Wednesday, June 10, 2015
There is nothing like a tidy seven game winning streak to brush off two months without even a “win one, lose one” baseline of performance. All of May’s despairing moans are gone, replaced with “told ya so’s” directed towards a venerable institution in the radio booth and longing looks up the standings.
And yet, you’d have to twist yourself into a knots to convince yourself that the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays are a great baseball team. By watching them, you see the highest scoring team in baseball (by a not insignificant margin) with a pitching staff that either pitches better than it looks or looks worse than it pitches. The defense is a comforting non-factor, the highest praise one could ever heap upon the nine (or so) men pushing more than five runs per game across the plate.
They aren’t a bad baseball team by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something about them that doesn’t feel good enough.
There is no doubt that the moves made by Alex Anthopoulos resulted in a net good on the field. But the product, unfinished as it might be, remains something short of satisfactory. For the Jays to keep pace with the surging Yankees, who were kind enough to tread water as the rest of the division struggled, and pondering but dangerous Red Sox, work needs to be done.
“Trust the projections more, and the early performance less” is the main takeaway from a Jeff Sullivan piece on the current standings and projected playoff odds. The Blue Jays and their run differential magic must sit back and hope that talent on hand conspires to win as many games as it should.
Should is the magic word, the kiss of death that doomed Anthopoulos’ predecessor. Building a team that should win more games is easy enough. Building a team that actually wins those games is harder. Either adding even more talent to diminish the impact of chance or just roll with the existing squad and, quite literally, hope for the best.
By BaseRuns, as more elegant model of expected record than just runs scored and allowed, the Blue Jays project to win 53 games over the remainder of the season. The same measure suggests they should (there’s that word again) have won 34 games so far this year. 34 is a good number, bested by only one other team in baseball and equalled by a handful.
53 is the troubling number in the previous paragraph. It’s two wins fewer than the current division leaders, those New York Yankees, are tapped to win. The Yankees are already four games clear in the division. This is suboptimal.
By the odds, the Blue Jays have about a 20% chance of winning the division. Those odds are about the same as a pair of Jacks claim in a full table game of Hold’em. To borrow an apocryphal saying from the poker world in regards to pocket jacks: pump or dump.
This is the challenge before the Alex Anthopoulos. He built a good team that didn’t play well enough over the season’s opening two months. So now he must play catch up if he wants to win something other than accolades for not running the team into the ground.
If that means continuing the trend of treating prospects as vouchers for big league talent, do it. If that means spending every last cent of the war chest, held over from the winter, good. The 2015 Blue Jays have an opportunity, one which must pass without mumbling about the high price of rentals.
I don’t particularly care how, I just want to know the team is committed to playing this trade season fast. Make an improvement...somewhere. Five runs a game is cool but so is six. The bullpen needs another piece but so could the rotation. Lead the action while the shelves remain full. Make the team better, make it as good as you can and as fast as you can.
It isn’t as simple as presented and there are more factors at play than just implied playoff odds and projected standings. But enough excuses and damning with “state of the franchise” faint praise. Put a winning team on the field and then win. Do whatever it takes, whatever that is.