Tonight, the Toronto Blue Jays travel to Angels Stadium in Anaheim to take on the Los Angeles Angels. Before the season began, this looked like the kind of series you might see MLB Network or ESPN pick up for national coverage. Two teams loaded for playoff bear, ready to take on the established order of the American League. The kind of teams who might look to add a key piece as the just-passed non-waiver trade deadline with that final playoff push in mind.
Instead, there are two teams going nowhere. NO. WHERE. Two teams with nearly identical records: seven games under .500 for the Jays, an amazing ten games below for the Angels. Two teams looking to shed soon-to-be free agents and gear up for next season. Two potential trade partners in their own special way…
How could this happen? Where did I all go wrong to the Jays and Halos?
These two bitterly disappointing teams can draw their struggles back to the exact same place: their pitching staff. The Blue Jays rebuild their starting staff, adding reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and former Marlins ace Josh Johnson as well as proven innings horse Mark Buehrle. The Angels already had an ace in Jered Weaver, but the Halos added an innings-eater of their own in Joe Blanton as well as an upside play similar to Johnson in former Braves starter Tommy Hanson.
The result? Catastrophe.
Compare their results to the projected numbers and you can see how badly many of these acquisitions have fared.
|Tommy Hanson||8.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9
3.55 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
26 starts, 156 IP
|7.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.40 HR/9
5.15 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
11 starts, 56 IP
|Joe Blanton||6.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 1.28 HR/9
4.54 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
28 starts, 178 IP
|7.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 1.86 HR/9
5.66 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
20 starts, 116 IP
|Josh Johnson||8.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.88 HR/9
3.59 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
29 starts, 179 IP
|9.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 1.70 HR/9
6.08 ERA, 1.57 WHIP
14 starts, 74 IP
|R.A. Dickey||6.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9
4.41 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
32 starts, 224 IP
|6.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 1.47 HR/9
4.66 ERA. 1.30 WHIP
23 starts, 146 IP
Even if BP sort of nail R.A. Dickey’s regression, the rest of this select group of hurlers has performed even worse than the coldest of computer algorithms – specifically in the “home runs allowed” department. To say nothing of whatever internal calculations the Jays and Angels made anticipating the performance of this group of starters.
The offenses haven’t been the problem. Both rank in the middle of the pack in the American League, with near-identical team wOBAs of .326 (Jays) and .324 (Angels). Each team has an offensive stalwart, with Mike Trout and Edwin Encarnacion ranking in the top 5 in the AL by wRC+. Three other Blue Jays are in the top 25 league-wide offensively. The Angels have two very expensive players underperforming (and now injured) but the offense, while not ideal, is not the problem.
Both teams struggle situationally, boasting dreadful records in one-run games. Understandable for the Angels, who sport one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Just this week the Angels lost three consecutive games via walkoff at the hands of their divisional rivals in Texas.
The complete opposite is true for the Blue Jays – their bullpen is one of the very best in baseball, sending two players to the All Star game and generally making a good account of themselves.
Bottom line: these are just not good teams (right now). Not even the best player in baseball can save the brutal Angels. Not even Canadian Jesus can save the Blue Jays. For these two wannabe playoff teams, there is only next season. 2013 goes down as a lost year in Southern California and Southern Ontario.
The building blocks are there in each spot. The Blue Jays might have a little bit more flexibility to upgrade their club this off-season but the Angels a deeper pool of resources from which to throw good money after bad. It comes down to that pesky business of actually winning baseball games – a feat you cannot accomplish in November, no matter how hard you try and no matter how much money you spend.
And the rest
Not a lot of noise made at the trade deadline this season, with the Ian Kennedy swap and Bud Norris moving to the Orioles for L.J. Hoes. Norris helps the Orioles (marginally) and Kennedy is a decent acquisition for the Padres. But still, not the fireworks many expected.
There are numerous culprits on which we can to pin the slow trade market:
A quiet trade deadline. Free agency softened by teams locking up young players. Essential to get it right in the draft and internationally.
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 31, 2013
the reason why these trade deadlines are so shitty is because of prospect hugging btw
— ⓣⓗⓔ ⓡⓘⓚⓔⓡ ⓛⓘⓚⓔⓡ (@andymoney69) July 31, 2013
I dunno, I like the way Riker Liker thinks…
The Dodgers and Yankees met at Dodgers Stadium and the stars came out! Derek Jeter even appeared for a series of meet and greets! Yasiel Puig interacted with the only man on Earth with better sculpted eyebrows.
Huntington: We were willing to do something stupid. We weren't willing to do something insane. #Pirates
— Michael Sanserino (@msanserino) July 31, 2013
Sources tell OTL A-Rod and MLB are negotiating over a possible suspension, with MLB still holding out threat of lifetime ban.
— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) August 1, 2013
This is still hanging around. Joy.