Why the Toronto Blue Jays will win the World Series
The Toronto Blue Jays went all-in at the nonwaiver trading deadline and won big – as in a 40-18 record from Aug. 1 through the end of the regular season. Their +221 run differential was by far the best in the majors, as was their offense (by 127 runs). But the Blue Jays are more than a collection of sluggers; they also can pitch and they can field, making it quite a challenge for opposing teams to keep pace. The lineup features the possible AL MVP in Josh Donaldson, and the rotation includes the possible AL Cy Young Award winner in David Price. And that is just part of the reason why Toronto has a real chance to win its first World Series since 1993.
Toronto Star via Getty ImagesRick Madonik
Blue Jays: The Big Three
There isn’t a more dangerous heart of the order in this postseason – or anywhere since 2006. That was the last time a team (Chicago White Sox) had three players with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. Josh Donaldson is the frontrunner for AL MVP, and Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista would have serious cases in just about any other season. Opposing teams might be able to silence one of their bats – or maybe two of the bats for a game or two -- but this trio powers the most potent offense (5.50 runs per game) since the 2009 Yankees (5.65 runs per game).
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
Blue Jays: The overlooked offensive contributors
And just in case you thought only three sluggers have done all the damage in Toronto, think again. First baseman Justin Smoak had a career year, catcher Russell Martin hit 23 homers with 97 RBI, and even utility man Chris Colabello added 15 long balls. And there’s that shortstop the team acquired just before the nonwaiver deadline … Troy Tulowitzki, who will be ready for the postseason after breaking his shoulder blade in a collision on Sept. 12. There isn't a catch-your-breath spot in this lineup for an opposing pitcher.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Blue Jays: The arrival of the ace
Any concerns that David Price would experience the same kind of new-team jitters he did when he was traded from the Rays to the Tigers last summer quickly were forgotten when he tossed eight innings on one-run ball and struck out 11 Twins in his first start with the Blue Jays. This pretty much sums up his comfort level with this new team: Price went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 11 starts for Toronto and can match with any opposing team’s ace in October.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Blue Jays: The improved rotation
David Price’s impact wasn’t just individual; his arrival seemed to energize the team’s entire rotation. Marco Estrada posted a 2.59 ERA after Aug. 1, and R.A. Dickey checked in with a 3.26 ERA in that span. And then there’s late-season sensation Marcus Stroman, who was declared to be lost for the season after tearing his ACL in March and then believed to be an option only as a reliever when he surprisingly returned in mid-September. Instead, he went 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 18 strikeouts in four starts in the final month of the regular season. This is a formidable bunch behind Price.
Toronto Star via Getty ImagesCarlos Osorio
Blue Jays: The inexperienced but reliable stopper
Eight Blue Jays relievers have saved at least one game this season. But among the most important developments during the Blue Jays’ rise to contention is the growth of Roberto Osuna. The rookie right-hander picked up his first save in late June and blew only two save chances after that point. Although his inexperience is an obvious concern, Osuna’s confidence is as solid as his stuff (9.7 K/9 ratio). And he has a veteran and deep bullpen behind him.
Toronto Star via Getty ImagesSteve Russell
Blue Jays: The improved defense
Unlike their offense, the Blue Jays’ defense won’t be mentioned when discussing the best units in recent memory. But it is markedly better than it was before the nonwaiver deadline. A healthy (or at least healthier) Troy Tulowitzki is a big upgrade at shortstop, as is Ben Revere in left field. Kevin Pillar has been a highlight reel all season in center, and Jose Bautista’s arm still is a valuable weapon – as he showed recently when throwing out Yankees and home plate and third base in the span of two innings.