Randal Grichuk- Credit: DaveMe Images

Blue Jays: K is for Karma

Blue Jays baseball in 2020 brings with it awful strikeout numbers. Time to accept the good with the bad from a young  lineup


Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase

 


 

We don’t have to be sitting with you in your living room, man cave or favorite watering hole to hear what you’ve been saying when the Blue Jays are at bat so far in 2020…

“Jiminy Cricket Grichuk. We pay you to hit the ball, not cool off the stadium.’

“You’ll never join your dad in Cooperstown missing pitches like that Cavan”

Austin Martin would never swing at a pitch like that Teoscar.”

“C’mon Vladdy. You’re better than that.”

 

Up until recently, we would be inclined to agree with you. Mickey Mantle was sent down his rookie year for striking out 3 times in one game. After striking out and being booed by Cleveland fans, Tony Horton took himself out of the game in the 5th inning and later that night tried to take his own life by slashing his wrists in the parking lot of his hotel. Hall of Fame talents like Eric Davis and Mike Cameron saw their at-bats limited and were repeatedly sent to the minors for striking out nearly 24% of their plate appearances. Who didn’t have a Little League coach fume when you struck out in a critical situation because you wanted to hit a walk-off rather than take walk?

 

Bottom line is in today’s game, you cannot have your hate and like it too. Home runs and run production and strikeouts are MLB’s Holy Trinity. Launch angle and StatCast have made choking up on the bat and going the other way virtually extinct. Sabermetric-driven shift strategies often make hitting the ball where the fielders ain’t a statistical impossibility, so hitters will risk striking out for the chance to hit the ball over the shift and out of the park. The video game and fantasy affects on baseball are undeniable – fans want runs and hits, the errors of swinging and missing simply can be overlooked. There is a lot of truth in the saying, “Nobody wants to hear about the labor pains. They just want to see the baby.”

 

Being a fan of a youth-oriented teams like the Blue Jays can be maddening for the old guard baseball purists. There are breathtaking highs of talent and promise and hair-greying lows of inexperience and failure. It is early in the 2020 season, but the numbers suggest for every run batted in or homer slugged, there will be hopeless swings and misses. Veteran pitchers will exploit inexperience and induce bad swings and forlorn looks at strikes three. The abundance of bad pitchers of all ages will prove too enticing to not swing for the fences nearly every at bat.

 

Teoscar Hernandez is tied for the major league lead in home runs with 4. He also leads the team with 9 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances, a staggering 29% strikeout percentage. Sure he faced the likes of Charlie Morton and Max Scherzer; Hernandez also faced the fossilized remains of Peter Fairbanks and Tanner Rainey. Toronto’s most frequent strikeout victims thus far (Hernandez 9, Cavan Biggio 8, Bo Bichette 7, Lourdes Guerriel 6) have also accounted for 15 of the team’s 21 runs batted in. While it is too early for an accurate reading of Runs Created, Runs Above Replacement and WAR, projections would support an argument that these 5 players will be among the team leaders in each of those performance indicators at the end of the abbreviated 60 game schedule.

 

Want to look at a larger sample size? The players who struck out most frequently for the 2019 Jays were Randal Grichuk (163), Hernandez (153), Biggio (123), Rowdy Tellez (116) and Brandon Drury(113). Grichuk and Hernandez finished the season 1-2 in home runs,  and sandwiched Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in RBIs., and Tellez was right there with them in all slugging categories. Biggio led Blue Jay positional players in WAR (2.4) and Runs Created/27 (7.24). Only Brandon Drury proved worthy of your jeers and scorn.

 

So take heart Blue Jays nation. Even all-time Toronto baseball legends were no strangers to 1-2-3 strikes you’re out. Jesse Barfield struck out 100 or more times in 6 of the 8 years he was a regular. Joe Carter had 100+ K’s 5 times during his years in the SkyDome. Even the  historical 2003 season by Carlos Delgado, which saw him hit 45 dingers, drive in 145, be responsible for the production of 220 runs, saw him strike out 105 times. If appalling strikeout numbers are generated by the 2020 lineup on a day-in, day-out basis, the karmic wheel will eventually roll your eyes to above league average production and power numbers. If swings and misses are your ying, run-producing blasts will just as regularly become your yang.

 

 

 

 

*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.

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