Are the Blue Jays maximizing their batting order’s potential?

Apr 10, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (25) during the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo (25) during the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

As an organization, the Blue Jays are generally forward-thinking, however, one area where they tend to a more traditional approach is in the way they manage their batting order. While this approach has certainly worked for the Jays most of the time, I think it’s possible that they aren’t necessarily maximizing their batting order’s potential.

For reference, when everyone is healthy, the Jays’ batting order would likely look something like Springer, Bichette, Guerrero, Hernandez, Gurriel, Chapman, Jansen, Espinal, and DH. The bottom of the order could be shifted around a bit, but I think it would generally resemble what I put down.

This order follows some pretty traditional concepts.

For example, while Springer may not have the elite speed that is often valued in leadoff hitters, he has traditionally been a leadoff hitter and has hit with success in that role, so that’s why he’s slotted in there. Bichette has the high contact ability that is generally seen in a two-hole hitter role, Guerrero Jr. sits in the three-hole which is where the team’s best hitter generally is, and Hernandez has the pop that is often valued in the cleanup role. I could keep going with this, but the point is that the Blue Jays’ batting order usually follows the traditional outline. I’m not criticizing this approach, it’s obviously worked for them, but I think it’s possible that their offense could be made even more effective.

With the rise of sabermetrics, multiple people have created batting order templates based on run expectancy. While there are multiple different models, they generally look like this.

Leadoff: Highest OBP that isn’t batting two-hole (speed is still valued but not prioritized).

Two-hole: The best hitter (usually based on metrics like OPS+ or WRC+).

Three-hole: Good hitter, but not the best, usually 3rd or 4th best hitter.

Cleanup: Power-hitter (looking at stats like slugging, homers, ISO).

Five-hole: Best hitter not hitting three.

Six-hole: Remaining hitter with the best OBP and speed combination.

Seven-hole, Eight-hole, Nine-hole: Remaining hitters in order of how good they are.

It should also be noted that this model doesn’t account for batter handedness, but batter’s splits could be taken into consideration based on the opponent’s starting pitcher.

The Blue Jays tend to take a pretty traditional approach to manage their batting order, but is it possible that this approach could be holding them back?

To see what the Blue Jays’ lineup would look like if they were to use this model, I used these criteria to make a batting order based on each player’s stats from 2021-22.

The batting order I came out with looked like this:

Leadoff: Bichette

Two-hole: Guerrero Jr.

Three-hole: Hernandez

Cleanup: Gurriel Jr.

Five-hole: Springer

Six-hole: Espinal

Seven-hole: Jansen

Eight-hole: Chapman

Nine-hole: DH

The most obvious changes here are the movement of Vladdy to the two-hole and Springer to the five-hole, with Bo now batting leadoff.

When looking at the formula, these changes make sense, since the two best hitters (Vladdy and Springer) are batting in the two and five-holes, which the models have as the most important spots. Bo’s ability to get on base combined with some solid speed makes him a solid candidate to bat leadoff, especially considering he’s done so in the past at times. Lourdes’ ability to get extra-base hits would play well in the cleanup role and Teoscar would provide a well above average bat in the three-hole. The question remains though, do I think this would be more effective than what the team currently does?

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In short, yes. In a vacuum, I have no issue with how the Jays currently construct they’re batting order. I understand wanting to maximize the at-bats of Springer by batting him leadoff, but as the run expectancy models emphasize, he could bring more to the offense when put in a situation where runners could be on-base.

Having Vladdy hitting second could also maximize his plate appearances as well as his opportunities to be driven home. I’m not saying the Blue Jays need to change up their batting order, but I don’t think it’s an idea that should be completely overlooked.