(Editor’s note: We’ll analyze each team’s postseason chances after it clinches a playoff berth.)
What a time to be alive. Twenty-two years. Twenty-two long years have passed since the Toronto Blue Jays made the postseason and in 2015, they are back. After a Minnesota Twins loss Friday night, the Blue Jays mathematically punched their ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 1993.
After the team’s mediocre 45-46 first half, general manager Alex Anthopoulos went all in at the trade deadline, acquiring an ace in David Price and an All-Star shortstop in Troy Tulowitzki. Those two moves alone immediately put the Blue Jays in the "best trade deadline moves of all time" category, but they made smaller, complementary moves in acquiring outfielder Ben Revere and relievers Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins to make a more complete team.
Since Aug. 2, the Jays have won incredible 35 of 48 games, vaulting themselves to the top of the AL East. Can they continue their streak of success deep into October?
Why they can win the World Series: Offense, offense, offense. The Jays’ run differential of +219 paces the league, far ahead of the next-best St. Louis Cardinals (+127). From top to bottom, there isn’t a hole in their lineup. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and MVP frontrunner Josh Donaldson all have at least 30 homers and 100 RBI — they are the first trio to accomplish that feat on the same team since 2006.
On the other side of the ball, the Jays have the aforementioned Price leading the rotation with veterans R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle behind him. Adding some juice to the rotation is the astounding emergence of Marcus Stroman, who is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA (including a shutout of the New York Yankees) since returning from ACL surgery just six months ago.
Why they can’t win the World Series: Anyone Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…?
Just kidding. The Blue Jays will face the best teams in baseball and the best rotations in baseball, capable of shutting down any offense on any given day. If the Jays are unable to keep up their torrid pace at the plate, they will have a tough time handling these top-of-the-rotation arms. On offense, Tulowitzki’s injury puts some pressure on shortstop Ryan Goins. The Jays are hoping for Tulo to return from a fractured shoulder blade in time for the first game of the playoffs.
Their home and road splits aren’t the greatest, either. Toronto has rallied behind this team, creating a fantastic home atmosphere where the Jays are 51-28. On the road? They’re merely a .500 team at 37-37. This will only get tougher during October, when the bright lights are on, the fans are loud and the stadiums are hostile. Currently, the Jays sit one game behind the Kansas City Royals for the top record in the AL, which would give them home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If the offense can continue to tear opposing pitchers apart, the Blue Jays have a chance to repeat their 1993 world championship season. If not? It could be a long winter in Toronto.