Blue Jays: How does the “second half” version of this team perform in 2019?
By Jim Scott
Several of the Blue Jays had poor first halves in 2018, but turned things around in the second half. What would a team made up of second-half Jays look like in 2019?
Several Blue Jays have dramatically improved their hitting in the second half of 2018. Just for fun, what would a 2019 team look like if composed entirely of current Jays, playing (mostly) at their second-half 2018 levels?
So, under these rules only current players qualify – so no Vladdy, no Tulo, and no trades or free agent signings.
Leading off – Billy McKinney. Here I break my own rule – I can not project Billy for a 151 wRC+ in 2019, even if that is what he has been doing so far as a Blue Jay. So I will arbitrarily cut his surplus in half, and project him at 125. Next, I have Lourdes Guerriel Jr and his 106 wRC+ (far less than the 200 he put up in July, pre-injury) playing second and batting second.
Toronto Blue Jays
Batting third, I have Justin Smoak and his 116 wRC+, then Randal Grichuk (146) and Kendrys Morales (131). Diaz bats 6th (122 wRC+) and plays short, and Russel Martin plays 3rd (remember my rules – no Vladdy) with a 122 wRC+. Danny Jansen would bat 8th with a 106, and Teoscar Hernandez would play left (Grichuk is in centre in my scenario) with an 87 wRC+.
Weighting the above wRC+ figures based on the average number of PAs in a year by batting order position (the leadoff hitter customarily gets roughly 25% more PAs in a season than the #9) gives a weighted-average wRC+ of 118.
For context, the best team wRC+ in the league in 2018 is the Astros with 112 (the Yanks are second with 110). In 2017, the Astros had a holy-cow-Batman team 122 wRC+, but that was an aberration – in the three preceding years, the highest team total was 117 … by the 2015 Jays.
Now, this analysis is clearly simplistic. There is no guarantee that young players like McKinney and Jansen will be able to maintain 2018 levels (even with my Billy haircut). Grichuk’s breakthrough might be a mirage, and Russ Martin has not had a 122 wRC+ since 2014. But Justin Smoak had a 131 wRC+ in the first half of 2018 and a 133 in 2017, so 116 is not crazy optimistic. Similarly Teoscar had a 119 first half, so basing this analysis on the only second half does not benefit everyone. And adding Vladdy, Bo, a hungry Tulo, and potential free agents or trades into the mix can only increase the average.
The bottom line
This is only a thought experiment, and clearly it incorporates some element of optimism. But it illustrates that there is perhaps more hitting talent on the Jays than many realize. If the stars align, and the second half 2018 breakthroughs are real, the 2019 Jays could be an above-average (or better!) hitting team.