After a scorching 16-3 streak, the Toronto Blue Jays are well positioned to control their own destiny. They are currently in a playoff spot, and if they play well enough they will end up in the American League Wild Card game, no other club collapse is required.
Even so, it would be silly to pretend that the Blue Jays’ fortunes are absolutely unrelated to the success of other teams. There’s a reason looking at the dashboard is so popular this time of year. As a result, a ranking of the teams most responsible for whether or not the Blue Jays make the playoffs looks like this:
1. The Toronto Blue Jays (obviously)
2. The New York Yankees
3. The Boston Red Sox
4. The Minnesota Twins
You could quibble with the order of the Yankees and Red Sox – I have the higher Yankees because the Red Sox end-of-season schedule is so soft (nine of their 14 remaining games against the Baltimore Orioles or the Nationals Washington) that they seem unlikely to feature an opening for Toronto – but the odd duck here is the Twins, who have a .435 winning percentage and have already been knocked out of the playoffs.
The Twins will have a say in how the Blue Jays fare for the simple reason that seven of Toronto’s last 16 games will be against Minnesota. While this is good news for the Blue Jays, the Twins are not the Baltimore Orioles. They are an MLB caliber team with legitimate strengths.
Let’s dig a little deeper into a clash that could propel the Blue Jays to the playoffs or ruin a magical run:
What does the Twins’ offensive look like?
While Minnesota’s offense isn’t the heavyweight it was meant to be before the season, it’s still an above-average unit this season. The club ranks 12th in majors with a 100 wRC + and their 658 runs marked 15th. The most dangerous aspect of the Twins’ offense is their ability to strike quickly via the long ball as their 206 homers rank 5th in the league.
It’s worth noting that the Twins’ offense hasn’t been the same since they shipped Nelson Cruz to the Tampa Bay Rays, especially when it comes to power output:
That loss is mitigated somewhat by Byron Buxton’s return from injury, but the lineup just isn’t the same without his best hitter.
With three lefties and a switch hitter in their daily roster, the Twins are significantly more effective against righties (102 wRC +) than lefties (96 wRC +) and in terms of pitch preference, FanGraphs sets them at a value of +46. , 6 against. fast balls (fifth in majors) while in the red against any other type of ground.
How can the Blue Jays counter him?
The Blue Jays already have a great pitching clash on Friday with Hyun-Jin Ryu, a southpaw who isn’t too reliant on fastball. They have another southpaw in Steven Matz on Saturday he may want to increase the use of the changes, especially against slugger Miguel Sano, who has breathed almost 50% of the changes this year with a run value of -7 , according to Statcast. Alek Manoah may seem like a better match for the Twins as a right-hander pumping radiators, but if his slider looks like what he showed on his last start, he could be successful relying on it:
The Jays have yet to name a starter for Sunday.
In the box, Adam Cimber stands out as a guy who could be used liberally as his fastball features a different look, he throws a lot of sliders and he has had no trouble keeping the ball in the court this year. Closer up, Jordan Romano, on the other hand, could have a nervous moment or two thanks to being extremely heavy these days and home runs have been a problem for him. It’s probably not enough to change her deployment, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Defensively, the Twins shoot the ball more than any baseball team (43.5%) so the Blue Jays could get into a few more quarterbacks. Minnesota is also one of the worst core flight teams in the majors (their 46 flights rank 27th in the majors), which could make Toronto feel more comfortable deploying Alejandro Kirk to the receiver’s post.
What does the Twins pitch look like?
Short answer: not good.
The Twins have allowed 769 points this season. For reference, the Blue Jays scored 771. That means they turned the teams they faced into elite offense. When facing a high level attack like the Blue Jays, there is a possibility that things could go wrong. To make matters worse for the Twins, they lost their best starter (Kenta Maeda) and reliever (Taylor Rogers).
The three starters the Blue Jays are likely to see over the weekend (Bailey Ober, Michael Pineda and Joe Ryan) were surprisingly competent, however, combining for 193 innings of 3.93 ERA ball with a solid 4.20 FIP.
Ober and Pineda profile themselves in the same way as right-handed people who don’t throw particularly hard, whose best quality is their ability to limit strides:
It’s not a particularly intimidating profile for a Blue Jays team who love fastballs and punish throws in the zone – although some of the free swingers like Bo Bichette and Corey Dickerson can be drawn out of the zone by the ability. of each to provoke prosecution.
Ryan is more of a wild card. He’s only allowed four runs in his first 17 MLB innings, but he’s not throwing particularly hard, and there’s nothing dazzling about the movement on his throws.
The other starter the Blue Jays will likely see in their next series with the Twins next week in Minnesota is Griffin Jax.
Jax is an intriguing arm due to the significantly above-average movement of his fastball and slider, but his leadership this season has been horrendous, leading to a bloated ERA of 2.48 HR / 9 and 6, 65 in 69 innings – with brutal numbers managing contacts across the board.
If he’s throwing fastballs like he’s been doing all season, he shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Blue Jays roster.
The Twins have some strong box arms in Alex Colome, Tyler Duffey and southpaw Caleb Thielbar, but no one feels like a guarantee to wipe out top hitters. Minnesota’s greatest strength in relief is its sheer quantity of weapons. Right now, the Twins carry an 11-person reliever pen, which allows them to pick games as they see fit.
How can the Blue Jays counter him?
There just isn’t much to say here. To borrow a football term, the Blue Jays lineup is currently a ball of butcher’s knives – and the Twins don’t seem to have the pitching staff to stop them. On a micro level, Toronto may feel more comfortable putting Randal Grichuk in the lineup due to all the four-seam fastballs they’re going to see (Grichuk hit .309 and hit .511 against the pitch this year), and Ober’s left / right divisions likely invite Dickerson – and possibly Jake Lamb – into the lineup. There aren’t many wrong answers here, though, as Toronto is something of a set-it-and-forget-it bunch.
If the Blue Jays can’t score points against this Twins side, they don’t deserve to continue their streak.