Randal Grichuk is just two big flies away from reaching the 30 home run mark for the first time in his career, but he’s also pressing for a less desirable feat.
When the Blue Jays signed Randal Grichuk to a five year extension before the 2019 season began, I’ll admit that I thought it was a brilliant move on the part of the front office. Locking him up for just over 10 million AAV (annual average value) seemed like a more than reasonable deal, especially after the way he performed after the all-star break last year, seemingly finally putting things together and becoming the player many have always thought he would.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to carry that second half momentum into this season, and has struggled at times throughout the 2019 campaign. That said, he’s already set a career high in home runs, and with 12 games to go and 28 already on the board, there’s a good chance that Grichuk will reach 30 home runs in a season for the first time in his career.
Unfortunately not all of the numbers are great for Grichuk this season, and in particular he’s struggled when it comes to putting the ball in play. In fact, his 153 strikeouts put him just outside the top five highest totals in franchise history, trailing only Jose Bautista (170 in 2017), Teoscar Hernandez (163 in 2018), Jose Canseco (159 in 1998), and Kelly Johnson (159 in 2012). If Grichuk ends up starting the majority of the last dozen games, there’s a chance he could be at the top of the leaderboard when all is said and done.
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There’s no doubt that baseball is evolving, and players are more willing to strike out these days than they have been in the past. That’s clear enough just by the numbers for the Blue Jays, as the last two seasons have the highest individual strikeouts on their franchise list. It’s a trend that’s happening across the game though, and while it’s a little more acceptable, it’s still not the type of distinction that someone like Grichuk wants to have on his resume.
On the plus side, he has been taking the ball to right field with more frequency recently, perhaps in an effort to make more consistent contact. He’s capable of hitting the ball with authority to the opposite field as well, as we saw on Sunday evening, so it’s likely a good strategy in order to improve his numbers in the strikeout department.
The Blue Jays have a few players that fit a similar power/strikeout profile, and they’ll have to decide how to balance the lineup as they continue the current rebuild. For example, Rowdy Tellez has whiffed 108 times in 369 plate appearances (29.3%), which is actually worse than Grichuk’s 153 in 581 (26.3%), and Teoscar Hernandez (33.4%, 142 in 425 PAs), Brandon Drury (25.1%, 105 in 418 PAs), Derek Fisher (37.5%, 33 in 88 PAs as a Blue Jay), and even Cavan Biggio (28.5%, 107 in 375 PAs) have troubling numbers in that department as well.
Grichuk is far from alone when it comes to swinging and missing, but if he struggles to make contact over the last couple of weeks, he could stand alone at the top of the all-time franchise leaderboard for strikeouts in a single season. He’s hitting .333 over the last week though, so hopefully he can avoid adding his name to the record books, at least in that category.