By Cole Jones
Blue Jays 2022 year in review. What is their next move? Wild Card Game Summaries and Analysis. The return of the standard playoff format: ALDS and NLDS- predictions and insights. Which teams will prevail in 2022? Everything you need to know in one article.
Another action-packed, 162 game season has come to a conclusion in 2022. However, just like every year, the best is yet to come… The playoffs are here!! This year’s postseason features a new and improved wild card format that is sure to supply some exhilarating moments and unexpected results.
As opposed to two wild card teams making the playoffs from the American and National league, an additional playoff team has been added to each league to increase the number of winning teams that make the dance, and to spice things up. The weakest division winner takes on the third wild card team, the first wild card team plays the second wild card team-all in a best-of-three game series, while the top two teams in the AL/NL get byes into the ALDS and NLDS series.
Now that we know a little more about the format for the postseason, let’s move onto the first section of the article; Blue Jays, 2022 year in review.
Part 1: Blue Jays, 2022 Year In Review
After a disappointing end to the 2021 season, there was one thing on the Blue Jays and their fan bases’ mind; The playoffs. With a full 81 games at Rogers Centre for the first time since 2019, the Blue Jays were poised to make a run to the postseason. Most analysts had them as the preseason favourite to win the highly coveted AL East division, with players Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. having phenomenal 2021 campaigns. There were ups and downs, hot streaks and obstacles, but in the end, the Blue Jays finished with a respectable 92-70 record. This earned them the first wild card spot and was a one win improvement from last season. However, in a series of unfortunate events, the Blue Jays’ playoff hopes got swept away from them in the Wild Card series to the Seattle Mariners, putting a strong damper on a very successful 2022 season up to that point.
In an attempt to provide a clear and in depth analysis of the Jays season, I will talk about the good parts of the season, the bad parts, and a summary of their short postseason run.
Despite the heart-wrenching playoff loss, the Blue Jays showed many bright spots in the 2022 season, and had some hidden gems. One of which being their coveted free agents Kevin Gausman and Matt Chapman. Gausman turned in a respectable 3.35 ERA through 31 games, and Chapman brought his Gold Glove calibre season to third base while slugging 27 home runs and leading the team in walks. Offensively, Catcher Alejandro Kirk solidified himself as the Jays’ number one catcher, batting for a .285 average while earning himself his first career all-star appearance. Additionally, Santiago Espinal was a first time all-star, thanks to his remarkable defensive prowess and low strike-out rate. On the mound, Alex Manoah took a massive leap forward in his development, becoming the Jays’ unquestioned ace while posting a 16-7 record. Although not originally a starter, Ross Stripling was called upon for starting duties when Hyun-jin ryu went down with season-ending Tommy John surgery. In limited starts, Stripling was amazing, posting a 3.01 ERA and becoming one of the Jays’ most consistent pitchers in the process. Stripling is now an unrestricted free-agent, and re-signing him should be on the top of the Jays’ off season priorities. Lastly, the young, hometown hero Jordan Romano secured the role of the closer thanks to a brilliant 36 save season and 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Romano can now touch 100mph (ca. 161 km/h) with his fastball, and will be the most valuable part of the Jays’ bullpen in the long run.
Despite George Springer’s and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.’s injury-plagued seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays still had one of the best and most consistent offenses in the league. In some ways, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Bo Bichette, and Teoscar Hernandez all had “underperforming seasons” compared to last year, and the team still managed to score the fourth most runs in all of baseball. The more disappointing part of the season was the fact that the Jays pitching was not able to take a major step forward from the 2021 season. As mentioned earlier, Hyun-jin Ryu went down with a season-ending surgery, leaving the door open for Blue Jays free agent signing and 2021 all-star Yusei Kikuchi to prove himself as a viable #3 or #4 stater. To put it lightly, Kikuchi did not meet expectations. He had control issues all year, leading to an ugly 5 walks per nine innings and an ERA over 5; which earned him a mid-season demotion to the bullpen. In addition, José Berrios signed a $131 million, seven year deal last off season, one that the organization may soon or has already regretted. Berrios had a horrific season, with a 5.23 ERA and gave up an astounding 100 earned runs in 172 innings pitched. Though the bullpen picked it up towards the end of the season, it was still frustratingly bad for most of the season. It ranked towards the middle of the pack in terms of earned run average, but was the second worst out of all 12 playoff teams. Yikes. Anthony Bass and Zach Pop were solid pickups at the trade deadline, but the Jays didn’t acquire a desperately needed left-handed arm, which proved to be costly once the postseason rolled around.
