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Blue Jays: Bo Bichette thriving so far as a cleanup hitter

Jul 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11) hits a two run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 26, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette (11) hits a two run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since the Blue Jays moved Bo Bichette down to 4th in the lineup, things have gone extremely well for the 23 year old slugger. Three games is a pretty small sample size, but so far you couldn’t ask for much better results.

Bichette has spent the bulk of his short MLB career as the second hitter in the order, which is a spot that makes sense for someone with his skillset. However, the lineup needed a bit of a shakeup, and Charlie Montoyo decided to return move a few players around.

Rather than having a top four that went Marcus Semien-Bichette-Vladimir Guerrero Jr.-George Springer, Montoyo shuffled the deck and returned Springer to his familiar leadoff spot, and moved Vlad Jr. up to second. From there he dropped Semien from first to third, and Bichette from second to fourth, with Teoscar Hernandez protecting the cleanup hitter in both scenarios.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t overly fond of the configuration when I first saw it, and dropping Bichette down to fourth was one of the main reasons why. So far he’s made a fool out of my criticisms, as he’s gone a cool 6-12 since the move, including two home runs and six RBI. Unfortunately his contribution hasn’t translated into the wins the Blue Jays so badly need right now, but you can’t ask for much else from him at the moment.

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In my head I was thinking about how Bichette has the right combination of skills in hitting for average, power, and speed to be the number two hitter, and I love the idea of watching Vlad Jr. drive him in for the next decade. If I’m being honest, I still think that will be the long-term way this lineup will be drawn up, but I don’t blame Montoyo for trying something different right now. That said, I didn’t really consider how well Bichette could thrive as a cleanup hitter either, and he’s quickly showing he has the skills for that job too.

One of the criticisms about his game right now is that he’s not terribly selective when he’s in the batter’s box. He’s definitely an aggressive hitter, and that can work both for and against him at times. On the plus side, he has excellent bat to ball skills, and he fouls off a lot of those pitches that he likely shouldn’t be swinging at. That aggressive approach arguably works better having him hit after guys like Vlad Jr. and Semien, especially if there are runners on base. In fact, Bichette is hitting better than .400 with runners in scoring position since last season.

When Bichette can’t do what he wants with his wildly aggressive swings that come early in the count, he’s done a good job of changing his approach at the plate with two strikes. You can see a stark difference between the two approaches, and that’s something that can work well as a cleanup hitter as well. With his speed he’s not the type that will hit into a lot of double plays, and he’s still well protected by Hernandez in the order, so they’re not going to pitch around him.

Too often this season the opposing pitchers were working around Bichette in a way, knowing that his aggressive approach might get them a cheap out before Vlad Jr. came to the plate. In this configuration, something like a ground ball to the right side, or a fly ball to the outfield could work well for RBI opportunities when Springer/Vlad/Semien can get on ahead of him.

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The reality is, the Blue Jays have the luxury that you could probably line up their top five hitters in any way you like and it would still work. As for Bichette, hitting cleanup isn’t something that he’s done much of at all throughout his life, but so far it suits him just fine. It might be a temporary thing to give the offence a bit of a spark, and for the 2021 All-Star, it’s been a very good thing. For now, I say don’t fix what isn’t broken, at least in Bichette’s case anyway.

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