Jays From the Couch takes a look at the role & apparent vitriol over Toronto Blue Jays’ infielder, Ryan Goins
The Toronto Blue Jays are having themselves a bit of a bad season, eh? Any time that happens, the floodgates open up and certain players become lightning rods for criticism. Lately, Ryan Goins seems to be getting his share of attention, rightly or wrongly. While some like to hate on him for his light hitting ability, others like to inflate his defensive value, others still like to extol his “clutch”ness. What follows is an examination of the player that Goins is and an attempt to offer up (hopefully) the final word on him.
Defense First (?)
Those who are incredible Goins fans will point to his defense as the reason why Toronto, or any other franchise needs him. Now, we won’t be unfair to Goins and point out any of his outfield experience. A player willing to play out of position to help his team (or even hurt himself to pitch for them) can be given a free pass on his defensive numbers in the unfamiliar territories.
But, is his defense as good as everyone says? Let’s head to Fangraphs. In 2017, Goins has put up -5 DRS (1 at 2B, -2 at 3B and -4 at SS). It should be noted that there is a lot of noise about Troy Tulowitzki and his declining fielding, but he’s put up 2 DRS this season and 10 last. So, Goins has not been as effective as an aging Tulo.
Goins’ UZR/150 marks of -2 at second base, -16.3 at shortstop and -37.1 at third base might surprise a lot of people. Since Goins is mostly a middle infielder, we should really just stick to his middle infield numbers, again, to be fair to him. Let’s dig deeper, shall we? Fangraphs provides us with a breakdown of the type of plays for each fielder and their success rate. Here are the 2017 results for Goins:
Routine: SS 97.7%/ 2B 95.9%
Likely: SS 100%/ 2B 100%
Even: SS 25%/ 2B 50%
Unlikely: SS 0%/ 2B 33.3%
Remote: SS 7.7%/ 2B 0%
Impossible: SS 0%/ 2B %
By this count, Goins is making the plays he should make and may not be as great as we think he is on those more difficult plays. The highlight reel defense that many claim he possesses would occur on those “unlikely”, “remote” and “impossible” plays, but he is not showing the kind of success that would indicate he’s a defensive wizard. There is no question he is capable at the middle infield positions, but his fWAR is made up a -2.8 Def mark. This is supposed to be his calling card; it is supposed to make up for a minimal bat.
Offense Next to Last (?)
Goins relies on his defensive value because there really isn’t much offense to speak of. His career slash line of .221/.270/.337 show that, as does his career wRC+ mark of 60. While his 2017 mark of 58 is much better than his 38 last year, it is still abysmal. To his credit, his walk rate is up this year and his whiff rate is down. But, that doesn’t lead to increased production. He is hitting more balls to the opposite field at increased medium strength, which has led his wOBA to increase this year to .263, but let’s not get carried away thinking his bat is reaching new heights. He’s not hitting well enough to even see his BABIP at league average level: .247 this season. His offensive value is listed at -14.3.
Of course, this year, the story is that Goins is a beast with runners in scoring position. Didn’t he go and feed that narrative on Saturday night, driving in the extra inning run to beta the Astros? To be fair to the player, there may be something to this, since Fangraphs lists his Clutch rating (how much better or worse a player is over context neutral situations) at 0.53. As well, if we look at his splits, he is hitting .328 with runners in scoring position for a wRC+ mark of 151. It is interesting to note that these values are also increased for his career splits. It seems that Goins has always done better with runners in scoring position. For some reason, this year the perception of this has been inflated. Maybe, it is because we had other things to pay attention to with guys like Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista leading a dynamic offense in the past. This year, it’s a different story. That doesn’t mean that we should fall in love with his bat and start inflating his overall value.
Many are quick to complain about Ryan Goins. Others are quick to defend him. Regardless of where you stand on the player, one has to marvel at his ability to hang on to a roster spot. The last few years has seen its share of call ups, demotions, etc and Goins somehow always manages to stick with the big league club. Could they really be that scared of losing him to waivers (he’s out of options)? Heading into the Trade Deadline, I wrote that he may be on the bubble, depending on what moves went down. And, yet, he remains an integral part of the Toronto Blue Jays lineup.
And, that really is the issue. The thing about Goins is that he is not a player that a team plans on giving so much playing time to. His -0.7 fWAR is coming in 90 games at the time of writing. He’s a bench player that is seeing more playing time than he should. The Blue Jays situation – with injuries and whatnot – has demanded Goins being used. If things were going according to plan, Goins would be a bench player. We cannot blame a player for being what he is and being used when he is. All of the vitriol for Goins is misdirected. But, we can’t blame the injury bug, it has no face. So, we complain about a guy who is chipping in as best he can, which is way more often than he is supposed to.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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