The 90th Percentile Blue Jays

Baseball Prospectus released their PECOTA projections for the 2017 season earlier this month, and in the aggregate, they weren’t so kind to the Toronto Blue Jays, projecting an 81-81 record for a team that has made it to the ALCS in two straight seasons. Mike Passador already broke down the individual projections in this same space a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t do that here. What I do want to do is look at how the Blue Jays would perform if they were to all hit their 90th percentile projections, and not the 50th percentile projections PECOTA is based on. Darius Asurion did this same exercise with the Cubs last week at BP Wrigleyville, and it led to the PECOTA projection going from 91 wins to 127 wins. Despite that clearly not being realistic, it did provide an interesting lens with which to look at these numbers as they try to predict what will occur in the 2017 season for the Blue Jays. Let’s get started. First, the top projections for the Blue Jays hitters.

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This group would tally a total of 47 WARP, as opposed to the 34.4 WARP the Blue Jays position players are projected to be worth according to PECOTA. That is actually a pretty modest increase, and that can be attributed to the fact that there just isn’t all that much risk in the Blue Jays lineup this season. That can be interpreted in a few different fashions, but I think that means the Blue Jays front office has done a pretty good job assembling this offensive core.

Travis’ 90th percentile projection has him performing for a full season near the level he did in his abbreviated rookie season in 2015. That is hard to see given he has been injured in both seasons he has spent with the Blue Jays, but if he stays healthy, a five win season shouldn’t be out of the question. His PECOTA projection has him at 2.4, but that would have him see drop-offs in virtually every offensive category from both of his MLB seasons, something that doesn’t seem all that likely. Travis’ 2.7 WARP difference between PECOTA and his 90th percentile projection is one of the larger on this list, and a full breakout season from him could go a long way in helping the Blue Jays.

Another standout offensively is Kendrys Morales’ projection, but not in a good way like above. Morales’ best scenario according to this lands at him at just 3.3 WARP, whereas his PECOTA projection has him at 1.5 WARP. For comparisons sake, Edwin Encarnacion is at 3.4 and 5.7, respectively. Now, I’m not here to hate on the Morales signing, but according to these numbers, Encarnacion’s midline projection is more valuable than the best case scenario for Morales. That’s not fantastic.

The last part of those numbers I want to mention is the first base and left field platoon scenario. Some combination of Justin Smoak, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Melvin Upton Jr. will likely man those two  positions every day, and if all goes perfectly according to the 90th percentile projections, that group will amass a total of 8.8 WARP, a total the Blue Jays will be ecstatic to get. On the other hand, PECOTA’s 50th percentile projection has the group at less than 25% of that number, with just 2.1 WARP. These two positions are the only places the Blue Jays really decided to risk it with in 2017, and it isn’t an over-exaggeration to say that they could make or break the season for Toronto.

Now, the pitchers.

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According to that set of data, the Blue Jays pitchers would provide 22.7 WARP in 2017 if they were all to perform to their 90th percentile projections. If that seems extremely low, don’t worry, you are correct. PECOTA currently only has the group pegged to put up 8.4 WARP in 2017, so the jump of 14.3 wins is still pretty significant, but as you have no doubt seen already, PECOTA isn’t too kind to the Blue Jays pitching staff. That is because arguably the three best starters on the team, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez are all players who break PECOTA, in that their stuff doesn’t translate to the raw numbers it likes. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t good, and thus the club’s pitching projections are always going to lean heavily on the pessimistic side.

Problems with those three pitchers aside, these numbers do provide an interesting look into what could happen if all goes right. Francisco Liriano, despite coming into 2017 as either the fourth or fifth starter on this team, has the potential to be the best on the staff. Before his rough half season with the Pirates in 2016, Liriano was one of the more dependable pitchers in the game, and he seemed to have found that success again last season once he donned the Blue and White for the first time. If he returns to form and the other Blue Jays starters do what they have shown they are capable of doing, this team will once again be towards the front of the league in starters ERA and other statistics.

In the bullpen, perhaps the most interesting player is Joe Biagini. His projection assumes he will receive three starts in 2017, but given that isn’t likely, the idea of him getting 80+ innings out of the bullpen is very intriguing. He has the stamina to start as he has been doing it his entire career, and John Gibbons using him in a multi inning relief role is an idea that has been thrown around plenty online. For a group of guys that has some uncertainty in the sixth and seventh spots in the bullpen, relying on Biagini a bit more than one would normally do is a smart tactical move John Gibbons could, and hopefully will make a few times this season.

Given a replacement level team wins 50 games in a major league season, this iteration of the Blue Jays would walk away with a nice 119 win season. That won’t be happening, but some of these performances do seem attainable. All five starters could realistically hit their 90th percentile numbers, if not more, and hitters like Devon Travis and Jose Bautista could as well if they are able to return to health. The real games start in a few weeks, and then these numbers won’t mean anything anymore. Until then, this will have to do.

Lead Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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4 comments on “The 90th Percentile Blue Jays”


Ouch- Salty’s 90th percentile is .3 WARP. Awkward.

Gideon Turk

Doesn’t account for HSAA (Hair Style Above Average). Add at least 2 WARP for Salty.


What would you expect from a backup catcher whose recent seasons were such that he could only land an MiLB deal?


We’re talking 90th percentile! I can understand 50th percentile being .3, but 90th with 300+ AB’s, at just above replacement level? oof.

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