The Toronto Blue Jays remain optimistic that they can turn their game around and still make a charge for the playoffs, but history suggests otherwise.
Although the American League club likes to point out that it is too early in the 162-game Major League Baseball season to draw conclusions, it is likely that the Blue Jays’ horrid start will be too much of a hurdle to overcome.
Tuesday night the Blue Jays will play the first of a three-game set against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre to close out the month of April, and regardless of the outcome, it will be a month the organization will want to forget.
After dropping four consecutive games in New York to the Yankees, the Blue Jays have won nine games and lost 17. Toronto is in last place in the AL East, 9 1/2 games back of the first-place Red Sox heading into play on Monday. That gap was not what most anticipated from a retooled Blue Jays lineup that Las Vegas bookmakers pegged as 15-to-2 favourites to win the World Series before the season started.
On Monday, one Las Vegas online betting shop was listing those odds now as 25 to 1.
The website sportsclubstats.com, which uses an algorithm based on a team’s record and remaining schedule to calculate how teams will close out the season, computes that the Blue Jays have a 0.6 per cent shot at making the playoffs. The website’s findings show that the Red Sox have an 86-per-cent chance of making the playoffs, best in the American League.
According to data supplied by the Elias Sports Bureau in New York, over the last 30 years, only three teams that started the season at 9-17 or worse were able to rebound to make the postseason. Blue Jay fans will be heartened to know that Toronto was one of those teams. It was 1989, the year Cito Gaston replaced Jimy Williams as manager after the club stumbled to a 12-24 start.
Under Gaston, the Blue Jays rallied to win 77 of their next 126 games, a .611 winning clip, to finish first in the East with an overall record of 89-73.
The other two teams to overcome similar poor starts were the 1984 Kansas City Royals, who rebounded from 9-17 to win the AL West with an 84-78 record; and the 2001 Oakland Athletics, who won just eight of their first 26 games before catching fire to win the AL wild card with a 102-60 record.
The only advantage the Blue Jays have this season over those other teams is the addition of an extra wild-card team, which increases a team’s chances of making it to the postseason.
Still, the odds are against the Blue Jays.
Toronto will need to go 81-55 over the rest of the season to get to 90 wins, the number generally thought necessary to have a shot at the postseason. That’s a winning clip of .596. That’s not impossible, as according to Elias, since 2000, a total of 35 teams have played at .595 or better from May 1 through the end of the season.
However, apart from that 2001 Oakland squad, none of the others on that list was as unproductive with the wins and losses over the first month of the season as the Blue Jays have been.
You only have to look back to last season and what happened with the Los Angeles Angels to see the predicament the Blue Jays are in. After adding Mike Trout and free agent Albert Pujols to their already stacked lineup during the off-season, many expected L.A. to run away and hide in the AL West in 2012. A 9-15 start eroded all that good will.
The Angels rebounded and played at a .580 clip for the rest of the season to finish with an overall record of 89-73, but they were still four games behind the Texas Rangers, who secured one of the AL’s wild cards. Texas went 17-6 that April.