It was recently reported by Ken Rosenthal that an extra wild card team is all but done in being added for the 2012 MLB season. My initial reactions were something along the lines of oh my god and were not unlike the opening of that first present on Christmas morning as a child. You feel a sense of excitement and that rush of new things until you realize you just opened that present from Grandma with only socks inside, thanks Grandma. In this case it seems somewhat similar. On one hand you have the right to be pretty damn excited that your favourite team is one step closer to the playoffs, but on the other hand in the grand scheme of things does it really make that much of a difference.
Of course the adding of an extra wild card spot for 2012 is a fantastic addition to the Blue Jays playoff chances, but it seems like some are still forgetting about the other potentially unsurpassable bumps in the road. For one the Blue Jays play in the always tough AL East, but also in the incredibly difficult American League and are the Blue Jays really ready to take that next step, even with an extra wild card team.
In the East you always have the big three in the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Rays. In the Central you have the now Fielderful Tigers. Last, but not least in the West you have the Rangers and the now playoff ready Angels.
In the old scenario it looked almost impossible for the Blue Jays to make the playoffs in 2012 without significant leaps and bounds taken by multiple players on the team because the Jays would have had to pass two of the beasts of the east. Now in the new scenario it looks more likely that they will have make the playoffs but what you have to realize is that instead of having to overtake two of the beasts in the east, the Jays will have to overcome one, but also likely one of the Texas Rangers or Los Angeles Angels and they aren’t half bad either.
The Rangers, well they’re the Rangers, not only have they been the American League representative in the World Series for back to back years, but they also got arguably the best pitcher on the market outside of C.C. Sabathia in Yu Darvish. The Angels, usually an afterthought in wild card consideration, got not even arguably but instead thee best hitter on the market in Albert Pujols and then the second best free agent pitcher in C.J. Wilson. As well what many don’t seem to realize the Angels are the same team that finished only 5 games out of a wild card spot.
Looking further into it Replacement Level Yankees who run the CAIRO projection system ran a couple of projected standings using both their system as well as that of Tom Tango who runs the Marcel system. Using the CAIRO projection system they projected the Blue Jays 2012 record to be 78-84 and gave them a 4.1% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a 2.6% increase from the added second wild card spot. In another post using the Marcel projection system they projected the Jays record to be the exact same as 2011 at 81-81 and gave them a 16.7% chance of making the playoffs, which includes a pretty substantial 6.8% jump from the added wild card spot.
These two numbers may seem at the very least somewhat promising, but the two posts also include a couple playoff chance percentages for some of the competitors. CAIRO puts the playoff chances of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays at anywhere from 64.4% for the Rays to a whopping 84.8% for the Yanks and Marcel similarly has the percentages at anywhere from 57.1% for the Rays to 76.0% for the Yankees. At the lowest point the next best team in the AL East, the Rays, still has a 3 times better chance to make the playoffs than your team and mine the Toronto Blue Jays.
To beat the next best team in the CAIRO projected wild card standings the Jays would have to somehow gain another 13 wins beyond CAIRO’s Blue Jays projections, which aren’t too pessimistic. Even to beat the next best team in the Marcel projected standings, which have the Blue Jays being much better in 2012 than the CAIRO system, the Jays would somehow need to muster up another 6 wins.
That number may not seem like a whole lot, but for the Jays to increase their win total by 6 wins that would have to mean something along the lines of Colby Rasmus returning to 2010 form and Travis Snider finally becoming what he could now realistically be. That is a lot to happen and even that’s no guarantee that the Jays would make the playoffs because anything could happen with the other three teams fighting for the two playoff spots.
In the end the reality is with a still improving team and an unbalanced schedule for the 2012 season it doesn’t seem like the added wild card spot will give the Jays the extra push they need. It may make you and I as fans feel better about the Blue Jays and it will surely sell some extra tickets. But unfortunately it isn’t as if the Jays only have to overcome one one great team instead of two, all that seems to have happened is that one less beast of the east has been transferred to having to beat one of the best in the west.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited for the 2012 season because the Jays will still have a very exciting team and a player with 80 grade watchability in Brett Lawrie. If anything it should just make you more excited for what is to come in 2013 and beyond when the Blue Jays sustained success really figures to begin. And if you’re really a believer be excited for 2012 and really think the Jays can make the playoffs don’t let me or any other blogger suppress that, because hey stranger things have happened.