Blue Jays Nation Roundtable: How do we feel with one week left in the season?
Photo credit:Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
2 months ago
With one week left in the regular season, the Blue Jays Nation team got together to answer two simple questions:
1) Will the Blue Jays make the playoffs?
Veronica Chung – The Blue Jays won’t be off the hook until October 1st most likely, but my guess would be a yes to the Jays making the playoffs. Considering some of the Jays’ excruciating stretches, they need to secure the second Wild Card spot to not insert themselves into a nightmarish tie-breaker situation given that they don’t have the advantage against the Texas Rangers or the Seattle Mariners. Even if the Rangers may run away with the AL West division title, it’s always a good policy to stay alert and try to win as many games as possible to lock down a playoff spot.
Evan Stack – Despite all of the ups and downs that we’ve seen in recent weeks, the Blue Jays have positioned themselves nicely to where I think they will make the playoffs. All season, they’ve hit peaks and valleys, and they’re conveniently standing on top of a peak right now. They’ve won 7 of 9 including a series win this weekend at Tampa Bay, and the out-of-town scoreboard has been nothing but gracious to them.
So many raved about Seattle’s stellar performance in the month of August, but their mediocre first half is starting to come back to haunt them. They might be the last team to be eliminated from postseason play in the American League given how they’ve been playing, but Houston is swaying my opinion by the day. It’s only fitting that those two teams face off this week!
Nick Prasad – My original thought on this was no; Toronto had hit a wall where controlling their own fate did not look possible. The bats had no pulse, the pitching was mediocre, and the bullpen was on and off with huge questions in the late-inning relief roles. As per the Red Sox series, the Yankees series in the Bronx, and this weekend’s Tampa series; the Jays have turned it around and may have found a formula that can pull off the dubs. Therefore I am going to change my stance and say yes they will make the playoffs.
Tammy Rainey – oh yes. Now more clearly than ever, though not in the manner I would have expected (Houston swept at home by KC? How does THAT happen?) They have been inconsistent of course but they seem to be peaking at the right time.
Tyson Shushkewich – With one week left in the season, the playoff picture is starting to become a bit more clear.
Considering the Mariners still have to run the AL West gauntlet to end their season and because the Jays only hold the tiebreaker over the Houston Astros (and they have been slipping), I think Texas will take first in the AL West, Seattle will snag the second WC spot, and the Blue Jays will finish third, with the Astros riding a losing streak in the final month to finish just outside the playoff picture.
Thomas Hall – At this point, with only six games remaining, it’d certainly be tough to envision a scenario where the Blue Jays finish outside the American League wild-card picture. Who thought we’d be saying that almost two weeks after Toronto lost four straight to the Texas Rangers?
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2) If they do make the playoffs, which Wild Card position do you think they get and how will they do in the playoffs?
If they don’t make the playoffs, what went wrong and how many games back will they be out?
Veronica – Based on the remaining schedule for the AL West teams (Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers), the Blue Jays certainly have a much better chance to make it to the playoffs than one of those teams. At their current pace, they will be able to hold down the second Wild Card spot so long as they don’t completely flounder against the Yankees and Rays.
The Jays don’t have the luxury to strategically plan for the third Wild Card spot because they don’t hold the tiebreaker against the Mariners or the Rangers. The only team they hold a tiebreaker against is the Astros, but it’s too risky to count on other teams to struggle for a prolonged period of time. The Jays have to play their absolute best and win as many games as possible to secure a playoff spot.
This is an arguably rougher spot for the Jays to be in compared to last year, but the good news is that they have a virtually bulletproof pitching staff from top to bottom paired with stellar defence. These are the advantages they have at their disposal and they could easily become an unexpected weapon altogether.
If you recall last year, the Mariners took advantage of the Jays’ poor outfield defence and relief pitching, and there wasn’t much the Jays could do against the impeccable Mariners’ pitching staff either. Everyone coveted the Mariners’ outstanding pitching last year, and now the Jays have that this season. That alone gives the Jays more chance to win games without having to worry about blown leads too much. But at the same time, their offence has been concerning with their lack of ability to score consistently. The most encouraging thing is that the offence is willing to grind out with patience while making better contacts these days. If their offence heats up at the right time, they are poised to win more than one playoff game, but if their offence can’t find ways to score, even winning one playoff game would be a feat in itself.
My prediction is that they make it to the playoffs and win one or two playoff games. I don’t want to hazard further because this team has shown how inconsistent the offence can be despite superb pitching and defensive performances. However, if the offence finds ways to score more runs during the playoffs, I’d say they may have a chance at winning a game or two at the American League Division Series but that’s a big “if.” But then again, pitching and defence win playoff games, and it’d be wonderful to see this team back at the American League Championship Series so long as they score enough runs and provide outstanding pitching performances consistently.
The Jays have the ability to become the buzzsaw, and their fate is completely in their hands now. They have all the weapons they need, and it’s up to them as to how long they want their October run to be.
P.S. The postseason is the perfect time for the Jays pitching staff to make the opponents pay for their shortcomings. The Texas Rangers can’t keep running away with their abysmal bullpen, the Baltimore Orioles can’t keep bailing out their elite relief pitchers such as Yennier Cano and the Tampa Bay Rays can’t keep it going with mostly rookie pitching staff and lineups. The Jays’ mission is simple: Make them pay for their weaknesses and capitalize on them when and if you face them.
Evan – With how Toronto is playing now, their remaining schedule, and the fact that no one really wants to win the AL West, I’m almost certain that they get the second Wild Card spot.
