The Blue Jays have had a rough go so far this season. The offense has not been the juggernaut that it was in 2015, the bullpen has allowed a lot of leads to slip away, and so on. The Blue Jays currently sit in 4th place in the AL East with a 19-23 record.
This team is much better than that record would show and their performance for the first quarter of the season has been far lower then anyone expected. He are some ideas on how to ignite the offence and it starts with the batting order.
The Jays have fielded essentially the same lineup dating back to the Tulo trade last season. Yes, their are some minor differences as Kevin Pillar and Michael Saunders continue to swap leadoff duties and the bottom of the order has its normal shuffling of players, but I am referring to the core of the lineup in this idea.
Josh Donaldson has been in the two hole since early last season and, until recently, that has worked perfectly. The entire lineup has been slumping but in the past 15 games, Donaldson is batting .186 with no RBIs. The reigning MVP has been struggling and surrounding him with some more bats might help. By moving another threat into the lineup above him in the lead off slot or sliding him to the 3rd spot the opportunities for more RBIs will come.
The fix for this is Troy Tulowitzki. Moving Tulo, who has shown signs of turning it around, to the second spot will give the main mashers more to play with. Tulo has begun to swing it and is batting .280 with 2 homers and 4 RBI in the past 7 games.
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His early spring leg kick has been abandoned and he is back to his toe tapping swing. This has allowed him to get better timing in his load up phase of his swing. In the past week the timing has been there and the pop has returned. By placing Tulo in front of Donaldson, the shortstop will continue to rake because not to many pitchers will want to have the possibility of two runners being on for the Bringer of Rain. Tulowitzki could benefit from a steady diet of fastballs as a result.
Keeping Saunders in the leadoff spot is nice because it gives you a lefty look before all the right handers. As of now he is leading the main starters in batting average at .311 and second to only to Justin Smoak in on base percentage. (I can’t believe I just said that – Yes Smoak leads the Jays in OBP) Saunders has been one of the better hitters on this team and should be batting leadoff. Followed by Tulowitzki there could be some more base runners for the RBI kings.
With Donaldson sliding back to third in this effort to ignite the lineup, Bautista will then slide in cleanup spot to be followed by Edwin Encarnacion. The dynamic the two of them have had over the past few years has been unmatched in baseball. This continued tandem will be fuelled by extra base runners.
Following Encarnacion will be the switch-hitter Justin Smoak. Smoak has been a pleasant surprise since being thrusted into the full time roll. In his last 30 games he has produced a .312 batting average with 3 homers and 11 RBI. This can be attributed to Smoak being more patient at the plate. He has walked 15 times in that span and owns an OPS of .424. This appears to be the reason for his success. He is swinging at better pitches and hitting those good pitches.
This would leave the bottom of the lineup duties to Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, and Ryan Goins (or Darwin Barney). Kevin Pillar has been a much better hitter in the bottom part of the order this season then as a leadoff hitter. In 20 games as a leadoff hitter he batted a mere .198 average. As a 7th batter or lower he has played in 18 games and and is batting .333. This is probably more of a comfort thing and possibly the benefit of his teammates relaying how pitchers pitched them in the top of the order.
Russell Martin has been unable to get things going thus far but he is a solid player and great athlete. It is only a matter of time before we start seeing him open up the field and spraying balls once again. Ryan Goins has been in the lineup because of his leather this season and really has struggled at the plate. He has been unable to recapture that consistent stroke he had through the 2nd half of last season. The pending return of Devon Travis could motivate Goins to keep his job. Travis will have to prove he can hit after his shoulder surgery to knock off Goins as a starter but with Goins currently batting .155 it might be not to hard.
These changes could maximize some of the Jays hitters potential and possibly help some hitters get going. This is a very deep lineup and they should stretch out the talents that they have to make it even more difficult for opposing hitters. Time to wake up the bats and get things popping!