Canada’s only major league baseball team had its season come to an end just over a week ago in heartbreaking fashion. After a beat down of the Baltimore Orioles in their final game of the year, all the Toronto Blue Jays could do is watch as both the Yankees and the Red Sox also notched wins, clinching their spots in the wild card and sending the Jays home.
To come that close and not make the playoffs is crushing, but there’s a lot of positives that be taken away from what was arguably the most fun campaign since the 2015 American League Championship Series run.
For starters, a record of 91-71 is nothing to slouch at. In fact, it was the second highest win total the franchise has had since winning the title back in 1993. It goes to show that the reason why the Jays missed the playoffs has nothing to do with them, but more to do with the strength of their division.
What makes their record even more impressive is the fact that they had to play in three different home ballparks this season thanks to COVID-19. Beginning the year in Dunedin, Florida, then moving to Buffalo before finally returning to the Rogers Centre in Toronto for the final two months of the season. That much moving around is hard for any team to deal with. Despite all the disadvantages though, the Jays stayed the course, thanks in large part to breakout seasons from a few individuals.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally became everything that Jays fan’s thought he would be —and then some. Vladdy was simply a monster this season, posting a .311 batting average with 111 RBI’s and 48 home runs, the most homers every hit by a player 22 years old or younger. His ascent into stardom was by far the biggest bright spot of the season for the Jays, and there’s no reason to think he wont continue to improve next year.
Another big reason why the Jays were so successful was the emergence of starting pitcher Alek Manoah. Manoah came up from triple A in late May, and burst onto the scene, becoming the Toronto’s most impactful pitcher almost immediately. He put up a 9-2 record in 20 starts, with a 3.22 earned run average and 127 total strikeouts. He figures to be the team’s opening day starter next season. For a team that came into the year with a lot of questions about their pitching, it looks like they’ve found their ace of the future.
Though the first half of the season was plagued by injuries for last years big offseason acquisition George Springer, he really came on in the last 40 games or so. Springer hit 11 home runs with 29 RBI’s since the beginning of August, proving that he’s worth every penny the Jays gave him last winter. ‘
Through in a plethora of young bats including Teoscar Hernandez, Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto should be in the mix for a playoff spot and more for years to come.
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