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The season that was: Josh Donaldson

A look at Josh Donaldson's 2015 season.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

One thing you can say about Alex Anthopoulos, it seemed like every trade he made was a complete surprise.

Getting Josh Donaldson was a huge surprise. We had Brett Lawrie. We kept hoping Brett would become the player that we imagined he would be, when he first came into the league. I thought that Brett, being Canadian, would have more value to us than he would have to any other team. He looked to be our third baseman for years to come. But Alex packaged up him, Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman and Franklin Barreto.

I was amazed at the trade, why would Billy Beane give up an All-Star for a disappointment, 2 guys that could, all going well, fill out the back end of a rotation and a very good, but very young, prospect.

Scott C. put up a poll and most of us really liked the trade:

Love it: 44%

Pleased, seems like a win-win: 50%

Hate it: 6%

We wondered how much better his stats would get, moving from a extreme pitchers park to the far more hitters friendly Rogers Centre. 

Year   Age   G  AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2015    29 158 620 122 184 41  2 41 123  6  0 73 133 .297 .371 .568 .939  155

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It turned out his numbers could look a lot better as a Blue Jay. Baseball Reference has him 2nd in the AL in WAR at 8.8 (trailing Mike Trout's 9.4) and Fangraphs has him at 8.7 (again trailing only Trout's 9.0. Fangraphs figures he was worth $69.9 million to the Jays, making him a bargain at his $4.3 contract. If you want to compare, Lawrie had a 1.9 bWAR.

He also had a pretty good playoff run, hitting .244/.354/.537. I'm afraid I expected a bit more form him in the playoffs, which is more on my expectations than his performance. If he could have just picked up a single, in the 9th of the ALCS game 6.......

Josh had an amazing .398 wOBA and 154 wRC+.

Compared to 2014, Josh walked slightly less (10.3%, down from 10.9) and struck out at the same rate (18.7%).

His line drives were way up (17.3%, up from 13.5), ground balls much the same (44.8%, down from 45.4) and fly balls down a bit (37.9% down from 41.1). And, as you likely know, more of his fly balls left the park (21.8%, up from 14.6).

Josh had some better luck with balls in play, having a .314 BABIP, up from .278, likely due to the jump in the line drive rate.

It won't come as a surprise, Josh hit LHP (.299/.391/.632) than RHP (.296/.366/.553).

He was much better at home (.330/.398/.647, with 24 home runs) than on the road (.263/.343/.487 with 17 home runs).

Josh was great with RISP (.353/.440/.618, with 7 home runs).

Josh had a great first half of the season (.293/.351/.532 with 21 home runs), and an even better second half (.302/.396/.615 with 20 home runs).

Josh Donaldson by month:

  • April: .319/.370/.549, with 6 home runs and 16 RBI in 23 games.
  • May: .306/.373/.649 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI in 29 games.
  • June: .269/.322/.398 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI in 26 games.
  • July: .287/.370/.606 with 7 home runs and 24 RBI in 24 games.
  • August: .324/.408/.724 with 11 home runs and 35 RBI in 27 games.
  • Sept/Oct: .279/.379/.486 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI and 29 games.
On defense, Josh was pretty terrific too. Fangraphs has him at a 9.8 UZR/150. He played 1317 innings at third, made 13 errors, for a 959 fielding average, right about the league average of .958 for third basemen. If I was to complain, I'd say that, very occasionally, he tries to force a play when there isn't one. But then sometimes he makes a play when I don't think there is one there either. I figured I'd miss Lawrie's defense, but Josh was similar to Brett.

Fangraphs has Josh 4 runs better than the average base runner.

His longest hitting streak was 10 games. Longest on base streak was 16 games. The longest he went without a home run was 14 games.

Josh's favorite team to hit against? He hit .480/.458/1.320 with 6 home runs in 7 games against the White Sox. Least favorite? He his just .143/.208/.381 with 1 home run in 6 games against the Mariners.

The thing that sticks out the most to me, about Josh Donaldson's season, is that he was never intentionally walked. I wonder when the last time a non-pitcher won the MVP without having an intentional walk. One of the many joys of having Jose Bautista bat behind you.

I honestly never figured we would see a player that was as intense as Bautista, but Josh manages to equal him in that way. He's equally quick to (how best to put it) take offense at a bad strike zone or take offense to a pitcher throwing inside at him. I don't know that he has Jose's ability to become super focused when mad, but I have a feeling that he will develop that. I did like how, on the few occasions when it looked as if Donaldson's temper was about to get him thrown out of a game, Bautista would, quietly, get up to the plate and insert himself between Josh and the umpire.

The 3 walk-off home runs were amazing. To do that once a season is great. 3 times? Josh had very good numbers in High Leverage moments, hitting .351/.426/.713 with 8 home runs in 115 PA in those spots. And he has hit better in those moments throughout his career.

As well as the great performance on the field, Josh seems like a great teammate to have. His intensity seems to rub opponents the wrong way, but, I would think anyone would like to have him on their side. I love this story, from a great post by Arden Zwelling on

Before a game in early July, Donaldson was demonstrating a swing-path adjustment to Reyes when Jose Bautista overheard and mock-protested. "Hey, how come you're always looking after him," Bautista said. "You never look after me!" Donaldson couldn't help but laugh. "Hey, man, you don't hit in front of me," he said, before pointing his bat at Reyes. "Him? I need his ass on base!"

I did like that Gibby was giving Josh half days off, at least in the first half of the season, having him DH against LHP, sometimes. That disappeared when Danny Valencia was let go. I hope that the Jays have someone that can spell him off, at least defensively, again next year. I think Josh is the type that can use the mental rest once in a while.

I'm really looking forward to watching him play the next few years. Maybe he won't always be as great as he was this year, but I'm sure there are a lot of terrific moments in his future with the Jays.

Josh has a very good shot at being our franchise's second MVP. I don't think we could haven't asked for anything more from the guy (well, maybe a hit in the previously mentioned game 6). He was so much fun to watch.

Well, maybe we could ask him to get a decent hair cut.

There were so many great moments for Josh, but this one does stand out (but Josh, I'd be ok if you never dived into the stand again, be careful):