Here's some News That Won't Surprise You: The Houston Astros own the worst run differential in the American League. Exactly as predicted.
Here's some News That Might Surprise You: The Canada Jays and the Orange County Angels own the second- and third-worst run differentials in the American League. Exactly as not predicted by you, by me, or by anyone else with at least a mildly functional cerebral cortex.
Before the season, 43 of ESPN's experts, from Manny Acta to Pedro Zayas, made their predictions. Most of them favored the Tigers or Nationals as World's Champions; only Zayas predicted a championship for the Angels, and only Stephania Bell predicted a championship for the Blue Jays. But 20 experts had the Jays winning the American League East, and 31 had the Angels winning the West.
So while they weren't generally considered locks, I think it's safe to say that both teams were considered the favorites in their divisions, just six weeks ago. Today, on the 7th of May, the Blue Jays are 12-21, 9½ games behind the first-place Red Sox, and the Angels are 11-20, 8½ games behind the first-place Rangers.
Forget about everything else: Those numbers alone make both clubs relative long shots to make the playoffs, let alone to win their divisions. But it seems likely that one of them will at least make some sort of a run, don't you think? And I'm wondering which team is a better bet.
Those three pitchers have combined for three wins, eight losses, and a nifty 6.31 ERA. They've given up 22 homers in 103 innings. Johnson's on the Disabled List, supposedly until late May, but you never know with him. Brandon Morrow, the only holdover from whom good things were expected, has won once. ERA-wise, the staff ace has been J.A. Happ, who wasn't even supposed to be in the rotation this spring.
Aside from hitting a ton of home runs, the Jays' hitters haven't exactly been thrilling the fans, either. The good news is that a) nobody's been outstanding, which leaves some room for improvement, and b) there's no way that Melky Cabrera and Maicer Izturis and Brett Lawrie can possibly be this terrible for much longer.
Meanwhile, the Angels have their own also-rans. Albert Pujols, the guy with the $639 million contract and the sore foot, has been terrible lately, while Josh Hamilton's just been terrible all season. Maybe it goes without saying that if one of those guys doesn't have a big season, the Angels aren't doing anything.
Of course it would also help if Jered Weaver weren't on the D.L. most of April and (so far) all of May. Then again, be careful what you wish for; Weaver was pitching poorly before he got hurt, so there's not guarantee that he'll rejoin the rotation and immediately start building his Cy Young case. Maybe this is just who the Angels are: a team with a decent rotation that needs to score five or six runs in most games. I'm not saying that's a winning strategy, but it's the strategy that most of the experts thought would be enough just six weeks ago.
Looking at these clubs and weighing everything above plus a million other things I can't even tell you about, I'm going to estimate that ... the Angels still have a 22-percent chance of making the playoffs, but the Jays only 4 percent.
Where, exactly, do I get those numbers? Well, I stole them, of course. And I'm surprised by them. Considering that both teams have roughly the same records and run differentials, and are roughly the same number of games out of first place, why the wide disparity?
Competition, I think. While the wild cards make things easier for everybody, the Angels have an easier path to the wild card because they get to play the Mariners and the Astros so many times. For essentially the same reason, the Angels have an easier path to the division title. They've got two teams (the Rangers and A's) to worry about, while the Jays must contend with as many as four good teams.
Thus, four percent. Which is to suggest not that the Blue Jays are dead. It's baseball. But they might be dead by Memorial Day.