Last year’s Toronto Blue Jays were pretty awful in a lot of categories, but their defensive play may have been the toughest pill to swallow. I can watch a losing team play good fundamental baseball; however, watching a losing team that plays poor defensively is really tough to get behind.
This year’s Blue Jays are expected to be a much improved team defense for the following reasons: Dioner Navarro replacing J.P. Arencibia, Ryan Goins starting in place of Emilio Bonifacio and Maicer Izturis, Brett Lawrie not starting the season on the DL, and Melky Cabrera not having a tumor to slow him down.
How much did the poor defensive play at second base influence the performance of the Blue Jays starting 5, and how much of a difference will having Ryan Goins make?
Maicer Izturis and Emilio Bonifacio didn’t produce much at the plate in 2013, which is good since Ryan Goins isn’t expected to produce much at the plate in 2014; therefore, any improvement in that area will be a welcome surprise. Working with Kevin Seitzer in the off-season/spring training, Goins made adjustments which enabled him to make solid contact all spring. Unfortunately, lady luck wasn’t on Ryan’s side, as good contact didn’t equal hits. We aren’t here to talk about his ability to hit or get on base. We are here to discuss what impact his glove will make.
There’s been plenty of attention paid to Goins glove work, arm strength and range when he burst onto the Blue Jays scene in 2013, but I have always been a Ryan Goins fan and have followed him since being drafted in the 4th round of the 2009 draft. I projected Goins as a solid glove with a below average bat but never thought he would ever get consideration for a starting role.
Is the ‘hype’ around Goins glove work a product of his ability or a product of the atrocious play of Izturis and Bonifacio?
As a fan in 2013, watching Bonifacio and Izturis man second base was like watching Chuck Knoblauch trying to throw to first in the twilight of his career. I caught myself holding my breath every time a ball was hit to the right side of the infield. That all changed on August 23 when Ryan Goins made his major league debute. He would go onto play almost flawless defense over the next 33 games and win the hearts of not only the fans but the coaching staff.
Bonifacio had a UZR of 0.5 and a DPR of 0.4 while playing second base in 2013. These numbers are a little skewed by his solid play once he left Toronto. Izturis had a -8.9 URZ and a DPR of 0.3 while playing second base for Toronto in 2013. By comparison, JJ Hardy (2013 Gold Glove Award Winner at short) over the past three years has averaged a URZ of 9.0 and a DPR of 0.7.
In 33 games, Ryan Goins had a URZ of 6.2 and a DPR of 1.7. If Goins can replicate these numbers in 2014 he will garner Gold Glove consideration. The problem is that 33 games is too small a sample size. Can Goins replicate his 2013 URZ/150 of 33.1 in 2014? Sure he can, but it is unlikely. If he does than his defense will be mentioned in the same breath as Manny Machado and Andrelton Simmons, which would more than make up for his below average bat.
Having Goins at second, in 2014, will give the Blue Jays pitchers confidence that ground balls to the right side will be handled by a competent fielder who can make the routine plays. Making the routine plays should be the goal of every fielder and as a fan that is all we can expect. Roberto Alomar made the hard plays look routine. With any luck Goins will do the same. If he doesn’t it won’t be from a lack of effort.
“I take pride in my defence,” he says. “I work at third, I work at second, I’ll even go over to first. I want to get my reps and make my throws from different positions. Like they always told me, you never know where you’re going to be in the big leagues.”
At the end of the day Goins doesn’t need to win a Gold Glove…..he just have to be better than Izturis and Bonifacio were last year.