A passing remark from my man Dave Till:
"All I can say for sure is that I've never seen a period of short-term dominance greater than what the Jays were doing this August."
Dave has pretty much become my Baseball Muse, and I'm assuming he was reflecting on Blue Jays history. As a loyal reader, he surely remembers my epic piece on the 1912 season. He may not remember the 1912 season quite as well as I do, but he would recall my describing how that year's New York Giants got off to a 50-11 start - that's right, Fifty and Eleven - and had what I described as "a long and leisurely cruise to the pennant."
Four years later, McGraw's Giants would win 26 games in a row, a record that still stands. Only two teams since have managed as much as a 20 game winning streak (the 1935 Cubs and the 2002 A's.)
But in Blue Jays lore? Was it the best month in franchise history? That's something I can find out...
Well, to save time and trouble..... Yes it was. Absolutely, yes. Oh my stars and garters, yes it was. Yes indeed.
This was clearly the most dominant month in franchise history. Once, maybe twice in franchise history, the team's offense has had a month as potent. And once or twice in franchise history, the team's pitchers have been as stingy in preventing runs. But never before have they put together such peak level performance on both sides of the ball.
This past August, the Jays went 21-6 (.778); they quite literally doubled up on their opponents, outscoring the other guys 170-83.
It was the third time in franchise history a Jays team had won 21 games in a calendar month. Just one year ago, the 2014 Jays went 21-9 in May. Earlier this century, Carlos Tosca's 2003 team went 21-8, also in May. Neither record is as good as 21-6, and neither team was as dominant . The 2014 team managed to go 21-9 while scoring 165 and allowing 124. The 2003 team was more impressive than that, but 193-116 isn't quite as overwhelming as what we just saw.
Three other times, a Toronto team won 20 games in a calendar month. Jimy Williams' 1988 headed into September 3 games below .500 (65-68), 10.5 games off the lead. They went 20-7 in September (and for good measure won their final two in October as well) to close with a respectable looking 87-75 mark. A year later, with Cito Gaston now in charge, the Jays were 52-53 at the end of July. In that year's weak AL East, that was good enough for second place, just three games back of the Orioles. Their 20-9 mark that August would pull them into a first place tie with the Orioles. They caught them on the very last day of the month, which set up a thoroughly exciting (and deeply satisfying!) September. And finally, John Gibbons' ill-fated 2008 squad, after stumbling out of the blocks (11-17 in April), appeared to have righted the ship by going 20-10 in May. But they lost 12 of their next 16, and Gibbons lost his job...
Two other very impressive months should also be singled out. Way back in 1984, the Jays went 19-6 in May - that's .760 ball, and only this year's August mark has been better. It was all for naught, of course, as 1984 was the year when Detroit came out the gate winning 35 of their first 40. The Jays were 5.5 games back at the beginning of May, and after playing .760 ball for an entire month, they were still 5.5 games at the end of May. What can ya do?
And we might also salute the 1992 team, which went 18-9 in September. That's impressive enough, especially in a close pennant race. Nevertheless, the 1992 team was just a little unlucky that final month. They outscored the opposition 138-75, and only this year's team was more dominant in that respect. But they went just 4-6 in one-run games that September (after going 24-14 in close games the rest of the year.) David Cone himself was involved in three 1-0 games that September. Being David Cone, he actually won two of them. That's right - in three starts, his team scored a grand total of two runs for him. And he won two of the games anyway.
The 193 runs Tosca's guys scored in May 2003 (6.66 per game) is the most runs scored in a calendar month in franchise history. The runner-up is the 172 runs scored in June 1986. The most impressive runs-per-game ever came in April 1994 - the defending champs came out of the gate scoring 6.88 runs per game, mainly because Joe Carter was absolutely possessed (.312/.376/.688 with 9 HR and 31 RBI in 24 games.) Those were the only offences that can compare to what the Jays did this past August.
What this year's team had that those other teams didn't have was pitching. Outstanding pitching. In August 2015, the Jays allowed just 3.07 runs per game. It was literally half as many runs allowed as the team had scored. And only two teams in franchise history can match that perfomance over a single month. The 1992 team, led by David Cone, allowed just 2.78 runs per game in September. And the 1985 team, led by Jim Clancy (3-0, 2.05) allowed just 2.93 runs per game in July. (Dave Stieb's ERA was an even better - 2.03 - but being Dave Stieb in 1985, he went 2-1 with three no decisions.)
So - one of the three greatest offensive performances in franchise history and one of the three greatest pitching performances in franchise history...at the same time. Nope, nothing quite like it before.
There are three contenders for Worst Month Ever, although one of them comes with a large asterisk. In June 1981, the Jays lost all 10 games they played. They were outscored 67-22. We shall never know just how gruseome it could have become because the players took pity on us and went out on strike midway through the month. Which means that you're quite clearly looking at September 1978 (4-21, outscored 126-62), although May 1979 (5-23, outscored 143-91) was also quite appalling.
While I've got all this front of me...
The Jays first winning month came in 1978, the second season. After 10 straight losing months, Hartsfield's Heroes went 16-14 in August. A 20 year old rookie reliever named Victor Cruz, called up that June, went 4-1 with 3 saves that month. In 18 IP, Cruz fanned 21, allowed just 9 hits and posted a 1.00 ERA. He was not bound for glory, but the Jays cashed in on his rookie performance that winter by trading him to Cleveland for a shortstop prospect named Alfredo Griffin.
The team wouldn't have another winning month until April 1980, and they wouldn't have another after that until July 1982. But with the arrival of Bobby Cox, they started winning more often than they lost. In 1985, they didn't have a single losing month. Well, not until October anyway (they went 1-5 in October to finish the season - I bet no one remembers that, although everyone remembers how they then went 3-4 in the post-season.) They did the exact same thing in 1987 - no losing months until October (0-3.)
The longest run of consecutive losing months came at the beginning of the team's history, and the longest run of consecutive winning months came in 1991-92. The team had a winning record every month in 1991 and they started 1992 the same way. But in August 1992, as has often been discussed here, the starting pitching fell apart completely. Jack Morris was 5-0, everyone else was 9-16, and the team was 14-16. David Cone came to the rescue just in time.
The 1993 champions also went bad for a while in mid-season, posting a 12-14 record in July. They also went 1-2 in October to close out the regular season (although the 8-4 record later that October in the post-season did make up for it.)
In the bad years after the championship and the 1994 strike... the team had exactly one winning month from August 1995 through April 1998 (that was in May 1997.) Bad times indeed. But just as 1991 was the last time the Jays had a winning record in every month of the season, so 1996 was the last time they had a losing record in every month of the season.