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Reviewing the Jays Bats: 12-June-11, The Jays are Among the Leaders

Since there was nothing good to write about from yesterday’s game, one of the most painful to listen to in a very long time, I’ve decided to review where the Jays stand in comparison to other clubs as of today. We’re almost in the middle of June now, so the rankings in the standings are starting to become more important every day, and we should begin to get a feeling as to whether the Jays have a realistic shot at making a run to a playoff spot very soon.

In order to assess the performance of the Jays so far, I’ll be using information obtained from Frangraphs. I’ll be looking at where the Jays stand in some key Team offensive and WAR categories, and will do my best to analyze what it may or may not mean.

Plate Appearances

The Jays have 2539 plate appearances(PA)  so far in 2011, good for 7th overall. The Red Sox are only ahead by 2 PA, while the top 5 include the Reds (1st, 2614 PA), Cardinals, White Sox, Royals, and Angels.

While this information doesn’t really tell us a ton about performance, it does indicate how often each team tends to turn their rosters over. The problem is that is has absolutely no relation to driving runs in, so you can lead the league in PA simply by leaving runners on base very often. Still, it’s encouraging to see the Jays turning the roster over well enough and getting a ton of ABs to try to get more runs across.

Hits

The Jays have 590 hits thus far in 2011, good for 5th overall in all of MLB. Only the Rangers (598), Reds (604), Red Sox (618), and Cards (624) are ahead of the Blue Jays in this category.

This is a huge difference for the Jays based on 2010 numbers, when they finished 21st in MLB with 1364 hits. The total this far in 2011 is an average of 9 hits per game, and would come out to 1470 hits in 2011 if the Jays continue this pace – an increase of 106 hits year-to-year. When you consider that the Jays have accomplished this without a nearly healthy lineup, a demoted Travis Snider, and with 2 rookies making lengthy appearances, you get a sense that it could get even better in the 2nd half of 2011.

Home Runs

The Jays have 71 HRs so far in 2011, good enough for 6th in MLB. Their pace, 1.09 HRs/game, is a far cry from the pace that allowed them to hit 257 HRs in 2010, 1.59 HR/game, but it’s still well within the leaders of the league.

The Yankees lead this category with 95 HRs so far, but the remainder are very close to the Jays, with the Rangers DBacks, and Brewers all sitting at 75 a piece, while the Red Sox have 73 HRs. When you consider that Edwin Encarnacion and Aaron Hill have only combined to hit 3 HRs, you don’t have to look very far to see why the Jays have dropped off a lot from their 2010 heights. That same reason, however, and the possible addition of Brett Lawrie, point to what could be a very improved 2nd half.

Runs

The Jays sit 5th in runs with 316 runs in 2011. The Red Sox lead this category with 336 runs, only 20 more than the Jays. The Reds (327), Cardinals (321), and Yankees (321) are the other teams ranked ahead of the Jays.

Are you beginning to feel like something’s not adding up yet? That’s right, the Jays are in the top 7 of all offensive categories listed above, yet they are 4th in the AL East, only .5 games ahead of the Orioles for last place. Have you also noticed that I haven’t mentioned the Indians or Tigers yet, the two teams leading the AL Central? The Jays are scoring lots of runs, but they seem to come in bunches. What they have received overall is a better indicating of the talent they have in place than what they’ve gotten in terms of “consistency”. I’d place the Jays offensive force as one of the most inconsistent out there right now, which is great if you want to look forward to a game due to the fact that you have no idea who’s going to show up!

Runs Batted In

Again, the Jays are 5th in MLB with 299 RBI, with the Cards (307), Reds (309), Yankees (311), and Red Sox (324) ahead of them.

Not much needs to be said here. The Jays continue to be with the MLB leaders.

Stolen Bases

The Jays are tied for 4th place with the Mets in stolen bases in 2011 with 60 SB so far. The Royals and Padres (both at 61), and Rangers (64), are not far ahead in the rankings.

This is an unbelievable transformation of the club. When people tell you that a Manager or team philosophy doesn’t mean much in terms of the product on the field, tell them they suck, because they’re completely and utterly wrong. The Jays have already stolen more bases in 2011 than they stole ALL of 2010!!! Is this thing on? That’s right, they only stole 57 bases in 2010, and surpassed that by 3 in only 65 games played. In fact, the Jays are on pace to steal 150 bases in 2011, close to triple their 2010 totals, which they may surpass if Brett Lawrie can help them steal more often once he arrives. And, you have to consider that Rajai Davis missed 20 games this season, so getting 160+ SBs in 2011 is entirely feasible. In 2010, 160 SBs would have tied the White Sox for 2nd place in all of MLB. This is one are of the game that has seen the Jays do a much better job under John Farrell and has opened up a ton of run scoring opportunities for the team. Outstanding!

BB%

The Jays continue their top 10 streak by placing 7th in BB% with a 9.1% rating in 2011, oddly enough tied with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Red Sox and Reds are next at 9.2%, Mets and Cards sit at 9.3%, and the Yankees are well ahead at 10.2%.

