DINGERS FROM THE 6IX
by Quinn Sweetzir
The Toronto Blue Jays are 1-8. They’re already 5.5 games out of first place in the AL East, despite the fact that none of the teams have played more than 10 games. The clubs biggest culprit has been an incredibly lackluster offence, which ranks last in HR, R, SB, BABIP, AVG, OBP, SLG, wOBA, WRC+, and fWAR. Their 29th in ISO too. But the Jays aren’t just last. In at least 8 of these statistics, they rank last by a considerable margin.
So, the offence is off to a rather terrible start. But which players are most responsible, and how likely is it that each player is going to struggle going forward? With the team struggling, I decided to investigate each player with at least 15 plate appearances and attempt to determine once and for all how likely each player is to improve on their struggles in the long run.
Unlike literally every other player in this lineup, Josh Donaldson has been raking all throughout the start if 2017. He has a WRC+ of 193 and half of the Jays home runs. However, due to the nature of baseball the Jays are not able to remain competitive despite their former MVP’s impressive performance. Though his recent calf injury and a .467 BABIP are concerning, the strong performance of recent seasons from Donaldson is expected to continue across the rest of the season.
Although Morales was able to hit a grand slam against Tampa Bay, his performance has been generally average throughout the season, as Morales has a WRC+ of 109. This combined with a rather low .269 BABIP and his and ISO of .147 – his lowest total since his rookie year – plus a 51.9% hard contact rate, leads me to believe that we can expect significant improvement in the performance.
Despite the fact he is among the major league leaders in RBI, Tulo’s performance has been generally poor to start the season, as he has recorded a .212 average and a WRC+ of 67. However, his BABIP is a very low .214, and his walk rate is rather low to start the season as well, at just 5.5%. The good news is we can expect the performance to progress overall by the end of the season, and Tulo has done a good job of hitting with runners in scoring position .375 average and 7 RIB’s.
Pillar first of many Blue Jays position players with negative WAR totals, and much of this is a result of a WRC+ of 49. Pillar’s biggest problem to this point has not been plate discipline as it has in seasons past, but rather the lack of extra base hitting ability, as Pillar has just one extra base hit. Additionally, a rather low .258 BABIP and incredibly low .030 ISO are numbers which we could expect to improve, although expecting an extreme offensive improvement from Pillar may be unreasonable.
The scary thing about Smoak is that his 32% strikeout rate is actually an improvement on his 2016 numbers. Unfortunately, expecting a serious improvement from Smoak is unwarranted, as Smoak has a .313 BABIP, and his .208 average and .292 SLG are not very far off his career norms. Luckily, his power should improve, as his ISO is just .083, which would be the lowest of his career.
Zeke is struggling to start the season, with just 3 hits and zero walks with 17 plate appearances to start the season. Admittedly, his sample size is about half of the size of most of the other names on this list, and a .188 AVG is caused largely by a low .231 BABIP and .063 ISO. Luckily Carrera has only played part time to this point in the season, however that could change as the Jays search for a reasonable productive lineup, however expecting Carrera to display extensive improvement overall is not realistic.
To be honest, I am seriously worried by Jose Bautista’s early season performance. He has a 25% strikeout rate, a 12.2% swinging strike rate, and has looked like he’s unable to catch up to any pitcher with velocity in the early going. Although Bautista should improve upon a .208 BABIP and .061 ISO, the concerns are astronomical, and his performance should be closely watched in the coming games.
Although Pearce hasn’t looked great at the plate, his versatility and track record should lead to some improved performance from the veteran. He’s hitting .174 in 25 plate appearances, but this should improve with an increase in his .235 BABIP, and his .000 (not a typo) ISO. Plus his 24% strikeout rate is a little high which should result is a solid season from Pearce.
After starting the season 0 for 21, Martin finally managed to get a hit. Unfortunately, a .042 average and .083 slugging are not going to cut it, but these numbers should improve dramatically over time, as Martin has a .071 BABIP and a 32.3% strikeout rate. However, career trends indicate that we can expect Martin to improve significantly over time, even if he is in a bad stretch to open 2017.
The Jays worst player according to fWAR so far, Travis has struggled mightily in the early stages of the season. Already worth -0.5 fWAR, Travis’ .088 average is expected to rise due to his low BABIP of .111 and ISO of .000. Travis has shown an ability to hit consistently throughout his career, and we can hope for some improvement in the near future.
After investigating the Jays 10 main position players a few things became apparent to me. The first is that many Jays have remarkably low BABIP’s, which has at least in part led to an inability to get hits. This combined with the often low ISO’s are a result of small sample size, and we can expect serious improvement from this offence in the coming games, even if the current results have been underwhelming.
Considering the strength of the Jays pitching staff, a serious improvement from a record standpoint in a short amount of time is possible, and if the Jays are able to 10-6 (putting their overall record at 11-14) then the Jays are fine – albeit behind – from a standings standpoint early in the season. Anyway, the Jays are in poor shape at this moment, however expecting the offence to be this bad over the course of the season is unwarranted, and the Jays should not be panicking over their early season struggles.