TORONTO – When the 2017 season began, reaching the playoffs was an entirely reasonable goal for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Four weeks later, the goal hasn’t changed, but realizing it looks much tougher now. Not impossible — FanGraphs still gives the Blue Jays a 13 per cent chance of returning to the post-season — but not encouraging.
The Blue Jays return to Toronto still in search of their first winning streak or series win, a season-worst 10 games below .500. At 6-16, they have the worst record in baseball.
Reasonable observers would agree that there’s no way the Blue Jays are this bad. Even the worst teams in baseball win far more than 27 per cent of the time, and it’d be extremely hard to believe that the Blue Jays are one of MLB’s worst teams. The likes of Steve Pearce, Jose Bautista and Devon Travis should bounce back from slow starts, and currently injured players such as Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ will eventually return to the roster.
There’s no denying the significance of those 16 losses, though.
Simply put, teams that lose that often in April barely ever make the playoffs. Of the 186 teams to advance to the post-season in the wild-card era, just three lost 16 or more games in April: the 2001 Athletics (8-17), the 2007 Rockies (10-16) and the 2014 Pirates (10-16).
If the Blue Jays are going to reach the playoffs, they’ll need to go on a historic run and become the fourth team in the wild-card era to rebound from a 16-loss April. Something like a 95-win clip over the remaining 140 games would give them a decent shot at playing October baseball. Anything short of that, and they’re in trouble.
An optimist might point out that Tulowitzki played on those 2007 Rockies, Martin played for the 2014 Pirates, or that the 1989 Blue Jays started 12-24 before winning the AL East.
All valid points, and a lot more fun than pointing to teams like the 2013 Blue Jays, who never recovered from their slow starts. Unfortunately for the present-day Blue Jays, though, it’s far more common for starts like this to extinguish teams’ playoff bids.