Are the Toronto Blue Jays actually the best team in Major League Baseball? The advanced stats want us to put the Jays in our baseball picks for the second half of the season.
Jason's 2015 record as of July 16: 31-24, plus-7.36 units ML; 0-3, minus-3.30 units Tota
Now that the All-Star Game is behind us, we can finally get back to the “real” stuff. The 2015 MLB regular season resumes Friday with a full slate of 16 games – the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox are playing a day-night doubleheader – which means it's time to get back on the saddle and start making some baseball picks.
But which teams should we be looking at for the second half of the season? As always, we turn to the advanced stats to see which teams have been performing better than their win-loss records would suggest. These teams should naturally win more games if they keep playing at this level, and they'll also be facing softer lines on the MLB odds board, at least until they turn things around. If they do, of course.
Toronto Blue Jays (45-46, –4.88 units)
According to our favorite shortcut, the Simple Rating System (SRS) numbers at Baseball Reference, the Blue Jays have outperformed the average MLB team by 1.1 runs per game, more than anyone else in the majors. Toronto enters the second half ranked No. 3 overall in hitting at 17.0 WAR, but just No. 22 in pitching at 5.8 WAR. The Jays are reportedly in the mix to pry starting pitcher Johnny Cueto (3.06 FIP) from the Cincinnati Reds before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, although the Royals and Houston Astros are also said to be in hot pursuit.
Oakland Athletics (41-50, –17.15 units)
After a horrendous start to the season, Oakland (fifth in the majors at 0.7 SRS) went on a tear in mid-June, thanks in part to the return of Ben Zobrist (.775 OPS) from the injured list. But the Athletics have cooled off again since that 9-2 burst, dropping nine of their last 16 games. It's ridiculous how unfortunate the A's have been. Their +44 run differential translates to an expected win-loss record of 51-40, but Oakland is 8-22 in games decided by one run, and 1-6 in extra innings. The big question: Will the A's unload Zobrist and tank the second half?
Baltimore Orioles (44-44, –2.38 units)
Here we are talking about the Orioles again. Two months ago, we isolated the Jays and the O's as potential follow candidates, and Baltimore is still flat-lining, despite tying for sixth overall in the majors at 0.6 SRS. The Orioles aren't quite as top-heavy as Toronto, ranking eighth in hitting at 12.8 WAR and No. 14 in pitching at 7.2 WAR, but that also suggests there's not as much room for improvement before the trade deadline. Still, that +39 run differential translates to a 49-39 record, so regression might be enough to make Baltimore a profitable MLB pick going forward.