The Toronto Blue Jays offense is struggling and a hot streak from Lourdes Gurriel Jr could help them
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The Toronto Blue Jays are batting just .233 through their first 15 games. They’ve scored the second fewest runs (55) in all of baseball. The Cardinals have scored fewer, but have played 10 fewer games thanks to their Covid issues. They are 28th in baseball with a .293 OBP and the only thing saving their OPS (22nd in MLB) is their ability to hit solo home runs. There’s a lot not going right up and down their lineup, but one interesting candidate for improvement is Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Before going further, it needs to be acknowledged that others are struggling as well. Vladmir Guerrero Jr comes to mind, but that is too obvious. Hitting with runners in scoring position is a problem, one that just one hitter cannot solve on their own. That said, Looking through the Blue Jays’ numbers on the season, Gurriel stands out as a bit of a surprise.
On the surface, Gurriel doesn’t appear to be doing that poorly. He’s hitting .264 after all. That might be enough to satisfy some, looking even just a little deeper, that batting average becomes less comforting. Firstly, Gurriel’s ability to get on base has been a disappointment. He currently sits on an OBP of .298, down from .327 in 2019. In 57 plate appearances (14 games), the 26 year old has collected 3 walks. Of course, his BB% of 5.3% is in line with his career numbers, so shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. In fact, his K% thus far is lower than last season.
Yet, he has produced a wRC+ of just 84, compared to his 124 from last year. Of his 14 hits, he has 10 singles, 3 doubles and a home run. One element that Fangraphs points out is that he is making less hard contact to start this season than we’re used to seeing. His HardHit% is down a few percentage points, but more alarming is his decrease in Barrel%. He has just one hit that would be considered Barreled, for a rate of 2.4%. His launch angle is virtually unchanged from last year, but his Exit Velocity is down almost 3 mph.
Consider the following chart grabbed from Baseball Savant:
Firstly, the Outfielder Jump percentile is quite nice. It’s good to have a hint of a dependable LF finally, but that’s for another day. That said, the image contains several concerning numbers. His EV and xwOBA need improvement. As does his xSLG.
Now that we’ve established the slightly concerning numbers, we should probably point out that he has played just 14 games. The issues listed above, namely barreling the ball very well could simply be the result of a hitter getting his timing, etc down. The long break and short ramp up period before this shortened season began would certainly require some time to recover from. There is likely not cause for long term concern.
That being said, if this Blue Jays team is going to turn their offense around, Gurriel needs to figure out a few things. This could require some minor adjustments, or even some more at bats. As stated previously, there are other problems in this lineup and Gurriel is not the most glaring. However, he very much should be right in the middle of a what should be a very productive lineup. If he gets going, we could be looking at a better offensive display overall.
*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.