While teams often experiment during Spring Training, the Blue Jays have been trying a seldom used defensive strategy: A four man outfield.
When the Blue Jays let go of John Gibbons and replaced him with Charlie Montoyo in the manager’s seat, many of us assumed that would likely mean a more innovative approach to the game, especially with Montoyo coming over from the Tampa Bay Rays.
I’m all for using advanced data in today’s game, even if I’m a bit of a traditional about the game I love. I’ve had to accept a few changes to the game in recent years, but what I’ve been seeing at times from the Blue Jays during Grapefruit League is both interesting, and a bit of a head-scratcher. They’ve been toying with a four man outfield, and I can’t help but wonder if they’ll still try this when the regular season gets underway. According to a recent article from mlb.com’s Gregor Chisholm, it sounds like Montoyo intends to carry it over, at least for now.
We saw it last week when the Blue Jays played against the Philadelphia Philles and the freshly minted Bryce Harper strolled to the plate. Harper is a strong pull hitter from the left side, and the Blue Jays tried the strategy against him, much to his surprise, and he described the experience as “intense”.
More from Jays Journal
- Matt Chapman has been exactly what the Blue Jays needed
- Blue Jays: The goalposts are moving in the right direction
- Single-A Dunedin Blue Jays advance to the Championship Series
- Blue Jays: Comparisons for Alek Manoah’s Second Season
- Blue Jays: Adam Cimber, the unlikely decision King
The Blue Jays used the same strategy when they met Harper and the Phillies nearly a week later, and yesterday they also lined up with four outfielders against Aaron Judge and the Yankees. It’s probably not a card they’ll play all the time, but against elite pull hitters like Harper and Judge, I’m not opposed to trying something that may get in their heads a little.
You may or may not remember that the Blue Jays saw the Twins utilize the same strategy last year while Justin Smoak was batting, and Chisholm’s article indicates that Houston, Cleveland, and Arizona all experimented with the concept last year too, so it’s not entirely new. That doesn’t mean it’s not strange to see, as it’s usually the type of thing you’ll see in beer league slow pitch, not professional baseball.
That said, teams aren’t afraid to try unconventional strategies these days, and the more data that gets used and shared around baseball, the more it seems that many of the standard practices of the past may have been a little flawed. I know some folks will be against this sort of thing, as there are people who don’t like the concept of a shift, let alone a more extreme pull-strategy like this, but the game continues to evolve whether some of us “old school” fans like it or not.
It should be interesting to see what else Montoyo decides to try this year, whether it’s the concept of an “Opener” to begin games instead of a traditional starter, or seeing an unconventional guy like Randal Grichuk at or near the top of the order. Whatever it is, when you combine the group of talented youngsters on their way with a more creative approach, it should be some fun baseball to watch.