Have the Blue Jays dug too deep a hole to make the postseason?
Believe it or not, even though it's still too early to start counting teams out, it's entirely possible the Jays are already cooked.
Over on Fangraphs.com, Dave Cameron compiled a list of teams in the past 10 years that had a winning percentage below .400 on May 1 and were at least seven games behind the division leader at the time (the Jays have a .370 winning percentage and are 8½ games out). The list included 30 teams. Only one -- the 2006 Twins -- made the playoffs.
That Twins team had a slow start from Johan Santana before he put things together and won his second AL Cy Young. Justin Morneau was awful in April, but went on to win the MVP. Francisco Liriano didn't start a game until May 19, and from then on he was 11-3 with a 1.92 ERA. There were several other reasons, but the basic takeaway was that Twins team was awesome and simply played horribly during April.
We saw another example of a real good team getting off to an awful start last season in the Angels. They were 7-15 early and even 18-25 in late May before getting hot. They would go 71-48 (.597, a 97-win pace) the rest of the way, finishing 89-73. That was not good enough to make the playoffs.
Another recent example of a real good team overcoming an awful stretch would be the 2005 Houston Astros. They started 8-7, but then lost 23 of their next 30 games, meaning on May 24 the Astros were 15-30. They would go 74-43 (.632, a 102-win pace) the remainder of the season, also finishing 89-73. Unlike the Angels, however, the Astros were fortunate enough to make the playoffs and even went all the way to the World Series.
But, like the Twins and Angels, those Astros were incredibly talented. Are the Blue Jays talented enough to go on a run like the above examples -- especially with Jose Reyes injured for a bit? I'm not so sure.
While I did predict the Jays to win the AL East, I also recognized heading into the season that there was significant room for shortfall with this group. Note what I said was a worst-case scenario in my preseason team preview:
"There are obvious areas where the wheels could totally fall off here. Reyes, Johnson and Morrow are injury risks, to various degrees. Which Melky are the Jays gonna get? What if Encarnacion's power surge last year was a fluke? What if Janssen spits the bit as closer and Santos can't regain pre-injury form? What if Romero is just as bad as he was last season? What if Lawrie's all-out style recklessly injures him? Rasmus and Lind are enigmas offensively as well. Dickey's old and last season's numbers are an outlier compared to the rest of his career. In the tough AL East, if everything that could possibly go wrong does, I could see the Blue Jays ending up in last place."
Yikes. That's pretty close, huh? The Blue Jays have enough talent to play much better baseball and jump back into contention. That much is obvious. Ultimately, though, my hunch is the roster pratfalls and the awful start are going to be too much to overcome this season and they'll again miss the playoffs.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyder27) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, the rankings below aren't the standings. We have a standings page if that's your thing. These are a subjective rank of how I would order the best team to the worst team in baseball right now. Definitely feel free to disagree.
These were posted the morning of Wed., May 1. Any action coming after posting wasn't included here.