Jays From The Couch Is Missing Blue Jays Baseball, So We’ll Preview The 2020 Season For Individual Players. This Time, Travis Shaw
The Toronto Blue Jays should be playing baseball. Until they do, JFtC is going to offer up a distraction by previewing the 2020 season for players. This time, we look at Travis Shaw and what his role might be on this team moving forward. In case you missed our other previews:
Shaw signed with Toronto for $4M (with incentives, it could reach nearly $5M) this winter. At the time, it seemed like a rather interesting deal for a Blue Jays club that had Justin Smoak depart and few reliable options to replace him. With Smoak gone, the first base job would fall to Rowdy Tellez and/or Brandon Drury. Obviously, that less than ideal situation made the club feel like they need to add another option.
The Shaw signing is a gamble for Toronto as they hope he’ll return to the 30 HR type of hitter he was not so long ago. But, after a disastrous 2019, it is going to be a low cost gamble.
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Obviously, 2019 was a season Shaw would like to forget, but there may have been a lesson or two to be found. At this point, the story of his launch angle has been told far and wide. Looking at Baseball Savant, we find a major change in this regard. 2019 saw Shaw with an average launch angle of 24.4, which increased about 8 degrees over the previous season, which was right in line with his career average.
This is important for Shaw. But, why? to better understand what happened in 2019, we should refer to a rather good post from Jeff Zimmerman at Rotographs. Zimmerman breaks down launch angle and ground ball rate, but his work provides some context for Shaw.
“Hitters who average 85 mph or more exit velocity have the ability to reach the “Barrell”/home run region so they want to get their launch angle averaging around 20 degrees to maximize both their hits and home runs. Not every hitter has the bat speed and control to lift every batted ball. It’s tough to hit a ball coming in at 95 mph. It may be impossible for some hitters to get the lift and continue to make acceptable contact. Some hitters have sold out for the extra lift and say screw contact. Once a hitter’s average EV starts dropping under 85 mph, the barrel region gets further out of their reach.”
This is a lot, but it sheds some light on Shaw’s issues. His career launch angle sat around 16 degrees, which was a bit low. It makes sense to try and increase it. His Exit Velocity has always averaged around 88 mph, which is pushing that ‘uh oh’ mark of 85. For Shaw, a concerted effort to increase launch angle wasn’t paired with an increase in launch angle and it resulted in the lowest GB/FB rate of his career (0.58), an increased infield fly ball rate, increased fly balls, decreased HR/FB rate, massive increase in K%, fewer hits, a higher SwStr% (4.7% increase) and getting on base less.
The good news is that, if this is the answer, it should be something Shaw (and the Blue Jays) can adjust. It will take lots and lots of reps for muscle memory to make consistent adjustments, but it is doable. And, if it happens, the Blue Jays very well could have found themselves a nice deal.
Shaw plays third and first, with some experience at second and even some in the outfield, albeit very limited. Right now, it appears that the Blue Jays have a collection of guys who can play varying degrees of first and third with none really ready to take an everyday job and run with it…Vladimir Guerrero Jr.excluded, obviously. With Tellez, Drury and Shaw in some sort of competition, there are definitely question marks everywhere.
That being said, if Shaw can make adjustments, he is a bounce back candidate AND a candidate to claim his spot at first. Fangraphs has him projected for a rebound, with ZiPS being the most bullish on him: 24 HR, 68 RBI, .771 OPS, 102 wRC+ and 2.2 fWAR. It should be pointed out that none of the projections have Shaw repeating his terrible 2019, which should give Blue Jays fans some comfort.
*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.