Bo Bichette has still been one of the best players for the Blue Jays in 2022, but he’s not quite as good as he was last year. What’s been the biggest difference?
After watching nearly every game this season, I felt like I knew the answer to this question without looking, and I was mostly right. When you compare his numbers over the first half of this year to the 2021 campaign, the biggest change is that young Bo swinging and missing a lot more, and striking out at a much higher clip than we’re used to.
Don’t get me wrong, anyone that has watched the 24 year old throughout the early stages of his career understands that he’s a free-swinger and an aggressive hitter in general. That’s actually been a strength of his for the most part, but it seems that the league has adjusted to the Florida native. At 45-39 the Blue Jays are just past the halfway point of the season, so it’s a pretty decent time to assess how things have gone for the team, and individually.
To start things off in a very simple way, let’s look at Bichette’s 89 strikeouts over the first 83 games he’s played. If he continues at that rate he’ll finish somewhere between 175-180 strikeouts for the year, which is way up from the 137 times he fanned in 2021 over 159 games. His power numbers aren’t drastically different, as he has 20 doubles and 13 home runs so far after posting 30 doubles and 29 HR in ’21, but his on-base percentage has dropped from .343 last year down to .301 as of this writing, which is a significant improvement from where that number sat earlier in the year.
While Bichette’s production has picked up as the season has gone on, his strikeout percentage hasn’t changed all that much. Have a look at his month to month stats so far:
If we turn our attention to Statcast, we can see a few differences in Bichette’s swing and miss performance as well. A lot of the numbers aren’t that far off, and Bichette rates well as usual according to metrics like Exit Velocity, Hard Hit %, and more.
What’s a bit worrisome is that he’s dropped a fair bit in some important categories. For example, he went from the 69th percentile in Whiff % down to 46th this year. It’s likely that his Chase Rate is always going to be one of the lowest in the game, but it’s not great to see his K% go from the 61st percentile to the 33rd. That’s especially the case when he’s been hitting in front of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the majority of the season.
To be fair, Bichette’s not the only Blue Jay hitter that’s not performing up to their usual standards. The 2021 All-Star shortstop and others like Vlad Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, and more set a pretty high bar for themselves last year, but they haven’t been able to reach the same level over the course of the first half in 2022. To a mostly untrained eye like mine, the problem has been pretty easy to spot to me. This team just isn’t hitting the same quality of pitches as they were last year, and in Bichette’s case, he’s missing more of them too.
I’m not sure that I would suggest any drastic changes to Bichette’s approach, and I do see some improvement more recently compared to the way he started the year. That said, we know what he can do when he’s swinging at quality pitches, and it would be nice to see a little more of that in the second half. If he can find a way to make contact with a little more regularity, don’t be surprised if he’s one of the biggest reasons that the Blue Jays offence finally takes off. For what it’s worth, I have a lot of faith that he’ll do just that.