If the Toronto Blue Jays are going to become competitive, they’re going to have to figure out how to get on base
The Toronto Blue Jays were not expected to compete in 2020, but in a shortened season, the possibility remains that things could go well for them. Regardless, whenever they’re going to compete, there are things they need to improve. One of those things is their running game. Of course, the running game only works if you can get guys on base. That was a problem for Toronto in 2019 and it’s something that is going to need to be addressed.
Our friends over at Baseball Reference have a nice table for us that outlines some numbers from the 2019 season and how teams ranked against their counterparts. Your Toronto Blue Jays put up some disappointing numbers, some numbers that don’t quite cut the mustard. Check it out: Their .305 OBP ranked 14th in the American League and 27 in all of MLB. Only the Giants, Marlins and Tigers were worse in this area. The Orioles were three spots ahead of them. Let that sink in. For reference, the 2019 MLB average for OBP was .323.
Their entire offense was bad: their .238 AVG was 30th in MLB, their .733 OPS was 23rd, which was helped by their 17th place SLG of .428. So, improving this team isn’t as simple as taking more walks – they were 20th in MLB with 509. That said, striking out less sure would help. They were 7th overall with 1514 Ks.
It doesn’t take a genius, though, to point out that taking more walks and striking out less will lead to success. There’s a lot that goes into a player increasing their ability to get on base more. Things like pitch recognition, patience, launch angles and so on come into play. It’s something the team must prioritize if they’re going to contend. Some players will need some serious work.
In looking at players who are most likely to receive the bulk of the playing time, there are some serious OBP stand outs, both good and bad:
Cavan Biggio: .364
Bo Bichette: .358
Reese McGuire: .346
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. .339
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. .327
~ League Average: .323 ~
Teoscar Hernandez: .306
Rowdy Tellez: .293
Derek Fisher: .287
Travis Shaw: .281
Randal Grichuk: .280
Danny Jansen: .279
Jonathan Davis: .266
Anthony Alford: .233
Obviously, sample size needs to be taken into account, here. Guys like Shaw, Davis and Alford, didn’t see as much playing time at the big league level as Biggio. However, you get the idea.
In a rebuilding year, one supposes that the above numbers aren’t overly concerning. A rebuilding team is supposed to be bad. It becomes concerning when you consider that many of these names are in the mix for some prime playing time on a team that is supposed to be taking a step forward, inching closer to contending.
There is obviously some sliver lining. Firstly, the bad might look bad today, but when the Blue Jays are ready to compete (in a year or two) many of these names will find themselves playing elsewhere. It’s difficult to envision how fringe guys like Davis, Fisher or even a Billy McKinney fit into a competitive version of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Secondly, those who figure to be front and center for a competitive run have been the ones who brought the average OBP up to where it is. Without them, it would be more of a disaster. Having Cavan Biggio at the top of the lineup (which is where I would put him), followed by Bo Bichette and Vlad Jr, especially with a year or so under their belt, should result in increased fortunes. If Danny Jansen can get back to his MiLB performance, and Reese McGuire can replicate his 2019, that would be huge.
The Toronto Blue Jays have multiple areas they need to address if they’re going to be competitive and it is not going to happen overnight. However, if they can figure out their on base percentage, it would be a nice step. That said, we should recognize that saying, “They need to get on base more” is a massive oversimplification as so much goes into that. Some of it is coaching, some of it is the player’s natural ability and, let’s be honest, some of it is chance. But, if the players you have can’t get on base, you’re not going to be competitive and it might be time to re-evaluate things.
*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.