Postseason Wild Card Series Vs. Seattle Mariners:
After earning the first wild card spot in the AL, the Blue Jays hosted their first playoff game since 2016. Rogers Centre was packed and the atmosphere was electric, full of anticipation for Alek Manoah to throw the first pitch. Unfortunately, game 1 did not go as planned for Toronto. The Mariners jumped onto an early 3-0, first inning lead and never looked back. Their starter Luis Castillo was essentially unhittable, as the Mariners took game #1 4-0. In game 2, former Blue Jay and Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray took the mound for Seattle. The Blue Jays were familiar with his style of pitching and showed it quickly, jumping him for 4 runs with Teoscar Hernandez cranking two homers, as Ray’s night was done after just 3 innings. Toronto’s offense found their stroke and scored another 4 runs against the Mariners’ great bullpen and took an 8-1 lead into the sixth inning. However, this is when things turned south for the Jays. With the bases loaded and two out, manager John Schneider made the questionable choice of pulling starting pitcher Kevin Gausman for reliever Tim Mayza. Gausman had been incredible to that point, but Schneider still elected to test his luck with Tim Mayza, someone who had been inconsistent all year but was Toronto’s only left handed relief pitcher. Mayza uncorked a wild pitch and proceeded to give up a 3-run homerun to Carlos Santana to make it an 8-5 game. The Jays’ achille heel of a weak bullpen was starting to show, but it only got worse from there. After taking a 9-5 lead into the 8th inning, Anthony Bass was thrown into the game. Other than Romano, Bass was the Jays best weapon out of the bullpen. A nasty slider and well located fastball helped him end the year with a miniscule 1.54 ERA. However, under the bright lights, Bass blundered. He gave up four consecutive hits without securing an out. The bases were loaded, 9-6 ballgame, and closer Romano was summoned out of the bullpen for the 6 out save. Romano struck out the first two batters, but gave up an unlucky, bloop double to J.P. Crawford cleared the bases and tied the game up at 9-9. Romano then was tagged for another run in the 9th, as the Mariners took a 10-9 lead to the bottom of the ninth inning. With Matt Chapman on first, the Jays were unable to find a clutch hit against Mariners’ pitcher George Kirby, and were eliminated from the playoffs with a 10-9 heartbreaking defeat. Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners advance to play the Houston Astros in the ALDS, and will host a postseason game for the first time in 20 years.
Mariners won in 2 games
Part 2: Brief Wild Card Series Summaries:
With the goal of the article being to summarize the upcoming AL and NLDS series, I will keep the already completed Wild Card game summaries quick.
#6 Tampa Bay Rays @ #3 Cleveland Guardians
In the American league, other than the Jays being ousted by the Mariners, the 6 seeded Tampa Bay Rays were eliminated by the young Cleveland Guardians in two low-scoring games. After taking game one, Guardians’ rookie Oscar Gonzalez ended a scoreless tie with a walk off home run in the bottom of the 15th inning, sending the number 3 seeded Guardians to play the #2 seeded Yankees in the ALDS.
Guardians won in 2 games
#6 Philadelphia Phillies @ #3 St. Louis Cardinals
Meanwhile, in the national league, the underdog Philadelphia Phillies scored 6 runs in the top of the ninth inning, erasing a 2-0 deficit and helping them to win game 1 by a score of 6-3. In game #2, Philadelphia’s ace Aaron Nola shutout the St. Louis’ offense, and a second inning home run by Bryce Harper powered the Phillies to a series sweep. The Phillies advance to play division rival and defending champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
Phillies won in 2 games
#5 San Diego Padres @ #4 New York Mets
The Padres hit four home runs off of Mets’ superstar pitcher Max Scherzer, helping San Diego take an early 1-0 series lead. The Mets would respond in game 2, winning it by a decisive score of 7-3, as Jacob Degrom was able to slow down the Padre offense. This set up a do-or-die game 3, which was ultimately dominated by the Padres. San Diego native and Padres’ starting pitcher Joe Musgrove pitched 7 brilliant innings of one hit baseball while striking out 5. The Padres won the game 6-0, setting up an exciting NLDS matchup with their rival- the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Part 3: ALDS + NLDS Predictions and Analysis
*Note that the DS series are best of 5 games.
