Article Written by Hudson Stewart
The American League East is undoubtedly a division of two tiers. You have the Red Sox and Yankees, who are the two clear favourites in the division thanks to them both adding star sluggers to their already stacked lineups this off-season. Then, you have the bottom tier, consisting of the Orioles and Rays. The Orioles haven’t torn down their team yet, but it seems inevitable that players like Machado and Britton are going to get moved if the team doesn’t have an incredible start to the season. As for the Rays, they’ve already traded key players this off-season, including Evan Longoria, Steven Souza Jr., and Jake Odorizzi, so they’re likely not going to be contending this year. That leaves the Toronto Blue Jays, who appear to be stuck in the middle. Coming off of back-to-back ALCS appearances, the Jays only won 76 games last season, so one would think that they’re headed towards a rebuild. But, management has made it clear that they want to contend this season, and they’ve backed that up by addressing positions of need on the roster. The Jays are in a weird spot, but if you look around the American League, and how many teams are rebuilding, it’s not that far-fetched to say that they could be back in a playoff hunt this season.
Various people and websites make their annual predictions for the standings before every season, and if you look at a few of these projections, you’ll see that most of them have the Blue Jays finishing as an average to slightly above average team in 2018. For example, Fangraphs is projecting the Blue Jays to win 85 games; Pecota is projecting them to win 79 games; Bleacher Report is projecting them to win 82 games; USA Today is projecting them to win 79 games as well. The common theme with all of these projections is that the Jays are sandwiched between the pairs consisting of the Red Sox and Yankees and the Orioles and Rays. This means that if the Jays were to make the playoffs, it would have to be as the 2nd wild card team.
Now, that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it would mean that their chances to make a deep playoff run would be slim, since they would have to play a win-or-go home game on the road against a pretty good team. Now, these projections aren’t all going to come true, they never do. There are going to be teams that under-perform - like the 2017 Blue Jays - and there are going to be teams that over-perform. All these projections mean is that the consensus around the league is that there are 2 powerhouses in the Blue Jays division, and if they want to contend this year, it’s likely going to be through the Wild Card.
I think sometimes people forget that you still have to play the game. We get too caught up in advanced analytics and forget that there are still human beings who have to play baseball. With all of these team and player projections, we lose sight of the fact that there will be players who step up and put up great numbers unexpectedly - like Justin Smoak from last year - and there will also be players who don’t meet expectations - like Aaron Sanchez - who only made 8 starts last season due to injury.
My point is, you can’t predict everything. Yeah, the Red Sox and Yankees are probably the two best teams in the A.L. East, but that doesn’t mean they’ll finish as the top two. What if David Price gets hurt again? What if Aaron Judge hits a sophomore slump and becomes strikeout prone again? What if Aaron Sanchez stays healthy all season? You just never know, and that’s why we watch sports, and that’s why we love them. It’s not a TV show, there’s no set ending, and I think we all need to keep that in mind going into this upcoming baseball season.
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