Blue Jays Must Improve With Runners In Scoring Position

Apr 5, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) turns a double play over Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (55) to end the game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 5, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop (6) turns a double play over Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (55) to end the game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Opening Day, the Toronto Blue Jays left 13 men on base in their extra innings loss to the Baltimore Orioles. On Wednesday night, in the top of the ninth, Steve Pearce grounded into a double play with the bases loaded that could of sent the game to extra innings again.

Hitting with runners in scoring position is a problem for the Toronto Blue Jays. This is something they must improve on this season. It’s a clear indication that adjustments must be made while they missed scoring chances again and again last season, and in the postseason.

According to teamrankings.com, the Blue Jays ranked seventh in runners left in scoring position (3.20) and 18th in runners left on base per game (6.85).

It’s early in the season but the 2017 lineup will take some time to adjust without Edwin Encarnacion. It’s the first time in years the team is without Encarnacion. If Jose Bautista left, this would have been a very different Blue Jays lineup.

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Here is an examined look of the Blue Jays batting slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS/SO/BB) from last season and the postseason courtesy of Fangraphs. It shows their League rankings, along with how the team hit in general, compared to how they hit when runners were left in scoring position.

The Blue Jays finished off the 2016 season with a slash line of .248 AVG (23rd)/.330 OPS (6th)/.426 SLG (11th)/.755 OPS (9th).

Now here’s a look at their slash line with RISP. The Blue Jays slash line had a .249 AVG (24th)/.342 OPS (12th)/.428 SLG (9th)/.770 OPS (9th).

It’s obvious their league rankings decrease in a couple of categories when the team is hitting with runners in scoring position. However, their baserunner metric says different as they finished 25th in the League with a -8.6 BrS.

The postseason was a whole different story. Overall the slash line they finished with was a .230 AVG (4th)/.289 OBP (9th)/.403 SLG (1st)/.692 OPS (2nd). The numbers drastically change with RISP. The Blue Jays accumlated a slash line of .198 AVG (7th)/.280 OBP (5th)/.378 SLG (5th)/.658 OPS (6th).

Once again the numbers decrease in similar categories from the regular season. The way the lineup is set up the team has their power hitters in the top of the order and their utility/small ball players in the bottom of the order.

Josh Donaldson (.284 AVG/.404 OBP/.549 SLG/.953 OPS), Jose Bautista (.234 AVG/.366 OBP/.452 SLG/.817 OPS), Russell Martin (.231 AVG/.335 OBP/.398 SLG/.733), and Troy Tulowitzki (.254 AVG/.318 OBP/.443 SLG/.761 OPS) must step up this year.

Donaldson’s slash line looks pretty good throughout the regular season. Let’s see what changes to their slash lines with RISP.

Donaldson (.261 AVG/.413 OBP/.546 SLG/.959 OPS)

Bautista (.290 AVG/.435 OBP/.548 SLG/.984 OPS)

Martin (.261 AVG/.367 OBP/.479 SLG/.846 OPS)

Tulowitzki (.264 AVG/.376 OBP/.554 SLG/.930 OPS)

It’s noted that Donaldson’s average and slugging percentage decrease, whereas his on-base percentage improves with runners in the scoring positon. Bautista’s numbers drastically improve even though he missed a fair bit of the season due to injury.

Martin and Tulowitzki must find a way to improve their averages, and their on-base percentages. Tulo has to stop swinging at so many groundballs, maybe changing up his batting stance inside the plate will do wonders. Martin should take more timing into his swing and be a little more patient.

While the Blue Jays begin to manufacture runs this season, perhaps adapting the small ball style of play to their game can make improvements. In fact, they have players who can do it too.

Kevin Pillar (.266 AVG/.303 OBP/.376 SLG/.679 OPS), Ezequiel Carrera (.248 AVG/.323 OBP/.356 SLG/.679 OPS), and Devon Travis (.300 AVG/.332 OBP/.454 SLG/.785 OPS) are some players who should incorporate small ball into their game. Look at their slash lines with runners in scoring position

Pillar (.324 AVG/.361 OBP/.491 SLG/.852 OPS)

Carrera (.333 AVG/.433 OBP/.407 SLG/.840 OPS)

Travis (.325 AVG/.360 OBP/.373 SLG/.733 OPS)

All three players numbers improve when hitting with runners in scoring position. They have the ability to move around on the bases as well as putting the ball in play, and laying down bunts to at least try to beat the bunt out at first base.

The team didn’t use enough of the small ball last year and it came back to haunt them in the postseason. The Blue Jays cannot simply rely on the long ball anymore. Small ball baseball is a great way to manufacture runs. It’s also the style of play that got the Kansas City Royals and the Cleveland Indians to the World Series (with the help of very deep bullpens too).

Last night, the team shined a light on what they need to do this season. A Kendrys Morales grand slam, and Darwin Barney using small ball to get on base, and advancing the runners to score.

Next: Blue Jays releasing Justin Smoak not an immediate solution

The Blue Jays are no longer the slugging team saw in years past. They’re now a pitching-first team. However, this can be a better lineup as the season goes along. The lineup has a little more depth with versatile players, and players who can still hit the long ball.

The team, and the fans, see the Blue Jays as legitmate contenders once again as they eye a third straight appearance in the postseason.

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