ALDS 1: #3 Cleveland Guardians @ #2 New York Yankees
The AL champion New York Yankees struggled down the stretch to end the year, but propelled themselves to a 99-63 record thanks to their 64 win first half of the season. In the final year of his contract with the Yanks, soon to be AL MVP Aaron Judge had a season for the history books. He launched an American League record 62 home runs, on route to driving in 131 runs, and finishing 5 batting average points short of winning the triple crown. All stars Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stantion also launched 30+ home runs, providing more power to an already talented Yankee Lineup. New York’s pitching was also very good throughout the course of the regular season, with starting pitcher Nestor Cortes Jr. and closing pitcher Clay Holmes having breakout-years boasting a 2.44 and 2.54 ERA’s respectively. The Yankees went all-in at the deadline, acquiring prized trade pieces, outfielder Andrew Bennintendi and starting pitcher Frankie Montas, but neither has played well since joining the pinstripes.
On the other side of things, the underdog Cleveland Guardians are coming off a miraculous run to an AL Central championship and Wild Card series victory. Cleveland has a mediocre offense with the exception of José Ramirez- their offensive catalyst. In 157 games this season, Ramirez had 126 RBI’s, placing third in the entire MLB in that category. One of the strong suits of Cleveland is putting the bat on the ball. They have many high-contact hitters including Ahmed Rosario, Steven Kwan, and Andrès Gimenez who all batted for averages above .280, allowing for Ramirez to do his thing and drive in runs. On the mound, the Guardian’s offer the one-two punch of starting pitchers Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie who both had sub 3 ERA’s and struck out 190+. However, Cleveland’s biggest weapon is their bullpen, who pitched to a league best ERA and opponent’s average. This nasty bullpen is led by their electric, young closer Emmanuel Clase who led the league in saves with 41. Though unstoppable at times, the Yankees offense has been very inconsistent this season, something that can prove to be costly in the playoffs and against a pitching staff such as the Guardians. Even with this said, the series will ultimately be decided on whether or not the Guardians can manufacture enough runs to afford their pitching a few mistakes. The Guardians have been on fire of late, are well coached, and I think this momentum can power them to a tight, upset win over the Yankees.
Prediction: Guardians win in 5 games
ALDS 2: #5 Seattle Mariners @ #1 Houston Astros
Coming off a World Series appearance in 2021, the Houston Astros finished the year with an AL best 106-56 record and are coming into the series with no glaring weaknesses. They boast a top 10 offense in the league, with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker, all having terrific seasons. Also, Yordan Alvarez has turned into one of the league’s most dangerous hitters, slashing 37 home runs in only 135 games played which included a .613 SLG%. The Astros even managed to solidify their offense at the trade deadline, acquiring veteran Christian Vazquez from the Red Sox and Trey Mancini from the Orioles. The crazy thing about the Astros is that their pitching is as good, if not better! The ageless wonder, Justin Verlander, had arguably the best season of his career at age 39! He posted a 1.75 ERA and a 18-4 record, while Framber Valdez was the workhorse with 201 innings pitched with a respectable 2.82 ERA.
The Mariners also come into this series with lots of momentum after their electric comeback win over the Blue Jays. The Mariners were not an offensive juggernaut during the regular season, but have a competent lineup from top to bottom. The most dangerous weapon that they offer is prized rookie Julio Rodriguez, who led the team in home runs and was the fastest player in AL history to join the 20-20 (home runs and stolen bases) club. Young catcher Cal Raleigh and third baseman Eugenio Suarez were very good throughout the regular season and in the wild card series against Toronto, where they each homered, had extra base hits, and hit for a .400+ average in the two games. The Mariners are also very sound defensively with a 98.8% fielding percentage which is tied for second in the league. Their bullpen is also very deep and among the best in the league, offering high velocity pitchers with Erik Swanson, Diego Castillo, and Andres Munoz. When it comes to starting pitching, the Mariners’ ace is Luis Castillo, but also have other viable options in Robbie Ray, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, and Chris Flexen. However, when comparing the two teams, the quality of the Mariners’ starting pitching and offense is simply not on the same level of the Astros’. This was seen to full extent in the regular season where the Astros had a 12-7 head-to-head record against the Mariners. Houston should win this series, but the Mariners will put up a fight like they have all season. Expect some close games between two division rivals!
