Which Blue Jays Have Weaknesses Hitting With Two Strikes?
Overall, the rate of strikeouts has increased in baseball over the course of the last several years which Scott Miller over at CBS Sports does a good job of outlining. Obviously, the hitting landscape has changed where a two strike approach is no longer valued as much as it once was. Strikeouts are way up and hitters understand that home runs get you big bucks. However, there are numerous opportunities in every game where failure to do the little things costs your team some runs. Undoubtedly this is true when a batter reaches two strikes and is unable to put the ball in play.
So this begs the question, with two strikes, which Toronto Blue Jays players were better than league average?
With two strikes in general, league average was .178 last year when the Jays as a team hit .185, 12th best in MLB. Seven of the regulars had batting averages higher than the team average – heck even Ryan Goins had a .191 BA – you can guess which positions did not (i.e. 2B collectively & C). Their team BA was negatively impacted by mostly the young guys that were called up like Moises Sierra and Kevin Pillar but also from the other less than ideal players they had like Emilio Bonifacio, Maicer Izturis, Henry Blanco, Josh Thole, and Mark DeRosa. As a result, one can reasonably expect that if the Jays’ regulars are healthy, they should be better in this area in 2014.
However, when I looked at hitting with a full 3-2 count, the Jays were 16th in the league hitting .214, and guess which star players show up below that mark; none other than the two Jose’s. Jose Reyes batted .194 and Jose Bautista had a .164 BA. To put that in perspective, Reyes’ career mark is .264 and Bautista’s is .215, which is a far cry from his 2011 season when he hit .325 in full-counts. Granted, in that year, Bautista had a superior 20.2 BB% and 2013 was much more in line with his 13.5 BB% career average at 13.1%.
Still, why did these two superstars hit so poorly during full-counts last year? Reyes’ problem could quite reasonably be explained from being in a new league and not having the familiarity with what pitchers may throw him. For Bautista, he showed less patience than in years past (13.1 BB% was his lowest since 2009, the point when he was just becoming a star), however perhaps the biggest sign is that he’s over-anxious to be that guy – the big run producer – when in actuality all he needs to do is be his own, still awesome self.
Everyone knows that Bautista’s strength is to pull the ball, but with quite honestly some declining production, why not try to take the walk with power-hitting Edwin Encarnacion behind him in the order, or try to hit close pitches up the middle or take them the other way? This change in approach just happened too infrequently with Bautista last year.
This is where new Blue Jays hitting coach Kevin Seitzer may come in. With two strikes, he likes hitters to take a different approach, and given the weaknesses some Jays personnel seem to exhibit, why not try something different.
Truly, there’s no shortage of players for Seitzer to work with.