Not even that much. The Blue Jays, as currently constituted without A.J. Burnett's three wins above replacement, are a good team. Good enough to win 86 games, good enough for a three digit positive run differential, good enough for between 90 and 92 third order/Pythagorean wins. Not good enough to make the playoffs. Why is that?
Simple: luck. The Yankees spent lots of cash, but got unlucky with free agent signings (both sound and ill-advised) and haven't won the World Series in 8 years. The Dodgers payroll was $120 million before they added Manny and he lead them to the promised land. The Tigers spent $140 million bucks and finished behind the Royals.
All 30 teams need some luck to get to the post season. The Rockies got red hot in September 2007 on the backs of young stars like Troy Tulowitzki, Jeff Francis, Manny Corpas and Ubaldo Jimenez only to see 2008 complete fall apart through injuries and generally shitty play from those very same players. The San Diego Padres were one blown call away from knocking said Rockies out of the one game playoff, and they lost 99 games in 2008. These teams are among the 25 Major League teams that don't require the mountain of luck in order to overcome the two biggest payrolls in baseball
Yes, the Rays performed this Herculean feat in 2008, but let's consider their case.
- They outperformed all their expected records. It was only one run, but the Jays had a greater run differential than the Rays. The difference in the standings? 11 games.
- They got huge numbers from two non-roster invitees. In successive years, Carlos Pena and Eric Hinkse came to Rays camp looking for jobs and ended up hitting 46 and 20 home runs respectively. Carlos Pena is an obviously talented player that just couldn't get it right previously, but ERIC FUCKING HINSKE CAME OUT OF NOWHERE TO HIT 20 HOME RUNS. That, more than anything in the world, is luck.
- They got career years out of 80% of their bullpen. In a very similar fashion to the 2005 Chicago White Sox, they built a bullpen out of decent guys, deployed them well and got career numbers out of them. Will any of these guys repeat these numbers? Perhaps, but if the World Series taught us anything, old K/BB rates die hard.
The Jays should obviously look to improve their club, both for 2009 and the future. But one guy ain't going to do it on his own. No matter what kind of bat they bring to town, it will take more than one player with a 1.000 OPS for the Jays to play October baseball. And that is alright. That is what makes the ride that much more enjoyable, that is the beauty of a 162 game schedule. Round bat, round ball, George Will, sepia toned whatever.