How Good Are The 2013 Jays? (Part Three): Recent Winners

Analysis

In the final part of our three part series looking at the 2013 Blue Jays, we will once again use WAR (wins above replacement) to project how this team compares to recent playoff teams and World Series champions. We’ll start with last year’s playoff teams:

One of the first thing that is noticeable is how much variability there is between the teams, with the Orioles coming in at a lowly 85.1 wins and the Yankees leading the pack at 99.9. The Orioles significantly outperformed what their statistics would suggest they were likely to accomplish. History would indicate that they are a likely candidate for regression in 2013.

Once again, this Jays team looks to be well balanced, something that bodes well for dealing with injuries. However, while a team like the Tigers may be more vulnerable to a catastrophic injury to Miguel Cabrera or Justin Verlander they also likely have a larger margin of error simply because they do not play in the ultra-competitive AL East. Let’s see how the breakdown between position players and pitchers looks:

Position Players

One thing I noticed here is that none of last year’s playoff teams got anywhere near as much production from their designated hitter as Toronto did during the World Series years.

The Jays appear to be in good shape in terms of position players, even more so when you consider their bench. The weakest three positions look to be second base, centre field and catcher. Emilio Bonifacio is capable of playing both second base and centre field while Josh Thole is expected to be the backup catcher. Both of these players are experienced major leaguers and have produced at levels similar to the players they would be replacing. Should J.P. Arencibia, Maicer Izturis or Colby Rasmus falter, the drop off in production does not figure to be significant.

Pitchers

Overall, the Jays still look to have slightly weaker pitching than last year’s playoff teams from the American League. It is, however, worth noting that these projections were fairly conservative and R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow are all quite capable of stepping up and pitching like a true ace. For Toronto, the biggest concern that this graph raises is the fact that their bullpen projects to be less productive than the ‘pens of any of last year’s playoff teams. The Orioles, in particular, derived a stunning 13.5 WAR from their bullpen. Though the Orioles’ bullpen was obviously quite impressive in 2012 this is another reason to be wary of their prospects for 2013 as relievers statistics are known to be more variable than other players (since they pitch fewer innings than their counterparts). The performance of the Jays bullpen will be something to watch for this year as it is one of the only remaining areas of uncertainty for the team.

We’ll finish our analysis of the 2013 Jays by doing a quick comparison to the last 5 World Series winners:

We can see that this year’s Jays project to win as many or more games than all but the 2009 Yankees (although it’s obviously worth remembering that the winningest team does not always win the World Series). Perhaps the most telling thing about this graph is that there is nothing uniform about these teams. Each World Series winning team drew on different strengths and even the pattern of superior pitching and strong bullpens that we noticed in last year’s American League playoff teams does not hold true here as the 2012 Giants won despite their pitching staff contributing only 5.5 WAR. This wasn’t necessarily a fluke either. The 2010 Giants pitching staff’s 19.5 WAR was the highest of any of the four NL World Series champions, but it was still lower than any of the 2012 AL playoff squads.

Having now compared the 2013 Blue Jays to previous playoff teams in Blue Jays history, last year’s playoff teams in the American League, and World Series winners for the last five years I see nothing to suggest that this year’s team is incapable of making a run at the World Series. However, that’s not to say that they will. As we’ve mentioned, luck plays a large role and all teams are susceptible to injuries. While the Jays roster has no glaring flaws, it’s also inevitable that some players will fail to perform to expectations (though staffed with promising talent, the bullpen, in particular, is a source of some uncertainty). Still, for the first time in many years the Blue Jays have some leeway. At last fans needn’t count on all of the breaks going the Jays’ way in order for the team to compete with the best in baseball. This team is deep enough to compete even in the face of trying circumstances and for fans that have followed the team for the last twenty years that alone should be cause for some celebration.

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