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There’s an old saying in baseball that the games in April count just as much as those in September. Another adage states that a team can’t win their division in April, but they can certainly lose it.
While the magnitude of a game in the final few weeks of the season with pennant race implications may be amplified, team’s must also show up ready to play in the first few weeks. So although the Blue Jays still have 149 games left to play let’s not simply gloss over the the start with an “it’s early” shrug of the shoulders. Last April the Jays essentially played themselves out of playoff contention with a 6-17 start they never recovered from. Let’s give these guys a bit of credit.
Off to a quick 8-5 start, the Blue Jays look like decent value in the 2018 World Series futures, currently sitting at 30/1. While 13 games is a small sample size, we’ve seen some important traits: Justin Smoak is showing that 2017 was not an anomaly; Aaron Sanchez is blister-free and throwing great’ Jaime Garcia is proving to be a solid back-of-the-rotation option; and the outfield defense is much improved with Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see their odds get shorter – maybe in the 25/1 or 20/1 range via MyTopSportsbooks – in the coming days.
Of those key traits, the one that isn’t always reflected on the scoreboards or the boxscores is outfield defense. Last season, with mainly Ezequiel Carrera and Jose Bautista flanking Kevin Pillar, the Jays were not good defensively. According to Baseball Reference’s Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average, Toronto had the 5th worst OF in the American League at -9. BIS Defensive Runs Saved had the Jays even lower at -14, the 4th worst group in the AL.
So how much have Granderson and Grichuk helped? The answer is obvious:
Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average: +4 4th in the AL
BIS Defensive Runs Saved: +1 3rd in the AL
Yes it’s still early. Yes Grichuk is going to have to hit higher than .077 with a .319 OPS. And yes, health is going to continue to be the key for the Jays chances.
But let’s take a moment to at least be happy with the way things have started.