As a fan, I’m always going to hold out hope and belief. I’m obviously going to take what I saw this weekend and think, “Wow, they might be able to make a run in October.” Here’s the glass-half-full approach: the Orioles are good, but their postseason experience is minimal. The Rays are bruised and beaten – are they good enough to win a round or two? Is anyone scared of the Twins? Seattle and Houston have both played sub-.500 baseball in September. Texas hasn’t, but they’re only 12-10. Could all three of them be limping into October?
There’s also a part of this in which I need to be realistic. Glass half empty, this is what it looks like for Toronto: Baltimore hasn’t been swept all season, and they’ve given Toronto the business (10-3 with a +35 run differential) this year. The Blue Jays just won their first series at the Trop since 2021 – can they really do it twice in the span of two weeks? We can’t forget how they played at home against the Rangers just a couple of weeks ago. How bad was that? Minnesota is a preferable opponent, but how badly do you want the Jays to face Sonny Gray and Pablo Lopez in a best-of-three?
There will be doubters with whoever the Blue Jays face, but that’s the beauty of the postseason. Take whatever was done in the first 162 and throw it all out the window. Remember when the NLCS last year was Phillies-Padres?
The pitching staff and defence that this team possesses can easily take this team far, and if the offence can prove competitive, an American League pennant is very doable. However, if the offence falls flat in the opening round, it’ll be a short October stint.
Nick – As it stands right now, I see the playoff picture setting up the same, with the Jays finishing the WC2 and booking a date with the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three matchup. This series will go three games no doubt; Bassitt, Kikuchi, and Gausman will be the men in charge of the bump with Vladdy Jr, Bichette, and Varsho being the reliant offenders. If all goes well on the small-ball side of things, if Hicks is heavily relied on in the late innings, the Blue Jays come out on top.
Tammy – WC2 unless Texas collapses this week. Assuming Toronto wins 4 of the remaining 6, the M’s would have to win out to tie Toronto and the Astros would have to win out to pass the Jays Both seem wildly unlikely but even without those assumed wins they still need to pull out of their dive (Seattle is 8-14 in September, Houston is 8-13) to push the Blue Jays back. I take no pleasure in reporting this as facing the Rays in 9 of 12 games low-key terrifies me (even though this past weekend was encouraging and it’s probably irrational) but you have to expect chaos ball to assume otherwise.
I’m a lot more confident in how they will fare once in that I have been at some previous points. If they get past the Rays I’m pretty confident they can make it to the ALCS. First, there’s Baltimore, apparently, and there is obviously reason to be worried but something about the unpredictability of baseball gives me a hunch that the O’s won’t have as much success against the Jays as they have to this point. It may seem overly optimistic to consider an AL pennant possible but… it’s possible. The last three WS winners were not the favourites going in so I’m upbeat. For now.
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Tyson – Looking at the remaining schedule for the AL West, I think it really comes down to how the Mariners fair against the Rangers and the Astros. I do think the Blue Jays will make the playoffs but it will depend on the Mariners. I don’t really see a scenario where the Rangers don’t finish first leaving the Astros and Mariners to duke it out. Considering how the Astros have been struggling as of late, I think the Mariners will find a way to capitalize, tie the Blue Jays record, and snag the second WC spot because of the tiebreaker, leaving Houston on the outside looking in.
In a perfect world (in my opinion at least), the Blue Jays snagging the third Wild Card spot and heading to Minnesota to face the Twins might be their best route to postseason glory. I think the playoff matchup against Minnesota works more in their favour compared to Tampa Bay, where memories of the 2020 playoffs still ring true and harsh.
Things get tricky after that. If the Jays finish in the second WC spot and beat the Rays, they have to face the Orioles, which has not gone in their favour this season. There is a chance that the younger Orioles prospects struggle with postseason intensity but given how the regular season has gone, I don’t think that will happen. Should the Jays finish third and beat Minnesota, they face the Rangers, where recent history is on their side (postseason-wise) but Texas has given them fits this season and boasts a strong pitching staff (even with Scherzer hurt).
At the end of the day, if the Blue Jays bats can continue to produce (or at least be smart and walk when needed), I think it’s possible they can advance out of the Wild Card round but the ALDS may be where they fall short. Anything is obviously possible in the postseason but both Texas and Baltimore are deep and have given the Blue Jays a lot of trouble this season.
Overall, win in the Wild Card but fall short in the ALDS.
Thomas – In an ideal situation, the Blue Jays claim the final wild-card seed, securing a first-round matchup against the AL Central-winning Twins – who, at 83 wins, feature the worst fewest in the majors among division winners. But, the only problem with that is both the Mariners and Astros have continued to stumble in the standings beneath them.
As such, unless the Blue Jays struggle over their final six, they’ll likely be strongly positioned to hold onto the second wild-card position by next Sunday. Now that they’re two games ahead of the Astros, chances are this team will return to Tropicana Field for the start of the 2023 post-season.
As Toronto just proved, however, the roster is much better equipped than it was in 2020 to come away victorious in a best-of-three series against Tampa Bay. With that in mind, I’d give a slight edge to the Blue Jays if these franchises face off in the opening round a week from now.
Beyond that, anything can happen. It isn’t unheard of for a wild-card team to ride a hot streak all the way to the World Series, just look at the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies. In this case, though, consistent run support – or a lack thereof – will probably serve as the Blue Jays’ undoing at some point.
Barring an unforeseen surge, that moment will probably occur during a frustrating ALDS showdown, especially since defeating the Rays would mean facing the Orioles in the next round.
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