It's been 22 long, tough seasons since the Toronto Blue Jays have made a playoff appearance. Fortunately, that appearance ended like this:
Enter: 2015. Alex Anthopoulos -- whose job is threatened -- trades for Josh Donaldson in the off-season (who will most-assuredly win the American League MVP). Anthopoulos then, with a team down-but-not-out at the trade deadline, makes a totally-unforeseen trade for Troy Tulowitzki and follows up by trading for David Price who has a very real shot at winning the American League Cy Young. All together, that makes Alex Anthopoulos the MLB Executive of the Year front-runner. Regardless of all that hardware, his mantle would look incomplete without a World Series ring. Do rings go on mantles?
I'm going to let you in on a quick secret. By now you've noticed this is one article in a series here at Beyond the Box Score. My coworkers have worked tirelessly on cases for each team. And their effort shows. I barely had to break a sweat. The Blue Jays are an absolute slam dunk to win this year's World Series. Any hack writer could write this article. Lucky for this hack writer, I called dibs on it first.
If the games were played on paper, the Toronto Blue Jays would already be crowned. They have the best overall player, the best pitcher, and this year's most successful executive. They even have the best Vegas odds. However, because the games actually do have to be played -- lucky us -- we'll have to look a bit closer.
I understand the problem with saying the Toronto Blue Jays are sure to win. Especially when a team like the St. Louis Cardinals won 100 games in a division with two other playoff-bound teams. So let's clarify: the Blue Jays will win the same way the Los Angeles Dodgers would have won in 2014. Or the Detroit Tigers in 2013. This is all meant to say, the favorite doesn't always win. But this year they will.
So let's break down why the Blue Jays will actually win -- devoid of narrative. Let's start with Pythagorean expectation. Based on Pythagenpat -- a more accurate version of Pythag that uses a different exponent -- the Blue Jays runs scored and allowed were indicative of a 104 win team this season. That would have been the highest number of wins since the 2004 St. Louis Cardinals won 105 games.
That's good and well... But the Cardinals, if you recall, lost that magical World Series to the curse-evading Red Sox. So let's look at the wOBA leaderboard for the American League:
It appears the MVP isn't alone. This isn't the same as previous lineups. Lineups that would maybe have leaned a lot on the offensive output of one specific player. Half of the top six hitters in the league wear Blue Jays jerseys. Furthermore, their manager has the lineup acumen to bat the best of the three in the two-spot. Even further, Troy Tulowitzki has had a 170 wRC+ season in very recent memory and will be ready -- whether it's 100 percent healthy is still uncertain -- for the postseason.
Yes, the Blue Jays have been known as offensive juggernauts this season, but let's take a look at the pitching. Below are the starting pitchers for each team for games one and two. I made some judgment calls for teams who haven't announced their starters. Collin McHugh for instance could lose that start to Scott Kazmir. Michael Pineda could lose it to Luis Severino.
* - used Marcus Stroman's career numbers because this season's numbers were too small of a sample.
Sorting by FIP, the two Blue Jays starters sit first and third on the board, only separated by Dallas Keuchel. Looking at his splits, Keuchel has posted an uninspiring 4.05 FIP in Sept/Oct. That doesn't exactly strike fear into the eyes of potential competitors. Sorting by xFIP, Pineda jumps ahead of both Stroman and Price but both remain in the top four. Sure, the Blue Jays' crown jewels have been the bats, but going into the postseason with two starters who are adept at missing bats could translate to unbeatable strength. There is a slight question mark after Price and Stroman in Marco Estrada -- who, despite having one of the best ERAs in the majors, has a downright pedestrian 4.40 FIP -- but the top two are routinely the ones teams will ride through the post-season.
Moving forward, I would caution against narrative-driven graphics like this. There's no rational escape from those and, if something goes wrong, that narrative will break your heart and haunt you. If the Blue Jays are going to do this it isn't because of 1992 or 1993. It's because this is the best team in the league in 2015.
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Michael Bradburn is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @mwbii or reach him at email@example.com.