The Toronto Blue Jays and Speed…Or, Lack Thereof


Jays From the Couch looks into just how bad the rather disappointing speed of the Toronto Blue Jays has been.


The Toronto Blue Jays are not a fast team. Some would argue that has something to do with the relative seniority of the team. Though, guys like Kenny Lofton would counter that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. For Toronto, their problem is that they have no one like a Lofton on their roster. They are a team built to hit home runs.


That’s something that our Ryan Mueller looked into recently. He wondered why the Blue Jays weren’t scoring more runs since they rely so heavily on the home run. He argued that the extra base power we have become used to has taken a siesta in 2017. What follows builds on the concerns Mueller presented. It says here that the Blue Jays have a major concern in the speed department.


The most obvious stat to look to is the number of stolen bases. The Toronto Blue Jays have a grand total of 43. They have more entries on the 2017 injury report than they do stolen bases. Their 43 puts them 26th in all of baseball in that department. They’ve been caught stealing 17 times. This grand total of 60 attempts puts them ahead of only the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles in attempted thefts. They’re not even trying to steal bases; they know their limits.


Digging a little further, the picture gets worse. Kevin Pillar holds 13 of the 43 swipes. That means everyone else that has worn a Blue Jays uniform has combined for 30 stolen bases. Ezequiel Carrera has 7 of those, Jose Bautista has 6 with Darwin Barney and Devon Travis having 4 each. Guys like Kendrys Morales, Justin Smoak and Troy Tulowitzki do not have a single steal this season, which isn’t surprising.


But, the stolen base really doesn’t tell the whole story. Baseball Reference offers up Rbaser, which measures the number of runs better or worse than average a player is for all base running events. Overall, the team has a value of -2. A good portion of this year’s contributors have a value of 0, which doesn’t offer up any extra runs. That’s problematic. Six players have positive values, none above an Rbaser of 1. Carrera, Josh Donaldson, Bautista and Barney are the only regulars with this value while Luke Maile (right?) and Rob Refsnyder being the other two who have been worth any kind of base running value. The negative side is not much of a surprise with Morales (-3), Tulo (-2), Smoak (-2), Steve Pearce (-1) and Chris Coghlan (-1), Superman dive over Yadier Molina aside, all costing the Blue Jays runs on the base paths.


The argument can be made that being down two runs on a season doesn’t really amount to a whole lot. But, if we look at it in the context of a team that has seen its offense struggle this season, it does point out situations where speed would have helped. The ability to hit and run, double steal, take an extra base, etc all add up to what could be difference makers in the win-loss column. They mightn’t help when the team is being blown out by 10 runs, but overall, this kind of situational speed could be helpful, if it were present.


Fangraphs has another way of pointing out the lack of speed on this team. They offer up BsR (they describe it as: “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)”


The people at Fangraphs have managed to come up with a single metric that measures the overall value (or not) of wheels for each player. The results are not good for the Blue Jays. Overall, the team has a value of -16.2. Take a look at just how bad it is:

Morales: -7.7
Bautista: -6.1
Tulo: -3.4
Smoak: -1.6
Barney: -1.6
Russell Martin: -1.2
Pillar: -0.9


Even the team’s stolen base leader has a negative BsR value, according to Fangraphs. There is more that goes into speed than just stolen bases, obviously. Looking at the positive side of this value, we see Donaldson (1.8) and Carrera (2.3) followed by a bunch of guys who have not played a major role on this team. Devon Travis (0.4), Dwight Smith Jr (1.3), Refsnyder (0.4), Darrell Ceciliani (0.3), Anthony Alford (0.3), Maile (0.3), Mike Ohlman (0.1) and Ian Parmley (0.1). It is pretty telling when the bulk of positive base running ability has come from those with minimal time on the team.


The Toronto Blue Jays are made up of a powerful lineup that as not lived up to this billing. The results have been an offense that has declined from its past couple of seasons. Management has made it clear that they would like to get younger and more athletic moving forward. You have to think that the overall team speed would be a positive by product of accomplishing this goal. If they are looking to field a more balanced offense, then addressing the lack of speed on this roster is going to have to be a priority.





*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0








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