Jays From the Couch brings you the 2016 Toronto Blue Jays Highlights & Lowlights. This time, Edwin Encarnacion
After a rather dramatic period of contract negotiations that seemed to drag on for far too long, Edwin Encarnacion has signed elsewhere. He agreed to a 3 yr deal, with an option for a 4th to take his powerful bat to Cleveland. People will likely need repeated reminders that the full value of the deal is what Toronto offered him previously. The offer came before Edwin declined and the club decided not to wait around.
Much will be written about this deal and it might grow as tiresome as the constant comments from Encarnacion’s agent, Paul Kinzer. But, that is not the purpose of this post. No, this is to look back at the 2016 season that was for Edwin. He had a very good walk year, but if you dig a little deeper, not everything is all peaches and cream.
|162 Game Avg.||162||665||89||154||33||33||101||71||108||.266||.352||.498||.850||124|
When looking back on Edwin’s 2016 season, you have to start with the number of times he took his parrot for a walk. The 33 yr old hit 42 home runs and led the league with 127 RBI. It was quite the performance for a guy who people wondered when he would start to decline. When the season started, there were some folks who were skeptical as to whether he could continue mashing the ball as he’d done for the previous few seasons.
He responded by tallying his highest HR total since 2012 and climbing all the way to 3rd place on the club’s All Time HR list. Think about it, this season, he passed Joe Carter, George Bell and Vernon Wells on this list. It’s not bad for a guy who many were booing out of Toronto just a few seasons ago. Edwin has hit his way into the fabric of Toronto baseball lore. And, just for effect, we could add that, if he had signed in Toronto for the 4yrs offered, he would have had a chance- a legit one- to take over to spot, currently occupied by Carlos Delgado. Think. About. That.
Of course, it wasn’t all about the HR for Edwin. He put up rather productive numbers in an attempt to dispel any notions of his decline. His wRC+ mark of 134, ISO mark of .266, WPA of 1.77 all point to a guy who presented major value to his club. In fact, Fangraphs puts that value at $30.8M, which presents a discount when you consider his $10M salary in 2016.
Of course, when talking about the highlights of the 2016 season, it might be challenging to take just one. After all, Edwin put up numbers that would put him in the MVP conversation for much of the season. He would end up finishing 14th in the voting. But, perhaps, the single moment that will forever stand out to Blue Jays fans is the dramatic 11th inning HR to walk off the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card game:
As much as it feels icky to harp on the lowlights of the 2016 season fro Encarnacion, there are some things worth mentioning. Let’s take, for example, his Clutch rating. The above home run did happen. It was clutch. It was nails. But, it was not something that we saw a lot of in 2016. Fangraphs offers a Clutch rating as a way to indicate how a player performed compared to normal context situations. If a player has a rating of 0, they are considered “neutral”. If they have a positive rating (2 being “Excellent”), we would say they were Clutch that season. A negative value (-2 being “Awful”) would indicate they ‘choked’ in clutch situations. Well, Edwin’s 2016 value was -1.84. In fact, for his career, he has only had 2 seasons with positive values: 2006 (0.86) and 2010 (0.70).
Of course, these “Clutch” situations are not what a guy gets paid for over a full season. He gets paid to produce over 162 games. Aside from the big stats, though, Edwin produced some worrisome numbers over 2016. For example, his strikeout rate was 19.7%, the highest since becoming a Blue Jay, and practically tying his career high mark. This is trending in the wrong direction for the slugger. His K’s have increased in each of the last few seasons: 2014- 82, 2015- 98, 2016- 138.
Oh, and that wRC+ value we talked about…it has actually decreased as well. In the previous 2 seasons, he was 151, 150 respectively. He took a dip in 2016: 134. His wOBA has decreased in each of the last 3 seasons as well. His flyball rate has gone down a tick, while his ground ball rate has gone up by the same. IF we want to dig even further, we see less and less contact in the zone each year, as well as less contact in general.
2017 will see Edwin wear a different uniform and that might be difficult for a lot of people to get used to. He’ll be manning first base for Cleveland for the next few years. What that looks like remains to be seen. Perhaps, the one of the bigger reasons he stayed on the market so long is what happens to power hitters after they reach a certain age. There is a whole lot of uncertainty. Can he continue to produce through his age 36 or 37 season? Will he be ‘worth’ the money Cleveland is shelling out? The Blue Jays certainly thought he might be.
It would not be surprising to see Edwin repeat the big, power numbers in 2017. Though, he will be playing more games outside of the AL East than in the past. His HR totals very well could take a bit of a dip. But, 30 HR is certainly nothing to sneeze at. For Cleveland, they replaced Mike Napoli with one of the premier hitters in baseball. It is easy to see this as a win for them. After all, it’s just money. And, if the club can repeat its 2016 success, Edwin very well could find himself in the postseason again over the next couple of years.
As fans of the Blue Jays, we will watch with bitter sweet tears as he mashes his way into the books of another organization. While we may not enjoy him playing for another team, we certainly will be rooting for him along the way. Considering all of the strife he faced to start his tenure in Toronto, he has come a long way.
*Featured Image Credit: James G UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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