Jays vs Rays: 31 and 31

Monday, May 15 2006 @ 07:45 AM EDT

Contributed by: Rob

When Seth McClung shut down the Jays on Friday, the usual complaints were heard. "The Devil Rays always give the Jays trouble." Or, you know, it could just be the fact that even if the Jays win 90 this year, that means they lose 72. (Though this is yet another series in which the Jays did not sweep nor get swept; that's another topic, however.)

Okay, I'll admit having thought that the Fighting Jays show less fight against the boys from St. Petersburg, but I quickly dismissed it. It's one of those things people say so often that they think it's true. But it's not. Or is it?

Let's take a look at how the Jays have played various teams over the last three years. Why 2003? Just because. Before I looked at the numbers, here's what I expected for the AL East opponents:

New York: slightly worse than .500.
Boston: better than New York, but wins no more often than 55% of the time.
Baltimore: large advantage.
Tampa Bay: Well, since you hear *all the time* that the Rays have the Jays' number and these are the same people who said last year that the Jays "are BRUTAL in the clutch," then I have to go with an advantage in the Jays' favour.

As for non-AL East opponents, I think the Jays have done quite well against the Angels and worse than usual against the Tigers. If I had to rank the records of Toronto (again, before looking at any results), I would say:
Red Sox
Devil Rays

You'll notice that the Mariners, Royals, Twins and White Sox didn't make the list. That's because I cannot remember anything significant about them playing the Jays in the last three years. Call it East Coast Bias (or "unbalanced schedule").

On to the list:
Toronto vs. Each Team, 2003-2005
Team W L Pct
Pirates 3 0 1.000
Angels 17 7 .708
Cubs 4 2 .667
Dodgers 2 1 .667
Padres 2 1 .667
Reds 2 1 .667
Royals 14 7 .667
Mariners 17 9 .654
Tigers 12 10 .545
Orioles 29 28 .509
Devil Rays 28 28 .500
Expos/Nationals 9 9 .500
OVERALL 233 252 .480
Red Sox 25 31 .446
Indians 8 11 .421
White Sox 9 13 .409
Yankees 22 34 .393
Twins 7 11 .389
Athletics 10 16 .385
Brewers 1 2 .333
Cardinals 2 4 .333
Diamonbacks 1 2 .333
Rangers 9 19 .321
Astros 0 3 .000
Giants 0 3 .000

Aside from the Jays somehow playing the Reds (This happened? Really?), here's what we know from the list:

My Estimate Actual
Orioles Angels
Angels Tigers
Red Sox Orioles
Devil Rays Devil Rays
.500 .500
Rangers Red Sox
Indians Indians
Tigers Yankees
Athletics Athletics
Yankees Rangers

Okay, so the rankings were a bit off. I'll never doubt Kevin Mench again.

Let's take a look at that again, removing any team that the Jays did not play in one of the three years. This leaves us with all the AL teams plus the now-Nationals (and OVERALL refers to just these teams):

Toronto vs. Teams Faced Often, 2003-2005
Devil Rays
Red Sox
White Sox

Gotta love those Fighting Jays against the Angels, eh?

But wait. The Athletics, Twins, White Sox, Rangers...these are teams that have been better than the Jays anyway. So losing to them isn't that bad, is it?
Here's a new table, this time showing the Jays' record against this team and that team's total "losing percentage" over the three-year period (since the .708 entry for the Angels means they lost 70.8% of the time). A positive difference means the Jays played better against that team than expected.

Team LPct vs Tor LPct Diff
Angels .708 .457 .251
Mariners .654 .537 .117
Royals .667 .595 .072
Red Sox .446 .408 .038
Expos/Nationals .500 .475 .025
Yankees .393 .389 .004
Orioles .509 .541 -.032
White Sox .409 .449 -.040
Athletics .385 .434 -.048
Twins .389 .455 -.066
Tigers .545 .618 -.073
Indians .421 .504 -.083
Devil Rays .500 .588 -.088
Rangers .321 .508 -.187

In other words, the Jays have beaten up on the Royals at about the same rate that the Tigers beat up on them. The Angels and Mariners "lead" the way and the Rangers show up again at the other end -- must be something in the AL West water. Or the unbalanced schedule causing sample size issues.

LPct vs Tor
Red Sox
Devil Rays

Looking at just the AL East, we can return to my original statements:

New York: slightly worse than .500
Well...not quite. Make it slightly worse than .400.

Boston: better than New York, but wins no more often than 55% of the time
True, I guess.

Baltimore: large advantage

Tampa Bay
Now this is interesting. One way you look at it, the Blue Jays have not had significantly more trouble than usual with the Devil Rays -- they've been .500 against them and less than .500 against everyone else. However, the difference between 58.8% and 50.0% is the difference between the Jays' 28-28 record and a 33-23 record over three years. It's certainly not like the Brewers in the 80's, but even if you apply this method to 2003, when the Jays went 8-11 against Tampa Bay and "should" have won 12 of the 19 games played, then you've suddenly got a 90-win team.

By the way, the Jays are still .500 against the D-Rays since 2003 after playing their 62nd game yesterday.

What do those team-by-team results look like with 2006 added, you ask? Rather than post another virtually identical table, I'll just say that the Twins moved up a bit but everyone else is basically at the same spot. This is to be expected with only a handful of games weighted against three years.

Finally, a couple of notes on yesterday's game:

- I made this point in yesterday's TDIB, but I'd like to repeat myself. I finally decided to expect good things from John McDonald and he DaVanoned me.

- Was anyone else surprised at the decision to walk Lyle Overbay intentionally, then call for back-to-back pitchouts on pitches 1 and 2 to the next batter? If they were that concerned over a squeeze play, why not pitch to the lefty batter? If they were worried about a hit-and-run, why put L'Overbay on in the first place? I like Joe Maddon and I'm sure there's a good explanation for it, but it seems like a strange thing to do.

- Josh Towers allowed 10 outfield flies and just one was a home run. This rate (10.0%) is close to half of his previous HR/F rate of 19.8%. One of the reasons I think he'll come around is that 19.8 is very high -- expect about 11 or 12 from most pitchers. Dave Bush, since I have some sort of obsession with him, was in the same boat last year, giving up more homers than expected. Just another reason why I think he would have been a fine member of this rotation, but that ship has sailed.

- The good thing about any Towers start is that you don't get the usual quotes. Isn't that right, Jordan Bastian?
Truthfully? Looking people in the face [was the hardest part]. It's embarrassing. You've lost seven straight games for the team. It was just hard to see these guys. It was just absolutely embarrassing.
This one day doesn't really change anything. I still have to go out there in five days and prove that I can do it.

- How low was Towers' pitch count? I was keeping a tally of his pitches thrown and I started to seriously doubt my ability to count when I tried to add up the little groups of five and kept getting 11 plus 3 more for 58 pitches at one point (possibly through seven innings). Congratulations, Josh, you drove me crazy in a good way. Ted Lilly, however...