Those Surprising Jays Sluggers

Coming into the 2010 season, there wasn’t all that much to be excited about as a Jays fan. Although new GM Alex Anthopoulos was ready to take over with a bright future ahead, hopes in Toronto rested mostly in prospects such as Kyle Drabek and Brett Wallace. With Roy Halladay and Alex Rios gone, the Jays were looking at a rock bottom season.

But that hasn’t happened at all. Instead, the Jays stand at a surprising five games over .500 in the dangerous territory we call the American League East. Although Toronto’s pitching has been solid, it has been their offense that has shocked everyone around baseball. Let’s take a look at some of those guys who are turning heads.

CF Vernon Wells
2010 wOBA: .396
2009 wOBA: .314
Career wOBA: .346

Oh, Vernon. When the Jays put Alex Rios on waivers last season, most people were pointing at Wells’ massive contract as a worse failure than Rios’. However, like Rios, Wells has bounced back big this year. For Wells it’s been due to his power resurgence; his BABIP of .293 is right around his career norm, but his HR/FB rate of 19.7% is a career high at the moment.

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OF Jose Bautista
2010 wOBA: .390
2009 wOBA: .339
Career wOBA: .328

The biggest shocker of them all, Bautista is currently slugging .152 better than last year with 18 homers already on the season. Aside from the pop, he’s also increased his walk numbers, getting on base at a career high rate. Bautista’s .221 BABIP is well below his career mark of .275, but his HR/FB rate of 20.2% is not only a career high but one of the top marks in the major leagues.

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SS Alex Gonzalez
2010 wOBA: .349
2009 wOBA: .275
Career wOBA: .298

If Bautista is the biggest shock, Gonzalez is certainly a close second. Gonzalez got his contract with Toronto based mostly on his durability, defense, and rings. However, the man who slugged .355 last year is now at .509, a dramatic increase. Gonzalez, who has already hit five more homers than he did in all of 2009, has been a godsend for the Jays.

_ _ _

LF Fred Lewis
2010 wOBA: .340
2009 wOBA: .327
Career wOBA: .343

While Lewis’ production this year certainly isn’t jaw-dropping, it is nevertheless surprising; Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, and FanGraphs Fans all predicted Lewis to underperform his current wOBA. Considering Lewis was also cut in Spring Training and had to find his way to a new team (and divison, and league, and country) right before the season, and that he had a subpar 2009, this has been a nice year for Fred.

_ _ _

C John Buck
2010 wOBA: .337
2009 wOBA: .332
Career wOBA: .307

Poor Royals fans. Despite putting up 0.5 WAR in just 59 games last year, Kansas City decided to go with Jason Kendall for 2010. Toronto has been the benefactor of that mistake, as Buck already hit more homeruns this year than all of 2009. While his numbers aren’t as gaudy as some of the other players, his pop makes him a nice asset at catcher.

_ _ _

With the huge struggles from Aaron Hill, Lyle Overbay, and Adam Lind, the Toronto Blue Jays would be in a far worse position were it not for the great seasons being had by some surprising names. I’m not sure if Anthopoulos planned it all to go down this way, but he gets the credit nonetheless, and the Jays find themselves in a decent position with some bright players on the farm.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


19 Responses to “Those Surprising Jays Sluggers”

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  1. Jaybird says:

    Lewis wasn’t cut before the season began. He played 7 games with Fresno Grizzlies (Giants AAA) and was traded on April 15th.

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  2. RyanC says:

    Bautista isn’t surprising at all. He re-tooled his swing last year and lead the Majors (pretty sure) with 10 home runs from Sept 7th until the end of the season.

    Anybody who says they saw this coming from the other guys on this list is a liar or a genius.

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    • Impossibles says:

      Ummm, I’m sure even Bautista’s mom is surprised.

      It’ll be really interesting to see how this season is going to effect his next contract. He’s hitting like Adam Dunn but plays excellent defense in RF and 3B.

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    • Mark says:

      I’m not sure I’d argue that Bautista has been hot since September though. He had a great September and hit a bunch of homers off some sub-par pitchers (Guthrie, Ray, Buchholz, Hunter Jones, Ian Snell, Gaudin, Michael Dunn, and Jeff Manship). But it’s a separate and isolated event that didn’t carry over to 2010.

