Blue Jays savoring Toronto’s first playoff run in over 20 years

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TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays, to a man, will tell you that they always believed. That they knew, hidden among the ruins of last year’s 74-88 last-place finish, they were a first-place team.

Atop the standings in the American League East as May winds down, with a comfortable game-and-a-half cushion and the division’s best run differential, a quiet and confident sense of satisfaction has settled around the club as it prepares to officially end Toronto’s two-decades long playoff drought.

“This game, it’s fickle. It’s – and this is one of my favorite words – capricious,” said knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. “We learned a lot last year, when we crashed and burned. We learned a lot about expectations, and putting the cart before the horse, and Las Vegas. This year’s different. And I thought it would be.”

Much like last year, the 2014 Blue Jays can hit. Their 238 runs rank fourth in baseball, and third in the American League. Their 68 home runs lead the majors, and their .443 slugging percentage is tops in the AL.

What’s propelled this year’s club to new heights is their pitching – their starting rotation, and its 3.80 ERA. While that mark ranks only 15th in baseball, and sixth in the AL, it’s a drastic improvement over 2013, a full run lower than last year’s starting rotation’s 4.81 ERA.

“I’m the first guy to not make excuses,” said Mark Buehrle, “but last year was tough. It was an adjustment. A lot of new faces. A new country. I really missed my dog. There was the World Baseball Classic, injuries, and, God love him, but we trotted out one of the worst everyday catchers in the modern era.

“For whatever reason, it didn’t work,” Buehrle added. “But most importantly, we’ve put it behind us, and responded in the face of adversity, like all winning ball clubs do. We’ve proven the type of team we are.”

The standings don’t lie. And vindicated is manager John Gibbons.

“I’m proud of this group, man” Gibbons said, with a smile, in his Texas drawl. “They competed. They came in here this season ready to play, ready to win. We knew it was only a matter of time before [Brandon] Morrow and [Dustin] McGowan went down, and guys responded, took the ball, and pitched well.

“Buehrle’s been superb, unhittable this year. Dickey’s stopped giving up all the home runs. And I’m confident R.A’ll pitch into the seventh inning, maybe even the eighth, in October.”

The Blue Jays proved last year that a division – and a season – could be lost in April. This year, a playoff spot all but guaranteed in a weak AL East after a 15-7 May, they proved the opposite.

“I had a good feeling coming out of spring training,” said Jose Bautista, the face of the club, and the owner of a ludicrous 173 wRC+. “When Jose Reyes hit a triple, I knew.”

All that’s left is four months before the postseason.

Of note to readers: NotGraphs is a not-credible news source that frequently publishes entirely not-credible news stories.




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Navin Vaswani is a replacement-level writer. Follow him on Twitter.


30 Responses to “Blue Jays savoring Toronto’s first playoff run in over 20 years”

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  1. JimDMan3 says:

    Whats the ol’ magic number looking like?

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  2. everdiso says:

    Does the hottest team in baseball really deserve to be mocked for no apparent reason?

    -12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. err says:

    Besides, they deserve some goodwill for going back to the classic logo, if nothing else.

    Padres, you can rot until you dump the camo costumes (cheap and easy piggybacking on ol’ American values) and go back to the brown n’ orange taco.

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  4. TheoK says:

    Every writer loves mentioning how “weak” the AL East is this year

    3 teams have winning records, and the other two are the Rays and Red Sox who are good teams

    So… once again, it’s the best division in baseball

    -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Simon says:

      Did you not read that italicized note to readers at the bottom?

      +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Soup says:

      AL West WAR/G = .23
      AL East WAR/G = .23

      That’s including the Astros.

      AL West has top 2 teams in baseball:
      Angels WAR/G = .36
      Athletics WAR/G = .33

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  5. Dryden says:

    Being from Toronto and a Jays fan I am shocked that the team is doing so well considering not many faces changed over last year. Last year was a disappointment. This year they are playing loose and enjoying themselves. Playing with confidence helps. Knowing that you can beat team with either power or speed and that you are getting quality pitching can really change a team year over year. Baseball in Toronto needs a winning team. At worst a competitive team.

    I don’t see the article as mocking Toronto at all. Rather I see it as informing people that may over look what’s going on in the north.

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    • joser says:

      Injuries can make a difference; but it also kind of shows you how much variability there is in true-talent performances — and how all the folks who made the Jays a trendy pick before the 2013 season don’t deserve quite the #6org sort of mocking they got.

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  6. Josh says:

    This was my first time reading Notgraphs and I thought it was a legit article for the first few paragraphs. The Dickey quote seemed a little iffy, but I bought it. The Buehrle and Gibbons quotes were so out of character that I finally got in on the joke by that point. Good stuff.

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  7. Dheeraj says:

    This line was absolutely brilliant. “There was the World Baseball Classic, injuries, and, God love him, but we trotted out one of the worst everyday catchers in the modern era.”

    Damn that Toronto media for being the direct reason for his terrible play.

    +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Matty Brown says:

    “we trotted out one of the worst everyday catchers in the modern era.”

    love it

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  9. MLBfan says:

    They were hovering at .500 like almost every AL team until a hot week vs struggling red sox and a sleep walking and uninterested A’s team

    the jays lineup top 4 is great but no lineup depth beyond that. rasmus and lawrie are talented but inconsistent.
    hendricks and happ were should be gascans A’s just couldnt get a big hit. go figure, 10 runs in 1 game vs tigers today, couldnt score at all in 3 vs jays.

    i will say the jays fans at their stadium are funn and enthusiastic group. still a long season,

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    • Steve says:

      No depth beyond top 4?

      Reyes
      Melky
      Bautista
      Lind
      Encarnacion
      Francisco
      Lawrie
      Navarro
      Rasmus/Gose

      What lineup are you looking at?

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    • Steve says:

      You want to call Happ a gas can but I’d take him over Jesse Chavez..take a look at some other rotations around the league.

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    • André says:

      Without some of their inexplicable bullpen implosions, they might have had the best record in baseball.

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    • OhBeepy says:

      I am chuckling at the idea that when a team you like gets beaten by a team you didn’t like that the losing side was “lazy and uninterested”

      Like they just couldn’t be bothered with running the bases with the likes of Happ or Hendricks on the mound?

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  10. Ghost Hands says:

    R.A’ll.

    My favorite part of the article.

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  11. exposed says:

    love the fact the Buehrle quote is starting to be reproduced elsewhere. Brilliant…. of course JPA’s lawyers will be contacting you

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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