Cavan Biggio is trying to be more aggressive at the plate, but the results so far have been underwhelming.
Cavan Biggio picked up on something over his first 159 games in the Major Leagues. Knowing he was patient, perhaps too patient, opposing pitchers would keep throwing him strikes leading off his at-bats. So Biggio decided to change that in 2021 by swinging at the first pitch more often. So far this season, it hasn’t paid off.
Biggio has put the first pitch in play five times through his first six games. He’s 0-5 in those at-bats. Last season, in 59 games, he made contact with the first pitch just 21 times. Biggio, perhaps the game’s most patient hitter the first two years of his career has become something that would’ve once seemed unfathomable: too aggressive.
No player swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone than Biggio did in 2020. He ranks 115th in that category this season as his swing rate has more than doubled. Only Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, and Jose Ramirez saw more pitches than he did last season; he’s 92nd this season. He averaged 4.2 pitches per plate appearance in 2020 but only 3.6 so far this year. He’s gone from 12th in walk rate to 114th.
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It’s not as if he’s simply getting unlucky, either. The five balls he’s put into play on the first pitch have an average exit velocity of 93 mph. The hardest-hit one came on Wednesday, in the Blue Jays 2-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Biggio came up with the bases loaded and the Blue Jays trailing by two runs in the fifth inning but grounded into a double play to end the potential rally. His 100 mph groundball was right at Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa playing the shift up the middle.
The season is barely a week old, and Biggio still has a small sample size, but the trend in his numbers should be concerning for the Blue Jays. His on-base percentage through six games is .135 points lower than it was last season. With him batting second in the Blue Jays lineup, power hitters like Teoscar Hernandez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are coming to the plate with nobody on increasingly more often.
Of Hernandez’s 24 plate appearances this season, 18 have come with the bases empty. He came up with nobody on just 54 percent last season; that’s up to 75 percent this year. Guerrero has had nobody on in 17 of his 24 plate appearances. Together they’ve combined for only three RBI, and two of those came on solo home runs. Guerrero can hit 113-mph doubles, as he did on Wednesday, but if nobody is on ahead of him, it won’t help the Blue Jays lineup.
The entire Blue Jays lineup will be happy to get out of Texas and to their home-away-from-home in Dunedin for their opener on Thursday against the Angels. The Blue Jays, 3-3 to begin the year after going 1-2 against the Rangers, rank 21st in the league with a batting average of .214. They’re 23rd in on-base percentage. The top-four hitters in the lineup—Marcus Semien, Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Hernandez—are hitting a collective .211.
“The whole lineup hasn’t been consistent,” manager Charlie Montoyo said after Wednesday’s loss. “I always talk about hitting is contagious. We haven’t had the whole lineup hot at the same time. It’s one guy here and one guy there. I know, and I believe, that we’re going to get hot. And that’s going to be contagious. It’s going to get to everybody.”
The Blue Jays got a piece of bad news on Wednesday. George Springer, expected to bat leadoff and serve as the catalyst for the rest of the lineup, began experiencing tightness in his quad; he’s already missed the first week with an oblique strain. There is no timetable for his return.
Until Springer makes his long-awaited Blue Jays debut, it’s vital that Biggio pick up some of that missing production. That means returning to the hitter he once was and not trying to be somebody he’s not.