Backing the Blue Jays
April 19, 2018
What The Toronto Blue Jays Are Doing Right
Lost in the shuffle of the Maple Leafs challenging for the Stanley Cup and the Raptors attempting to prevent another playoff implosion is the Toronto Blue Jays clawing their way to a handsome record of 12-5 SU and a +588 rating on the moneyline.
They currently own the third best record in the entire American League. For a team that was nothing more than an afterthought at the beginning of the season, this is a big deal.
Spring wins are a huge buffer for teams like the Blue Jays, who are pretty much overachieving at this point. Toronto began the MLB betting season as +5000 longshots to win the World Series. If you know anything about the futures market in general, you know that this number means that they’re not in the running.
That mark has changed dramatically over the course of the month. Toronto is now a +2500 outsider to challenge for the World Series, and are +1000 to win in the American League pennant futures.
You’re probably not going to wager on the Jays to maintain this momentum all the way through to October, especially since the Angels and Red Sox are much more fun bets.
2018 American League Pennant Odds presented by BetOnline.ag
Houston Astros +300
Boston Red Sox +400
New York Yankees +450
Los Angeles Angels +500
Minnesota Twins +1000
Toronto Blue Jays +1000
Seattle Mariners +2500
What Toronto more so represents is a cautionary bull market. They’re off to their best start in a decade, and don’t remind fans of that because they ended up finishing fourth in the division and six games under .500 in 2009. It’s much better than the 2-11 start they endured last year at this point, but it’s also come in part because of a soft schedule.
Toronto has happily beat up the Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and swept the Kansas City Royals over their last ten games along with a one-game beat down of the Cleveland Indians.
By every understanding of what we know about baseball, the ship should correct with a four game set coming up against the New York Yankees through the weekend.
That is followed by a tide turning series against the surging Boston Red Sox, who have been smashing their way through victories at an obscene clip.
It goes without saying that the Blue Jays are an inflated commodity that’s full of hot air right now. Their pitching is abysmal, and they remain without their two biggest stars as Josh Donaldson’s trip to the disabled list is going to last a little longer and Troy Tulowitzki is still recovering from double foot surgery.
With those two back in the lineup sooner rather than later, this Toronto team is a lot easier to believe in and bet on. Without them it’s easy to see this hot air balloon ride crashing back down to Earth.
Teams that lack truly consistent pitching are a problem for bettors because everything about betting on baseball relies on starting pitchers. J.A. Happ leads the team with three wins in four starts, and that in itself speaks volumes about what these guys have at the stripe. It’s not safe.
All this being said, there are a lot of teams giving up a lot of runs this year in spite of having elite staffs. Maybe the balls are juiced (read: the balls are juiced), or maybe teams like the Blue Jays have found a bit of a loophole in traditional baseball metrics.
Team defense, strong pitching and intense strategy is what really makes a difference in the playoffs. You can’t rely on big home runs all the time – you have to be the best at something.
The Blue Jays are simply good at power hitting. That isn’t enough to win a World Series, or even a pennant, on its own merits but it’s more than enough to generate runs in the regular season.
Toronto ranks 5th with a .776 OPS and are 3rd in terms of slugging with an out-of-infield rate of .444 which is fantastic. They don’t hit an exceptional amount of balls in to play, and aside from the impossibly athletic Kevin Pillar they’re hilariously slow and terrible at stealing bases.
It’s actually mind boggling that this is working to Toronto’s favor.
The only thing that saves Toronto is literally their slugging. Everything else is average or just slightly above. And even there, they don’t hit a lot of doubles or triples. But the consistency at which they bat balls out of the infield and in to play gives them tons of chances to score. They make the most of what the skin they scalp, and strong slugging teams can survive world eating pitchers or opponents who are equally good at circling back to home plate.
In most instances with teams like Toronto, you’d say “bet now and get out when the ship starts thinking”. That’s the whole Hot Hand mentality.
However, Toronto has a fantastic schedule coming up that is only muddied by a showdown with Boston next week. They play the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Twins, Indians and Rays up until the first weekend of May. That’s some good eating if you ask me.
Everyone is going to tell you to back off, which is fine. But knowing that the regular season is about simplicity, and that starting pitching is mattering less and less when it comes to betting (because the balls are juiced!), Toronto still stands as a strong play.
The Yankees are very vulnerable right now. The rest of the American League isn’t that good.
Somehow Toronto has emerged as a team that can survive their own weaknesses because their one strength is entirely useful at producing runs. That’s enough for me to keep betting on their moneylines. You should too until there’s solid proof that they’re no longer viable. For now, it’s safe to fly with these Blue Jays.
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