Blue Jays’ historic struggles out of the cleanup spot need to be talked about more

Guess the Blue Jays cleanup hitters aren’t really “cleaning things up” so far in 2024
Colorado Rockies v Toronto Blue Jays
Colorado Rockies v Toronto Blue Jays / Cole Burston/GettyImages

The offensive struggles of the Toronto Blue Jays have been much talked about during the 2024 season. But there may be one aspect of it that not many have realized that could actually be a major source of the problem. That aspect is the fact that their cleanup spot had been highly underproducing to date.

Traditionally, the cleanup spot in the batting order is reserved for a hitter that has the best ability to drive in runs. So in essence, it should realistically be the most productive spot in the lineup. But in the case for the Blue Jays, it has been anything but productive so far this year.

Collectively, the Jays’ cleanup hitters had combined for just a .229 batting average and .655 OPS, along with just 55 total bases and 14 RBI prior to Thursday’s game. More significantly, up until Bo Bichette’s big blast off Nick Nastrini of the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night, the four-hole for the Jays had produced zero home runs on the year. That’s right, you read that correctly, they had zero dingers over their first 47 games played at the time. That actually broke their team record of 46 straight games without a home run from their cleanup hitter set back in 1989. But at least as a consolation, they didn’t manage to break the MLB record of 60 games going homerless from the four-hole to start a season, set by the Houston Astros in 1997.

With both Bichette and Justin Turner occupying the spot for the bulk of the 2024 season despite suffering power outages, that likely explained why that unbelievable stat was painfully registered by the Jays. With the hot-hitting of players such as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Danny Jansen in recent times, it is actually quite surprising that they have been already given a chance in that slot.

It appears as though gone are the days when it was an automatic no-brainer to put the likes of Edwin Encarnacíon, Vernon Wells, Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter in the cleanup spot. As a result, the Jays should really consider who the best possible fit is for their fourth spot in the lineup to maximize their offensive potential going forward. By not putting the best run producer in the role, not only is the team sacrificing scoring opportunities, but ultimately it could lead to more losses as a result.

In terms of potential candidates, Bichette seems to be starting to turn the corner after his big night on Wednesday, so he could be given a run in the slot for now. But if it doesn’t work out, a good bet that going with one of the current hot hands in Guerrero or Jansen in the spot may be the most wise move the Jays could make to really fortify the offense. At least on the good side, the team’s offense has slowly woken up the past couple of games and could be on its way to rectifying the problem itself. Nevertheless, once the cleanup spot gets going, the Jays’ offense likely will get an even bigger boost that could become a true difference maker for the club going forward.