Monday, August 29, 2011

Blue Jays and Rays Are New Divisional Foes

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One would think the big bad Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees would be the two most formidable foes for the Toronto Blue Jays. It actually turns out the Blue Jays greatest adversaries are the Tampa Bay Rays.

This season alone, the Blue Jays are 4-10 versus the Rays, and their track record doesn't bode well either. The past four seasons combined, the Blue Jays are 23-45 (.338) against the Tampa Bay Rays, compared to 26-40 (.393) versus the Red Sox and 30-36 (.454) versus the Yankees.

So if Toronto can rise to the challenge against a perennial contender like the New York Yankees, why do they have so much trouble with the Tampa Bay Rays? If anyone has an answer, I'm all ears. This series was just more evidence of the Blue Jays struggles against the Rays.

I got the same feeling in the pit of my stomach as when the Red Sox swept the Blue Jays at home back in mid-June. Toronto was outscored 35-6 in that series, and Tampa Bay has outscored them 24-6 ... and there's still one more game to play tonight.

It's a little disheartening because it really felt like over the past little while, the Blue Jays were really making some progress. The offense has been clicking, the starting pitching has been adequate, and the bullpen hasn't been awful.

Then comes a series like this against Tampa Bay where after treading water at .500 or above it since July 27th, the Blue Jays have now dipped below.500 for the first time in five weeks. The momentum they built up

Just more proof to show you how much of a dog fight it is playing in the American League East. Each and every single game is important, and sometimes you have to claw and scratch your way for those extra wins just to have a shot at the playoffs.

As Jonah Keri says, it's that extra 2% that helped propel the Tampa Bay Rays into the post-season. They didn't need to be astronomically better than their competition, they only had to be a little bit better. That 2% was the difference maker.

But for two teams that seem to have a very similar strategy, one team is 14 games above .500 and the other is one game below .500. Similar strategies, slightly different results.

Until Bud Selig imposes a balanced schedule, the Blue Jays are Rays are going to continue to meet approximately 18 times a year. And if this young Blue Jays squad wants to return to the playoffs, they're going to need to fare much better against divisional foes ... especially the Tampa Bay Rays.

4 comments:

  1. Great post Ian,

    If memory serves me correctly, we used to fall to the rays more than we should have even before they were relevant didn't we? I think I remember times when they were in last place and coming into town, and you would think that we would pick up some games. But they would take 2 out of 3, or even sweep us. Feels like they've always seemed to have our number.

    On a side note, have you read the extra 2%? I'm reading it now, and so far enjoying it. What did you think?

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  2. First off tonight will be different because we have Tricky Ricky starting to day and he has been quite hot as of late. Regarding the Rays like kc they play a style of small ball play which the jays are trying to learn adapt to. On top of that, the jays have several pitchers (Morrow, Cecil et all who when they are hot they are hot but when they are not on there game they are craptacular. This is the difference between Ricky and Morrow, when Ricky is not hot he can still get them out. This was what was good about Roy, groundball pitchers are more successful against a good team then fastball pitchers.

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  3. I'm a big Joe Maddon fan. He's like watching Rickey Henderson with the Yankees -- you booed him relentlessly but sure wanted him to play for the Jays. Maddon is a wily guy who can get 2 percent more.

    On the specific topic, I agree they could be our new division achilles heel, but it's kind of like when people would refer to the Battle of Ontario between the Leafs and the Sens. It was only a 'battle' to the Ottawa fans, cause they would always lose. We can't play the Rays for some reason. We're a fly they swat away. Hopefully next year. As you point out, we can't win this division til we can take them on.

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  4. Ball Fan, dating back to 1998, surprisingly Toronto's splits against Tampa Bay aren't too bad. They're 115-120 lifetime against the Rays. There was a string there of 5 straight years where the Blue Jays won the season series from 1998 to 2002. Where it starts getting dicey is going back to 2007, since then the Blue Jays are 23-45 versus Tampa.

    And unfortunately, no .. haven't gotten around to reading Extra 2%, but it's definitely on my offseason reading list. Let me know how it turns out!

    PSmith, I certainly hope Romero shuts it down tonight. Getting swept four-straight by Tampa to make it five straight losses is not a good way to begin September.

    Otto, I also like Joe Maddon's managing style. It fits that team very well, and he has tailored a specific Rays ballgame that is tough to crack.

    Not that it's been much of a contest these past few years, but if the Blue Jays can step up ... this could be a great divisional rival.

    After that Cinderella 2008, I just assumed Tampa Bay was a one-hit wonder and they'd be back to the bottom of the AL East. Now it looks like they'll be a perennial contender, and what used to be a two team race for the division is now a three or four team race.

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