Toronto Blue Jays: How Playing in the A.L East Affects Their Roster

Stephen Brown@@the__ste (Double Underscore)Correspondent IIJanuary 9, 2012

The Toronto Blue Jays have had the unfortunate opportunity of playing in the same division as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. This has definitely spurned any possibilities of postseason play for quite some time.

Enter the Tampa Bay Rays. For the latter part of the 2000s, the Rays were just as big competitors in the A.L East as the Yankees or Red Sox.

In order for the Jays to have any chance at the playoffs, they must consistently beat, over a 162 game span, at least two of the top 10 teams in the league.

Moreover, with both the Angels and Rangers now showing that they have top-tier squads, the wild card will be even tougher for an A.L. East team to ascertain.

I have discussed this topic in a previous article here, but in this regard I want to focus on the importance of the rotation. One of the most impressive things the Rays have had is their starting pitching dominance over the Blue Jays.

Let us look at the career records versus the Blue Jays of the three main Tampa Bay Rays starters:

David Price: 12 starts, 9 wins, 2.06 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, .213 BAA

Matt Garza*: 13 starts, 6 wins, 2.14 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .236 BAA

James Shields: 18 starts, 9 wins, 3.60 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .236 BAA

*I hope that these numbers do not alter the Jays interest in acquiring Garza. Yes he has dominated them in his career, but he hasn’t come close to being this dominant against anyone else.

In a three game stretch with these starters (of course Garza doesn’t play for the Rays anymore but he dominated the Jays for a couple of years), the Jays barely had a chance to compete.

Having this sort of domination over the Jays, who have always prided themselves on their offensive numbers, completely hamstrung their ability to compete in the division.

So the Rays own the Jays through their pitching, and I am sure that Jeremy Hellickson will continue that trend. We don’t know what their pitching coach has on the Blue Jays, but it is no coincidence.

Now let us look at how our top three starters (Cecil is included as he has been in the rotation for a couple of years) have fared against another division rival, the Boston Red Sox, over their own respective careers:

Ricky Romero: 13 starts, 4 wins, 7.12 ERA, 1.93 WHIP, .328 BAA

Brandon Morrow: 7 starts, 1 win, 9.53 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, .313 BAA

Brett Cecil: 7 starts, 3 wins, 5.40 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, .280 BAA

Granted, they are the Boston Red Sox and consistently have a top-tier offence. That being said, how can you possibly compete when arguably your best three starters have a combined 7.35 ERA against your rival?

Pretty tough, especially when Lester and Buchholz have a 3.06 and 2.58 ERA against you, respectively.

So what to do?

If the Jays will ever have a shot at the playoffs, they simply must improve their starting pitching against their division rivals.

Moreover, when looking at a possible signing, they should definitely consider that pitchers statistics against the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays.

Let us look at some possible pitchers the Jays have been interested in and how they fared against the A.L. East offensive juggernauts:

Edwin Jackson:

Vs. Boston: 5.49 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, .307

Vs. New York: 5.35 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, .271 BAA

Matt Garza:

Vs. Boston: 3.83 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .238 BAA

Vs. New York: 4.48 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .270 BAA

Ervin Santana:

Vs. Boston: 4.27 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .230 BAA

Vs. New York: 5.55 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .290 BAA

Gio Gonzalez:

Vs. Boston: 5.79 ERA, 1.71 WHIP, .298 BAA

Vs. New York: 7.27 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, .248 BAA

Roy Oswalt (per Josh King’s article)

Vs. Boston: Never pitched against them.

Vs. New York: 2 starts, 6.2 IP, 3 ER

Vs. Toronto: 1 start, 2 hit shutout.

Clearly the statistics indicate that many pitchers fall victim to these two impressive offences.

This is why I believe that the Jays need to truly invest in a top-tier pitcher that can take over a game. Give up the prospects and get that dynamic ace.

Say Roy Halladay? (career ERA vs. NYY: 2.98) Verlander? (career ERA against Boston: 3.22) even C.J Wilson? (career ERA vs. Boston: 1.43). We can only dream, but there are studs that can be had.

Playing in probably the toughest division in pro sports, the Blue Jays year after year have a tall order. However, it is important to look at how these new signees play against the Red Sox, Yanks and Rays.

Remember, it is more than how a hitter fares against a pitcher, you must also evaluate the ballpark these teams play in and try and find some players that are best suited for pitching in those environments.

If the Jays ever have a chance of doing anything, it will be based on their pitching success against these top-tier A.L. East teams.

Get at me on twitter @the__ste (Double Underscore)


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