Are the Blue Jays Lacking Plate Discipline?

Jose Bautista

isn’t the only hitter frustrated by the K. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

As I watch this latest Toronto Blue Jays – New York Yankees game, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.  Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is making a lot of Blue Jays bats swing and miss.  Then I thought “You know what!  A lot of pitchers are making the Jays bats swing and miss.”

That picture you see to the right of Jose Bautista is old (2012), and given our imaging obligations, that’s the best I could do.  It, however, makes the point.  The Blue Jays are striking out at an alarming rate.  Where is the plate discipline?

Of the 15 American League teams, the Blue Jays have struck out 131 times.  That places them fourth worst in the AL.  That number however, is deceiving due to the fact that the Jays have played the second most number of games (17) so far in this young season.  So I decided to do a K/AB percentage, and Toronto checks in at 23.5%.  That is a more telling number.  1 in every 4 at bats, somebody strikes out.  Of the 15 teams in the AL, they have the 5th worst strike out percentage.  So, as long as the Jays are hitting the ball, they’re ok right?

The Blue Jays are NOT hitting the ball!  With a team BA of .228, the Jays are hardly hitting the ball at all.   “Well, as long as the Blue Jays are getting on base, they’re ok right?  They’re scoring runs, are they not?”  No, voice inside my head!  They’re not doing that either.  The Jays team OBP is .287.  That’s third from the bottom my friends!  So they’re not hitting, they’re not getting on base, however, thanks to the longball, the Jays are eighth in the AL in runs scored (61.)  In case you are wondering, that’s 3.6 runs per game.  That’s not really all that good.  So who is to blame?

I can’t help but think of this interview between Toronto Star writer Mark Zwolinski and Adam Lind.  Lind basically said former hitting coach Dwayne Murphy wanted an aggressive approach at the plate while former Jays manager John Farrell wanted a more patient approach.  Lind said it made him confused at the plate.  Colby Rasmus echoed a similar statement in a Yard Barker report.  But doesn’t it seem like the Blue Jays could use a little more plate discipline?  Last season was not any better.  They finished with the forth highest number of strike outs in the AL and a K/AB percentage of 23%.  Clearly, Farrell’s message was not getting through.  So far this season, without Farrell, it has not sunk in either.  Don’t anticipate it to.  So clearly the blame falls on the hitters.  Take a look at why.

Rasmus had said to be working on his swing throughout Spring Training.  So far, he’s the biggest K culprit.  He has been striking out 49% of the time he comes up to the plate.  At 37%, J.P. Arencibia has not been much better.  After Arencibia, Emilio Bonifacio is at 33%.  Current lead off hitter, Rajai Davis is striking out 26% of his ABs and has ZERO walks this season.  That’s a lot of non-contact, not just for a leadoff hitter, but for a team.

The Blue Jays offense has long been known now to be a “quick strike” offense.  They win games by hitting home runs.  A LOT of home runs.  But the timely hit has seemingly disappeared.  Now I know it is still early this season and that is important to remember, but at 7-11 and with a pitching staff that is still trying to get back on track, a few more runs will be what the Jays need to win games.  Maybe they ought to listen to what Farrell said by giving patience a try during future ABs, and stop making it so easy for opposing teams to get out of the inning by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.