Blue Jays: Has Grichuk changed his batting approach and is it working?

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 22: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats in the second inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on August 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 22: Randal Grichuk #15 of the Toronto Blue Jays bats in the second inning during MLB game action against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on August 22, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /
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Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk has always seemed to struggle with taking his walks and limiting strikeouts, it appears early this season that both have improved.

It is far too early into a season to draw any major conclusions on anything, especially plate discipline numbers, but something has jumped off the page for me over the first few weeks of Randal Grichuk‘s season.

It appears as if he is walking more, striking out less, whiffing less, chasing pitches out of the zone less, than he has in his entire career. But at what cost has Grichuk’s newer passive approach impacted his batted ball profile?

Grichuk has long been known for a guy who swings at a lot of pitches, striking out far too often, take very few walks, all while having extremely high exit velocities when he finally connects with one. It seems as if the Blue Jays have had several of these types of outfielders lately and man can it get frustrating watching the strikeouts pile up with men on base.

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But as long as Grichuk played above-average defense and ran into the occasional home run, it seemed ‘OK’ that he had a lot of swing and miss to his aggressive profile. To me, it appears that he has tried to get away from his free-swinging approach and take on a more strategic and consistent one.

Lets put some numbers down to show Grichuk’s career rates vs his current rates in 2020 and vs MLB averages over that time (got to give these numbers some context of course). Click here to see the numbers.

While I’ll say again, it is still incredibly early to draw any conclusions from this. It is still encouraging that he has brought his walk rate up to at least league average, that he is whiffing far less and chasing a lot less. Keep in mind, these are by far his best rates of any time in his career. He is still striking out more than the league average, but he appears to be heading in the right direction.

So, why does it seem that he is not producing this year?

Well, it could be that his batted ball profile has taken a beating. He has not been hitting the ball with the authority that we have come to know. Grichuk has been in the top 4% of the league in Barrel Rate (Statcast’s version of the best type of contact) three times since 2015 and over his career has barreled the ball 12.3% when he puts a ball in play.

This year he has yet to have a single-barreled ball over 23 batted ball events. Thus far he has his lowest average exit velocity and lowest average launch angle in the Statcast Era. It is not the greatest recipe for success when you are hitting the ball softer and lower in today’s game. He has the lowest xWOBAcon (expected weighted on-base average on contact) of his career.

This is basically saying that when the ball is put in play, his contact profile is assuming the worst results of his career. This has lead to his lowest OPS and SLG. So is it worth it to be extra patient at the plate if the results have produced less?

I don’t want to get ahead of myself here though. I may have looked far too much into this and this all could just be a blip on the radar of a weird season. Maybe he hasn’t got up to speed yet with the short spring training 2.0. Or it could be because he was injured briefly. I hope for our sake as Blue Jays fans and bloggers, that his power comes back soon. With him hitting in the bottom third of the line up most days, it would be nice to have that pop at the bottom of the line up to keep the line moving.

Next. Blue Jays officially win the Marcus Stroman trade. dark

The plate discipline numbers are very encouraging and I hope it is a sign of things to come. If he can mix his normal amount of power with a walk rate in line with the rest of the league. He could be the leader in the outfield that is sorely needed on this team.

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