No, not because of the weather in Atlanta, San Diego, or San Francisco. This is more of a schedule-related hot streak. Let’s look at some facts.
Fact: with 4 teams above .500, the AL East is again the toughest division in Major League Baseball.
Fact: the Blue Jays have played more games against their own division (32) than any other team in MLB.
- Interpretation of these 2 facts: for a variety of reasons the Jays struggled out of the gate, and playing so many game against their own division has exacerbated these struggles; it’s not only prolonged them, but it’s made them seem worse than they are.
Fact: the Blue Jays are playing better.
Fact: they don’t play against an AL East team until June 21.
- Interpretation of these 2 facts: the Jays are poised to make some noise and maybe, just maybe, move up in their division.
We all know that the Jays have underachieved to a startlingly degree. The idea is that there have been a variety of factors exerting negative influences on the Jays (injuries, new teammates, a new manager, poor play [in all facets of the game], and their schedule), but that one of them is changing significantly:
- The new teammates explanation doesn’t really apply any longer since the core group has played 50+ games together. Can they still learn about one another? Sure. Is it still a valid explanation? Nope;
- The same goes for the new manager thing: John Gibbons is showing good promise as a manager, now that he knows and understands his troops. I enjoy watching him do the x’s and o’s;
- Apparently the injuries thing is going to be with them for a while. Besides, everyone else is suffering various major and minor maladies. Heck, the Yankees are missing four-fifths of their infield and they’ve been replaced by new teammates;
- Their play is improving in most facets (except the starting rotation) and is a major reason that the Jays are playing better;
That leaves the schedule. The Jays have played AL East opponents 32 times; no other team in MLB has played against their own division more than 29 times (COL). For the most part other teams have played in their own division between 15-24 times. The Jays are 12-20 against the AL East. Toronto’s extra-division AL opponents were Cleveland, Kansas City, Detroit, the White Sox, and Seattle. The Jays are 6-7 against the AL Central and 1-2 against the AL West. Their interleague opponents have been San Francisco and Atlanta. Heading into tonight’s game, the Jays are 4-1 (!) in interleague play. The Jays are a .375 team against the AL East and improving; they play .524 ball against the rest of MLB.
This is what the Jays’ schedule looks like for the next little while. Their next 19 games are against teams from other divisions. Then they play BAL, TB, and BOS for 10 games. Then they play 31 of 37 versus other divisions. That means 50 of the Blue Jays’ next 66 games are against opponents from other divisions.
One difficulty is that, by the percentages, they’re looking at a 32-34 record over their next 66 games. However, that doesn’t account for their improvement of late. Another is that they’re weak on the road.
Also, after San Diego, they don’t face another lower-quality opponent from another division until early July.
On the plus side, they don’t play the Yankees again until August 20. The Jays are 1-8 against the Yankees, and 11-12 against the rest of the AL East. This means they’re a .500 team against the rest of MLB (22-22). Improved play of late could spike their winning percentage.
How many times will they win over the next 66 games? How many wins do they need to climb back into the thick of things?