The Toronto Blue Jays have reached the playoffs for the first time in 22 years! The last time they played meaningful fall baseball, Joe Carter “touched em’ all”, and the World Series flew north of the border for the second straight year in a row.
The Blue Jays will begin the ALDS at home against the Texas Rangers. All games can be seen on Sportsnet. If you can’t find a television to watch, Sportsnet is also streaming games online.
Just two months ago, this matchup would have seemed highly unlikely. In late July, the Jays sat in fourth place, eight games off the pace in the AL East, the same distance the third-placed Texas Rangers were from top spot in the AL West. Each organization transformed themselves at the trade deadline, making hard charges up the standings in the final two months of the season.
After adding all-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Cy Young winner David Price, speedy leadoff outfielder Ben Revere, and two veteran relievers in LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe, the Blue Jays finished the year on a 43-18 clip. They vaulted past the New York Yankees to claim their first division crown since 1993.
The Rangers, who picked up a superstar of their own at the deadline in Cole Hamels, closed the year out at 41-22. The ace left-hander dominated the Los Angeles Angels 9-2 on the final day of the season to beat out the Houston Astros for their first West title since 2011.
The Blue Jays won the season series between the clubs 4-2, taking two of three both in Toronto and at Arlington.
Let’s see how these two teams size up against each other going into Game 1.
David Price finished the regular season with an AL-leading ERA of 2.45, and 5th in WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) with 1.08. He is one of the frontrunners to claim the Cy Young Award, pitching his best statistical season of his career at age 29.
Followed by Price, the Jays will roll out the likes of the young and energetic Marcus Stroman, emerging Marco Estrada, and the reliable knuckleballer R.A. Dickey into their playoff rotation.
Blue Jays Postseason Rotation
Although the Jays crushed lefties this year, the Jays will be in tough against Cole Hamels. Hamels is one of the better southpaws in the game today, and the supporting role that Yovani Gallardo has provided for Texas in his first year with the club is something that can’t go unnoticed. Gallardo has had Toronto’s number this year, pitching 13 scoreless innings.
Rangers Postseason Rotation
Unfortunately for Texas, the edge still goes to Toronto on this one.
The Jays are the best offensive team in baseball, period. Batting 1 through 9, they finished first in the MLB in total runs with 891. The next closest team was the Yankees, with 764.
Blue Jays Batting Order (Projected)
Josh Donaldson is the frontrunner for the AL MVP, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both had themselves 35+ home run seasons, and that’s just the beginning. Canadian Russell Martin finished with a career high in home runs with 23. Even defensive-first players, Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins, have shown that they can swing the bat respectfully.
Toronto’s only arguable weakness is how heavily its lineup leans to the right. But given that the Blue Jays’ .790 OPS (on-base plus slugging) against right-handed pitching was the best in the MLB, it’s not as much of a weakness in reality as it is in theory.
The Rangers offence was good the whole way through the season, but it really came together at the end to help the club mount its rally in the AL West race, putting up the second-most runs in the MLB, post All-Star break.
Rangers Batting Order (Projected)
Shin-Soo Choo finally decided to live up to his blasphemous seven-year, $130 million dollar contract that he signed in 2014, earning AL Player of the Month honours for September.
Adrian Beltre was especially hot as well in the season’s final month, and Texas also got strong hitting from Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland. If the four of them can keep it up, the Rangers will be able to terrorize opposing pitchers with the heart of their order. If former AL MVP Josh Hamilton has any of his old magic left, well, even better.
This one is supremely close, but I’ll give the upper hand once again to the Jays.
Remember when Toronto’s bullpen was among the worst coming into the 2015 season? After adding a couple arms that I alluded to earlier, the Jays’ boasted the second best post-All-Star break bullpen ERA of 3.33. Only the St.Louis Cardinals (3.22), finished with a superior stat line.
Blue Jays Bullpen
The Rangers’ bullpen pitched out of their skulls in the second half of the season, but that wasn’t without GM Jon Daniels going out and acquiring relievers Sam Dyson and Jake Diekman. Both players provided marvelous performances, stabling the once-anemic Texas pen.
Call it a tie. Texas now has an extremely deep bullpen, and although the youngsters in Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez have struggled as of late for Toronto, Brett Cecil and Mark Lowe have too good of a pedigree to let them take the fall. The Jays’ have enough high-quality arms to do just fine in this series.
When I take a step back and take off my Jays-coloured glasses, I must admit, I’m legitimately afraid of these Texas Rangers. Even though I didn’t give them any advantage over Toronto in any of the three categories above, the Rangers are an under-the-radar team that the Blue Jays must not take lightly.
Six players on the Rangers have made it all the way to the World Series, while the Blue Jays only have three to account for. Experience under the bright fall lights matters, and the Rangers can claim to have that.
Many MLB analysts around the league have predicted a Blue Jays series sweep or a knockout in 4 games. While my heart agrees with a Toronto sweep, my head tells me this series will go to the brink, with the Blue Jays narrowly escaping with a win in Game 5.
Prediction: Jays in 5