JAYS FROM THE COUCH TAKES A LOOK AT HOW CLUTCH SOME OF THE BLUE JAYS HITTERS ARE WHEN THEY WALK UP TO THE PLATE WITH MEN ON BASE.
Everyone knows the Blue Jays offence is a force to be reckoned with. With home run hitters slotted in almost the entire lineup, the Blue Jays have the ability to score runs often and quickly. Since the beginning of baseball, statisticians have counted runs batted in or RBI’s as a way of measuring how productive someone’s bat is in a lineup. The new wave of stats is helping management build teams more efficiently, and one in particular is making RBI less valuable than some may think when judging players up against each other.
This last week’s Angels series is a great indication of this. While some batters are already up around 100RBI’s at this point in the season, Angels CF Mike Trout only has 82 which ranks him 22nd in the MLB. He’s hitting over .300, has a wRC+ of 166, without missing basically anytime on the DL, but hasn’t driven in as many runs as players with similar numbers around the league. The batter below him, Albert Pujols has 101RBI’s, almost 20 runs batted in more than Trout! When Trout comes up to the plate, he most likely has the bottom of the Angels lineup or lack thereof and has fewer men on base than Pujols, who most likely walks up to the plate after Trout has worked another walk, or hit a double.
With The Blue Jays, the walks and hits come seamlessly throughout the order, allowing almost every hitter the opportunity to drive in runs, not just the big bats in the middle of the order. While stats like wOBA, and wRC+ give us a good idea of the raw value of a players bat, stats like OBI, and OBI% give us an idea of how clutch a batter is when runners are on base. OBI is “Others Batted In” which calculates the amount of RBI’s minus the actual batter himself. For example, on plays like solo home runs, since there are no runners on base there is no OBI recorded.
The top two players in the league in PA’s are Houston Astros George Springer, with 600PA, and Boston Red Sox Mookie Betts with 591. Springer has 238 plate appearances with runners on base, while Betts has 9 fewer with 229, but Betts makes more of his opportunities, batting in 20.83% of OBI’s, while Springer is at 14.73%.
The Blue Jays are an interesting OBI experiment this year, as their offence has seen it’s fair share of peaks and valleys this season. Last season, there was no doubt the Jays offence was the best at driving in runs with 852 RBI, with the Giants in second 156 fewer than the Blue Jays. This season, the Blue Jays are ranked 5th in the MLB in RBI and the month of August didn’t help their cause. In August the Blue Jays slashed .254/.320/.454, with wRC+ of 106, and a K% of 24.1% which ranked them third in the MLB for the month.
With the Blue Jays having a higher strikeout tendency this year, you can see from the chart below that some batters are taking their opportunities to get clutch hits with men on base this season.
|Name||PA||PA w/Runners On||OBI||RBI||OBI%|
|Melvin Upton Jr.||103||49||9||12||12.500%|
Veteran batters like Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista all ranking over 16% with runners on base as expected, there are some outliers in the graph. Devon Travis who has typically served as a leadoff hitter, might not get the same amount of RBI opportunities as someone like Justin Smoak, who is usually inserted into the middle of the rotation. Both have almost identical PA, PA’s with runners on base, and RBI’s, but Travis is taking advantage of those run scoring opportunities as he’s hitting a little more than 8% more batters in than Smoak.
The other outlier to me was Troy Tulowitzki, who is almost always slotted into the 5-6 spot, and more people would like to see him move up in the order ahead of Russell Martin. As you can see from the chart, Tulowitzki has had almost identical the amount of PA’s as Martin, and way more with runners on base, but hasn’t performed nearly as well as some other batters. This might have been the slow start Tulowitzki had to the season, but it’s hard not to forget about the rough start Martin had as well.
RBI is a fun counting stats for fans, but the number alone can play favorites to players given the opportunity to drive in runs at the right moments. OBI gives us a better understanding of how each position in the lineup performs best no matter which team you play on. For all the talk about the Blue Jays lineup struggling to score runs in some stretches, OBI gives us a better understanding of just how balanced this 2016 Blue Jays lineup really is in clutch situations.
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