Blue Jays by the numbers: August a month to remember in Toronto
Good luck trying to think of another month quite like the one you just witnessed, Blue Jays fans. You'll be thinking for a long time, because there isn't one: August 2015 has been the best month in the 39-year history of the franchise, and it isn't particularly close.
Toronto improved to 21-5 this month after this past weekend's commanding sweep of the Detroit Tigers, and can make it 22 wins in August with David Price taking the mound at home Monday night against Cleveland.
It's as dominant a month a big-league team could hope to have. Go ahead, try to pick your favourite stat: The Blue Jays had five series sweeps in August. Between Aug. 2 and Aug. 13, they reeled off their second 11-game win streak of the year. Their run differential during this span is +89. Their average margin of victory is 4.8 runs. Seriously, this isn't just your run of the mill hot stretch.
How rare is it for the Blue Jays to crack 20 wins in a month? It's only happened seven times since 1977. What makes this August haul even more impressive is that the Jays have had four off days this month, meaning they've had fewer opportunities to rack up the W's than their predecessors in Toronto.
As you can see, the Blue Jays have never had a team finish a month with a winning percentage above .800. A loss Monday would drop that number to .778, which would still be the best month in club history.
Of course, all these team wins wouldn't be possible without a number of standout individual performances. Edwin Encarnacion has led the charge, mashing 11 home runs in August and hitting an absurd .402/.458/.927. With those numbers, it's no surprise he's riding a 25-game hitting streak – the longest streak in the majors this season.
He's been supported in the lineup by American League MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and perennial All-Star Jose Bautista. Donaldson continues to be a force at the plate. Like Encarnacion, he's crushed 11 homers to go with a .408 OBP in August. Bautista's right there behind him, with 10 homers and a OBP of .374. Even bottom of the order bats Ben Revere (.316/.371/.347) and Ryan Goins (.303/.439/.439) have stepped up in a big – likely unsustainable (see, .366 and .367 BABIP respectively) – way.
And while the offence gets the bulk of the credit, the pitching staff deserves its due, too. The starters have put up a 3.08 ERA and averaged over 6 1/3 innings per start in August. The bullpen – boosted by the additions of LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Lowe, and Aaron Sanchez over the last month – has combined for a 2.16 ERA and 2.97 FIP. That's a significant improvement over how Toronto's pitchers performed earlier in 2015.
Price's start Monday will be his sixth for the Blue Jays. Since coming over in a trade from Detroit a day before the trade deadline, he's delivered exactly what was expected of him. With Toronto he's posted a 1.98 ERA, elite strikeout (10.16 K/9) and walk rates (1.73 BB/9), and the Jays have won four of his five starts.
A historic August has lifted Toronto to 74-56 and into first place in the AL East, 1 1/2 games ahead of the New York Yankees. Not only are the Blue Jays in great position to make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years heading into the season's final month, they've got the look of a team poised to go on a deep postseason run.
What will September bring? It's going to be near impossible for Toronto to replicate what they just did over the last 30 days. With 32 games remaining, .500 ball gets them to 90 wins and that should be enough to bring playoff baseball back to Toronto.
The way they're playing, that's setting the bar a little low. The Blue Jays should finish with close to 95 wins, and that should be enough for them to – at long last – make their return to the postseason.
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Israel Fehr is a writer for Yahoo Canada Sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter. Follow @israelfehr