If Randal Grichuk is going to have success in 2019, he needs to stick with his strength: pulling the ball
The Toronto Blue Jays appeared to pull off a great trade to land Randal Grichuk from the St Louis Cardinals about a year ago. Then, the season started and it looked quite the opposite. Grichuk got off to one of the worst starts a player can. In the first month of 2018, he slashed .106/.208/.227 for a wRC+ of 20. It was so bad, Ryan Goins was laughing in the Kansas City system (probably).
We had heard that he worked on pitch recognition on the offseason, so there was reason to be optimistic heading into the season. Here is a young(ish) outfielder with some speed and power. A move to the AL East was sure to mean 30 home run potential. Thanks to a brutal start, he didn’t quite reach that total, of course.
If we look at how he was being pitched, April saw the bulk of his offerings down and away, which is exactly where you want to go to a guy who is tabbed as ‘swing and miss’. Many who have a tendency to strike out, will chase balls down and away. Kevin Pillar does it. It is no surprise to see that pitchers followed this plan for Grichuk:
As stated, the results during this time span were quite disappointing. But, looking at his most successful months, the pitching didn’t really change in his favour. June saw Grichuk slash .294/.341/.647 for a wRC+ of 165. In August, Grichuk slashed .316/.356/.551 for a wRC+ of 146. Yet, what is most interesting is that pitchers actually increased the pitches down and away during those months. Rather than pitching him high in the zone, they opted for the swing and miss attempt.
While one would expect Grichuk to have less success on those down and away pitches, he had his two best months of the season. If we look at how he had the success he had in 2018, it might be useful to look at it another way. They say that good hitters follow a certain philosophy. Either they think about hitting the ball up the middle, or they use the whole field, or, as is the case with Grichuk, they have more success going with their strength- pulling the ball.
When a batter is facing the shift, they have the choice to adjust their approach and try to beat it, shooting for that open spot, usually in opposite field. But, the smart advice is to not mess with your swing and just go with your strength, even if that means potentially hitting into the shift. For Grichuk, that means pulling the ball, regardless of where the defense is.
Take a look at the results of Grichuk’s 2018. Below, Fangraphs images show the location of batted balls (top) and balls that went for hits (bottom).
In short, Grichuk did use the field, but did not have much success hitting to right. The bulk of his hits came between center and left field. Based on this visual, Randal Grichuk is not someone who should be trying to shoot the ball the other way. And, the numbers back this up.
When Grichuk hits the ball up the middle, he does so to the tune of a 86 wRC+. He contributes -1.2 wRAA (weighted runs above average- a measurement of the number of offensive runs a player contributes to their team compared to the average player). Of his 23 hits to center, 16 have been singles. When he hit to right field, he did so for more power (10 of his 20 hits went for doubles). He had more success going oppo: .282/.282/.620 for a wRC+ of 139 and a wRAA of 3.4.
However, when Grichuk pulled the ball, things got a lot more interesting. He collected 61 hits, including 17 doubles and 19 home runs. His overall production was excellent: .407/.401/.900, 250 wRC+ and wRAA of 27.7. As well, his BABIP increased when he pulled the ball, meaning he simply had better chances (some call it luck) to hit safely.
There is bound to be someone who says that any hitter does better when he turns on the ball. He is bound to hit the ball harder, etc etc etc. However, we know enough about baseball to know that there are no absolutes. Derek Jeter made a career off dropping balls in opposite field. Devon Travis seems to enjoy going oppo. In fact, when he is right, he does that often. Every player is different and Randal Grichuk is a guy who needs to pull the ball.
If we want to apply all of this to the
slowly upcoming 2019 season, we can say that Grichuk is one of those players that definitely needs to stick to his strength. In 2018, he had more success when he pulled the ball. His best months happened when pitchers were pitching him away, which could bode well. If you’re trying to stop a guy from pulling the ball, you pitch him down and away. For Grichuk, that mightn’t be as much of a problem.
Assuming that he is healthy and can stick to his strength, Randal Grichuk very well could be a major cog in the Blue Jays’ offense in 2019. Sure, the playoffs are not on the horizon, so there mightn’t be as much to look forward to. But, a Grichuk display of strength is something worth getting excited about.
Featured Image Provided By DaveMe Images
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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.