Blue Jays: The SS standard, and our expectations of Goins
And to the present…
2015- Jose Reyes/Troy Tulowitzki
As most of us remember, this was the biggest shift at the position, and the transition from pretenders to contenders for the Blue Jays. Tulowitzki’s acquisition provided a tremendous boost to the club, even if his performance on the offensive side of the ball wasn’t anything to write home about.
His biggest contribution was shoring up the defence in the middle infield, teaming up with Ryan Goins (who was playing second base to a WAR of 2.7), to form one of the best defensive combinations in the game at the keystone. His addition also came alongside David Price‘s, and energized the team and fan base on their way to a historic run down the stretch, and winning the AL East. That said, Tulowitzki hit just .239/.317/.380 in his 41 games.
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Tulowitzki returned for his first full season with the club to hit .254/.318/.443 with 24 home runs and 79 RBI in 131 games. His performance was good enough to earn him 3.3 bWAR, and to justify his contract as a pricy veteran.
While he wasn’t the MVP contender that he had been many times in a Colorado Rockies uniform, he was a solid member of the every day lineup, and the Blue Jays can only hope for that kind of performance from Tulo over the final three years of his contract.
And then came this season. Tulowitzki was hurt twice, first with a hamstring issue, and then with the season ending ankle injury. He only played in 66 games on the season, and didn’t look particularly healthy even when he did make it on the field.
As a result, Ryan Goins received a nearly full time gig, and along with Darwin Barney they handled the majority of reps in the middle infield, also covering for the injured Devon Travis. Goins slashed .237/.286/.356 with 9 home runs, 62 RBI and 21 doubles. He was pretty remarkable with runners in scoring position, hitting .330 and knocking in 55 of his runs batted in, in those situations.
For his efforts, Goins finished with a -0.2 bWAR, which means he was roughly just below average as a middle infielder at the big league level. When you consider that he made just over the league minimum, why are people so hard on him?
Despite the fact that there aren’t a lot of “names” on this list outside of Tulo and Reyes, the Blue Jays have had surprisingly good production from their shortstop position. There’s also the fact that there is a surge of talent at shortstop across the MLB right now, so it sets a somewhat unfair standard for infielders to live up to in many ways.
Realistically, it’s never been a position meant for the most potent offensive players. If Goins had played in another generation (say, the 80’s), he would have played full time and would have celebrated for his defensive skills. These days, they want you to hit too I guess.
Maybe I’m simplifying it a little too much, but when I look back on the production the Blue Jays have received from their shortstops over the last 20 years, it’s a much higher bar than I realized.