It was just a few weeks ago that the Toronto Blue Jays' playoff odds hit a season-low 4.4% (via Fangraphs.) A few weeks before that, they sat at 48%. An August surge from the New York Yankees and a Blue Jays slump all but eliminated what should have been back-to-back playoff appearances for Toronto.
Since August 28, the Blue Jays are winners of 14 of their last 16 and are now leading the Yankees by a full game in the standings.
Simply put, the Blue Jays have dominated September. Here's why.
Guess Who's Back, Back Again
As of this Monday, Fangraphs is giving the Blue Jays a 66.1% chance at making the playoffs and they are now tied with the Red Sox for second place in the AL East. After sweeping the Yankees in the Bronx last week, they officially re-inserted themselves into the playoff picture.
The Yankees were a sure bet to lock in an AL Wild Card spot after a 13-game winning streak catapulted them above the Red Sox for second place in the division. With an offensive explosion in September that saw the Blue Jays score at least five runs in all but one game, Canada's lone baseball club is knocking on the door of some of the top dogs in the game.
An Offensive Explosion
While there is a lot to thank for the Blue Jays surge back into the postseason picture, their rising superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. should be getting the majority of the praise. The 22-year-old legacy of the game is leading the league in runs (113), hits (170), and total bases (325). He is also second in all of baseball in batting average (.319), home runs (44), and OPS (1.018).
Guerrero has been the main attraction in this lineup, but he is hardly the only offensive threat. As a team, the Blue Jays lead the league in home runs (230) and slugging percentage (.466). The Toronto faithful can also thank veteran second baseman, Marcus Semien for their offensive explosion in 2021. On the season, Semien has a career-high 39 home runs. If he were to reach 40 long balls, he would become just the fifth second baseman in MLB history to reach that mark.
On the opposite side of Semien in the infield, Bo Bichette is batting .293 with 23 home runs and 166 hits. It is clear that the Blue jays are building a Death Star of young talent that can absolutely mash the ball. The problem for opposing teams is this pitching staff has been much better than advertised.
Wheeling and Dealing
The Blue Jays starting rotation ranks 10th in the MLB with a 3.89 ERA and a collective WHIP of 1.24. Since the All-Star break, no team has a better team ERA than the Jays. Not only do the Blue Jays have one of the top MVP candidates in Guerrero, but their ace, Robbie Ray is also the presumed leader for the AL Cy Young with a 2.69 ERA and 220 strikeouts.
Behind Ray is a healthy mix of veteran experience and youth. Toronto called up top-prospect Alek Manoah this season and he has done nothing but deal. In 16 starts this season, Manoah is 5-2 with a 3.71 ERA and 92 SOs. Top free agency addition in 2020, Hyun-Jin Ryu is 13-8 on the season with a 4.11 ERA and 131 strikeouts. Although he has struggled as of late, his lethal drop-out-of-the-zone curveball has made batters look silly all year long.
While the trade deadline acquisition of Brad Hand was short-lived after he was DFA'd earlier this month, Jordan Romano holds a 2.45 ERA and is holding hitters to a .157 batting average on his lethal fastball.
Can They Hold On?
While the Yankees schedule is among the easiest remaining and the Blue Jays will have to take on the Tampa Bay Rays six more times this season, there is no hotter club than the Blue Jays.
It would be a shame if this team did not make the cut. The way things are shaping up, it is going to come down to the last week of the season when the Yankees fly north into Toronto to finish the season with a three-game set.
Either way, it is an exciting time to be a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays.
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