The Toronto Blue Jays, in their latest series against the Texas Rangers, received a hard reality check that mirrors the intensity of playoff baseball. While it's not a life-or-death scenario with every game's outcome, this series' importance to the Blue Jays' postseason chances cannot be understated.
Their prior 79.3% playoff likelihood, as indicated by FanGraphs, nosedived to 45.3% after a trio of losses against the Rangers. Many might view Toronto's struggle against the Rangers as an indication of their inadequacy for the playoff season.
But a more discerning analysis might reveal the kind of playoff team the Blue Jays could potentially shape into.
Blue Jays' Playoff Paradox
However, their structural flaws may hinder their potential playoff successes, even if they secure a wild-card spot.
It's undeniable that Toronto boasts a few postseason advantages. With Kevin Gausman as a top-tier ace, an offence ranked seventh in wRC+ and top-tier defence, the team has components that signify potential playoff triumphs.
Yet, the age-old adage that pitching and defence win championships might be too reductive. It doesn’t just boil down to catching the ball or pitching well, but also having a strategic pitching lineup and consistently scoring runs.
Consistently scoring has been Toronto's Achilles heel, with their 16th rank in run-scoring. Their 108 wRC+ indicates they ought to perform better offensively. However, the nature of their strengths doesn’t mesh well with contemporary playoff requirements.
It's notable how home runs have evolved as a pivotal aspect of winning games, as demonstrated by the Rangers in their successive victories against the Blue Jays. A 2020 MLB.com article by Mike Petriello highlighted that 51.3% of playoff runs were home runs, a statistic that remained consistent in subsequent years.
Though counterintuitive, in an era of enhanced pitching skills, home runs emerge as the game-changer. With hits becoming increasingly scarce against superior pitching, a single error by a top-tier pitcher becomes a more predictable scoring opportunity.
This evolution spells trouble for the Blue Jays, who excel in singles but lag in home runs, emphasizing their reliance on rally-dependent offence in 2023.
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