Blue Jays Bottom Third: Better Than You Think?
The top five players in the Blue Jays batting order are good. So good, that every one of them has a legitimate shot at starting in the All-Star game. And Michael Saunders, who is expected to bat 6th, is projected by both Steamer and ZiPS to have a 107 wRC+ in 2015 – pretty good for a #6.
But many fans are less optimistic about the bottom third of the batting order, describing it as a “black hole” or describing the order itself as “stars and scrubs”. Is this valid?
Batting 7th – Smoak/Valencia platoon
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With the strength in the top 6 of the Jays’ batting order, the team should only need average production from the bottom third to be highly competitive. In 2014, the average AL player batting 7
had a stat line of .248/.310/.396. Would a Valencia/Smoak platoon – the most likely 1B scenario at this point – provide that level of production?
Justin Smoak has historically hit better away than at home (not surprising, as Safeco Field is an extreme pitcher’s park) and better against RHP than against left-handers. So assume that in a Jays’ platoon he could maintain his career average stats line against RHP on the road of .233/.312/.394. Note that this assumes no increase from his career stats from playing half of his games in the Rogers Centre, which was ranked the 7th best hitters’ park in 2014.
And further assume that Danny Valencia can maintain his career stats line against LHP of .327/.368/.502.
Weight these two stat lines by 70% Smoak and 30% Valencia (since roughly 30% of pitchers are left-handed) and you get a composite stat line of .261/.329/.426.
Well above average.
Batting 8th – Travis/Izturis
The average stat line from an AL player batting 8th in 2014 was .248/.311/.370.
Second base is likely to be filled in 2015 by some combination of Devon Travis and Maicer Izturis. Steamer projects Travis at .258/.302/.398, and Maicer at .254/.306/.350. Assume that they equally split the 2B position, and their composite line is .256/.304/.374. Slightly higher than average in batting average and slugging, and slightly below average in OBP, but overall pretty much average.
Batting 9th – Pompey (and Pillar?)
The average stat line from an AL player batting 9th in 2014 was .232/.286/.328. Pompey is projected at .235/.292/.357. Plus, the average 9th hitter stole 12 bases in 2014 – Pompey is
Mar 21, 2015; Clearwater, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays center fielderDalton Pompey
(45) doubles during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
projected to steal 20 in 2015, in only 395 ABs. Plus, this does not include the benefit of having Kevin Pillar sub Pompey against LHP, against whom Kevin has a lifetime .304/.327/.457 line.
So once again, pretty substantially above average.
The bottom line? On the whole, the bottom third of the projected Jays’ batting order looks to be well above average in 2015. There are of course the usual caveats about rookies underperforming, sneezes/sprinklers/stumbles, and perfect storms, but Murphy’s Law applies to all teams … even if at times Murphy seems to give disproportionate attention to the Jays!
Next: Has Dioner Navarro Been Framed? Another Blue Jays Non-Crisis