JAYS FROM THE COUCH BRINGS YOU THE PLAYER HIGHLIGHTS AND LOWLIGHTS FROM THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS’ 2016 SEASON. THIS TIME: JOSH DONALDSON
Entering the 2016 season, Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson was coming off a season that saw him become an All Star for the second time, win the AL MVP, take home the AL Hank Aaron Award, a Silver Slugger Award, lead the American League in RBI’s and runs scored, and help lead the Blue Jays to their first postseason since 1993.
It was one of the best single seasons by a Blue Jays player in their franchise history and one that put him on the map as one of the league’s most elite players. Donaldson is in the prime of his career, and while expectations for the Blue Jays to succeed overall are high, the expectations for Donaldson to lead the Blue Jays are just as high.
This past season from April to August, Donaldson looked like the player he was the year before. Batting .296/.407/579, walking 14.8% of the time, while striking out only 16.2% of the time, he was well on pace for another 40 home run and 100 RBI season, and on pace for another potential MVP award.
He was simply amazing, and although I see the love Jays fans give Donaldson, he still probably doesn’t get enough credit for how great he is. More importantly, the Blue Jays were leading/were in the hunt in the very tough AL East division with Donaldson being their main anchor on both offence and defence.
Once the calendar turned over to September, Donaldson struggled at the plate for a prolonged stretch like we had never seen before, hitting .222/.390/.389, hitting only 3 home runs and driving in only 7 runs in 118 plate appearances. Even though Donaldson was still working a ton of walks, he wasn’t getting the big clutch hit he usually did. With an ISO of .167 during that period of time, and striking out 21.2% of his at bats which were very uncharacteristic of his regular style of play, but his plate discipline during that stretch wasn’t far off of his season averages.
A lot of Donaldson’s balls in play during that stretch were just finding the gloves of fielders instead of grass. His BABIP during that rough stretch was .266, where league average this season was .300. Even though his strikeouts raised 5% due to a slight drop off in plate discipline, Donaldson’s stretch was especially bad for him simply out of bad luck.
That bad stretch would immediately end the second the post season rolled around. In the nine postseason games Donaldson became unstoppable, hitting balls left and right, finding gaps through every fielder, and posting an amazing slash line of .417/.462/.667. In game three of the ALDS, he provided an amazing dash around third to home for one of the year’s most unforgettable plays. Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor would throw wide of first baseman Mitch Moreland, Donaldson would turn around third and dive home to walk off and sweep the series in extra innings.
One of the more memorable Donaldson games from this season, came on August 28th against the Minnesota Twins. In that game he went 3/4 all of his hits leaving the park for home runs. Driving in four runs that game, he would lead the Blue Jays to a 9-6 win through a series that saw some shaky starting pitching.
Unfortunately the lowlight to Donaldson’s season was how his regular season ended. Yes, he did finish fourth in MVP voting which is great, but he probably would have been more in the conversation of winning if he had finished the season stronger. The roughest stretch came between September 4th-11th, during that seven game stretch he went hitless, reaching base only about 25% of his at bats. There’s no doubt that he was playing through a hip injury, but in this case the injury was just too difficult to play through.
The outlook for 2017 is the same as last season, Donaldson is the anchor of the Blue Jays right now, their greatest assets, and an exciting player to build a team around. After going to back to back ALCS, the expectations for the Blue Jays are high again. While we are just getting into the thick of the offseason, it’s nice having the insurance of Donaldson back with the team next season.
*FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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