The Toronto Blue Jays have the players to be more active on the base paths, but for some reason, John Gibbons chooses not to be
The Toronto Blue Jays have been a slow team. This has not been a secret for the last few years. Heck, it seems that their identity is centered around sitting back and waiting for the home run; the ‘bloop and a blast’ that Pat Tabler talks about as how the team can get back into games (insert eyeroll here). The extent to which this philosophy has cost the Blue Jays games this season is too difficult to measure given the rest of the issues this team has suffered. Overall, there is so many more worse things going on.
Still, after reading Ryan Mueller’s post on organizational speed, specifically stolen bases, I started thinking. It was this part that painted the ugly picture: “Blue Jays sortable stats quickly reveals Toronto lacks base stealing speed. Kevin Pillar leads Toronto with 13 stolen bases with three Jays tied for 2nd place with 3. Toronto has 35 stolen bases in 2018 which places them in 2nd place…..from the bottom.”
I knew it was bad, but… So I started thinking about why this is the case. Previously, I would have said that it makes sense, given the offense. But, this year I felt confident in saying that the running game could be a bigger part of their game. I have given John Gibbons a free pass before because he just didn’t have the right pieces to satisfy my lust for stolen bases and whatnot. But, this year was supposed to be different.
Sure, there would still be guys like Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak, but there would also be more guys like Kevin Pillar- guys who can actually run. The offseason saw Randal Grichuk added, who brings with him a career Spd mark of 5.1 and a Base Running value of 6.4. Then there is also Teoscar Hernandez, who we knew would be taking on more playing time in 2018. His career Spd value is 4.9, while his career Base Running mark is -1.2, but was 0.9 last year and 0.0 this. Devon Travis has 4.1 Spd and 2.4 Base Running for his career.
Even Curtis Granderson has career Spd of 6.4 and 52 Base Running. The interesting thing about his values is that they all went down playing in Toronto. Now, you could blame that on age, but 2018 is the first season he has put up a negative Base Running value in the last 13 seasons. Going from 2.8 to -2.9 isn’t an age drop off, it is a result of playing in Toronto. The Blue Jays have the pieces to run, but they do not.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Blue Jays have stolen 0.23 bases per game in 2018, which is down from last year and good for 29th in baseball. They sit in 27th spot with 0.48 stole bases attempted per game. They’re middle of the pack with 0.2 CS per game, so it is not like they get out when they attempt. They just don’t attempt. Obviously, stolen bases are not the only mark of speed, but it would seem that this season this club could have tried to get themselves an extra base any way they could.
At the very least, Gibby should be using his speed to stay out of double plays. His club has hit in to the 10th most double plays so far this season with 0.77 per game. How many of these could have been saved by starting the runner? Using the speed to stay out of a double play is taking the game into your own hands, rather than waiting for that big hit. The hit and run is also a more aggressive way to take control of your offense, but it relies on hitters making contact and when Kendrys Morales is near the lowest contact rate of his career, it makes this more difficult.
Look, none of this is to say that using the speed this team has would (have) save this Blue Jays season. Nothing will. But, at the very least, John Gibbons could have made things more exciting by stealing a few bases, starting the runner, or something. Who knows, he may have even put runners in scoring position to score a few more runs. I am not one to blame Gibby for much. Sure, his future in Toronto may very well be up in the air, but there really isn’t much that can be pinned on him when you look at the 2018 season. However, not using speed is one thing he should take the blame for.
*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.