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Just how deep is the hole the Blue Jays have dug for themselves?

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Veronica Chung
2 months ago
There’s no point hiding it anymore — the Toronto Blue Jays are off to a bad start. 
They own a 19-23 record in the middle of May and sit four-and-a-half games out of the last playoff spot in the American League. It’s uncharted territory for a team that pretty much breezed into the playoffs in back-to-back years.
On the bright side, a truly good team overcomes any obstacles in their way, and the time is somewhat on the Blue Jays’ side. However, whether Toronto can climb out of the hole this season is a different question.
As the Blue Jays head into Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, they have 19 wins and 23 losses and are the only team in the American League East with a record under 0.500. The team’s run differential isn’t glamorous either since Toronto stands at minus-47, which suggests their record should actually be as low as 16-26. 
For any consolation, many other teams around the league have shared similar records to Toronto. The 2007 Colorado Rockies were not off to a hot start with 17 wins and 23 losses with a minus-49 run differential by May 16 of that season, but they went on to secure a Wild Card spot with an 83-79 record with a plus-102 run differential. Perhaps the most successful example would be the 2019 Washington Nationals, who recorded 18 wins and 25 losses with a minus-27 run differential by May 16. That iteration of the Nationals not only turned things around to record 93 wins and 69 losses with a plus-149 run differential, but they also eventually won the World Series. 
The slight problem with this comparison method is that these records and run differentials don’t consider other factors like roster construction. While the 2019 Nationals might have significantly underperformed at the start of their season, they had a talented and well-rounded roster with players like Howie Kendrick, Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg, Trea Turner, and Ryan Zimmerman. The 2007 Rockies also had some superstars on the team, such as Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, and Troy Tulowitzki, and these talents powered them through to the playoffs. 
Funny enough, the 2023 Chicago Cubs, 2023 Cincinnati Reds, and 2023 San Francisco Giants all recorded a 19-23 record by May 16, just like the 2024 Blue Jays. Out of the three teams, the Cubs were the only team to record a positive run differential at plus-23, while the Reds recorded minus-28 and the Giants recorded minus-23. Unfortunately, none of the teams made it to the playoffs despite their best efforts. Chicago finished the season with an 83-79 record and a 96-run differential; Cincinnati ended with an 82-80 record with a minus-38 run differential; San Francisco had a 79-83 record with a minus-45 run differential. The current Blue Jays are on a similar path and this serves as a warning a long slump could hurt the team for good. 
Believe it or not, the 2015 and 2016 Blue Jays didn’t start their seasons all that well and they also had losing records by May 16 at 17-21 and 19-21, respectively. However, both of these iterations of the Blue Jays all had a positive run differential. The 2015 team had a plus-12 run differential and went on to turn it into 221 by the end of the season with a 93-69 record. The 2016 team wasn’t as offensively powerful as the 2015 team but still had a plus-eight run differential on May 16 and recorded a plus-93 run differential with an 89-73 record. These successful Blue Jays of the past are a resounding statement that a team’s offence needs to be able to either bail out pitching or punish the opposing pitching mercilessly.
On paper, the 2024 Blue Jays align more with the 2019 Blue Jays regarding records and run differential. By May 16 in 2019, Toronto recorded 17 wins and 26 losses and had a minus-33 run differential. Since these Blue Jays weren’t built to win from the outset, they ended up with a 67-95 record and a whopping minus-102 run differential. This downfall makes more sense given that the 2019 Blue Jays were more willing to sell to stock up their farm system; they gave up on the idea of a stellar winning record for the sake of a brighter future. 
Which brings us to 2024. Coming out of rebuilding years after 2019, Toronto was supposed to capitalize on its young talents and build a serious contender that would threaten the league. To a certain extent, Toronto succeeded in torturing its rivals. Yet, the team underperformed massively and got snuffed out of the playoff whenever they made it to the stage. The pain never went away, and the wound never healed. 
This was supposed to be the year to shake things off and prove everyone wrong. So far, the plan has gone off the rails and wins are slipping off Toronto’s hands individually. The message is clear as day – shape up or ship out.

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