Okay, I get it - the Blue Jays are a good baseball team. They really are - their lineup is a murderer's row of guys that hit for power and average, their pitching staff has survived the loss of Marcus Stroman, and of course no one's forgotten they made the flashiest moves of the deadline, nabbing David Price and Troy Tulowitzki. They've been just about the hottest team in baseball over the past six weeks, posting a 27-9 record since July 30th.
For the record, that's a 122 win pace. That's scary good. Guess what? They're actually not scary good. Here's why:
Their pitching is still a major liability
David Price has been everything the Blue Jays hoped. He sports a 2.33 FIP and 10.37 K/9 rate in 50.1 innings. Even still, their rotation is nothing special. They rank 20th in the Majors in FIP, and while they've gotten some decent (albeit lucky) seasons from Mark Buehrle and Marco Estrada (who are both outperforming their FIP quite a bit), they still have the mediocre Drew Hutchison (5.33 ERA and 4.28 FIP) and the inconsistent R.A. Dickey (4.01 ERA and 4.58 FIP) rounding out their staff. Stroman is on his way back, but who knows how he'll pitch after tearing his ACL earlier this season. Even if he lives up to expectations, the back of their rotation behind him and Price will continue to cause headaches in Toronto.
The Blue Jays also have reason to be concerned about their bullpen. While the emergence of Roberto Osuna as a solid young closer has stabilized the back end, and the acquisitions of LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe has added more firepower to their group of relievers, they're still hurting for bullpen depth. Brett Cecil and Liam Hendriks have been decent but unremarkable, so outside of Osuna, Hawkins, and Lowe, it's a shallow supporting cast in Toronto. If any of these guys run into issues in September or October, the Blue Jays will be left with few options. Either way, with their shallow and inexperienced bullpen, the Blue Jays will be dealing with some extra nerves come playoff time.
They're winning - and hitting - at an unsustainable rate
Remember that 122 win pace I mentioned earlier. That's going to come to an end at some point. Yes, teams have gotten hot at the right time of the year and stormed into the playoffs and, yes, it's possible the Blue Jays never slow down this year... but it's not likely. They've also been unsustainably hot with the bats recently, and a little regression should be in store before the end of the year. Take a look at some of these second half numbers:
Chris Colabello and Ryan Goins are hitting well above their career averages, and while Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson are great hitters, they aren’t that great, and they won’t be forever. When they cool off, the Blue Jays will cool off as well, and a team that relies on an otherworldly offense will suddenly have to find some new ways to win ballgames.
The Yankees have some serious advantages over them – and are a good team, too!
The Blue Jays are a good team, but they’re a team in the middle of a divisional race that could still be lost. Don’t make the mistake of handing the division to the Blue Jays just yet – they’re a solid baseball team, but so are the Yankees.
The Yankees had a much deeper pitching staff before Nathan Eovaldi went down, but I’d still take Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Adam Warren, and whoever else the Yankees throw in there over Price and a bunch of mediocre or has-been arms. Regarding relievers, the Yankees' bullpen is worlds better than the Blue Jays – in fact, it’s the second best in the majors with 5.2 fWAR. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Justin Wilson are all better than their counterparts in the Blue Jays pen. If Eovaldi comes back and pushes Warren back into the pen, that’s another above-average arm the Yankees can throw out there in close games. Chasen Shreve has shown he's got skill this year, and if he can find his groove again (3.34 FIP in the 1st half but a nasty – and not in the good way – 5.61 FIP since the break), the Yankees will have the kind of deep and elite bullpen the Blue Jays can only dream of. And lest we forget, the Yankees have quite a few big bats of their own.
Let’s get one thing straight – the Jays are no juggernaut cruising towards the playoffs. This is a team that went from underperforming and being stuck in the middle of the division to being in first by one and a half games. One and a half. If the Yankees had a one and a half game lead, I wouldn’t feel safe at all. And Toronto shouldn’t either, because their team, while good, is not that good. Anything can happen between now and the end of the regular season.
Even more importantly, anything can happen in the playoffs.