The Blue Jays Need to Do Something … Anything to Fix Their Lineup
The Toronto Blue Jays have some big problems with their batting order. Their leadoff man isn’t hitting anymore, one of their best hitters is still batting fifth in the order and several of their veteran players are far off from their career norms.
The solution to the Blue Jays’ struggle isn’t abundantly clear. But one thing’s for sure, what the Jays are doing right now isn’t working.
The Blue Jays’ frustrating night at the plate culminated in the seventh inning with the bases loaded as Kevin Pillar swung wildly at a slider down and away and snuffed out any chance of a comeback by the Blue Jays.
The game as a whole was a mess, but what that game underscored to me was a need for change in the Blue Jays’ lineup. Not necessarily a drastic change, but something … anything needs to be done to fix the batting order.
It all starts at the top of the order with Pillar. Clearly, things haven’t been working for a while with him hitting leadoff for about the last six weeks, which has left many looking up and down the lineup for a new leadoff guy.
Josh Donaldson presents an interesting option because he’s the team’s best hitter and he’s shown gap-to-gap power and he gets on base. The only problem with hitting Donaldson leadoff is he’s essentially hitting ahead of Ryan Goins or Darwin Barney, which isn’t a recipe for success.
Jose Bautista is a logical replacement for the leadoff spot; despite his offensive peaks and valleys, Bautista’s ability to draw a walk hasn’t deteriorated. Coincidentally, Russell Martin is sporting a career high walk rate right now and he presents another unorthodox option for the leadoff spot.
I wouldn’t even be opposed to throwing Steve Pearce up there; it’s been less than a week since he’s come off the disabled list, but Pearce’s extra-base power has been on display in the short time he’s been back.
If the choice were so obvious and apparent, it would’ve been made right now. The injuries to Devon Travis and Ezequiel Carrera further complicates things. For better or worse, John Gibbons is letting his guys ride this thing out in the hopes they’ll hit their way out of it.
I covered this earlier in the week for Sporting News MLB, but the Blue Jays are the most home run reliant team in baseball. When they aren’t hitting home runs, the Blue Jays struggle mightily to score runs. So if the Blue Jays are only going to hit home runs, it makes the most sense to maximize the at bats from their biggest home run hitters.
One can understand that Gibbons doesn’t want to upset the apple cart by moving players from their familiar spot in the batting order. But however uncomfortable the conversation may be for the manager, he needs to do something to try to fix this.
If I’m John Gibbons, I’m wondering whether the upside of moving Pillar out of the leadoff spot outweighs the benefit of plugging somebody else in there. If the other options only present a small upside, perhaps Gibby feels like the risk doesn’t outweigh the reward.
Analytically speaking, it makes total sense for the Blue Jays to shuffle the deck in the lineup. On paper, there are much better configurations the Blue Jays could use, but I gather it’s a little more complicated than just rearranging some names on the lineup card.
However, Gibbons is demonstrating stubbornness by trotting out similar lineup cards even though key members of that lineup continue to struggle mightily. Since May 15th, Pillar is slashing .165/.215/.283. On that same token, Bautista’s slash line over that period is .267/.358/.491.
I get that Gibby wants to be loyal to guys like Pillar; a player who helped the Blue Jays tread water throughout April and May. But does four weeks of positive results suddenly outweigh six weeks of dreadful results at the plate?
What I worry about is the optics of this situation; although it gives the message to the players like “we’ve got your back”, it may also create some dissension with players who are doing their job well. The fact that Donaldson come outright and commented on the batting order shows how frustrated some guys are.
Ultimately, it’s the manager’s job to put his team in the best position to win. Secondly, it’s their job to put individual players in the best position to succeed. Right now, I feel like Gibbons is leaning more towards the latter than the former.
Something needs to change with the Blue Jays, one way or another.