The Blue Jays love Biggio’s versatility, but he’s struggling right now and one has to wonder if he’s being used properly
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The Toronto Blue Jays have a young, exciting team and Cavan Biggio is right in the center of it. Over the past two seasons, he has been one of the more reliable players on both sides of the ball. He’s intelligent, he has had a decent approach at the plate, is on on base machine and plays reliable defense. However, the first few weeks of 2021 has not been kind to the 26 yr old.
Biggio has never been one to hit for a high average, but his start to this season is well below his standards. He’s slashing .171/.292/.366 and striking out 32.7% of the time. What is more interesting, and may speak more to his approach at the plate is that he is seeing an increase in his fly ball rate (52%), a decrease in his line drive rate (12%) and is making hard contact at the lowest rate of his career (20%).
Of course, the default response to this is that Biggio has only seen 49 plate appearances so far this year, so we’ll acknowledge the small sample size. Another consideration is how streaky he is as a hitter. The following graphic shows his wOBA fluctuations.
Looking at the above image, it is safe to say we’ve seen this kind of struggle from Biggio before and he managed to find his way out of it. He’s too good not to. However, historically (can we use that word here?), Biggio has been hitting in close to the same spot in the lineup since he’s come up. But, this year, things have been different. He’s hit 2nd (31 PA), 5th (14 PA) and 6th (4 PA). At the beginning of the season, it certainly makes sense for manager, Charlie Montoyo, to try different lineup combinations. However, Biggio’s approach at the plate is ideal for a top of the order hitter and asking him to hit mid to late in the order changes things.
We should also mention that the longer a guy plays in the big leagues, the more likely opposing teams are to alter how they throw to him. In Biggio’s case, the following is interesting: the rate at which he sees pitches in the zone has decreased (39.9%) and the rate at which he swings at those outside offerings has increased dramatically (29.2%). He’s also making contact with those pitches at a career low rate and swinging through pitches at a career high rate of 13.8%. All of these metrics combined make me wonder if he’s changing his plan at the plate, which makes me wonder if it is by choice, or his team asking him to do something other than what he’s had success with so far in his career.
Again, Biggio’s offensive struggles could be explained through small sample size or his natural ebb and flow. But, what cannot is the struggles he’s having at third base. In 96 innings this year, Biggio has made two fielding and one throwing error. He’s not looked comfortable at the hot corner. He’s put up -1 DRS and a UZR/150 of -13.2. He’s also put up -3 OAA. Most recently, his defense was in question Thursday night in Kansas City. He did not look good at third at all. In fact, he ended up taking a line drive off the finger on his throwing hand, which has had him out of the lineup since.
The Blue Jays love that Biggio can play all over and used that belief to land Marcus Semien this past offseason. They made an $18M commitment to a free agent based on the notion that Biggio can play third. However, there is a difference between being able to play third on an ‘as needed’ basis and being able to play it every day. Right now, there is question as to whether Biggio can play third every day. This makes me wonder if the Blue Jays are trying to force him into a role he is not comfortable with, or more to the point, for which he is suited. Defensively speaking, Biggio is a square peg and third is a round hole.
Now, JFtC writer, Karen Soutar did point out to me that the overall team defense has looked better this season and Semien playing second has contributed to that. That is a fair comment, but I would counter with asking how much better Semien has been than Biggio would have been. For his career, Biggio has put up 3 DRS at second while Semien has put up 3 DRS there this season. So, perhaps Karen’s argument is fair.
However, when you look at how Biggio has started this season at third, one has to wonder if the idea was short sighted. Did they jump at signing Semien at the detriment of Biggio? A suggestion has been that the team should consider sending Biggio to AAA once the minor league season starts, much in the same vein as Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and hope he irons things out and can come back being his old self.
I would argue that that should not be the first option. Instead, the Blue Jays need to start using Cavan Biggio properly. Let him do what he’s had success with in the past. He can do a number of things, but it is the team’s responsibility to put him in a position to excel. Right now, their attempts at forcing him into round holes is not doing much for the square.
The obvious follow up question is what the Blue Jays do about third base. Well, Santiago Espinal has looked good there and Marcus Semien has experience there as well. And, the same amount of time has passed since Semien has played third as has passed since he played second base. So, it is worth a shot. Of course, if the Blue Jays didn’t have so many injured pitchers, they might also be able to swing a deal for an everyday third baseman.
However, until a better every day option is available, we will continue to see Cavan Biggio put in a role he shouldn’t be.
*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.