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Three Blue Jays Spring Training Stats That Matter

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Photo credit:© Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Mitch Bannon
18 days ago
I’m willing to toss most Spring Training statistics out the window.
I can guarantee that Brian Severn leading the Blue Jays in spring RBI means absolutely nothing and Paolo Espino is not going to post the best strikeout rate on the team this year.
But through the useless muck and metrics, there can be some numbers that actually matter. Here are three Blue Jays spring statistics you should care about:

Ernie Clement’s Contact

Nobody makes contact like Ernie Clement. In 14 games this spring (40 at-bats) Clement has just ONE strikeout — you read that right. The guy has more triples than strikeouts.
But, honestly, that’s nothing new. Clement has always been able to hit the ball, it’s putting it in the air or on a line that’s been the challenge. As Sportsnet’s Arden Zwelling pointed out in a story earlier this week, Clement worked with Triple-A hitting coach Matt Hague last year to elevate the ball and hit it harder. We saw the infielder’s line-drive rate tick up (and ground-ball rate go down) in 2023, and it’s been even better in spring this year.
Clement’s 21.6% line-drive rate in spring would be over a percent better than his career norms and his 32.5% ground-ball rate is nearly 10% below his lifetime average. If Clement can keep his incredible contact rates while also raising the ball off the ground, he’s got a chance to be more than just a backup for this team.

Mitch White’s Velocity

It sure looks like Mitch White’s going to crack this Opening Day roster. For fans who watched him pitch to a 7.11 ERA in the big leagues last year, that’s a scary thought. But fear not, this is a new Mitch (a rebrand I’ve been personally trying to make for years).
Last year, White’s fastball sat at a pedestrian 93.9 MPH. This spring, he’s added over two miles per hour to the primary pitch. The new velocity (which dates back to White’s successful stint in Triple-A at the end of last year) could end up being a game-changer. Opposing batters hit .444 against the four-seamer in the big leagues last year and rarely swung through the pitch.
White’s added velocity seems to have fixed that fastball problem. The righty has been forcing whiffs all spring, and the fastball has gone from liability to weapon. Just look at his most recent spring start (a 5.1IP, 1ER outing against the Red Sox on Friday): White earned a called-strike plus whiff rate of 37% on the four-seam fastball. Only 16 pitchers in baseball posted a better CSW% on their four-seamers last year.
The one reason for caution here is command. White hasn’t particularly struggled with control in the past, but he’s given up seven free passes in 15 innings this spring and has missed spots at times, pretty badly. The new stuff may be harder to control, but if White can reign it in, he may win back some fans as a long man this year.

Team Caught Stealings

Last year, the Blue Jays ran wild in spring. They attempted 37 swiped bags and were caught stealing an MLB-high 14 times.
Back then, I didn’t read much into the spring caught stealings. I assumed John Schneider and the Jays were trying to get a sense of the new base-running rules before the 2023 campaign began. But then, it carried into the regular season — Toronto had the third-worst steal rate in baseball and ranked at the bottom of basically every baserunning stat last year.
This spring, Toronto’s flashing a more cautious baserunning approach. The Jays rank about the middle of the pack in attempted steals this spring and only one player I expect to crack the 26-man roster has been caught even once (Isiah Kiner-Falefa).
Simply put, this Blue Jays team was awful at running the bases and swiping bags last year, attempting far too much for a team full of average runners. If this new methodical approach to the basepaths bleeds into the regular season, the 2024 Blue Jays will be better for it.

ARTICLE PRESENTED BY BETANO

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