If fairytales came true, it would’ve been Toronto representing the AL in tonight’s World Series opener instead of the Kansas City Royals (again). A tumultuous season saw Canada’s team have a 23-30 record at the start of June before equalling a franchise record with 11 straight wins, which sparked the team to finish the season 70-39. It is also worth noting that the Jays went on a second 11-game winning streak in August, the fifth time they have done so in their short 38-year history.
Taking nothing away from the Kansas City Royals, who were in sparkling form all year and fully deserve their spot in baseball’s showpiece event, this season has been all about Toronto. Ever since the acquisition of all-star third baseman Josh Donaldson from the Oakland Athletics in November last year, fans at the Rogers Centre knew something special was going to happen in 2015. But even with the free agency pick-ups of Marco Estrada and Russell Martin, it still took a while for things to get properly going; specifically, July.
On July 28th, the Blue Jays had a mediocre 50-51 and sat six games behind the New York Yankees for the AL East lead. But more importantly, it marked the day that GM Alex Anthopoulos pushed through the signing of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins. Just when the Jays faithful thought things couldn’t get much better as the team looked to end their 22-year playoff duck, it was announced that former Cy Young winner David Price would be heading north of the border. Toronto was in a dreamworld for the next couple of months as the most exciting team in the league went 43-18 to close out the regular season and grace the postseason with the second-best record in the AL.
Fans were so excited that one even parodied Taylor Swift's Blank Space to rally the troops for the playoffs:
Whenever Toronto played, you could be assured that you’d see one thing: runs. Through the course of the season, the Blue Jays scored a total of 891 runs, with the second-placed Yankees trailing on a meagre 764. They also blasted the most home runs with 232, two ahead of nearest challengers Houston Astros, as well as recording a whopping 308 doubles, the most in the majors by five. 852 runs batted in was the most by some way, and their slugging percentage was way out in front at .457. So yeah, it’s easy to see why they were the most exciting team in the league.
On an individual level, the Blue Jays had a trifecta of big hitters. Donaldson bagged 122 runs, a league-high, as well as powering his way to 123 RBIs (second in the league) and 41 homers, good for fifth-best. Jose Bautista hit 108 runs, 114 RBIs and 40 homers (including that one against the Texas Rangers in the playoffs), whilst Edwin Encarnacion had 94 runs, 111 RBIs, 39 homers and a mammoth 26-game hit streak.
Whilst not quite on the same level as the MLB leaders, the Jays’ pitching staff was still solid. Price went 9-1 in his 11 starts, R.A. Dickey (playing in his league-record 76th season) recovered to 11-11 after being 3-10 and Marcus ‘Wolverine’ Stroman was a perfect 4-0 in his late-season starts. Lefty Mark Buerhle led the team with a 15-8 record, Estrada was 13-8, Drew Hutchison was 13-5, whilst Aaron Sanchez chipped in with seven successes from the bullpen.
Speaking of the ‘pen, Toronto went 34 games in a row without a save, and rather impressively they won 18 of them. However once their closers got going, Roberto Osuna recorded 20 saves on the season with the bespectacled Brett Cecil adding five. Not stunning numbers, but good enough for a postseason berth in a relatively weak AL.
This should have been Toronto’s year. It should be fans from The Six descending towards Citi Field tonight. It could be argued that certain postseason mistakes were made, such as starting the notoriously poor-in-the-postseason Price multiple times and not having him come out of the bullpen, but management will learn from this season and return stronger in 2016. Toronto Blue Jays will have to wait a while longer for their elusive third World Series, but if this season is anything to go by, the Commissioner's Trophy will be returning to Canada very soon.