DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
Despite lasting for what felt like an eternity, the dreaded offseason is fading away into one of the most relaxing times of the year; spring training. The Toronto Blue Jays are no exception, and with one of the more talented rosters in the majors, we could expect another strong season from the boys in blue (or red for certain occasions). Having been defeated in back to back ALCS appearances, the Jays should be looking to improve in their quest for a World Series title. This begs the question; how many wins could we realistically expect from this club, and would this total be good enough for a playoff spot?
Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to win a total of 89 regular season games, good enough for a Wild Card playoff spot against the Baltimore Orioles. If we use this information in addition in conjunction with an investigation of WAR totals among players on the Jays roster last season, we should be able to determine a WAR based win total for the Blue Jays in 2016. According to saber bucs, a team with 0.0 WAR could expect to win around 48 games. Therefore, if we add 48 to the total team WAR, we should get a number close to that of the clubs actual win total. Last season, the Blue Jays recorded 42.6 total WAR, and if we add this to the 48 wins defined above, than we see that the Jays should have won approximately 90.6 wins last season, more or less in line with their actual total of 89.
But of course, we must consider arriving and departing players, and in doing so, determine how many wins the Jays have lost or gained. If you combine the WAR of players no longer on the Jays roster, we see they have lost about 5.6 WAR in the offseason. When offset with the newly acquired 2.8 WAR which the Jays have acquired this offseason, we can see that the team is approximately 2.8 wins worse than they were last season. Unfortunately, assumes that every player will perform exactly as well as they did last season, which is simply not possible thanks to progression and regression.
Because of this, we should instead look at WAR totals from projection systems; in this case, Steamer. Steamer projects the Blue Jays to record 37.8 total WAR. If we add this to 48 wins, we see that the Blue Jays should win about 85.6 games in 2017, a rather solid if unexceptional number. Unfortunately for Jays fans, this number is probably not good enough for the team to make a run at a playoff spot. Despite this seemingly unfavorable number, there is a bit of give and take between WAR totals and actual wins. Because of this, I decided to investigate my projection a little bit further.
Using Pythagorean run expectancy, we can see that the Blue Jays should have won approximately 91.5 games rather than 89 games in 2016. If we use this number, and subtract the 2.8 wins lost this offseason, we see that the Blue Jays are about an 88.7 win team if everyone performs as they did in 2016. If the Jays were an 88.7 win team, than they would have a real chance of making the playoffs, albeit through a Wild Card Spot.
But of course, when considering progression or regression, we need to use projections to make an educated guess. If we use the Steamer projections for runs scored and allowed by the Blue Jays in 2017, we can determine through Pythagorean run expectancy that the 2017 Blue Jays are an 88.4 win team, again putting the Jays in contention for a wild card spot.
Whether through WAR totals or Pythagorean win expectancies, it becomes apparent that analytics expect the Jays to win somewhere between 85 and 90 games in 2017. In addition to my analysis, several baseball analysts expect the Jays to win a similar number of games, including Bleacher Report (86 Wins), USA Today (87 Wins), and MLB Reports (88 Wins). Most projections and analysts agree (PECOTA notwithstanding) that the Jays have a solid roster with a real chance of making the postseason.
This leaves me to ask whether or not an 87 win team could make the playoffs. Since the introduction of the second wild card spot in 2012, the average number of wins recorded by the second wild card team is between 89 and 90, however that number has generally trended downward in recent seasons. Therefore, the Jays would need to reach the high point of their projections in order to expect a postseason appearance, though reaching the midpoint still gives them a shot. Of course, there is always a possibility that the Jays could outperform these expectations and win upwards of 95 games, good enough to give the team a chance to make a run at the division title. But it we are projecting realistically, I find it difficult to expect a season where the Jays win more than 90 games. The fact is that this team still has a couple of serious holes, including left field and rotation depth, and it the team expects to compete for more than about 90 wins, than a few spring training additions are going to have to be made.
My final predicted record: 87-75