Have you ever known someone who could drive their car at 65 miles per hour, mile-after-mile-after-mile? Never surging too fast or too slow, just clicking along steady?
That’s the 2021 Blue Jays, who have gone 12-12, 15-13, 14-12, 12-11, and 12-11 thus far in the five months of the season. Never anything too flashy, never really terrible either. While that consistency is reliable, it’s not the stuff of pennants and championships.
The Jays aren’t going to make magical moments this October, but they have lots of baseball left to play. Here’s a look at their next three series, including their current set against Chicago in Toronto.
Toronto vs. Chicago White Sox, Aug 23-26
The White Sox are headed to the playoffs in large part due to their pitching and defense. Their staff has tossed 11 shutouts this season, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes under “un-retired” Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa. The Sox and Jays have split the first two games of this four-game series, with only 10 runs going on the board.
Wednesday, August 25: Robbie Ray vs. Lucas Giolito
Thursday, August 26: Hyun Jin Ryu vs. TBD
Toronto at Detroit Tigers, Aug 27-29
Detroit took two of three in Toronto last weekend, holding the Jays’ lineup to only seven runs. The Tigers have promising young pitching, and are trying to pull themselves up to the .500 mark. This should be a competitive series in the Motor City, with power numbers down because the ballpark is expansive.
Friday, August 27: Steven Matz vs. Wily Peralta
Saturday, August 28: Alek Manoah vs. Drew Hutchison
Sunday, August 29: José Berríos vs. Casey Mize
Toronto vs. Baltimore Orioles, Aug 30-Sep 1
As of this writing, the Orioles have lost 19 straight games. To say they’re a bad team is like saying the Kardashians like publicity. This three game matchup to end August and start September will take place at the Rogers Centre, and the Blue Jays should be favored to sweep it.
The Orioles are one of only two teams in the AL who are averaging fewer than four runs per game, and their pitching staff is allowing nearly six runs per. That’s a recipe for blowout scores. Also look for Blue Jays’ hitters to tee off with the longball in this three-game set: the O’s have allowed 190 HR (most in baseball) and the Jays lead the AL in home runs.
Monday, August 30: Robbie Ray vs. Jorge López
Tuesday, August 31: Hyun Jin Ryu vs. Keegan Akin
Wednesday, September 1: Steven Matz vs. TBD
Vlad Guerrero Jr. & the MVP
As I’ve written elsewhere here, Vlad Guerrero Jr. is not in a good position to win the AL Most Valuable Player Award as long as Shohei Ohtani is doing his best impression of Babe Ruth and “Double Duty” Radcliff by hitting homers and pitching brilliantly for the Halos.
Vlad Jr. is at +1500 at BetMGM, with Ohtani (-3500) as the favorite. Only a huge September would help Guerrero Jr. narrow the gap.
Robbie Ray & the Cy Young Award
The CY is shaping up as an interesting debate. Chicago has a pair of aces (Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon) who will get lots of votes. Rodon leads the league in ERA, but Rodon isn’t far behind and his K-to-BB ratio is better. Ultimately the two Pale Hose hurlers might rob votes from each other. Meanwhile Gerrit Cole has 12 wins and leads in strikeouts. With the Yankees surging, and with some voters still enamored in the “W,” Cole may have a good chance to win his first Cy Young, after coming in second in 2019.
Ray is the choice of the analytics crowd: the Jays’ ace leads the league in WAR by a pitcher at 5.1, but just barely edges out Lynn and Cole in that stat. Two things against him: his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is not on par with the others, and he pitches for a fourth place team.
Alek Manoah & the MVP
In most years, Manoah would be a strong candidate for ROY, but there are numerous players having good rookie seasons in the AL, several of them pitchers. Currently, Manoah ranks sixth in the AL in Wins Above Replacement among rookie hurlers. He’s 5-2 in 13 starts with a 3.18 ERA. But the ROY will go to either Adolis Garcia (+480 via FanDuel) of the Rangers or Randy Arozarena (-125 on FanDuel) of the Rays. Luis Garcia of the Astros (10 wins with a 2.8 WAR) will also get consideration.