It’s been more than 24 hours since Josh Donaldson made a mad dash for home plate and helped the Toronto Blue Jays send the Texas Rangers packing. Although all of Canada is still running on the emotional high that went along with that moment, it’s a good time to look back at how the Blue Jays were able to so thoroughly dismantle the most victorious team in the American League. Because if you were watching the three games, and let’s be honest, you were, it wasn’t all that close. Of the 28 innings of baseball played in this series, I think you’d agree with me if I said that only about five or six of them were nerve-wracking. The reason was because it wasn’t just Josh Donaldson doing it. Nor was it just Edwin Encarnacion. It was everybody. Everybody who played contributed in some way, and even the members of the organization not on the field had a large impact.
The most important group of Blue Jays employees had themselves a pretty great three games against the Rangers. Of the 11 Blue Jays batters who received plate appearances in the ALDS, six of them finished with of wOBA of .315 or over. That’s an incredibly balanced attack. Of those same 11, seven hit home runs!
On the pitching side of things, the numbers get even crazier. In the span of three games, the team allowed only 10 runs, or an ERA of 3.21. That spanned 28 innings, in which they allowed 21 hits and seven walks, or, a 1.00 WHIP. They struck out 20% of the Rangers batters they faced, and only walked them 6.4% of the time. Both average to above average numbers. Nine pitchers pitched in this series for Toronto. Four allowed runs. Six relievers combined to throw nine of the 28 innings played in this series, and they allowed just two runs.
The pitchers made good pitches throughout the games, but an additional boost they got was that the fielding behind them was so good. As a team, the Blue Jays made 84 putouts in the series, and committed a grand total of zero errors. That helps.
After the game on Sunday night, Bob Elliott tweeted the following:
Congrats to Toronto scouts Dan Evans and Jon Lalonde who prepared advance work on the Texas Rangers for the Blue Jays #Jays
— bob elliott (@elliottbaseball) October 10, 2016
You may remember from last year, but a lot was made about the Kansas City Royals’ advanced scouting of the Blue Jays, and how they were able to take advantage of tendencies they noticed. From an October 2015 article:
“The Royals knew when David Price was throwing his changeup and when he would not throw to first base on a pickoff and where Jose Bautista would throw the baseball if he fielded it far to his left.”
That legitimately helped the Royals win the series, as, for example, the Royals batters had a .401 wOBA against Price’s changeup in the series. There’s no telling how differently the series would have been had the Royals not known information like that. So, what did the Blue Jays do so effectively against the Rangers? Well, there’s no way of actually knowing without inside information, but we can see some things they did against usual patterns that suggest some scouting info.
As an example, Adrian Beltre, he of the .300/.358/.521 triple slash line in the 2016 regular season, faced just 49.5% fastballs in the regular season. Blue Jays pitchers weren’t having any of that. Beltre was fed a steady diet of fastballs the entire series. 81.3% of the pitches he saw were of the fastball variety. Beltre, probably not coincidentally, had just two hits in the series.
The harder part of the advanced scouting to determine is the offensive side of things. It would be irresponsible to speculate on what exactly the Blue Jays hitters were looking for or what they knew going into each at-bat, so I won’t. But I will agree with this tweet from Baseball Prospectus’ Senior Prospect Evaluator Maurcio Rubio Jr.:
Toronto's advance scouting was really damn good against Texas and their lineup is full of smart hitters who can take advantage of the info.
— Mauricio Rubio Jr. (@MRubio52) October 10, 2016
The Blue Jays are really smart. Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson are two of the smartest hitters in the game, constantly studying film of themselves and opponents to gain an edge. If Evans and Lalonde were able to pick up anything on the Rangers pitchers, the players definitely were able to implement it. Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish are two of the best pitchers in the game. They imploded. That doesn’t happen by accident. The Blue Jays are good, no doubt, but a lot of that success should be credited to the behind the scenes work that happens before the games are played.
The Training Staff
Lastly, the Blue Jays training staff played a huge role in this series. Mark Shapiro has revamped this area of the team since taking over last season with the implementation of the high performance department under Angus Mugford and Clive Brewer, and although we don’t know who was responsible, the beaten down Blue Jays were able to play to the best of their abilities against Texas. Roberto Osuna was questionable for the entire series, and yet was still able to throw 3.2 scoreless innings while allowing only one baserunner. Josh Donaldson has been nursing some type of undisclosed hip injury since the beginning of September, and he hit a whopping .538/.571/.846 in the Texas series. Not only that, but he also made that crazy run home, which is pretty hard to do on a bad hip. He credited it to the fans, but if we’re being honest, the medical and training staff had a lot more to do with Donaldson’s pain tolerance than we did.
Good teams play well, get lucky, and then win. But before they can do that, so much goes into it that we don’t see. It takes a village, or an entire organization, more importantly, to win. The Blue Jays have the players, the scouts, the analysts, and the staff to get it done. We saw how important they all are. Hopefully they’ll continue to be important for the next three weeks.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports