. . .
The appropriately Gammonsian butchering of the spellings gave a few people a larf when I retweeted this on Monday morning, but I think he gets to an important point in this one:
Toronto has scored fewest R in AL in Sept. HR:Donaldson 0, Baitisata 1, Tulowitski 2
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) September 19, 2016
Looking purely at home run totals doesn’t tell the whole story of the power outage at the Jays’ core, but they are perhaps a telling proxy. The Jays have played 17 games so far this month. Over his two seasons with the Blue Jays, Donaldson has averaged 4.25 home runs ever 17 games. Bautista, over his previous three seasons, has averaged 3.85 every 17 games.
Obviously seasons will ebb and flow, so it’s not like we can expect eight home runs out of the pair over every seventeen games, but… uh… I think we can fairly expect more than one.
You think an extra seven home runs over these last 17 games might have helped? Especially with the way Devon Travis has been getting on base in front of them?
That may not have turned these last three weeks into a glorious run, but it would have gone a long way to prevent them from becoming the fucking disaster that’s consumed this team.
But the thing that’s so unsatisfying about this being central to what has happened to this team this month is the fact that there’s nothing we can do about it, nobody we can blame for failing or not wanting it enough, nobody we can say is unprepared or lacking in professionalism by being at his worst at absolutely the worst time, and nobody who is being misused by the manager.
Donaldson is dealing with a hip issue, as we know too well. Bautista has spent time on the DL twice this season, once for turf toe and later for a knee injury, and has seen his power eroded in tandem with those ailments. His isolated power (ISO) from the start of the season until the first stint was .226 — halfway between “great” and “excellent,” according to FanGraphs’ explanation of how to use the stat. In between the toe and knee injuries that number dropped to .207. And since returning from the second DL stint that number has dropped to .149.
Both of them have been getting on base, sporting a .373 and a .384 on-base respectively in September, and Bautista’s hard contact and line drive rates have actually risen over the three periods of his season, so there are elements of what they’re doing at the plate that are working and maybe bode well for a turnaround.
It’s hard to be too hopeful when we’re talking about guys having trouble with parts of the body so crucial to generating the big power in their swings, but right now that’s really all we’ve got.
* * *
Of course, there are other players on this team, and when the big guys are struggling, ideally they’re going to pick up the slack. Right now, despite how it maybe feels, that simply isn’t happening.
I’ve had a lot of people asking about moving guys around the lineup — and in particular about dropping the struggling Jose Bautista below Tulowitzki and Russell Martin. The thing about that is, in spite of how it may feel, they’re not really going any better.
For the month of September, Martin owns a 79 wRC+. He’s had three home runs, which is two more than any of his teammates not named Tulowitzki and Encarnacion can boast, but he’s struck out in nearly 40% of his plate appearances and is slashing a less-than-idea .182/.275/.409.
Tulo, meanwhile, has been better than Bautista… by three whole points of wRC+. He’s at 100 for the month, compared to Bautista’s 97. The difference is that Jose’s total is almost entirely based on his still-elite on-base skills and a 19.2% walk rate. His eye is the same, he’s just not punishing pitchers quite the same right now. Meanwhile, Tulo has simply been about a league average hitter, slashing .281/.328/.421 for the month.
Martin and Tulo benefit from lowered expectations that Bautista doesn’t. And what is currently happening is not a good argument for having him hit behind them — it is, I’d figure, the opposite.
OK, so let’s build a lineup to try…
First a disclaimer: I’m just doing this for fun, and am certainly not looking terribly deeply at it, so please spare me your haranguing if you disagree. Lineup order just really doesn’t make too much of a difference apart from how you end up giving a bunch more plate appearances, over the course of the season, to the guys at the top than you do the guys at the bottom. There’s nothing to get particularly adamant about, really. But OK…
If you’re looking to give things a new look and ride the hot hand and utilize as best you can the slap-hitting OBP machines that used to be ⅔ of your dynamite middle of the order, why not flip Edwin and Bautista, so Edwin is hitting fourth again, and then flip Jose and Devon Travis?
I’d probably flip Tulo and Russell, as well, so that it goes Bautista – Donaldson – Travis – Encarnacion – Tulowitzki – Martin.
Am I wrong, or does that not feel like the best way right now to get a runner on base and then cash him in, and/or set up chances for guys with a chance to do something?
The rest of it doesn’t really matter, but yes, I’d keep going with Saunders against right-handed pitching, because what the hell else do you do? Maybe give Carrera a few more opportunities, I guess, even though he has mostly been a reverse split guy the last few seasons. Then again it’s not like it could hurt.
Provided we keep releasing Birds All Day mini episodes on time, this is going to be where you can find them here at BlueJaysNation.com. (Well, here and in the sidebar). I’ve got this week’s mini ‘sode, which was recorded post-game on Sunday. Check it out!
Hey, and also since we’re here, you can help keep this podcast going while helping to keep us honest; support us with a small, recurring monthly contribution through Patreon at patreon.com/birdsallday.
What do you meme?
It’s not from this week, and doesn’t involve bees, but since I pivoted off a Peter Gammons tweet to start this, I think it’s an appropriate classic.
Also, I kinda can’t mention Gammons without using it, so… there ya go!
Fortunately for the struggling Jays, this week they head to Seattle for a series against the also-ran Mariners who… uh… wait. The Mariners are HOW close to the Jays in the Wild Card race???!?
Monday – Tuesday @ Seattle, 10:10 PM ET
Wednesday @ Seattle, 3:40 PM ET
Thursday – Off
Friday vs. New York (AL), 7:07 PM ET
Saturday vs. New York (AL), 4:07 PM ET (YASSSSS!!!)
Sunday vs. New York (AL), 1:07 PM ET
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