Rangers playoff preview part three: The Toronto Blue Jays

Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will be closely-watched against the Blue Jays. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will be closely-watched against the Blue Jays. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Toronto Blue Jays win over Baltimore Tuesday evening, we now know the American League Division Series opponent for the Texas Rangers. Here’s a look at how the two teams match up.

Well, it’s official; the Texas Rangers will face the Toronto Blue Jays once again for an epic ALDS re-match. Honestly, just about everyone saw this one coming. It’s been brewing for a year and there will certainly be fireworks.

The Blue Jays wins and losses

While the 2015 Blue Jays won 93 games and an American League East title, they took a step backwards this season with just 89 victories. But then, they took a step forward in their dramatic 5-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles in Tuesday evening’s American League Wild Card game.

They’re a scrappy team. They had to fight hard to make it through the final half of September and remain in contention for a playoff spot while fighting off a red-hot Boston team.

Related Story: Chatting about the Rangers postseason

Like the Rangers, their longest winning streak of the season was seven games, which they accomplished at the beginning of July. But they only did it once, while Texas accomplished the feat two times. Interestingly, seven games was also their biggest deficit in the AL East standings in late May.

They also didn’t fare so well in tight games, going 21-25. In extra innings, they were no better with a 4-9 record. Meanwhile, this situation was a specialty for the Rangers, who were an astonishing 36-11 in one-run games and an even 6-6 in extras.

The Blue Jays offense vs. the Rangers offense

If you look strictly at batting average, which you really shouldn’t, it would appear the Toronto offense was pretty anemic this season. With a team average of just .248 they were 14 points lower than Texas. But again, batting average doesn’t tell the whole story, just like “wins” are not a good defining statistic for pitchers (or NFL quarterbacks). So let’s look at this a bit deeper.

The ultimate goal of an offense is to score runs. The Blue Jays put up 759 this season, which is good enough for ninth in the Major Leagues and is just six behind the Rangers, who finished seventh in the League.

Their on-base percentage was eight points higher than Texas’s at .330, but the Rangers out-slugged Toronto by a slim .433-.426 margin. They’re really quite even with each other, but Texas did manage 88 more hits on the season. However, the Blue Jays had 20 more extra-base hits than the Rangers. Again, it’s a back-and-forth comparison at the plate.

The Blue Jays pitching vs. the Rangers pitching

More from Dallas Sports

Toronto has a really good pitching staff. Their team earned run average of 3.78 was almost half a run better than the Rangers, who ranked 22nd at 4.37. They also had the fourth-best opposing batting average of just .242.

The Blue Jays ace, J.A. Happ, won 20 ballgames and finished with the sixth-best earned run average in the American League. He also finished the season with a WHIP of 1.17, good for 10th in the AL. Righty Aaron Sanchez is just as potent and finished with a similar WHIP and a lower ERA.

What also doesn’t bode well for the Rangers is that Toronto won the Wild Card Game with the pitcher most would consider their fourth-best starter. But, it does help that the game went 11 innings and the Blue Jays had to ask for five innings from their bullpen. In those five innings, they threw 65 pitches. That could be taxing enough to make a difference.

The Blue Jays and Rangers head-to-head

The Blue Jays are the only team in the American League side of the bracket that can say they won the season series against Texas. In seven meetings, Toronto won four and outscored the Rangers 36-21 in doing so.

Bear in mind though, that these two teams saw each other for the last time on May 15. For perspective, Yu Darvish hadn’t returned yet for another 13 days. It was also 78 days before Texas picked up catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-handed reliever  Jeremy Jeffress, 78 days before they acquired switch-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran, and 97 days before signing centerfielder Carlos Gomez as a free agent.

This is a completely different Rangers team than the one that went to war with the Blue Jays in the season’s second month. So, the fact remains that the earlier edition of Texas that batted .219 against Toronto is not playing in this series. The Jays also never faced Cole Hamels. They will this time.

Final take on the Blue Jays

This is probably the matchup that least favors the Rangers in the postseason. The Blue Jays know how to beat them and have done it in the playoffs in the past. But this is a different Texas team than the one they faced in May, let alone last postseason. There’s a lot to prove and there will be a lot of emotions  flying throughout the series.

Those emotions could lead to some major distractions, or some major focus from both sides. If the Rangers play the kind of ball they’ve played all season and set the distractions aside, this is their series. With Hamels and Darvish getting opportunities against a team that hasn’t seen them this year, it also gives Texas a huge advantage early in the series.

Next: Rangers playoff preview: Scouting the Boston Red Sox

Finally, the Rangers won two of the three games played at Globe Life Park this season. While they lost three of four in the Rogers Centre, they only have to play there twice this time. All this should make for a fun and entertaining series.