What in the holy-shitting hell, Josh Donaldson? The Jays’ third baseman hit two goddamned home runs off Chris Sale on Tuesday night, and somehow that fact isn’t even the one I walked away from the game most utterly impressed by. Think about that!
With his three hit, two dinger night, Donaldson took his season wRC+ to 151. For the year his line is now up to .270/.389/.563. In his MVP season of 2015 it was .297/.371/.568.
Donaldson’s “lost season” has not-so-suddenly become found. How in the hell did this happen‽‽‽
To understand why that’s a question that requires multiple interrobangs, we need to think back a little bit about how Donaldson’s year has unfolded.
“The 2015 American League Most Valuable Player began dealing with right calf issues during the first week of Spring Training, when he injured it while running sprints and was forced to sit out until the final week,” explained a May piece from Jeff Odom at MLB.com. “Donaldson was then eased into play at the start of the regular season, getting at-bats as a designated hitter, but was removed from Toronto’s game on April 9 at Tampa Bay because of a flare-up. Five days later, after pulling up while slowly running to second base in a 2-1 victory over Baltimore, Donaldson was sent to the DL.”
Strange as it sounds to my memory, through that first series of games, though he wasn’t functioning at 100%, Josh was positively Donaldson-like (at the plate, at least). In his first 35 plate appearances of the season he had a pair of doubles, a pair of home runs, a 17% walk rate, and a 170 wRC+.
He returned from the aforementioned DL stint on May 26, and for the first three weeks or so, again he was as great as ever: a 186 wRC+ over 73 plate appearances between May 26th and June 16th; six home runs; four doubles; a .323/.425/.677 line. (These three weeks, I feel I should note, mark the period when Donaldson began wearing a face shield — so don’t let anyone, even Josh himself, tell you that it was a hindrance to his performance.)
By this point nothing about his season was really amiss, apart from the injury, which didn’t seem to be affecting him. Through his first 108 plate appearances he had a wRC+ of 181. The calf problem that began back in the spring and returned in mid-April was supposedly in the rear view and it felt like the Jays’ best player had finally begun his season in earnest.
A slump followed, though. Josh picked up just seven hits in his next 69 plate appearances, going from June 17th to July 5th with a wRC+ of just 12. And though he managed to have a good series against the Astros at Rogers Centre from July 6th to the 9th, he fell back into his struggles after that.
For over a month, from June 17th to July 22nd, Donaldson’s wRC+was just 50. Over a 36 game stretch from June 13th to July 26th, Josh hit just one home run.
Was he hurt? I have no idea. However, if you told me that he’d picked up an injury here, but was determined to play through it rather than go on the DL again, I’m pretty sure I’d believe you.
Whatever was up, on July 22nd, Donaldson’s season wRC+ sat at just 110.
Six weeks on the DL and month-long slump will do that! But by then the All-Star break had passed and we were starting to really get into the second half. Something seemed wrong.
What was wrong, it turns out, was that narrative.
Donaldson has come to the plate 247 times since July 22nd, and he’s slashed a ridiculous .304/.421/.701. His wRC+ for that span is 191. He’s hit 24 home runs. He’s raised his WAR to 4.8 per both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
In other words, he’s been Josh Donaldson. And it’s been utterly fucking freakish. Like… two home runs off Chris Sale freakish. BAH GAWD!
Maybe time to extend this guy, Jays.