Prediction: Astros win in 4 games
NLDS 1: #5 San Diego Padres @ #1 Los Angeles Dodgers
Oh boy, this should be an amazing series. Two, heavyweight division rivals battling it out in an attempt to answer one question: Who is the king of the NL West? Better yet, who is the best team in California? Well, over the course of the regular season, the Dodgers made the strongest case. They led the MLB in wins, setting a franchise record with 111. As Freddie Freeman put it in a recent pre-game interview “we (the Dodgers) have been hot for 7 months”. The offense has clobbered the baseball, leading the MLB in runs scored and total bases. Freddie Freeman had an exceptional first season in LA, hitting for a .325 average which included 199 hits and 100 RBI’s. Fellow all-stars Mookie Betts and Trea Turner followed suit, with Betts setting a new career best in home runs with 35, and Turner in RBI’s with 100. After losing Walker Buehler to a season ending surgery and Clayton Kershaw missing considerable time, it looked like the Dodgers were going to have difficulty finding consistent starting pitching. But in typical Dodger fashion, Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin both had breakout seasons, recording 15+ wins and sub 3 ERA’s. Additionally, Julio Urias had another great season, finishing strong and is one of the frontrunners to win the NL Cy Young award. Add a hard-throwing and effective bullpen into the mix, and the Dodgers appear ready to make another deep playoff run.
Meanwhile, the San Diego Padres are no slouches. Despite losing superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. for the rest of the season due to a PED suspension, they still rallied to win 89 games, make the playoffs, and took down the high-powered New York Mets in an intense, three game Wild Card series. Manny Machado silenced the haters with a very productive season. He was undoubtedly the Padres’ best hitter all year long, slashing 32 home runs and batting .298. However, the biggest storyline for the Padres is their all-in trade deadline, showing that they intend on competing for a World Series championship. At the deadline, they won the Juan Soto sweepstakes, locking him up for the remainder of the season, as well as acquiring sluggers Bradon Drury and Josh Bell. The Padres also made a more questionable move, trading some future pieces for left-throwing reliever Josh Hader. Though proving to be an effective closer throughout his career, Josh Hader had a difficult season before the trade, sporting a 4.24 ERA- the worst of his career. After initially struggling in his new uniform, Hader had a phenomenal month of September, and should figure to be a big part of the Padres bullpen. He can also compliment the 31 year old rookie, Robert Suarez, who was an early season signing out of Venezuela. Suarez can touch 101mph with his fastball, pitch multiple innings in relief, and will be relied upon to throw important innings in the postseason. Both teams have high-powered offenses, quality starting pitching, and a capable bullpen. This series could go either way, but I have to give the Dodgers the edge. They played lights out baseball all season and are the more experienced postseason team. This will prove to be the difference.
Prediction: Dodgers win in 5 games
NLDS 2: #6 Philadelphia Phillies @ #2 Atlanta Braves
It has been a rollercoaster ride for the Phillies up to this point to say the least. After a measly 22-29 record to begin the season, Philadelphia fired new manager Joe Girardi, and was replaced by Canadian interim manager Rob Thomson. However, the change was embraced by the team, fueling them to an 87-75 record as well as making the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Power-hitting veteran Kyle Schwarber turned out to be one of the best signings of the offseason, as he went on to mash 46 home runs- second in the entire MLB. He also carried much of the load when Phillies’ superstar, Bryce Harper, went down with a thumb injury midway through the season. Philadelphia also has a legit one-two punch on the mound, with Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler who were crucial in the Phillies’ wild card series win over the cardinals. Though their bullpen is below average, their defense has been stellar. In the regular season, they committed the third-least errors in the league and second best in fielding percentage at 98.8%.
The 2022 World Series champion Atlanta Braves ended the season on a tear, sweeping the New York Mets on route to winning their fifth consecutive NL East division title. The bats seemed to be on fire all year long, leading the NL in home runs with 242, and scored a whopping 779 runs. Despite losing one of the franchise’s all-time great players, Freddie Freeman, offseason signing Matt Olson filled the gap beautifully by hitting 34 homers and driving in 103 runs. Their young infield stars Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson continue to improve both offensively and defensively, while outfield stars Ronald Acuna Jr. and Marcell Ozuna continue to find their mojo after missing considerable time. The Braves also have the best catcher tandem in the league, with Travis d’Arnaud and first time all-star William Contreras. On top of this, highly touted rookie Micheal Harris II was called up in late May and didn’t disappoint, hitting for a .297 average, stealing 20 bases, and hitting 19 home runs. Starting pitcher Spencer Strider, another one of their highly promised rookies, put up dazzling numbers with a 2.67 ERA and unbelievable 13.8 strikeouts for nine innings. All of this put together with ace Max Fried and a top-ten bullpen, the Braves are looking poised to make another run. The Braves are much deeper in every area compared to the Phillies, illustrated by their 11-8 regular season head-to-head regular season record against Philadelphia. The Phillies have been a great story, but not every fairy tale has a happy ending.
Prediction: Braves win in 3 games