Some of the players have changed over the last three years, but one constant remains for the Toronto Blue Jays. They hate taking walks. Of course, they are not hitting all that well either this season and perhaps the two facts go hand in hand. They are eleventh of fourteen AL teams in batting average and on-base percentage. The on-base thing has been a problem for three straight years now. How much better could this team be if they could grind out more plate appearances?
When John Farrell was brought in as manager last season, it was thought that the culture
would change a bit in the approach at the plate. After all, he was the pitching coach for the
Red Sox and saw first hand what breaking down starting pitchers could do for his team. But
the numbers are the same under Farrell as they were under the "see the ball, hit the ball"
approach of Cito Gaston. In 2010, the team's on-base percentage was .312. Last year it
was .317. This year, it is .311. Those figures have been a big drag on any consistency for
Who are the biggest offenders on this team? J.P Arencibia is one of the main culprits. You
have to like his power and he seems to be improving as a catcher, but he isn't learning the
strike zone. Arencibia has walked six times all season. That is a 3.5 percent walk rate. Ugh!
He swings at 37.9 percent of a all pitches outside the strike zone. It is not surprising, then,
that his OBP is .265.
Brett Lawrie's walk rate is kind of strange. He seems to have a better sense of the strike
zone than his catcher. He swings at 30.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone. And yet,
he has only walked eight times this season, a 3.8 percent walk rate. Because of that,
despite batting, .281, his on-base percentage is only .317. Sites give him the highest WAR
on the team because of his defense and overall play, but how much better could he be if he
could add walks to his arsenal? It's all the more puzzling since he walked at a 9.4 percent
rate last season.
Rajai Davis swings at nearly everything. He has swung at over 40 percent of all non-strikes.
Despite his "aggressiveness," he has at least walked seven times in his few at bats and
has a walk rate of 8.5 percent. But if he keeps swinging, that will only go down. Yan Gomes
in his brief visit was the only Blue Jays' batter that swung more. His O-swing rate was over
Eric Thames has a walk rate of only 5.8 percent. He has walked nine times this season. And
thus, his on-base percentage is .288. Obviously, that is not good enough. Yunel Escobar
only has a 6.9 percent walk rate and his OBP is .308.
Of the regulars, only Jose Bautista and Kelly Johnson have walk rates over ten percent. Both
are over twelve percent and it shows in their OBP. Johnson's on-base average is .344
despite batting .250 and Bautista's OBP is at .332 despite his .226 batting average. Edwin
Encarnacion has a decent on-base percentage of .348, which leads the team despite the
fact that he walks 8.7 percent of the time.
There is optimism in where the Toronto Blue Jays are heading. They have stockpiled talent
and have been really smart with roster moves. They seem to be going in the right direction.
But this on-base percentage thing has to become a new emphasis in their culture. The
teams ahead of them in the AL East are very good at wearing down pitchers which is one of
the reasons that the Blue Jays' pitching staff has given up the most walks in the American
League. The Blue Jays need to see this reality and modify their approach. If their batters
cannot do so, then future roster moves need to keep this in mind.