All or Nothing
It doesn’t take a lot to see the problem with the Jays offense. The team is hitting a collective .257, when last year hit .293 over the first half. Thirty-six points of average across the board! Imagine you had a lineup that hit .300 from top to bottom and then the next season they all dropped down to mediocre .264 hitters.
From top to bottom, every player except for Alex Rios is hitting below their career averages. Glaus’ average is up, but he’s missed a lot of games and his power numbers are down. This is why management continues to insist that the team will eventually hit once it’s healthy. Barring more injuries, it is incredibly unlikely that the entire lineup will continue to underperform over the entire season.
However, it is fundamentally against human nature to be able to accept that these sorts of things just happen, and you have to wait them out (unless you are a professional poker player in which case you live and breathe this concept). And so, theories abound as to what is wrong with the Jays. One of the most popular is that we don’t steal enough, even though all of baseball discovered long ago that the effect of the SB was hugely overrated and it has dropped off the map for good reason.
Another is that we rely on the HR too heavily: the “all or nothing” theory. The Fan 590 published an article today by Michael Hobson that made my head spin. The author claims that we would be better off with hitters in the middle of the lineup who hit for average rather than the perpetual 100 RBI machines that are Troy Glaus and Frank Thomas. This is wrong on so many levels.
First, baseball analysts will tell you that clutch hitting doesn’t exist to any significant degree. You don’t have to look any further than their splits from the last three years to see that Troy and Frank‘s averages with RISP are right in line with their normal averages. (And as for “men on base”, the term the article uses- Frank is hitting the same as his normal average with men on base and Glaus is hitting much better (.301)).
Second, a power hitter will always drive in more runs in the long run. Yes, it hurts to watch them take huge cuts at a 2-2 pitch with the bases loaded when you wish they could choke up, but the fact that they strike out 100 times a season has nothing to do with their potential to produce runs. They also lead the team in OBP (which means they get out the least often) hit sacrifice flies at command, and on and on.
The entire definition of a power hitter is he will drive in more of the runners on base in exchange for doing it with slightly less frequency. There’s really no way to argue it- a team’s success is most directly linked to the number of runs it scores. If a player manages to drive in 100 runs, it doesn’t matter if they hit .150, they are greatly helping the team. The conclusion that it would be better to have two contact hitters in the 4-5 spots instead of proven RBI producers is absurd.
While I’m at it, the article also asks the rhetorical question:
This is a club that is at the bottom of the league in hitting with men on base. Why?
To which I can only be a broken record: Because they’re hitting .257 (21st in the league). In fact, they’re hitting better with runners on base, at .269 (18th), and even better with runners in scoring position: .272 (11th). I seriously doubt that they are “among the lead leaders in leaving men on base”.