The Toronto Blue Jays have an issue with speed in their lineup: there is none!
The Toronto Blue Jays lack overall speed and it is not something that is easily addressed. And, it is no secret. The Blue Jays managed an amazing FIVE triples all of last year. A total of 22 individual players had more triples than the entire Blue Jays roster in 2017. It is bad. It is so bad that the very title of this piece came from one of our Live & Interactive sessions when we were asking for ideas for a new team hashtag.
Consider that it wasn’t just triples this team could not collect. A typical measurement of speed is the stolen base. Well, they ranked 14th in the AL with 53 total bases. Kevin Pillar led the way with a whopping fifteen, Ezequiel Carrera was next with 10, Darwin Barney swiped seven and Jose Bautista (that’s right!) stole six, while guys who weren’t even supposed to be on the team like Rob Refsnyder (2), Richard Urena (1) and Dwight Smith Jr (1) rounded out the rather unimpressive total.
To get an idea of just how slow the Blue Jays were in 2017, I went looking into some other metrics. Firstly, I looked at BsR from Fangraphs. It is an “all encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average.” So, it would provide a pretty clear of a guy’s value with the wheels.
A rating of zero is average while 2 is above average, 6 is great and 8 is excellent. As you can guess, the Blue Jays did not have a single player in the “great” or “excellent” category. In fact, only two players were “above average”: Carrera: 2.8 and Josh Donaldson: 2.4. Kevin Pillar came in at 1 and then none of what we would consider ‘regulars’ even broke zero. In fact, Marcus Stroman is ahead of all of them at zero.
I wanted to take it a bit further, so I went to Baseball Savant and checked out sprint speeds around the league. As expected, players like Byron Buxton (30.2 ft/sec) and Billy Hamilton (30.1 ft/sec) sit at the top of the league. Dee Gordon, who would have been a nice pick up for the Blue Jays, comes in 4th place at 29.7 ft/sec and former Jay, Rajai Davis sits in 11th spot at 29.3 ft/sec. You have to scroll a long way to find a ‘regular’ Blue Jay on this list.
Richard Urena is listed as the fastest Blue Jay in 2017 with an average sprint speed of 28.6 ft/sec. But, if we’re talking about ‘regulars’ Pillar is 120th on the list at 27.9 ft/sec and Carerra is 122nd at the same speed. For fun, let’s go the other way:
Steve Pearce: 26.6 ft/sec = 18.13 mph
Russel Martin: 26.2 ft/sec = 17.86 mph
Jose Bautista: 25.6 ft/sec = 17.45 mph
Troy Tulowitzki: 25.2 ft/sec = 17.18 mph
Justin Smoak: 24.7 ft/sec = 16.84 mph
Kendrys Morales: 24.5 ft/sec = 16.70 mph
It is worth noting that these guys weren’t the slowest. That honour goes to Miguel Montero who cooled the bases at a pace of 23.8 ft/ sec or 16.23 mph.
For comparison, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the world’s fastest animals. Consider the top speed of some of these creatures. For context, Buxton’s sprint speed works out to 20.6 mph or roughly one half that of a greyhound dog . When it comes to the Blue Jays, well, it isn’t as complimentary. The brown bear reaches top speeds of 21.7 mph. The African Bush Elephant reaches top speeds of 24.9 mph. A polar bear: 18.6 mph, a pig: 11 mph…you get the idea. This team is not fast.
It should be noted that our Roy Widrig, being the geologist that he is suggested I use the speed of tectonic plate movement for accuracy. FYI…they move at a rate of 1 cm per year. That is a more accurate description of the rate at which the offseason is progressing, but that’s another story.
But, how does this get addressed? Well, replacing Bautista with what looks like a younger entity will tip the scales a bit. But, losing Ryan Goins removes some of last year’s “speed”. Of course, the ‘easy, low hanging fruit, rage at everything’ answer would be to get rid of Morales and Tulo. “Trade them!” Or, the even more descriptive: “Get Rid of Them!” are the battle cries. But, it isn’t that easy.
Instead, the Blue Jays will look to their young guys to fill this area of need. Though, Urena is not getting an everyday job just because he is fast. So, maybe the club prioritizes this in the next couple of months. Maybe landing a guy like Lorenzo Cain, who brings a 3.5 BsR and an 16th best average sprint speed of 29.1 ft/sec (19.84 mph) is in order. Sure, you’d be paying for his current speed and production level. What all of that looks like in a few years is anyone’s guess. But, man that speed would look nice, no? Jarrod Dyson brings 5.6 BsR and a 30th best 28.8 ft/sec (19.63 mph), for what it’s worth.
There also could be options available in trade. That could wider open the possibility of landing a speedster since you’re widening the pool.
However it is done, the Blue Jays are in need of some speed. Badly. They should be making it a priority. Maybe that means they have to overpay for it. It would be worth it. They can’t expect to go into 2018 with their slow roster and expect that it will compete.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.