It’s been a rough run for the Toronto Blue Jays, who have an American League-worst 5-12 record in August.
After spending lots of time atop the American League East early on, they now have a 4.9 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus.
So what would have to happen for those slim odds to become reality?
Basically the Blue Jays would have to play as well as they’ve ever played in the 38-year history of the franchise.
Reaching 90 wins
Let’s start by setting the bar at 90 wins. That means they’d have to go 25-10 during their final 35 games, which is something no Blue Jays team has ever done. The best finish to any Blue Jays season was 24-11, which happened in 1992 leading up to Toronto’s first World Series title and also in 1988 and 2002.
If we broaden the search beyond season-ending streaks to include all 35-game periods in Blue Jays history, we find that their best 35-game stretch ever was 26-9, which they’ve done in four different seasons: 1985, 1989, 1999 and, yes, during their 2014 hot streak spanning most of May.
They’ve gone 25-10 or better 11 different times in franchise history. To reach 90 wins, they’ll need to make it 12, and join the 1985 Blue Jays as the only team to pull the feat off during two completely distinct stretches.
The Los Angeles Angels matched Toronto’s 26-9 run this summer, but no team has bested it in 2014, which tells you just how hot the Jays were. The Angels, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles are the only other teams to go 25-10 over 35 games this year.
Reaching 88 wins
While 90 wins has typically been viewed as the bar for playoff contention, there’s a scenario where fewer wins will be required.
The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals advanced with just 88 wins, the fewest of any team since MLB expanded the playoffs to include a second Wild Card. FanGraphs’ projected standings suggest 88 wins could be enough to take the second AL Wild Card again in 2014, which means contending teams can dream about qualifying with a win total below 90.
To reach 88 wins, the Blue Jays will have to go 23-12. They have finished the season by winning 23 or 24 of their last 35 games six times: in 1988, 1989, 1992, 1998, 2002 and 2003.
Once we broaden the search beyond season-ending streaks to include all 35-game periods in Blue Jays history, the list becomes a whole lot longer. Still, it’s close to as good as it gets in the history of a team that’s been playing since 1977.
The numbers say …
While 90 wins is technically possible for the Blue Jays, it’s a high bar to reach.
Unless the Blue Jays play as well as they have played in franchise history and replicate their incredible May run, they aren’t going to win 90 games.
The other path the playoffs involves an impressive but slightly more attainable 23-12 hot streak that gets them to 88 wins. The only thing is, that streak would have to be paired with limited success for Toronto’s primary rivals.
So while the Blue Jays must continue pushing for another incredible month, history points to a much bleaker outlook: it’s likely too late for this year’s Jays.