This is one area that you would figure the Jays would lead considering Jose Bautista’s ridiculous walk pace (he’s on pace to walk 144 times in 2011). I’m positive that if you take away Jose’s 58 walks, the Jays would be middle of the road, but it’s still encouraging to see them being more patient at the plate overall. Just for reference, the Jays were tied for 8th worst in BB% last season, again, tied with the Pirates with a 7.8% ratio.

K%

The Jays are once again in the top 10, as they have stuck out the 8th fewest times with a 19.2% K ratio. The Red Sox are right there wit the Jays with a 19.3% ratio, and the Rangers are well ahead of the pack with an impressive 16.7% ratio.

The Jays had a 21.2% ratio in 2010, so this marks a huge improvement in terms of striking out less often. Being right there along with a club as well respected as the Red Sox is impressive, so let’s hope the Jays continue to make strides in this category.

Before I go on, I want to review where the Jays stand to this point:

  • 7th in PA;
  • 5th in Hits;
  • 6th in HRs;
  • 5th in Runs;
  • 5th in RBIs;
  • 4th in SBs;
  • 7th in BB%; and
  • 8th in K%.

Not bad at all if you ask me!

ISO (SLG-BA)

The Jays are 6th with a .159 rating. The Red Sox are 3rd with a .169 rating, while the Yankees lead MLB with a 1.94 rating. So, the Jays are still well within the leaders in terms of team “true power”.

This is a little surprising to me considering how Hill and Encarnacion have hit. I expect the Jays to do much better here the rest of the way.

BABIP

This is the first time that the Jays fall out of the top 10, but it’s a huge improvement over 2010, as they sit in 13th place with a .292 BABIP. In 2010, the Jays were dead last by a huge margin with a .269 BABIP. That’s a remarkable improvement, which along with the SB numbers, provides hope for a better second half if the Jays can just get a little more consistent at the plate.

I’m going to group these next 3 stats together:

  • AVG: Jays are 7th with a .261 team average
  • OBP: Jays are 5th with a .331 OBP
  • SLG: Jays are tied for 5th with a .420 SLG

So, the Jays “Team Line” looks pretty good at .261/.331/.420. The Red Sox are well ahead with .274/.347/.443 as their team line, while the Yankees have a similar to the Jays line of .253/.338/.447 line.

Where the Jays are slightly behind both the Red Sox and the Yankees is in the Slugging. If the Jays are going to truly contend with the big boys, this number needs to move up by a good margin. It’s not very far, but it’s key to adding wins.

wOBA

The Jays sit 5th in wOBA with a team average of .332. This, to me, is where you see the biggest separation from the Red Sox (.349) and Yankees (.347) as compared to the rest of the league.

Oddly enough, this is exactly on par with the Jays 2010 total of .333 for the season.

WAR

The Jays cumulative WAR of 10.8 ties them for 7th in MLB , along with the Brewers. All of the teams in the top 5 are expected to make the playoffs in 2011. The Cardinals lead the way with a 15 total, followed by the Rangers (14.4), Reds (14.2), Red Sox (14.2), and in 5th are the Yankees (14.1).

When you take away Jose Bautista’s 4.9 WAR rating, you get a sense for where the Jays REALLY sit in this category. The next highest player in terms of WAR rating is Yunel Escobar, and his rating is a modest 1.8 WAR!! Ouch! Talk about doing it all yourself Jose…The Jays need to do a much better job supporting Jose in the lineup. Hopefully the future additions of Brett Lawrie and others will give Jose the support he really should be getting in Toronto.

Summary

As we all saw yesterday in a blow out against the Red Sox, it’s easy to see that the Jays really do need a lot of work in order to reach that next level of performance. However, the 2011 season has been a much greater success than the standings indicate. In fact, I would say that the Jays have made incredible strides in many categories that will make them a much better club for the remainder of 2011 and beyond. The Manager and staff have instilled a style of play that allows the Jays to win games in many different ways. Once the lineup’s talent catches up with the philosophy (when Brett Lawrie, Travis Snider, Eric Thames, David Cooper and others earn promotions for good), the results should bring the Jays up to another level. To do what they have done so far with Juan Rivera, Jayson Nix, and John McDonald being parts of their core lineup daily, and without great performances from Aaron Hill and Edwin Encarnacion is simply mind boggling. They should be in the bottom of most offensive categories, but they’re not. As you can see above, the Jays are more potent than meets the eye.

I offer this as a “glass half full” way of looking at the series versus the Red Sox. Yes, the Jays have looked horrible against the division winners, but they damn well should when you consider that the Red Sox have spent close to  $100,000,000 more on their roster!! Let’s see, with $100 million the Jays could add Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols AND Prince Fielder. Add those guys to the Jays and then come and talk to me about how well the squad’s doing against the Red Sox.

This isn’t to say that I’m using it as an excuse. I’m not. I’m presenting what it listed above as proof that the Jays can actually compete against ALL of the big clubs despite having some a meager budget in comparison. If that’s the case, and you add in all of the great commitments the Jays have made in the draft, in the international market, and in trade, what does it add up to? It adds up to an organization heading in the right direction, regardless of what the 2011 standings tell us.

Believe, Jays fans, as the Jays are going to get better awfully quickly from here on out. If someone asks me why, I just tell them that the stats told me so.

- MG

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