Despite the huge comeback, the series told us a lot about where the Jays stand.
First and foremost, I don’t think there’s a shot in hell that the team catches the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers are already 11 games ahead and it’s only June 20th. It sucks to say, but it’s all but impossible.
How large is the gap?:
Heading into the season, I thought New York was definitely a playoff team, but not as good as the Jays. However, I’ve been proven wrong. You can say “their schedule is easy”, but the Yankees are currently 20-8 against .500 teams. The Jays are 17-20.
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, the Yankees are winning the games they need to, the Jays are not.
Let’s take you back to June 8th, where the Jays played the Kansas City Royals. After overcoming a quick 3-0 hole, the Jays proceeded to lose the game 8-4. Then they proceeded to lose the game the following Saturday to the Tigers. Then they dropped two to the lowly Orioles.
If a team is sub .500 against teams that have a winning record, you cannot drop this many games to bad teams.
Sadly, the Yankees are just a better built team. While the two teams’ offenses are comparable (the Yankees have scored 340 runs, the Jays have scored 301), they do not compare in terms of pitching.
While Toronto’s starter ERA of 3.64 ranks the 7th best in the MLB, the Yankees starters almost give up a full run less, as their starter ERA sits at 2.71. In terms of FIP, it’s a bit closer, as the Yankees have the second lowest starter FIP at 3.21, while the Jays have the fourth lowest at 3.46 (the Phillies are at 3.45).
The big reason why the Yankees have such a huge lead in the standings is for this reason. Bullpen pitching.
According to Fangraphs, the Yankees bullpen has a collective ERA of 2.79, which ranks second in the MLB. The Jays have the tenth worst bullpen ERA at 4.21. Not just that, but the Jays FIP of 4.18 ranks as the 8th worst whilst the Yankees’ FIP of 3.06 ranks second once again.
The Yankees have a slight advantage with the bats, but have a huge advantage with pitching, especially with their bullpen. That begs the question, what can be done?
How can the Jays improve to contend with the Yankees:
As I previously stated, the division belongs to the Yankees. There are less than 100 games left and an 11 game lead is too much for a team to overcome unless the Yankees suddenly explode, which is unlikely.
However, there are now three playoff spots, and the Jays currently hold down the first one by two games. The Jays clearly need to lockdown that spot, which means consistently winning games, especially against the bad teams.
Furthermore, the team must address their bullpen. Last season, I wanted to write an article that said the phrase “Get Bullpen Help” a thousand times. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to post it.
Right now, I have the same feeling as I did before the Jays went out and acquired Adam Cimber. The Jays desperately need to acquire a relief pitcher with swing and miss in his game. This needs to be done, and it’s more than likely coming externally, as Nate Pearson felt shoulder pain and was pulled out of the game.
A second idea is for the Jays to acquire a starter and move Yusei Kikuchi to the pen. This is something I want to explore in an article, but the Jays could go and find a #3 starter (which we’ll start to cover on Meet the Sellers) and move the hard throwing lefty to the pen.
Perhaps a stint there can help him regain his confidence. Not just that, but Kikuchi does get quite a few swing and misses from batters, so it sort of kills two birds with one stone. This would also add a second trusted left handed pitcher in the pen, giving Tim Mayza a break.
Lastly they could afford to get another big bat, but I don’t believe that is likely. A Josh Bell or Tyler Naquin would be useful, but offense is clearly not the issue this season. Even when there are games where they struggle to hit with runners in scoring position, the offense has been solid.
I could see them getting a depth player, sort of how they got Corey Dickerson last season.
While they won’t be able to contend with the Yankees for the division title, it’s my belief they’ll make the playoffs. If the Jays make it out of the wildcard, there’s a good chance they’ll face the Yankees in a five game series or seven game series.
In this position, they’d be able to contend with the Yankees. Either way, this was a good litmus test to see where the Jays are, and what they need to improve to reach their lofty goals of winning the World Series.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. If you don’t already, you can see me masterfully trolling the Yankee faithful with Romano’s strikeout of Judge in the 8th inning.