When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired Troy Tulowitzki and David Price, they effectively thrust their name into the American League conversation. As they reeled off a 22-6 record in the month of August, they became favorites.
As they continue to remain red hot on the back of a four game winning streak and a three game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, resulting in a four game cushion on top of the AL East, the hype and love of the Jays keeps rising.
It’s just too bad it won’t end that well.
The Blue Jays made a point at the trade deadline to address their needs. They had an overpaid, injury-prone shortstop in Jose Reyes who was nowhere near the All-Star form he once dazzled with in New York. With a price tag of $22 million in 2015, and still owed $44 million over the next two years of his contract, Toronto dumped the “what was” shortstop for the “what is” in Troy Tulowitzki.
The Blue Jays continued their fire sale when they moved Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, and Jairo Labourt for David Price. Finally, with Price at the top of the rotation, the Blue Jays appeared to have the ace they needed to make a deep run in the AL.
Price has lived up to the billing, going 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 11 starts. Tulowitzki has been less dazzling, hitting just .232 since the trade with five home runs and 17 RBIs. Maybe that whole thin air in Colorado thing wasn’t wrong.
Josh Donaldson is an MVP candidate, but on a roster in which no other player with at least 400 at-bats is hitting over .280, there’s reason for concern. The Blue Jays have been mashing teams lately, having scored less three runs or less just four times in the entire month of September, while scoring four runs or fewer just eight times. But that’s the reason for concern.
Baseball games in August and September carry, for the most part, very little weight. A non-divisional loss on August 13th won’t have much effect on the divisional race. When mid-September rolls around, the games take on a little more meaning, but no regular season game will ever mimic the intensity and must-win mindset that comes in the postseason.
As the calendar turns to October, the stress and intensity rises, and with it will come games in which the high octane offense that Toronto possesses can’t dominate. Since 2000, just one team, the 2009 New York Yankees, have led the league in home runs and gone on to win the World Series. The reason? Runs are at a premium in the postseason. No longer can you run through teams like the Rays, Braves, and Red Sox, teams that have struggled mightily on the mound. The Blue Jays will have to deal with rotations like the Royals and Astros, strong starting fives and dominant bullpens.
Since the trade deadline, Toronto has won just eight games where they scored four or fewer runs (8-12), two of which have come in the last week, while they have won just four games in match-ups where they’ve scored three or fewer runs (4-8). This is not a baseball team that is built for low-scoring baseball games. They need to score often to win ball games, and in the postseason, high scoring baseball games are about as likely as me getting a date with Ariana Grande. There’s no reason it can’t happen, it just won’t.
Toronto may be able to survive in an American League that currently lacks, outside of the Houston Astros, a team with a truly lights out rotation, but if they do manage to make it through to the World Series, they’ll face the Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, Mets, or Cubs, the top five teams in the major leagues in team ERA.
Toronto is just 14-27 in one-run ball games, games they’ll experience plenty of come October. Right now the long balls will fly and the runs will cross the plate at an alarming rate, but when the temperature drops, so too will the run production. And as the runs begin to drift away, the Blue Jays chances go with it.
But hey, I guess as long as I’ve got a shot with Ariana Grande!