Because the Blue Jays lineup is so deep and talented, there are several ways that Charlie Montoyo can address the streakiness of his hitters.
That’s been the case for several Blue Jays so far in 2021, as the swing between hot and cold has been a real thing for most of the lineup. Some hitters are more known for that sorta thing than others, but it’s been a near universal trend throughout Montoyo’s lineup card this year.
The good news is that there are a few solutions as long as the bulk of the offence is healthy, as they are now. They’re missing a 3x All-Star in George Springer and a budding young catcher in Alejandro Kirk, but otherwise their position players have been able to stay healthy for the most part, especially compared to the pitching staff.
Relatively good health hasn’t helped in the consistency department for everyone, and that’s once again the case for Randal Grichuk, who might be the poster child for streaky hitting. If you take a look at his game log on the year, he’s probably been a more consistent contributor in 2021 than at any point in his career. He has gone through stretches where he’s been red-hot, but he hasn’t bottomed out much this year at all until recently. He entered last night’s game just 1-17 over his last five games, and followed that up with another 0-3 on Saturday before finally picking up a hit in his last trip to the plate.
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Montoyo already has a few options for his lineup in order to remedy a cold streak like this. Option one is to stick with what’s worked for most of the season, as he’s often done this year in belief that his talented hitters will turn things around, and Grichuk did hit the ball hard to finish the game. That’s been a fair enough assumption so far, and it’s worked out for the most part. However, there are less drastic decisions that can be made rather than benching someone like Grichuk when he’s struggling a bit.
The 29 year old has mostly hit in the 5th spot in the order lately, at least since the return of Teoscar Hernandez from the Covid-19 list. It’s been a good spot for him, and he’s even been among league leaders in RBI through the first quarter of the season, so you don’t want to rush to fix what hasn’t been broken. That said, now Montoyo can move Grichuk down a spot or two in the order, and it’s not even much of a “punishment”, or a lesser opportunity for the slugging outfielder.
For example, you could draw up a batting lineup that looks something like this, turning to a hotter hand in more recent games, and dropping Grichuk a bit without taking him out of the action.
1- Marcus Semien (2B)
2- Bo Bichette (SS)
3- Vlad Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
5- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
6- Cavan Biggio (3B)
7- Randal Grichuk (CF)
8- Rowdy Tellez (DH)
9- Danny Jansen (C)
In this example Grichuk drops from 5th to 7th, which would make sense with the way that Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Cavan Biggio‘s bats have started to come around more recently. Gurriel Jr. has struggled to open to the year, but he’s proven himself as a dangerous hitter over the last few seasons, and he’s five for his last 12 after picking up two more hits last night. Biggio’s 2021 story has been pretty similar, but he seems to be getting more confident in the batter’s box lately too, picking up two hits on Thursday night against Atlanta, and two more last night against the Phillies.
The whole concept of a flexible bottom half of the order will work even better once George Springer can make a healthy return to the Blue Jays. While I suspect Montoyo will play with the batting order on the lower half, my guess is that Springer will be returned to his customary spot at the top, and will be followed by Bichette, Vlad Jr., and Hernandez. Marcus Semien has been hitting very well of late, and the 3rd place finisher in the 2019 AL MVP race makes the lineup even longer if he’s hitting 5th or 6th.
Getting back to Grichuk as the example, I’m sure he’d prefer to hit higher in the lineup rather than getting dropped down, especially when he’s been backing Vlad Jr. and Hernandez. That said, if he’s hitting 7th immediately following Semien and Gurriel Jr., that’s not exactly a massive downgrade. Grichuk would still see plenty of RBI opportunities regardless of where he’s hitting, which is what makes this lineup so dangerous.
The more I think about it, the more I envy what Charlie Montoyo gets to do on the offensive side of the ball. With so many weapons at his disposal, I’m sure hitting streaks will determine the batting order throughout the year as much as anything other than health.