You can almost predict it sometimes – there are teams that just look built to win the World Series. You’ve all heard the saying ‘history repeats itself’, and it applies the exact same way when it comes to baseball. The Blue Jays didn’t win the World Series this year – the Cubs did. Why, you ask?
If you look up and down Cleveland and Chicago’s roster, what do you see? Most of the talent is fairly evident – Cy Young candidates, Gold Glovers, speedy base stealers, contact hitters, and the flashiest of all, power bats. It’s no coincidence that two teams that are similar in so many ways made it to the Fall Classic.
It may be the most boring type of baseball to watch, but teams that have great pitching and win 2-1 games often are able to pull through and make it deep into October. As we’ve seen time and time again, impressive starting rotations and good bullpens completely neutralizes a power lineup.
Toronto had a great pitching staff. If you look at teams who reached the postseason in 2016, Toronto’s rotation could be easily argued as one of the best, or at least third overall. Why didn’t Toronto win when going up against other great pitching staffs?
We all saw the regular season. We’ve all heard Toronto’s record in one run games. When Toronto isn’t getting extra base hits that they’re known for, they won’t manufacture runs. The lineup simply isn’t built that way. Toronto got three runs in their four losses to Cleveland in the ALCS, which works out to a total of three runs in 36 innings.
Cleveland was all too used to competing in games like the five against Toronto in the ALCS. They have speed, contact hitters, and an overwhelming starting rotation that, for the most part, didn’t even need to include Danny Salazar, who was well on his way to a Cy Young nomination. Then, when the late innings roll around, Cleveland can use their impressive bullpen (or just Andrew Miller) to shut down any team – not just the Blue Jays. That same formula was at work in all five ALCS games, in which it worked 80% of the time.
The traits of a World Series-winning team are clear: pitching, base-running, defense, and bullpen depth. In a nutshell, a good team plays small ball. It sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Although the formula to win is evident, the path Toronto can take isn’t. Despite many begrudged fans, John Gibbons has managed the Blue Jays they were built – to hit home runs. As displayed by this article, that isn’t the path to a winning team. Toronto needs to make changes before next season, and with aging hitters exiting the picture, it shouldn’t be hard to alter their approach.
It’s easy to say that pitching was the strongest suit of this team in the 2016, even though it wasn’t intended to be. If this team can find an identity – one that is unique in and of itself, following the traits laid out above – unprecedented things can happen. Unprecedented isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is it?
As much as there is a formula to winning the Fall Classic, there is no formula. Every team is different. In October, you’re always going to need your big players to be big players. Most importantly, though, you need unsuspected heroes that come up big in their own way. That’s where a team’s individualism lies. You can’t teach it sometimes.