Mythbusters – The Blue Jays and the NL

Title: Mythbusters – The Blue Jays and the NL
Date: June 13, 2008
Original Source: The On Deck Circle
Synopsis: It’s a long-held belief that the Blue Jays would do well in the National League. With Interleague play approaching, I tackled that myth to see if the Jays really would fare better on the Senior Circuit.

So the myth goes that if the Toronto Blue Jays weren’t in the AL East, they would be a highly competitive team. They can’t spend with the Yankees and Red Sox, of course. The myth further exists, among Jay supporters, that in the National League, the Jays would dominate and be a sure-fire playoff team.

At the end of each season, I like to believe this, too, because there’s no better way to justify losing than by saying the winners aren’t playing fair. In the NL, the Jays would spend at a more competitive rate, their DH hole would be non-existent, and John Gibbons would be free to small ball…oh, well, maybe Gibbons’ unproven game managing ability is not a reality included in the myth.

Regardless, Jays fans like to believe the team would do better in the NL. Well, the Jays have a chance to prove or disprove that myth right here, right now, over the next few weeks.
 More after the jump!
First, allow me to set a little background. Please ignore the meandering comments sliding in or against the Jays favor for the sake of a simple examination (The In Favor arguments: Jays pitchers never hit so they perform worse, the NL has the bigger advantage at home, it’s too small a sample size, the Jays get tough competition. The Against Favor arguments: NL teams are not equipped to use a DH, the AL has the bigger advantage at home, smallball is negated in the AL, it’s too small a sample size.).
So, to set the table for the experiment:

Since Interleague Play started in 1997, the Jays are 93-100. Since we are discussing this myth in the realm of recent times, I’ll shorten the time frame to 2002 to the present. In this period, the Jays are 56-53. Sure, it’s better, but over that span in general the Jays are just barely below .500 (who knew?), so the difference is hardly statistically significant.

(Interestingly enough, when doing this research, I found that Eric Hinske is rated by ESPN’s Brendan Roberts as the 6th best interleague hitter, with an OPS of.918 in interleague play. Matt Stairs is 4th with a .948 OPS.)

Anyways, the evidence just isn’t there to support the Jays as a better team in the NL, at least not yet. Last year, the Jays went 10-8. This year, they already took two of three in a set against the Phillies. Additionally, last year’s competition was admittedly stiff as the team faced playoff bound Colorado and Philadelphia, plus the Dodgers. This year, the Jays have no excuses.

This myth could be officially busted after the next few weeks of play. The Jays schedule over the next couple of weeks is as follows:

June 13-15 – vs. Chicago Cubs (NL) ( the return of the overrated Reed Johnson)
June 17-19 – @ Milwaukee (NL)
June 20-22 – @ Pittsburgh (NL)
June 24-26 – vs. Cincinnati (NL)
June 27-29 – vs. Atlanta (NL)

And that’s it. That’s your interleague play for the year. 2-1 on the road against Philly (39-28), with 9 home games and 6 road games against teams with a combined winning percentage of .521. This brings their opponent win rate, as of right now, to .531, an unenviable mark. Still, it is not such a great disparity from the assumed .500 that the Jays can cry foul play in their schedule.

The schedule is what it is, and the myth is what it is. Between now and the end of the month, we’ll have some idea as to whether or not this myth exists.

If the Jays come out above .500 in Interleague Play, maybe the myth can continue or even grow in legend. If not, I think it’s time we Jay fans begin to accept that the Jays may be as mediocre against the NL as they are against the AL.

Other Jays Notes
• Joe Inglett, Scott Rolen, Vernon Wells, Rod Barajas, and David Eckstein are all hitting above .280. Sadly, the struggling Alex Rios has the highest average of any Blue Jay that has enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting crown, with a paltry .268 average.

• On the bright side, Rios is just 2 stolen bases away from his career high and is on a 30+ steal pace, which would make him the first Jay since 2001 to steal even 20 (that year Shannon Stewart, Jose Cruz, and Raul Mondesi all did it).

• The Jays as a team are 12th in the league with 46 steals, just 10 shy of their 2007 mark. Unfortunately, they have the 5th lowest success rate in the league at 67%, well below the “75% threshold” that is sometimes employed by statisticians to justify steal attempts.

• The jury is still out on when Aaron Hill will be able to return. In the meantime, Inglett and Scutaro are doing a serviceable job filling in (but why the heck are they batting second?).

• 6th most walks in the league. 8th most hits. 24th in runs. Yup, sounds just as bad now as it did a month ago.

• 2nd in quality starts. 4th in opponent OBP. 3rd in strikeouts. 13th for wins. Yup, sounds just as bad now as it did a month ago.

• Hey, I know it’s been a bad week but let’s calm down on BJ Ryan – a 3.00 ERA and 13/15 in save chances is not that bad. If it continues though, I’ll scream Tommy John.

• A quick prospect update: At 39-28, I think the Syracuse Chiefs could beat the Jays on some nights. Like the Jays, though, it’s been all throw and no swing with the offense buoyed only by Adam Lind’s .337 average and 46 RBI in 46 games. Can’t hit, yeah right. David Purcey (6-4, 2.41) and John Parrish (9-0, 2.65) continue to impress. At Double-A, super-prospect Travis Snider has worked through his slump and is up to .273 with 8 home runs in 47 games. Former 1st-rounder Ricky Romero, though, is struggling…again…with an ERA above 6. A bigger prospect update is to come next week, complete with a draft report.

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