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Randal Grichuk, Consistently Inconsistent

I may be lambasted for saying this, but I believe Randal Grichuk has value. We’ll cut to the chase, he’s the definition of streaky. Between April 1st and May 31st, we all thought he changed. In 208 plate appearances, Grichuk had a slash line of .289/.322/.819 with 9 homers and a wRC+ of 119. He also walked 4.3% of the time while striking out 18.8% of the time. However, the most surprising statistic is the fact he had 39 RBIs.

Now, RBIs isn’t a very good statistic for determining whether or not a batter is good because it is totally dependent on whether or not the batters ahead of you get on (unless you hit 100 solo homers in a season), but it fooled me and many other Jays fans into thinking his approach had changed.

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How about his next three months? Well it didn’t go as well. Between June 1st and August 31st, 272 plate appearances and had a slash line of .201/.246/.579 with 12 home runs, a wRC+ of 65 and 37 RBIs. His RBI pace slowed, but his home run production stayed the same. In fact, it marginally increased. He also increased both his walk rate (5.1%) and strikeout rate (23.9%) in this stretch.

September rolls around and the team has lost only once as I’m writing this article. Gurriel has carried the team on his back, but one player who is having a sneakily good half month is, you guessed it, Randal Grichuk.

In 13 games in September, he has a slash line of .419/.472/.613 with a dinger, 5 RBIs and a wRC+ of 192. HE has also walked 11.1% of the time with a strikeout rate of 11.1%. Obviously this will not be sustainable and I’m not prepared to allow myself to believe once again, but when Grichuk hits like this, he is important.

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Randal Grichuk’s bat goes BRRRR:

I think the debate of “Randal Grichuk is not a good batter” is a fair one. While his simple batting statistics like average don’t stick out, it also doesn’t scream “he’s unplayable”. In his 7 year career, his worst batting average was a .238 while his best was a .276. His career average is .247, so you know what you get. So what’s Grichuk’s other main issue? Well it comes from the fact that Grichuk does not walk.

Like, it’s bad. He’s cut down his K% in the past two seasons, 21.2% for 2020 and 20.9% this season (his previous lowest was 26% in 2019). However, his walk rate has been consistent his entire career. It usually hovers around 5.6-5.9% with an outlier of 6.3 in St.Louis. This season has been his worst since his 47 games as a 22 year old in 2014 as it sits at 5.2% this season.

So I understand that argument completely. Yes, sometimes it’s unbearable watching him bat in cold stretches. Yes, he is incredibly streaky, and yes, he’ll never start a rally. There is one thing you can count on Grichuk’s bat to do and it comes from those glorious biceps.

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Randal Grichuk absolutely mashes the ball out of the park. Want to know the only season where Grichuk didn’t hit or wasn’t expected to hit 20 or more homers? His 2014 season as a 22 year old. In fact, even if you bump it up to 25 homers, he missed out on only his 2014 season.

With the bat, you know four aspects of Grichuk are a guarantee. You know he’ll walk between 5.6-5.9% of the time, he’ll have an average around .230-.250, you know that he’s incredibly streaky and most importantly, you know he’ll smash home runs, regardless if he’s on a hot streak or cold streak.

Home runs are home runs. Even if they come in small bursts, they help a team win. This argument depends on how much you value a home run, but for me, hitting 25 dingers a season while being inconsistent is still valuable. Especially when…

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Grichuk is not a center fielder:

Grichuk’s defense is good. Well, in right field it is, but we’ll get to that. 

First I’ll have to write about where he’s been playing the majority of his innings this season. In center field.The Jays have played Randal in CF quite a lot since he joined the team. In the first two seasons, he served more as a backup CF as he played the majority of the season in right. In 2020, the Jays didn’t even have a CF, meaning that even Cavan Biggio ended up playing there. This season, he has been playing there because Springer’s quad/hamstring/knee/ankle has decided to not work.

Let’s run through his advanced metrics at centerfield the past two seasons: In 2020, his Defensive Runs saved was a pretty terrible -8 (this is why they signed the best CF’er in the game). His DRS has actually improved this season, increasing to -2. His Ultimate Zone Rating (which basically accounts for Range, Arm and errors) was -3.0 in 2020 and an even worse -3.2 in 2021. The Jays in a sense were forced to play Grichuk here even though center field is not his primary position.

Grichuk in right field:

What about right field? Well it’s quite the opposite. Despite only playing .292.1 innings in RF this season, he has amassed a 5 DRS and has a UZR of 4.9. A +5 UZR is considered Above Average, but as it’s an accumulating stat, meaning that since he’s played limited innings in right, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Below is a snapshot taken from Fangraphs.

It’s important to take this information with a grain of salt because predictive statistics can be incredibly misleading. We do have a stat that records UZR if players played a “full season” (150 games) at a position. What’s Grichuk’s UZR/150? Well it’s a fantastic 26.9. Grichuk has only played 292.1 innings, which is a large enough sample size, but he would have to play as well as he has in RF all season without a flaw in his game.

This is to say that it’s unlikely that Randal would finish with a UZR of 26.9, Pillar only had a UZR of 12.2 in 2016 and he was gold glove calibre. Kevin Keimer, who won the gold glove, only had a UZR of 15.2 that season.

This isn’t to say he hasn’t struggled in RF before. In 2019, he had a DRS of -8 which is well below average. His UZR in 724.2 innings was a -0.4 which isn’t great either. If you look past that season though, you can see that he’s been pretty solid defensively throughout his career. Funnily enough, Grichuk posted his second best defensive season in centerfield in 2019. He amassed a 4 DRS in 486.2 innings, so while he struggled in right in 2019, he played well enough in center to say he was decent enough defensively.

Career wise, Randal Grichuk has accumulated 11.9 UZR and owns a DRS of 2. As I mentioned before, his RF DRS in 2019 drops this down significantly, but he’s been good for the majority of the time that he has played in right field.

Mix it all together and you get a serviceable player:

Look, he’s inconsistent. You can’t write an article about Randal Grichuk without harping on that for a few paragraphs. He doesn’t walk and he doesn’t hit for average. Defensively, you can play him at center every once in a while, but it’s not ideal to play him regularly at the position. 

With all that being said, why do I think he’s a serviceable player? You know he’s good for over 20 home runs and more likely than not, 25 home runs. More importantly however is the fact that Randal Grichuk is actually a pretty good defender in right field, something that many fans, including myself at one point, gloss over.

Randal Grichuk may be gone this season through trade, maybe he stays until the end of the 2023 season. Either way, I think Randal Grichuk has value and you can’t go wrong with him batting low in the batting order when he gives you good defense in right field.

As always, follow me on Twitter @Brennan_L_D. Sorry I haven’t published as many articles as of late. Ottawa decided to be sunny meaning I had to work on the roof and now with college starting up again, it’s hard to find time to write.