Toronto Blue Jays: Can they Climb to the Top of the MLB?

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The Toronto Blue Jays were created in 1976 as an expansion team for Major League Baseball’s 1977 season, despite being mentioned as a major league city as early as the 1880s. We look at whether this Canadian instituition can bring their a-game to the pitch in 2016…

The name “Blue Jays” came about after the team decided to do a “name the team” contest in 1976, which included over 4,000 suggestions. Majority owner Labatt Breweries chose the “Blue Jays” name, even though the color blue was already picked to be the team’s color. The Blue Jays play their home games at Rogers Centre, which opened in 1989 and was the first stadium with a retractable roof allowing any sport to be played both indoors and outdoors.

The franchise won back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 and 1993, which is considered by many to be the peak of their franchise’s existence to this point. Toronto was the first team outside of the United States to not only participate in, but also win the World Series.

Since that 1993 season, the Blue Jays had missed the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons.

Playing in the American League East division has been tough sledding for the Blue Jays considering the recent success of their rivals, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

The Blue Jays broke their playoff drought in 2015 as they finished in first place in the American League East with 93 wins and just 69 losses for a .574 winning percentage.

Toronto won their division by six games over the Yankees, who also made the playoffs as a wild card team. From that point, the Blue Jays headed into the playoffs with a full head of steam and high hopes, defeating the Texas Rangers in a five-game American League Division Series, by a score of three games to two.

Even after the solid start to their playoff run, Toronto’s World Series hopes were dashed in the American League Championship Series when they lost to the Kansas City Royals four games to two in a best of seven game series.

That same Royals team eventually went on to win the World Series after beating the New York Mets four games to one.

A Dominant Offense

That 2015 season was truly a special year for the Toronto Blue Jays. Why? Because this was the year that the Blue Jays proved they could compete with the best in the league.

Toronto was seven games below .500 on June 7 before making some key acquisitions at the trade deadline, which truly wound up changing their season. On September 30, they were 27 games above .500, including an impressive win streak of 11 games. The most runs they scored in a single game during this season was 15, which happened on three separate occasions.

The entire season was highlighted by third baseman, Josh Donaldson. Donaldson became the first Blue Jays player to win the Most Valuable Player award since George Bell did so back in 1987.

Donaldson finished the 2015 season with a .297 batting average, 41 home runs, 123 runs batted in, a .371 on-base percentage, and a .939 on-base plus slugging as the team’s number two hitter. The 2015 Blue Jays have brought baseball back to life in Toronto, and some experts are picking them to win the World Series in 2016.

There are multiple reasons why Toronto will continue to expand on their successful 2015 campaign:

  • For starters, the Blue Jays can flat out hit the ball and score runs with the best teams in all of the league. As a team, they almost scored 900 runs last year (finished with 891, which is the most since the 2009 New York Yankees).
  • No other team in Major League Baseball came even remotely close, nor did any team manage to score 800 runs last season. They scored 127 more runs last year than the next best offensive team in the Majors.
  • Besides runs, the Blue Jays also led the league in home runs, extra-base hits, walks, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Usually, power hitting teams like this have high strikeout rates, but that wasn’t the case with the Blue Jays. Just check out this next stat — the Blue Jays hit just two more home runs than the Baltimore Orioles last year, but they struck out 181 fewer times.
  • This year the Blue Jays will have shortstop Troy Tulowitzki for the entire season after making a deal at the trade deadline for him with the Colorado Rockies. As you can imagine, Toronto is also projected to lead the major leagues in runs once again this season according to FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus. So if there’s any area that Toronto shouldn’t have to worry about in 2016, it’s their offense production.

Toronto Blue Jays celebration

Defensive Impact

The Blue Jays are a spectacular defensive team as well, to say the least. Just to give you an idea of how good they are on defense, this is a team that ranked first in the entire league in defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of balls in play that were converted into outs.

Only the World Champion Kansas City Royals had more defensive runs saved than the Blue Jays last year. Five starters on the Blue Jays have won Gold Glove awards, including catcher Russell Martin, third baseman Josh Donaldson, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, second baseman Ryan Goins, and center fielder Kevin Pillar. In fact, they only have two starters that do not perform at an above average level defensively, and that is first baseman Justin Smoak (even though he had plus-four runs saved last season) and right fielder Jose Bautista.

Toronto’s roster is loaded with stars and big names like Donaldson, Bautista, Tulowitzki, Martin and the youngest of the crew, pitcher Marcus Stroman. Even though they are star players, this is a great that’s modest and grounded.

This team is known for being a close group of guys and they are all focused on each day, each inning, each play, and each at-bat. As a team they acted just like the Kansas City Royals did last year and the St. Louis Cardinals before them. Stroman admits that the mentality of this team is different than most groups, while Donaldson says that everyone on the team is equal.

Stroman specifically, could be just what the Blue Jays need to push them to a World Series win this season.

Last year he only played in just four regular season games because he was coming back from an injury. His dominance was obvious though, as he won each of those four starts and recorded an impressive 1.67 earned run average. Just imagine what Stroman will do if he’s able to stay healthy for an entire season.

The Blue Jays still have a bad taste in their mouth from losing in the American League Championship series against the Royals last year. They will not forget how it felt and will use that as motivation to win the World Series in 2016.

A true fan wouldn’t dare head to a game without checking out the five best blue jay parodies! 


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