TORONTO — Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia walked 18 times in 497 plate appearances in 138 games in 2013, his walk rate dropping to 3.6 percent, less than half the 7.4 percent he posted in his rookie year in 2011. And the 27-year-old is continuing to adjust: he’s hoping to eliminate walking entirely from his game in 2014.
“I’m just not going to do it anymore,” Arencibia said. “My approach is to go up there and try and drive the ball, hit the ball, and I’m going to try and do that every time I step into the batter’s box next year.”
For Arencibia, who hit 21 home runs and drove in 55 runs for Toronto this past season, and who’s fourth among major-league catchers with 62 home runs since 2011, the pros of not walking outweigh the cons.
“It’s one less thing I have to talk about, you know? If I vow to not take a walk and it happens, it’s a bonus, the way I see it. I mean, it’s impossible to keep everyone satisfied, so hopefully this will help.”
Arencibia walked only five times in 173 plate appearance after this summer’s All-Star break. He wants to bring that same second-half approach to spring training.
“I think I walked twice in August and twice in September. If I come into next year with a similar mindset, I think getting to zero — not walking at all — is definitely a possibility.”
Before you start, Arencibia’s not interested in hearing about on-base percentage, or plate discipline. In fact, he believes he’s practicing plate discipline in his own right:
“Why is plate discipline only considered not swinging?” he asked. “Discipline can also be not taking pitches. Not taking a walk; ever. I’m up there disciplined enough to try and always hit the baseball. That’s how I see it.”
Arencibia was the target of intense criticism from fans and media in Toronto after posting a .227 on-base percentage in 2013, the lowest ever among catchers who had at least 450 plate appearances in a season — he made history. But he’s comfortable with who he is as a hitter after, admittedly, the most difficult year of his career.
“I am what I am up there,” Arencibia said, “and I’m going to embrace that. How can I hit a home run, or drive in runs, if I’m up there looking to take a walk?”
He’s right. He can’t.
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