Blue Jays 2015 Lineup Better Than 2014
As the 2015 Blue Jays roster begins to take shape, many ideas are floating around about which guy should play which position and where he should bat in the lineup. All of this debate is based on the general belief that this year’s lineup has more thump than last year’s. The belief is that they will “score a ton of runs”.
This belief is based on the big bats of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson forming one of the most feared middle of the order trios in all of baseball. This trio will be surrounded by bats like Jose Reyes, Russell Martin, Dioner Navarro and Michael Saunders.
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But, as we discussed on our last podcast, is this belief leading to lowered expectations for the rest of the lineup? Often, this winter we’ve heard that this lineup can afford to carry a light hitting second baseman or an inexperienced center fielder. When we look at rounding out this roster, there may be some concern with a dramatic drop off from the top of the order. Can the heavy hitters in this lineup score enough to carry the rest? Will we have a repeat of last season with a bottom half of the order that disappoints?
To begin the conversation, we have to look at the 2014 lineup and see where things went wrong. The 7-8-9 spots in the order were held (with varying regularity) by guys like Colby Rasmus, Ryan Goins, Anthony Gose, Josh Thole, Juan Francisco, Munenori Kawasaki, etc. This group of players collected a lot of strike outs, and groans, throughout the 2014 season. At some points in the season, it was like the Blue Jays were consistently giving away outs.
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As you can see, this representative sample highlights the issue with last year’s lineup. Too often, the bottom section of the lineup struck out or failed to put the ball in play enough to to be a positive addition to the heavy hitters at the top. Even when the ball was put in play, there were groundouts, double plays and fly balls that killed any hopes of a rally.
This season, though there may be a different look to the lineup. Gose, Rasmus, Francisco are gone and Thole and Goins will not be relied upon to take up the bulk of at bats anymore. In their place, we have guys like Devon Travis, Dalton Pompey, Danny Valencia and Michael Saunders to fill out the bottom of the order. Granted, the order is not set in stone with 2 weeks until Opening Day and a lot can still happen between now and then. But, if we look at this group, we see improvement over last year.
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So, what can we take away from this? Last year’s lineup gave up many outs via the strike out and weak ground ball. What balls were put in play ended up to be easy outs that end innings or give up at bats, thus prolonging the frequency of the big boppers returning to the plate. This season, the Blue Jays will have guys who can put the ball in play and get on base at a better rate. The strike outs will still be there, but they will not be as frequent. What the 2015 lineup has to offer is the ability to get on base and “pass the baton” to the next guy; to keep the lineup moving.
When people say, “this lineup can carry guys like so and so”, they really mean that this lineup has enough power and ability at the top of the order that they don’t need the same at the bottom. Spots 1-6 can benefit from having guys like Travis, Pompey, Saunders and Valencia simply getting on base and collecting the hits they are capable of. They do not need to swing for the fences to be effective. As cliche as it sounds, they simply need to be themselves.
The way the lineup looks right now (granted, there may still be some questions and variations), the 2015 lineup will be better off without the strike outs and wasted outs from 2014. The bottom third of the order may be missing the HR power, but their ability to get on base and put together good at bats will make this 2015 lineup that much better.
*all stats from Fangraphs.com