According to important stats, the 2017 Toronto Blue Jays had a terrible offense, one that needs to be fixed in 2018
The Toronto Blue Jays did not perform as well as they could have last year. OK, that’s being kind. They were pretty bad. After they led the world in runs scored in 2015, we’ve been witnessing a steady decline in production ever since. It declined to the point where they were one of the most anemic offenses in all of Major League Baseball. Consider the following from ESPN:
The 2017 Blue Jays were 26th in all of baseball with 693 runs. Only the Phillies, Pirates, Giants and Padres (in that order) scored fewer runs. That’s how bad it was. When you get down into what is behind the lack of run production, it isn’t really a surprise to see Toronto near the bottom of MLB. Consider, they were:
24th in MLB with .412 SLG
26th in MLB with .312 OBP
25th in MLB with .724 OPS
SLG is measured by dividing the total number of bases by at bats. In 2017, the Blue Jays collected 2265 total bases in 5499 at bats. Generally speaking, SLG is seen as a power number since you have to hit for extra bases to add to your total. How did Toronto get theirs? Well, we know it wasn’t from the triple, which would require speed. They had 5 total triples in 2017. So, their total bases would have to come from instant hits that give more than one base: the home run (10th in MLB with 222) and doubles (20th in MLB with 269). Given where the Blue Jays ranked in these categories, it is safe to say that the bulk of their offense came from home runs.
Even then, only seven players hit double digit home runs with only four hitting 20+. For fun, we’ll throw in the fact that Ryan Goins contributed 9 dingers. If it weren’t for the surprising break out of Justin Smoak (38 HR), Toronto would have had Josh Donaldson as the only 30+ HR hitter. For a team whose offense historically comes from the long ball, this is a rather sad state of affairs.
Another facet of scoring runs depends on a team’s ability to get runners on base. OBP measures the rate at which a batter gets on base. This is where Toronto’s offense really suffered. Collectively, they had an OBP of .312. The league average for OBP is .320, which says quite a bit about 2017. The Blue Jays had just four players with an OBP above league average: Russell Martin (.343), Smoak (.355), Ezequiel Carrera (.356) and Donaldson (.385). Steve Pearce was just below at .319.
Where it gets ugly is those who didn’t contribute much, yet saw a heck of a lot of playing time. Darwin Barney (.275), Ryan Goins (.286), Kevin Pillar (.300), Jose Bautista (.308) and Kendrys Morales (.308) accounted for a grand total of 2485 at bats in 2017 or 41% of the team’s at bats. That amounts to a lot of wasted at bats. The Blue Jays totaled 1327 strike outs in 2017 to go with 542 walks (just 12 intentional). If you’re looking for some kind of an explanation as to why the end results weren’t so hot, OBP explains a lot.
A metric that kind of tells the combined story is OPS (OBP + SLG), which, ideally, you want your team to be down with. Were the Blue Jays down with OPS in 2017? No. No, they weren’t. Their .724 mark put them in 25th place in MLB. League average OPS is .710. That mightn’t sound so bad since Toronto’s team mark falls in what we would be tempted to technically call above average. Except, Fangraphs says that an OPS of .800 is actually above average.
You can’t point the finger at guys like Donaldson (.944) or Smoak (.883), or even Carrera, for crying out loud. His .764 OPS is good for 3rd on Toronto’s 2017 roster. That fact is more of a comment on the production of everyone else, as opposed to Zeke having a tremendous year, though. But, again, when Goins (.634) and Barney (.602) take up a hefty amount of playing time, you shouldn’t expect much different. Add in Bautista’s nose dive to an OPS of .674 and you get a recipe for an unproductive season. It is made worse by the fact that the SLG part of OPS depends so heavily on home runs being hit. Playing baseball with a softball statline is not going to work out well.
So, how does a front office go about fixing such a problem? Well, replacing Goins and Barney with Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte is a major step in the right direction. Diaz brings a (short) career OPS of .799 and Solarte adds .746, so that’s a start. As much as they can, the club will also depend on a return to health from Troy Tulowitzki, whose career OPS of .856 would be a welcome addition, assuming he can live up to that at age 33. As well, Devon Travis brings his (short) career OPS of .792 into the lineup. Again, none of this is a guarantee, but it certainly looks promising on paper.
The club could further address this issue by making it a priority for whomever is put in right field. Bautista’s .674 could give way to Teoscar Hernandez and his .810 OPS in his brief major league time. If you were wondering, he put up an OPS of .908 in September of 2017. Or, GM, Ross Atkins, could look to add a free agent like Lorenzo Cain, who brings a career OPS of .763, or we could maybe even dream on a trade for Christian Yelich and his career .800 OPS.
Obviously, OPS is not the ultimate indicator of a team’s success. But, it certainly helps explain the Blue Jays’ lack thereof in 2017. A combination of health, moves already made, and perhaps those yet to come, could turn things in the positive direction for Toronto. I’m sure this fact is not lost on Atkins and if asked the question, “You down with OPS?”, his response would likely be “Yeah, you know me!”
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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