Tomas Telis and he has been a revelation for the Rangers in the bullpen. In 31.1 IP Dyson has a 1.15 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 30 strikeouts to 4 walks, a .212 batting average against, and a staggering 3.15 ground ball to fly ball ratio.
Both teams are hot. Both team can hit. Both teams have true (and newly acquired) aces. But the Jays are just a bit hotter, can hit a bit better, and have the better ace. Plus they have an edge on D, in relief, and in overall team depth. Plus they can’t make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years and lose in the first round. Can they? Jays in four.