Toronto Blue Jays
FREE VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.! The Blue Jays aren’t going anywhere this season. Or next season. Or for probably several seasons after that. If Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lives up to the hype, at least that would be a reason to pay attention. The Jays are well behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays and expectations are very low this season. After all, Guerrero accounted for more than 25 percent of the team’s projected fWAR via the FanGraphs Depth Charts system before playing time adjustments.
The Blue Jays went 73-89 last year and got 14 of their wins against Baltimore. This is a team that was simply awful against lefties with a league-worst 15-38 record. It is also a team that was 31-60 against teams .500 or better and 42-29 against fellow losing teams. The Jays were 15 games under .500 on the road and 40-41 at home.
John Gibbons is gone. Charlie Montoyo has taken over. Aside from that, Toronto did very little this winter to improve the ballclub, so there aren’t a lot of positive feelings about this team. As a general rule, that typically creates betting value and there will be some spots in which we can play the Blue Jays.
Money Line Spots
We should be able to get some decent prices, and likely some plus-money prices as well, by backing the Jays at home against fly ball pitchers. The Blue Jays have gotten on board with the fly ball revolution, as they ranked seventh in FB% and third in Pull%. Rogers Centre is a bad venue for ground ball hitters and a good venue for ground ball pitchers.
In terms of fly balls and line drives, only Coors Field and Yankee Stadium yielded a higher wOBA than Rogers Centre at .589. That was better than Texas, better than Fenway, better than Cincinnati, better than a lot of venues thought to be good hitter’s parks. When the Blue Jays face a fly ball pitcher, particularly one that has problems with right-handed hitters, Toronto will be worthy of consideration. This is also true of pitchers with bad command in general, even if they aren’t fly ball guys.
Perhaps playing 1st 5 inning bets in these situations will prove to be more fruitful, as the Jays don’t have a very good bullpen, but that will be a game-by-game consideration.
Obviously, there is some correlation then between fly ball pitchers and bad command guys and totals. Toronto will hit at home against those guys, so those will be good over betting opportunities. With Fenway and Yankee Stadium in the top five as well, the Blue Jays are plenty capable of getting some runs in those venues also. Toronto actually had the best record to the over last season.
Now, on the flip side, when ground ball pitchers show up at Rogers Centre, unders will be the flavor of the day. The Jays did improve their infield defense with Freddy Galvis, which should help them. In terms of ground ball batting average, Rogers Centre was sixth behind Oakland, Arizona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego. One of those places has a humidor and the others all have that cool marine air that keeps the grass nice and lush.
As a team at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays batted just .217 on ground balls. That was the lowest home batting average on ground balls in the league. They really are a feast or famine offense depending on the opposing pitcher.
Individual Players to Watch
Marcus Stroman – Who is Marcus Stroman? Stroman posted a 5.54 ERA last season, but much better numbers otherwise with a 3.91 FIP and a 3.84 xFIP. He had a 62.1 percent GB%, which should, theoretically, play extremely well at home. He had a .260 average against at home with a .319 wOBA and a 5.29 ERA. He was, in fact, worse on the road with a .297 average against and a .339 wOBA. He had a 5.76 ERA.
Stroman was hurt last season and also ran into a ton of bad luck thanks to bad defense and a 60.5 percent LOB%. On the other hand, some of the LOB% problems were self-inflicted with a drop in K% 19.7 percent to 17.2 percent. The market will like Stroman early with the big ERA/xFIP discrepancy. I’m going to need to get some data before I buy in.
Sean Reid-Foley and Thomas Pannone – Right now, the ceiling for the Jays rotation is very low. Stroman and Aaron Sanchez have had their problems. Ryan Borucki pitched about as well as he could, but he’s a regression candidate with a low K rate. It looks like Matt Shoemaker and Clayton Richard, a very extreme ground ball guy, are going to make the rotation.
The upside guys are Reid-Foley and Pannone and they should be in the front five sooner rather than later. Reid-Foley actually misses bats. Pannone is a standard-issue lefty with a three-pitch mix and good command. I’ll be eagerly anticipating when these guys arrive later in the year because a forgotten Blue Jays team could yield more value at that point.