They've had some trouble beating the MLB odds this year, but the stats say you should keep the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles in mind for your baseball picks.
Jason's 2015 record as of May 18: 20-14, plus-4.72 units ML; 0-2, minus-2.05 units Total
It's already been close to a month since we handed out our early-season MLB grades. We did a good job identifying the New York Yankees as a potential follow candidate, given them an “A” grade despite their 8-7 record at the time. And the New York Mets are still hanging around the top of the National League East. But what about our other “A” team, the Toronto Blue Jays? Have they turned into a solid MLB pick like the Yankees, after starting the year at 8-7?
Not so much. The Jays (18-23, minus-6.05 units) have been losing more than they've been winning, and they lost another one on Tuesday, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Los Angeles Angels (+111 away). It's frustrating if you're a Blue Jays supporter, but we stand by our initial grades – they're based on advanced stats, and the stats still look good for Toronto.
It's much the same for the Baltimore Orioles, whom we gave a “B” grade after they started the season at 7-8. Baltimore remains below .500 at 17-19 (minus-2.29 units) despite beating the Seattle Mariners 9-4 on Tuesday, cashing in as –118 home faves. If the advanced stats are to be believed, the O's and the Jays have what it takes to turn this ship around and become profitable MLB picks.
Having said that, there's no question we have to downgrade the Jays and put them in the “B” group. Their Simple Rating System was all the way down to plus-0.7 heading into Tuesday's action, although that's still good enough for sixth overall in the majors. Note that the SRS charts at Baseball Reference have flatten out considerably now that we're nearly two months deep into the 2015 campaign.
The Orioles, meanwhile, would likely fall to the top of the “C” group if you were put them on a bell curve, based on their plus-0.5 SRS. That's good for ninth overall, though, so let's give the O's a C-plus and encourage them to keep trying. Good things are bound to happen in the long run if Baltimore keeps playing at this level.
Giving You the Runs
If you're an SRS skeptic, and I know there are plenty of you out there, it's all good. Let's look at some more standard-ish metrics to back up our optimism and beat those MLB odds. For example, Toronto leads the majors in scoring with 212 runs. The problem up north has been on the mound, where the Jays have given up 199 runs. Only the Milwaukee Brewers (201 runs) have been more generous.
We don't think that generosity will last. Looking at the rotation, both Drew Hutchison (.341 BABIP) and Mark Buehrle (.331 BABIP) have seen some bad luck in the field. Also, Buehrle (5.08 FIP) and R.A. Dickey (5.89 FIP) are performing at well below their established levels. The jury is still out on young Daniel Norris (5.08 FIP) and Aaron Sanchez (5.65 FIP), but the other three gentlemen should have plenty of wins left in their arms if they regress to the mean.
Like Toronto, the Orioles have scored more runs (165) than they've allowed (159). But they should be scoring even more – Baltimore ranks No. 13 in run production, but No. 6 in OPS at .742. Getting catcher Matt Wieters (.839 OPS last year) back in the lineup in a couple of weeks should help, provided he's recovered from his Tommy John surgery. As for the pitching, Chris Tillman (5.42 FIP) and Bud Norris (5.38 FIP) have been unusually poor this year. If they return to normal, that red ink in Baltimore should turn to black soon.