90 wins; at the beginning of the season, it seemed like an insurmountable task for the Toronto Blue Jays. Frankly, it was extremely unrealistic to expect them to finish anywhere even close to that win total in 2014.
But now that lofty goal doesn't seem so impossible anymore.
As the Blue Jays continue to hold their grip as the first place team in the American League East with a 5.5 game lead over their next closest competitor, it's beginning to look a lot more like they could do the unthinkable.
There's no denying the quality of teams coming out of the American League have always been of a high calibre, as the last 13 division winners have finished with no fewer than 95 wins a piece. But this year the squads have been uncharacteristically underwhelming.
So why should the Toronto Blue Jays aim for 90 wins? It's not an arbitrary number, as FanGraphs has the AL East division winner pegged at 90 victories which coincidentally happens to be the Blue Jays.
In order to achieve 90 wins, the Blue Jays need to go 51-46 over their next remaining 96 games. That's a mere five games over .500 the rest of the season, and if the Blue Jays can achieve that they will reach the 90 win benchmark.
Just in case you were curious, here are all the scenarios for all the teams in the American League East to reach 90 wins:
|Record||Games Left||To Reach 90 Wins||Over .500 To Reach 90 Wins|
So not only do the Blue Jays need to play consistent baseball heading into the second half and after they All-Star break, they also need to keep an eye out on their AL East brethren. Although some teams may be down, they aren't out ... at least, not yet.
Clearly, the two teams to be extremely cognizant of are the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. Aside from the Blue Jays, the Orioles and Yankees have the next closest path to achieving 90 wins.
It's not unreasonable to expect those teams to have a strong second half, and also don't discount the fact that the Orioles and especially the Yankees could load up with players at the trade deadline and significantly bolster their rosters for the home stretch.
Any other year, 90 wins might not even be enough to get the Blue Jays within sniffing distance of the postseason. Just ask the 2012 Tampa Bay Rays who had an impressive 90-72 record and still missed out on the playoffs by a full three games.
However, a soft division indicates the 90 win benchmark would be enough at the very least to get the Blue Jays close to the playoffs if not the recipient of a division series in the postseason.
Five games over .500 ... seems like a fairly reasonable goal, right?
Except the fact that as the season drags on into the dog days of summer, pitchers may begin to show signs of fatigue, position players may feel the brunt of playing 81 home games on turf, and just the general overall wear and tear of the grueling schedule.
In fact, it might not even be necessary to set the bar at 90 wins for a team to win the American League East. If the Blue Jays merely play close to .500 ball down the stretch and go 49-48, they'll finish with an 88-74 record.
Considering how the division has performed as of late, perhaps those 88 wins might even be enough to take the AL East crown. However, to play it safe the Blue Jays should ideally target to pick up 90 victories total.
I don't know if teams consciously employ this strategy, but to me it seems like a wise idea for them to have a target to reach for total wins by season's end. 90 wins is a concrete number, and more importantly it's an attainable number for the Toronto Blue Jays.
By using that game plan, the Blue Jays don't have to worry about what other teams are doing within the AL East; they just have to be concerned with getting those 90 victories, whether it's against inter-divisional foes or not.
90 wins won't necessarily guarantee the Blue Jays a postseason berth, but at the very least it should get them in the conversation. Make that 39 wins down, 51 to go.
Image courtesy of Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images Sport