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Toronto Blue Jays Monday Musings- 4/16/18

Shaun Doyle

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Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Locked on Blue Jays presents Monday Musings, everything you need to know about the Toronto Blue Jays to start the work week

Locked on Blue Jays Host, Shaun Doyle, brings you Monday Musings, everything you need to know to start your work week and talk about the Toronto Blue Jays around the water cooler. We’ve got rain outs, Aaron Sanchez and the Blue Jays’ depth leading to their 9-5 start.

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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan! He is the founder and senior editor of JaysFromtheCouch.com Shaun is the voice of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared in several TV and radio spots. When not writing or talking Blue Jays, you can find Shaun enjoying his beautiful wife and two sons! Follow him on Twitter @DoyleJFtC

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Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays’ Steve Pearce has been quietly amazing thus far

Jeff Quattrociocchi

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

An unlikely leadoff hitter, Steve Pearce has been a nice boost for the Toronto Blue Jays to start the 2018 season

Sometimes, it’s worth writing a post just to give kudos to a player. Today, that player is Steve Pearce. So far this season, our old friend Sleeve has been phenomenal. While his performance has been too good to sustain for a full season, it has been truly good. It’s not been a luck-fuelled bit of smoke and mirrors.

After his start to 2017, that means something.

Let’s start with his overall production at the plate. In 41 plate appearances, heading into Thursday night’s game, he has produced a 173 wRC+, the 19th best mark among batters with 40+ PA. While very good, this is a level of production that Pearce has maintained before over 13-game bursts.

His great start only becomes truly special when we shift focus to his xwOBA. At this point, his .503 xwOBA ranks second only to Mookie Betts among 274 batters with 30+ AB. Interestingly, this marks the best 13-game xwOBA of his career (at least during the Statcast era). The implication is that while his results at the plate have been very good (high wRC+), the contact he’s created probably justified an even better set of results.

The two overarching keys to Pearce’s 2018 success has been effective contact and avoiding the strikeout. If we focus on his xwOBA on batted balls, Pearce’s .562 mark ranks 11th among batters with 30+ batted balls. Once more, his mark after 13 games this season is better than any 13-game stretch he’s put together since the Statcast era began.

He’s avoided strikeouts nearly as well as he’s made effective contact, with his 12.2% strikeout rate good for 24th best in the majors and nearly half the MLB average (23%). While his walk rate (7.3%) is below-average (9.2%), he has managed to produce a better-than-average walk-to-strikeout ratio (0.60 vs. 0.40).

Among Blue Jay hitters, Pearce reigns supreme, thus far. If we set a minimum of 30 PA, leaving Teoscar Hernandez and Luke Maile aside, Pearce leads the team in some key metrics: wRC+, xwOBA, xwOBA on batted balls and ISO (.316, tenth-best in the majors). With respect to BB/K, Pearce ranks second after Yangervis Solarte (1.38).

Given his disproportionate usage against lefties, it’s worth asking if his success has come mainly against lefties. Nope, he’s been solid overall against both lefties (202 wRC+, .523 xwOBA) and righties (137 wRC+, .476 xwOBA). That said, there have been subtle differences in how he’s achieved success against lefties and righties.

Against lefties (23 PA), he’s been all about the power—he’s struck out a bit more often (17.4%), but has generated a great deal of power (.381 ISO), supported by extremely strong contact (.626 xwOBA on batted balls). When he’s faced righties (18 PA), plate discipline has been more of a strength—he’s struck out only once. He’s produced less power than he has against lefties, but still a whole lot of power (.235 ISO) supported by fantastic contact (.493 xwOBA on batted balls).

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see the level of production Pearce can maintain over the full 2018 season. It’s highly unlikely that this is it, it’s just too good. The reason I wrote this post was not to project this small sample performance over 162 games. Instead, I wanted to raise a glass to a guy who’s been the Blue Jays best hitter this season, but who’s been overshadowed by some of the other great Jays performances we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy this season.

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Toronto Blue Jays

Blue Jays Benefiting From Yangervis Solarte

Shaun Doyle

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Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

Locked On Blue Jays explores the impact Yangervis Solarte is having on the Toronto Blue Jays so far in 2018

This episode of the Locked on Blue Jays podcast features a look at what is behind the early success for the Toronto Blue Jays. Their 2018 is off to a (somewhat) suprising start and it is because they have addressed their need for depth. Their roster is better equipped to deal with injuries. One depth piece who is having a major impact in 2018 is Yangervis Solarte. We explore why.

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Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays Depth Being Tested by Injuries

Shaun Doyle

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

After an injury filled 2017 season, the Toronto Blue Jays built up solid depth. They’re going to need it.

The Toronto Blue Jays made a concerted effort to insulate themselves against injuries to key players so as to avoid a repeat of their 2017 showing. Adding Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Gift Ngoepe and others was a rather smart approach to protecting a roster with significant talent in multiple areas. IF everyone stays healthy, this is a very talented roster.

Of course, in the run of a baseball season, everyone doesn’t stay healthy. Over the course of 6 months, injuries happen. Good teams are able to absorb the losses and win anyway. The Blue Jays looked to be one of those teams. But, recent events are starting to call into question if they’ve built enough depth to do that.

Starting the season without Troy Tulowitzki wasn’t much of a surprise, but it is made less meaningful with the depth the team has. Diaz, Ngoepe and even Solarte can cover that loss and the team doesn’t lose much at all.

Kendrys Morales has hit the DL, but that could actually prove to create a more flexible roster for Toronto. MLB teams are moving away from the David Ortiz type of DH, which Morales represents. Instead, they’re using the DH spot in more creative, versatile ways. With the depth Toronto built up, this helps them.

But, the injury bug may have other plans for them.

Josh Donaldson hitting the DL in an attempt to deal with his “dead arm” means that he won’t even be able to DH, so one of the depth pieces must be used to cover the third baseman’s everyday duties. Solarte looks to be that guy, but don’t be surprised to see Russell Martin at the hot corner during this DL stint. Using Martin also impacts catching depth on those days.

Friday’s game against Cleveland saw Devon Travis hit by a pitch on the hand. He was sent for precautionary X-rays. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a need for an extended trip to the DL, which is excellent news as the team’s depth is being stretched as it is. Of course, Travis has missed significant time since joining the Blue Jays organization, leading many to question whether he would play a full season ever. The front office has acknowledged (at least on some level) that this is a concern, which is why they built up their middle infield depth. Should Travis miss time to heal his hand, that very depth will be tested further.

Turning our attention to pitching, we hear that Marco Estrada has had his back acting up again already. It is a recurring issue, but one that the club will hope stays at bay. Should Estrada require time off, Joe Biagini looks to be the next man up, but he has had mixed results as a starter. After him, Ryan Borucki might be next in line. He has great upside, but would be in tough at the big league level.

Fans probably shouldn’t get too caught up in the paranoia of potential DL trips. It’s not good for the blood pressure. Thinking about what could happen if the injury bug continues to have its way with the Blue Jays isn’t helpful for anyone. However, focusing on what is in front of us, we see a roster that is having its depth stretched further and further.

Again, it is a rare team that doesn’t have to deal with this problem. Injuries happen. The real impact is only as dramatic as the options the team has to turn to. For the Toronto Blue Jays, they have collected a nice group of options. And, it has served them well in the standings to start this season.

The question lies in just how far this depth can be stretched. Are the Blue Jays deep enough to withstand key injuries? We’ll find out as they are being put to the test early on.

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