Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Don’t look now, but the Jays are making a charge… according to projections for the rest of the season.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying too much attention to these when things weren’t going so well, so maybe they haven’t changed much since a week or two ago, but there are some rather interesting things going on right now on FanGraphs’ Projected Standings page. For starters, it is perhaps surprising that their Year-to-Date plus Rest-of-Season projections have the Jays coming in at 85 wins — good enough, barely, to capture the top AL Wild Card spot. But there’s more to be mined from there than just that.
The stupid Red Sox, for example, currently have been on an insane offensive tear. They are scoring a half run more per game than even our ridiculous 2015 Blue Jays, and their best-in-baseball-by-over-100-runs offence. And while it’s hard to look at their lineup and not think that they damn well might be able to sustain something close to that level (sort of), the projections FanGraphs gives us certainly do not. They have Boston coming beautifully down to earth — albeit to a level that’s still ahead of the Jays’ offence over the rest of the season, but only by little more than a tenth of a run per game.
To put it more plainly, the RoS projections have the Red Sox scoring a run less per game than they are now, and the Jays scoring a half-run more per game. And on the pitching side, the simulations expect Boston to get better by two tenths of a run per game, and the Jays to get worse by a half run.
So… how do we feel about that? I think pretty good!
Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I think it’s certainly very possible that the Jays’ offence does better than the 4.78 runs per game it’s projected to over the rest of the season. Especially given that it’s essentially the same group that scored 5.5 per last year — and, if Tulo ever gets healthy and finds himself (which, sadly, are giant ifs), could be even better. And I’m very OK with the notion that, while the Jays’ run prevention will surely regress a bit from the 3.95 per game it has allowed so far (Cleveland, at 4.21, is the only AL team projected to allow fewer than 4.3 per game over the rest of the season), maybe it won’t even fall back so far. I mean, with the bullpen slowly sorting itself out, Estrada looking very legit, Dickey busting FIP-based projections as usual, and the best of Marcus Stroman (hopefully) still to come, is it that crazy that they could keep something resembling this up? Maybe not!
These particular projections give the Red Sox a run differential of +57 the rest of the way, with the Jays coming in at +23. Based on that, Boston is projected to end the season seven games up in the AL East (it should be noted that the projections think the Orioles are quite a bit less relevant than the standings currently make them appear, as do I).
Yeah, it’s all pretty abstract, and looking at it this way discounts gritty gamer-age and diggin’ deep and wonnin’ games, etc. — in other words, don’t mention this to any pissbaby Royals fans! — but that run differential stuff is obviously important, and I don’t think it’s crazy to think that the Jays can do quite a bit better than what we’re seeing there.
Last year the Jays had an utterly insane differential of +221 runs over the course of the season, out-pacing the league by far. They don’t even have to do anything close to that to make this race a whole lot tighter than these numbers, and most people, seem willing to believe it will be. These particular projections have nine teams posting a better run differential over the rest of the season than the Jays, and the Jays finishing at just +38 for the entire year! And in case you think they’re conservative one everyone, Boston’s so-far-plus-projected differential is +133, and the Cubs’ is +220.
Oh fuck yeah, the Jays can do better than that!
It’s going to be a fun summer. Buckle up.