By the Numbers: A Look at the Blue Jays’ Return to the Postseason
They’ve finally done it.
For the first time since 1993, before any of our staff here at the Trollope Times were even born, the Toronto Blue Jays are back in the postseason. They open their first-round series against the AL West Champion Texas Rangers this Thursday, October 8th, in their quest for what every baseball-playing kid dreams of, a World Series title.
The Blue Jays are the clear favourites heading into this series, having been given 58.4% odds by stats website Fangraphs. They beat the Rangers 4 games to 2 in the season series, but none of this means it’ll be easy. Yovani Gallardo (3.42 ERA, 2.5 WAR) is scheduled to start Game 1 for the Rangers, and he’s been dominant against the Jays this year, pitching 13 and 2/3 scoreless innings. He’ll likely also start Game 3 on limited rest, meaning the Jays will be in tough for wins early on. Game 2 will be no easier, as the Rangers have won the last 10 of ace lefty Cole Hamels’ (3.65 ERA, 4.2 WAR) starts, who last pitched Sunday in the regular season finale. This may come to the Rangers’ disadvantage though, as the Jays righty-heavy lineup has mashed left handed pitching all year long. Right-hander Colby Lewis, who actually led Rangers Pitchers in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) this season with 2.6, will round out their ALDS rotation.
The Rangers’ bats will be no easy task for the Blue Jays pitchers to face either. Prince Fielder has put together a monster comeback year after missing most of last season with a neck injury, hitting 23 home runs with an on-base percentage of .378. Other left handed bats like outfielders Shin-soo Choo (22 HR, 82 RBI), Josh Hamilton (8 HR, 25 RBI), and Rougned Odour (16 HR, 61 RBI), as well as first baseman Mitch Moreland (23 HR, 85 RBI) will also be tough outs for the Jays staff.
So how will the Jays’ lineup look come Thursday? The official 25-man postseason roster won’t be published until the morning of Game 1, but many of the spots have already been spoken for. David Price (2.45 ERA, 6.4 WAR), RA Dickey (3.91 ERA, 2.1 WAR), Marcus Stroman (1.67 ERA, 0.5 WAR), and Marco Estrada (3.13 ERA, 1.8 WAR) will make up the starting rotation, which will leave the struggling youngster Drew Hutchison and veteran Mark Buehrle at home. Here is a list of the remaining players that should be guaranteed spots on the postseason roster:
Chris Colabello (1B), Josh Donaldson (3B), Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH), Ryan Goins (2B/SS), Russell Martin (C), Dioner Navarro (C), Cliff Penington (2B/SS/3B), Justin Smoak (1B), Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
Jose Bautista (RF), Kevin Pillar (CF), Ben Revere (LF)
Brett Cecil (LHP), LaTroy Hawkins (RHP), Liam Hendriks (RHP), Mark Lowe (RHP), Roberto Osuna (RHP), Aaron Sanchez (RHP)
As you may have counted, this list only brings the total roster to 22; three spots are still up for grabs. They’ll need a fourth (and perhaps fifth) outfielder, and one more reliever; they’ve already indicated a seven-man bullpen will be used.
There are two possible options for the backup outfielder, and while it’s very possible both end up making the cut, manager John Gibbons and GM Alex Anthopolous may opt for an additional backup infielder instead. Rookie Dalton Pompey, the team’s opening day centre fielder, who ended up spending most of the year in the minors, would be the obvious choice for some, as his speed as a pinch-runner could end up being very valuable off the bench late in close games. However, Gibbons has been reluctant to use him ever since he was called up on September 1st when rosters expanded to 40, only giving him at-bats in meaningless situations.
The second option, Ezequiel Carrera , would likely be favoured by the manager, as he’s been given more opportunities throughout the year, especially when Pompey was sent down due to struggles at the plate early in the season. Carrera could potentially be used as a left batting pinch hitter, though Pompey’s switch-hitting ability gives him the advantage in that department.
Out of the bullpen, Aaron Loup would seem to be the favourite as the seventh man. As a left-hander he could be very valuable against the Rangers’ left handed bats late in games, but bad luck (Namely, a .339 batting average against on balls in play) has led to poor results for him this year. He’s posted career high strikeout rates (9.78 K/9), career low walk rates (1.49 BB/9) and induces a staggering amount of ground balls (55.2% of batted balls), but his high ERA of 4.66 may be of concern to those in charge of creating the roster. However, there aren’t many other attractive options that could take his place, as Ryan Tepera and Bo Schultz have also struggled recently. If Loup doesn’t end up on the team, it’ll mean a lot of work for Brett Cecil, the only other left-handed reliever.
The 25th and final roster spot presents many interesting possibilities. Do they take both Pompey and Carrera? Will team mascot and Jose Bautista’s personal hype man Munenori Kawasaki come along? Or will AAA MVP Matt Hague make the team as a pinch-hitting option? All will be told on Thursday morning, but for now, all we can do is wait to find out.