The halfway point: Blue Jays hitters

Jose Bautista: Late-model Joey Bats doesn’t hit for the average that he used to, but he’s improved his plate discipline still further, and is still hitting for power. As I write this, he is leading the American League in walks and runs batted in. That’s a pretty good combo, don’t you think?

Ezequiel Carrera: He’s played in 51 games for the Jays this year, and I still don’t really know much about him. Baseball Reference tells me that he is from Venezuela, and has played for Magallanes in the Venezuelan winter baseball league for seven consecutive offseasons. His numbers are pretty good for somebody who was available for free.

Chris Colabello: Is he for real? His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is .432, which suggests that the answer is no – he’s been getting hits because he’s been lucky. His offensive numbers other than batting average almost perfectly match his 2014 season, when he had a BABIP of .308 and hit .229. He left nine men on base on Thursday, which suggests that his regression to the mean is arriving rapidly.

Josh Donaldson: He’s exactly the player that the Jays were hoping that Brett Lawrie would someday be: an excellent defensive third baseman who hits for both power and average. Donaldson is also extremely durable, so he can play all-out without injuring himself annually like Lawrie did. Oddly enough, Donaldson isn’t walking as much in Toronto as he did in Oakland: last year, he had 76 walks in 695 plate appearances, and this year he has had 28 in 320. Is Toronto encouraging him to swing more, or are pitchers more reluctant to walk Donaldson given who is coming up behind him?

Edwin Encarnacion: Compared with his historical numbers, his batting average is down and his strikeouts are up. This might be because he was battling injuries, or it might be the first sign of age-related decline, since he is 32. However, if any hapless pitcher makes a mistake and throws it where Encarnacion is looking for it, he’s still going to hit it 450 feet, so all is still well with the world.

Ryan Goins: If he could hit just a bit more, he could have a career similar to that of John McDonald, who had 2651 major league plate appearances despite a lifetime OBP of .273. But McDonald had 11 seasons with a higher OBP than Goins’ current .260, and it’s not clear that Goins can sustain even that level of production. He’s a wonderful defender, but he won’t be able to stick in the major leagues, except as a defensive replacement on a team that can afford a deep bench, unless he can hit more.

Russell Martin: Doesn’t it seem like he’s always been here? His power numbers are being helped by the Rogers Centre: he has eight home runs and 17 total extra-base hits at home, and four home runs out of 11 extra-base hits on the road.

Dioner Navarro: Three fun facts about Navarro: (1) He was an All-Star in 2008 when playing for Tampa Bay. He got off to a hot start that year, and hit .310 in the first half of the season. (2) He originally came up through the Yankee farm system, but was traded to Arizona before the 2005 season as part of the package that the Diamondbacks got for Randy Johnson. The very same day (January 11, 2005), he was then traded to the Dodgers as part of a package for Shawn Green. I hope they told him about both trades at once, so that he didn’t start trying to find accommodations in Phoenix or something. (3) In 2012, when playing for Cincinnati, he decided to basically stop drawing walks. He had 73 plate appearances, and 2 walks. He hit .290, so it could have been worse.

Kevin Pillar: I don’t think anybody predicted that this would happen. Pillar is playing highlight-film defense in centre field, is 12 for 14 as a base stealer (the same number of steals as Anthony Gose in Detroit!), and has worked his batting average up to .285. He still doesn’t walk much, but I don’t think anybody is too concerned.

Jose Reyes: His walk rate has shown a steady decline as a Blue Jay, and is now noticeably low – he’s drawn only 11 walks in 229 plate appearances. His on-base percentage, .305, is his lowest since 2005. But he’s still a very smart basestealer – 10 for 11 so far – and the Jays didn’t really start winning until he returned to the lineup. As a defender, his decreased range is noticeable, but he still has a strong arm and good hands, so he’s not hurting the team. Especially given that Josh Donaldson is to his right. But he has three years left on his contract, and the Jays are probably concerned that they will be paying a lot for very little three years from now. Fun fact: he hasn’t hit a triple yet this year.

Justin Smoak: I was expecting that moving from Seattle to Toronto would improve his stats, but that it would only be a park illusion. But Smoak is hitting better this year than he ever has, and he’s hitting even better on the road than at home. This could be because he’s happier in Toronto, or he’s getting to play in situations that are favourable to him, or he’s under less pressure when surrounded by the Jays’ home run hitting lineup. He’s a switch-hitter, he plays good defense, and he was freely available talent, so I don’t think anybody in Toronto is complaining.

Devon Travis: I’ll be curious to see whether Travis will continue to hit this well, or whether he will experience speed bumps as pitchers adjust to him. His jump from class-AA ball has been both seamless and unusual. He might just be that good, but it’s too early to tell.

Danny Valencia: He has a lifetime .229 batting average against right-handed pitchers, and a .332 average against lefties. This year, he’s boosted both those numbers: he’s hitting .268 against righties and .377 against lefties. He has approximately equal amounts of playing time against both – two-thirds of his starts are against lefties, but Gibbons leaves him in there if the Jays have the lead and the opposition has switched pitchers.

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About davetill

I'm a writer and occasional web designer. I live in Toronto.
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