At the time of writing, the Toronto Blue Jays have 30 more games to go while narrowly sitting in the third and final AL Wild Card place.
It’s been a good season for the Jays, but we’re now in the business end: this final stretch will determine how good the campaign has been for Toronto.
Being in the AL East, the Blue Jays have had an unenviable schedule all season, with even the bottom-dwelling Boston Red Sox putting up a .493 percentage.
Now, as the list of games homes in on divisional match-ups, the series will only become more difficult for the playoffs hopefuls from Canada.
Often a favoured team in the betting for individual games, Toronto still has a lot to do to secure a postseason place in this new format – but can the Blue Jays pull it off?
New Wild Card format emphasizes the AL East challenge
This season marks the induction of the new playoffs model. As a quick recap, each of the divisional leaders gets straight through to the postseason, while the next three places go to any team in the league with the best record.
Right now, the AL Wild Card is being battled for by three AL East sides and the Seattle Mariners. Right on the edge of this is the thin line between the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, divided by a more .012 win percentage.
Due to the strength of their respective divisions and how the final weeks of the schedules work, AL East sides face tougher runs to finish the season than the likes of the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, let alone the Mariners.
What this also does is ensure that only so many wins can go to AL East teams populating the AL Wild Card places. Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Baltimore will all face off multiple times before the season is out.
Can Toronto stave off divisional rivals to secure a postseason place?
According to the strength of schedule, the Blue Jays have an easier run to the finish line than the Orioles and Rays, but a distinctly more troublesome one than any other contender in the AL.
With an opponent winning percentage of .486, Toronto’s decisive series look to come against the Orioles for four games from September 5, three games from September 17, and a grand finale trio of games from October 4.
Peppered in between these bouts are series against Tampa Bay twice for nine total games, a few against the Yankees and a few against Boston.
Also sprinkled in there should be a bit of respite in a road series to Texas, as well as a rough two-game road stint against the Phillies and their current .549 win percentage.
Despite this, the Blue Jays are still highly rated in the MLB odds to not just make it to the playoffs, but even contend for the World Series. Right now, the Canadian ball club sits at +1700 – the sixth-favourites – to win it all.
While still behind the +500 New York Yankees, it’s clear of fellow AL Wild Card contenders Seattle (+2000), Tampa Bay (+2500), and Baltimore (+8000). These odds show a lot of faith that the Blue Jays will secure a playoff spot.
The Toronto Blue Jays have a tougher schedule than many of their AL foes, but the team’s looking strong, and the schedule has placed fate thoroughly in its hands. The dates with Baltimore will be key.
*Credit for all images in this article belongs to AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 5th September 2022