What recent MLB history says about the approaching Blue Jays trade deadline – .

What recent MLB history says about the approaching Blue Jays trade deadline – .

As the Toronto Blue Jays come out of the All-Star break, they find themselves in a position that has become common since the MLB playoff rules changed in 2012.
The team hovers around 0.500, well back in their division run, but still have a chance to claim a wild card spot. The Extended Playoffs may have added just two playoff spots, but they spawned a new level of contenders who either wouldn’t have seen “meaningful baseball” in September, or tried to bring improvements during the season under the old format.

While this level may be important – there are currently seven teams seated at 0.500 or better but outside of a playoff spot – it does contain different types of teams. The Blue Jays, for example, have an excellent points differential (+72) which suggests they are better than their record suggests – and they lacked an elite hitter at George Springer for the vast majority of the season. season. That makes them more prone to making a splash by the deadline than the Seattle Mariners, who FanGraphs gives a 2.9% chance of making the playoffs.

In order to better understand what the Blue Jays should or could do from here, history can be our guide. We have 80 playoff teams to watch from the current format, and finding which ones made it from situations most similar to the 2021 Blue Jays should provide some insight into what it takes to come from where the club stands today. to play baseball in October.

The tightest games for these Blue Jays are teams that had similar playoff odds at the All-Star break (Toronto currently sits at 34.5%) and were sidelined for a playoff berth. at that point by several games (the Blue Jays are 4.5 back).

Based on these criteria, here are the teams the Blue Jays can learn the most from:

2013 Cleveland

Cotes des All-Star Break Playoff : 32,1 %

Playoff position: 3.0 plays in the back of the second wild card

Important addition: Marc Rzepczynski, RP

Did it help? : Rzepczynski caught fire for Cleveland, providing 20.1 innings of 0.89 ball ERA during the stretch run. Considering they avoided a one-match tie-breaker just to reach the wilds game with a single win, it’s probably fair to say that the outcome could have been different for them if they hadn’t chosen. the left-hander.

What led them to the playoffs? : Cleveland’s second half was driven by two truly special individual performances. Ubaldo Jimenez posted the best WAR of any pitching MLB after All-Star Break (3.1) pitching 84 innings with a 1.82 ERA and 2.17 FIP. It was a level he couldn’t replicate in his first season with the team, nor at any point in his career after that.

On the player side, Yan Gomes posted 2.7 WARs in the second half – a number he’s only exceeded twice in a full season. The combination of these two players and a resurgent Scott Kazmir helped the club to a 41-26 record.

Lessons for the Blue Jays? : It seems unlikely that Toronto will get such unlikely efforts as those Cleveland got from Jimenez and Gomes – although that’s never out of the question.

Maybe the real lesson here is, if there’s a player you care about, go get them even if they’re struggling. When Cleveland caught Marc Rzepczynski, he had a 7.84 ERA in just 10.1 innings with the St. Louis Cardinals and had spent the vast majority of the year at triple A.

This front office has already shown their willingness to catch struggling players who they believe can help with a playoff push like Joaquin Benoit and Robbie Ray, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as the same makers were also at the head of this Cleveland team.

Pirates de Pittsburgh 2014

Cotes des All-Star Break Playoff : 34,5%

Playoff position: 3.0 plays in the back of the second wild card

Important addition: John Axford, RP (as waiver request in August)

Did it help? : He gave them 11 solid innings with a 4.09 ERA and 2.86 FIP, which was practical but not really punchy.

What led them to the playoffs? : A marginal pitch upgrade. In the first half of the season, the Pirates’ pitching staff ranked 29th in the WAR ahead of the Colorado Rockies. They went from tire shots to mediocre (18th) in the second half, allowing their elite group of positional players led by Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin, Josh Harrison and Starling Marte to carry them.

Francisco Liriano improved considerably, Gerrit Cole gave them eight great starts, and the combination of Vance Worley and Edison Volquez kept points off the table with 157.2 innings of ERA throws below 2.50 despite peripherals suggesting that they weren’t that dominant.

Lessons for the Blue Jays? : The lesson here certainly shouldn’t be that if you hold on, all of your launchers will improve – and the Pirates’ lack of delay additions is likely a function of their owner’s reluctance to add to the payroll – but there is has some parallels here.

The 2014 Pirates had a core of young positional players who had just reached the playoffs for the first time and lacked the corresponding pitcher. All they needed was for those staff to be a bit more capable to take off, which they did on their way to a record 39-28 in the second half. A safer way to make sure this happened would have been to enlist outside help, but the Pirates found the production they needed inside.

Blue Jays de Toronto 2015

Cotes des All-Star Break Playoff : 26,3 %

Playoff position: 4.0 games behind the second wild card

Important additions: David Price SP, Troy Tulowtizki SS, Ben Revere OF, LaTroy Hawkins RP, Mark Lowe RP

Did it help? : The team went from 41 to 18 as of July 31 and broke a 22-year drought in the playoffs. So here is.

What led them to the playoffs? : The price was exceptional, Tulowitzki solidified the defense, Revere was a valuable spark plug, Marcus Stroman came back and excelled in September, and the formation that had been crashing all year continued to crash.

Lessons for the 2021 Blue Jays? : While there are significant similarities between the 2015 and 2021 Blue Jays, there are also some major differences. The 2015 edition of the team had a greater sense of urgency thanks to their aging body and the long-term uncertainty facing their leadership group. The American League was also strangely mediocre that year as the Blue Jays and Royals ended up being the only teams to score 90 wins.

The stars were lined up for this kind of bet, and it paid off. While Matt Boyd became a starter the Blue Jays could have used at times over the years that followed, the prospects they gave up didn’t really come back to haunt them either.

Given the youth of the Blue Jays and their new, more forward-looking leadership, it’s extremely unlikely that we will see a revival of 2015. But if a team with as much offensive talent as 2021 were given pitching reinforcements to success, the results could be just as explosive – and with the possible departures of Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray after the season, 2021 is a more intriguing micro-window than it first appears.

2018 Oakland Athletics

Cotes des All-Star Break Playoff : 29.4 percent

Playoff position: 3.0 plays in the back of the second wild card

Important additions: Jeurys Familia RP, Mike Fiers SP (August exchange), Shawn Kelley (August exchange)

Did it help? : Significantly. The trio combined for 101 innings of 3.39 ERA balls and Familia became a crucial cog in the reliever box.

What led them to the playoffs? : Oakland had the league’s best offense by wRC + (123) in the second half of the season led by brilliant Matt Chapman and Khris Davis, as well as relentless skill from the rest of the positional squad. Of the 11 positional players who drew more than 100 home plate appearances for the A’s in the second half of 2018, only one had a wRC + below 100. It was wide receiver Jonathan Lucroy, who made important contributions. defensive contributions.

Pitching also improved slightly, going from 18th in the first half to 13th in the second, a change the new additions helped bring about.

Lessons for the 2021 Blue Jays? : If we assume the Blue Jays are not going to remake a 2015-like trading frenzy again, this track team presents the most compelling path for the 2021 Blue Jays. These A’s had an elite group of players – but with more depth and less individual talent – and have made a number of pitching additions to make their staff good enough to overcome the bump.

This included the addition of a Enclosure Ace (a title that applied to Familia at the time), a helpful backup arm (Kelley), and a rear starter to raise the floor of their spin (Proud). . These three represent the kind of transport the Blue Jays might have in mind as this year’s deadline approaches. However, unlike athletics, they won’t have the luxury of waiting until August for more certainty about their chances before pulling the trigger.


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