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Why the Blue Jays' Playoff Chances Are Not Necessarily Within Their Control

Tom AuSenior Analyst IIMay 22, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 10:  Marco Suctaro #19 of the Toronto Blue Jays waits in the field against the Oakland Athletics during a Major League Baseball game on May 10, 2009 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The Blue Jays are still in first place in the American League East, but one wonders how long that will last. Perhaps until the next weekend, the next time they meet the Red Sox.

Boston is a strong 8-0 against the other other two AL East contenders, the Blue Jays and the Yankees. They should be huge favorites for the AL East title.

But they're not. The reason is that they are only 17-16 against all other teams.

On the other hand, the Blue Jays are 26-12 outside the three-team matchups. The Yankees are similarly situated with a record of 22-11 in such games. Given these facts, the three-way race is a statistical "dead heat."

Last year, the division standings were determined "outside." That's because in 2008, the Blue Jays were 9-9 against both the Red Sox and the Yankees, and 7-11 against the Tampa Bay Rays. No one team was worse than this against any of the other three.

Then, the Blue Jays had three pitchers, Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, and Jesse Litsch, who could get wins against the Yankees and Red Sox.

This year, Halladay has the only win against those teams. Burnett is playing for the Yankees, and Litsch is a non-factor, with injuries. And guys like Scott Richmond and Brian Tallet can win against any team except the Red Sox and Yankees.

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Likewise, the Jays have a number of batters than can hit against anyone except the likes of CC Sabathia and Tim Wakefield.

In a neck-and-neck race between the Blue Jays and Yankees, it might come down to the season series between the two. The Yankees are leading this one, 2-1.

And if Boston improves its record against non-division opponents, this Blue Jays advantage will diminish.

So how can the Blue Jays win at least a wild card slot this year? Give them credit for all-around depth, meaning that they can stand injuries better than the others without a drop-off of their performances.

On the other hand, a few injuries to key opposing players like that of Joba Chamberlain last night, or Chien-Ming Wang earlier, could hurt others.

Another possibility is that the Blue Jays might be able to "rent" a starting pitcher for half a season for the final push. But the equivalent of last year's CC Sabathia may or may not be available mid-season. And Jake Peavy has a no-trade clause and doesn't want to come to the American League.

Or the Red Sox might continue their inexplicably weak record outside the division.

But none of these things are within the Blue Jays' control.

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