Tuesday, September 23, 2014
The Other Teams Are Better
No point in burying the lede. The Blue Jays aren't in the playoffs (though they're still mathematically alive) because they other teams are better. Or they're not good enough. One of those two things.
It isn't for a lack of trying and it isn't by a lot, but wins 84-90 are a lot tougher to come by than wins 74 to 83. There was one great month and few months that were decidedly less than great, months that undid the goodness of that magical May.
That pretty much sums up the club on a more granular level, too. For all Jose Bautista's GBOATery, there were far too many sinkholes undercutting his production. Rather than tower over the lesser mortals, he was a fully-grown actor walking in a moat so Sylvester Stallone doesn't look like oompa loompa while laying waste to an Oregon village.
Too many at bats given to players who simply cannot -- or could not -- hit. Look at this list. It is one of infamy. The names on this list represent more than 1000 plate appearances from guys unable to muster offensive production even 80% of league average. That's a bad list to be on. There are six names on it and one more that just jumped off.
One of those guys might be the best defensive second baseman in baseball. Even the "unreliable" defensive metrics (relative to the agenda of those who attach such qualifiers as damnation rather than disclaimer) say so. He is still below replacement level this year. There is no glove reliable enough to carry such a bat. Not at that position. Not unless your name is Ozzie or Andrelton.
The teams that won more games than Toronto did so because they were better in some facets of the game, like the Royals and Mariners outright refusal to allow even a single run all year, or the Orioles, with their bonkers offense and enviable defense. The Yankees are not better but they're also not demonstrably worse. The Angels have both better players and essentially no bad players. That's a good way to be the best team in the American League.
The Jays offense is good, thanks to a very strong top half of the order. But the holes at the bottom of the lineup grew wider as the season grew older, and the timeliness of the hits suggests an offense not in the top 10 in baseball but the middle of the pack when the game is at its most intense. The stats say they weren't clutch this season. Twisted stomachs vouch for the stats' story.
Which isn't to say this season is or was a disappointment. It is disappointing, yes. But a disappointment? I dunno. All those days spent in first place, coming on the heels of a capital-D Disappointment in 2013. That counts for something. And while the September Wild Card chase was more titular than titillating, it's going to have to do for now.
There is nothing to gain by shitting on the season, dismissing the run out of hand just because it came up short. But the fact of the matter is the Jays got as close as their assembled talent allowed. The other teams were better. Better balanced or better in one dominant facet of the game. The Jays got close with a roster than was deeply flawed last year and to which little was done to address is glaring weaknesses.
It isn't over but it's mostly over. It's over because they weren't good enough. Maybe next year, with a rotation full of children and the two best hitters playing for another paycheck, things will be different. In the end, this year was all too similar to many years that came before. Nothing will change until it does. Be better next year.