      I’m a Jays fan, so I’m used to hearing the argument that Bautista carried his offense from September to now. But that isn’t the case. He had a terrific September, a medicore April (741 OPS, 325 wOBA), and an epic May (1.188 OPS, 491 wOBA). But he’s been awful in June, with a 604 OPS and a 265 wOBA.

      I’m not going to argue that he’s as bad as he is in June/April, just like I wouldn’t expect you to argue he’s as good as he was in September/May. But he’s not this good, and he hasn’t been able to stay hot for longer than a month. So I don’t agree with the argument that he’s been red hot since September. And I don’t think he’s become the next great power hitter either. I’ve always loved his plate discipline though, so I could buy into him being better than his career numbers. But not a middle of the order type guy like he’s been this year.

      Whenever I hear the story about Bautista changing his mechanics all I can think of is the spring training line “I’m in the best shape of my career…”.

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      • RyanC says:

        Fair enough. He certainly isn’t as good as he’s played at times, but he’s not as bad as he’s played at other times. Just like every other player.

        I don’t think it’s fair to compare a mechanic change to “best shape of my career” as those are just filler stories that usually produce no results. Something has to explain the power binges that Bautista has gone on (teeing off on sub-par pitching could be a part of it, but he’s also faced bad pitchers at other points in his career), so unless someone has a much monre convincing argument that is probably what I will go with.

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    • spindoctor says:

      Anyone who says they saw Bautista in contention for the MLB HR lead in June is a liar or a genius. Regardless of the retooled swing (I’m in Toronto and get to see him all the time — he’s definitely changed his mechanics), anyone who saw him with a >.300 ISO is a liar or a genius.

      We’re enjoying the ride up here, waiting for the rollercoaster to fall off the track ;)

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    • spindoctor says:

      Anyone who says they aren’t surprised by…

      A. Bautista challenging for the HR lead in June
      B. Bautista with a >.300 ISO in June
      C. Somewhat like B….Bautista with a >.500 SLG% in June

      is a liar or a genius.

      Yes, he re-tooled his swing. I’m from Toronto and get to see him play a lot. I expected some improvement this year from him, but its laughable for anyone to really say they saw this coming, or that this isn’t surprising.

      That said, we’ll enjoy the ride as long as it lasts ;)

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  3. Judy says:

    Alex Gonzalez is durable?

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  4. Alan Marshall says:

    As much as I love these Jays, some regression seems inevitable. Let’s also hope that there is some regression for Lind and Hill as well.

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  5. Brendan says:

    Hill and Overbay have been coming on strong lately as well, Bautista’s regressed a bit and Gonzalez has been a lot more ‘normal’ as of late also. Lind still really needs to step it up, he keeps sinking deeper and deeper.

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  6. Brendan says:

    Also, this team should improve even more once Snider comes back at the end of the month, putting Encarnacion on the bench.

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  7. Impossibles says:

    Gonzalez has been amazing. When he signed everybody thought AA was just forcing Boston’s hand to sign Scutaro, but Alex G has been excellent defensively and really stabalized the team, and the insane thing is he’s signed for next year too.

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  8. Renegade says:

    Travis Snider is the team’s best hitter and he’s on the DL. :(

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  9. from Capitol Hill says:

    Those “Canadian doctors” are really doing wonders for this team.

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  10. JoeS says:

    If Jose is having such a good year, why is his BABIP so low? Should he be due for even better numbers soon?

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    • spindoctor says:

      He’s always been a below average BABIP player (.270-.280) but right now it is absurdly low. That said, you can somewhat explain it by his HR/FB rate (18.9%) and his overall FB% & GB% (54.9% FB vs. 29.5% GB).

      The FB’s leaving the park for HR have no effect on BABIP. That leaves an ~44.5% FB rate not leaving the park for HR, and the majority of that should be outs. Last season, for example, his FB’s staying in the park accounted for ~39.1% of balls off his bat. That’s a 5.4% shift, mainly taken from GB% (career low of 29.5%) which one can hypothesize would cause his BABIP to drop below his normal value.

      If his profile remains the same the rest of the season (more emphasis on FB% with his swing change), one can expect his HR/FB rate to come back down to earth a bit, which could keep his BABIP down (though not as low as it currently sits)…if his profile shifts back towards his historical norm, with an increase GB% and reduced FB%, we should see his BABIP trend back towards .270-.280.

      If i had to hazard a guess, I’d expect that his AVG and OBP would have 2nd half upticks, while his SLG% would decline.

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  11. JoeS says:

    Gotcha, thanks for the reply

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