After 21 straight seasons on the outside, looking into the post season, the Toronto Blue Jays were finally playing meaningful October games again in 2015 and have now advanced to the American League Championship Series in back-to-back seasons, but is this team’s window starting to close?
The Jays, of course, are still equipped for a run in 2017 as the team has shifted to Josh Donaldson’s team even with the resigning of Jose Bautista late in the offseason. The former MVP will look to lead the offense in a bounce back season, but the team may be weaker—on paper—in that facet of the game. Can the Jays do enough to overtake Boston in the division or are they once again positioned to finish as the best-of-the-rest in the division?
2016 Record: 89-73
2016 Moneyline Record: -9.19 Units
2016 Over/Under Total Record: 63-93-6
Current World Series Odds: +2325
Current Odds To Win AL: +1059
Current Odds To Win AL East: +300
Regular Season Win Total: 85.5
Offensively, the Jays took a mighty step back in runs scored last year after an otherworldly offensive season the year before. That led to a 30-game edge for the under in the 2016 Over/Under record and Toronto’s offense figures to continue the downward trend in 2017 after swapping out Edwin Encarnacion for Kendrys Morales and Michael Saunders for Steve Pearce in the offseason.
Now, Jose Bautista is back and likely highly motivated after not getting much attention in the free agent market. He should be healthier than a year ago and he could help make up some the difference. The team also still have Josh Donaldson, Russel Martin and Troy Tulowitzki so it’s still going to be an above average offensive club.
While offense ruled the day for this team for years, the star has switched to the pitchers’ mound this year as Toronto seems to have the deepest rotation of any team in the AL East.
Aaron Sanchez really broke onto the scene last year with a 15-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.167 WHIP in 192 innings of work. He was extended beyond where the Jays wanted him to go in innings, but seemed to come out of it okay. He’ll be without a limit in 2017 and could be a Cy Young contender.
After the youngster, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada are a pair veterans who have really come into their own in recent seasons. Estrada was given the ball at the start of the ALDS last year and Happ was a 20-game winner. They each posted a sub-3.50 ERA and WHIP below 1.2.
The final two arms in this rotation are pretty good, too. Marcus Stroman went into 2016 as the defacto ace of this staff. He had a monster 2014 rookie season and showed well in a brief return from injury in 2015, but 2016 ended with him posting a 4.37 ERA, but had a 3.68 ERA in the second half.
Francisco Liriano, on the other hand, was a different pitcher in Toronto after a rough first half in Pittsburgh, pitching to a 2.92 ERA in 10 games with the Jays. That after three straight years of an ERA of 3.38 or lower.
Really, this team’s only Achilles Heel may be in the bullpen. Sure, the offense is weaker than last year on paper, but its still strong. The defense is still strong and the rotation is deep.
Roberto Osuna is a very good, very young, closer. He should only get better if that’s possible, but beyond him is an aging Jason Grilli and a LOOGY coming off a 4.09 ERA in J.P. Howell. Joe Smith was a nice add, but is it enough?
April 3-5: at Orioles
April 6-9: at Rays
April 11-12: vs. Brewers
April 13-16: vs. Orioles
April 18-20: vs. Red Sox
April 21-24: at Angels
April 25-27: at Cardinals
April 28-30: vs. Rays
Right out of the gate we have some intrigue for the Jays as they journey to Baltimore to take on the same Orioles’ team that they kicked out of the playoffs in extra innings of the Wild Card game last year. Of course, these two squads already had plenty of bad blood with O’s GM Dan Duquette noting that Jose Bautista is a villain in Baltimore during the offseason after incidents between him, Darren O’Day and Adam Jones have escalated over the last few years.
Six of the Blue Jays’ first 12 games of the season will be against the Orioles as they have a series both home and away. Other than that, Toronto has a few easier matchups with teams expected to be below-.500 including the Brewers, Angels and Rays, but do have to take on the Cardinals as well as the team likely to be Toronto’s biggest competition in the AL East: Boston.
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The 2017 Major League Baseball season is tentatively set to begin on April 2, 2017, and feature three games, including the 2016 World Series champions Chicago Cubs facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals, which will be ESPN's first Sunday Night Baseball game of the year.
The 88th MLB All-Star Game will be hosted by the Miami Marlins and will be played at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017. It will be televised nationally on Fox.
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