Among the many other Blue Jays who have waded through a rough start to the 2016 is infielder Ryan Goins who's,at least, reasonable offensive abilities, that he showed in 2015 seem to be well in the past.
In the past, Toronto has been able to account for Goins's relative pedestrian performance at the plate. With sluggers like Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, the theory was that you were able to hide an offensive liability on the field without it hurting the bottom line. However, when those sluggers struggle and the supporting cast around them struggle, it gets increasingly difficult to carry this one-tool option. This is where the Jays have arrived in the 2016 season.
It's not just that he's been under-performing as a second baseman. No, the club can handle that. The fans don't expect much offensively from a guy that's known as a defensive god throughout the six. The problem is that Goins is doing far worse than under performing. He's become, in crude terms, a liability at the plate.
On the season, Goins is hitting just .146/.200/.213 with a wRC+ of just 9. That hardly registers as performance and is unmatched by almost no starter across the league. Troy Tulowitzki has been abysmal this season but even his wRC+ sits at 58 which is tolerable over a short period of time. It's not just the main statistics that have been bad however. Virtually all of the trends that Goins revered with his career year in 2015 have reverted back to horrendous levels. His strikeout increased again to 23.7 per cent with his walk rate lowering to 5.4 per cent. This is largely caused by Goins's declining contact rate which has fallen nearly seven per cent to 75.8 per cent. He is swinging at more pitches than last season but not by a significant amount. The fact is, Goins simply isn't making contact the way he did last season with pitches.
To explain this, you might logically assume that pitchers are pitching him a different way. That can come in two different ways, through mixing in different pitches in unique sequences compared to last season or through throwing the ball in different areas. In the pitch sequence theory, there seems to be little merit as Goins is seeing largely the same pitches he did last season. There is some difference though, as right-handed pitchers seem to be throwing less hard pitches (fastballs, cutters, sinkers) in all counts than last season. That should make a difference, but I'm not sure it would make this big of a difference.
The latter portion of that theory--that he's getting pitched to different part of the zone this season--also is hard to confirm. Last year he was pitched mostly down and away with this season being spread out a little more evenly but largely the same. Thus, while pitchers might be making minor changes to how they are attacking Goins this season, there's little to suggest a major overhaul has been initiated to stymie Goins at the plate.
This is all getting more important by the day when you consider that injured second baseman Devon Travis is on his way to returning to the Jays. While his return may not be imminent, recent reports have him taking the field for the first time in extended spring so the return isn't light years away. You may remember Travis for his performance to start the season last year, hitting .304/.361/.498 before he was derailed with shoulder injuries.
Goins chances at remaining the starting second baseman become even more bleak once you consider that Darwin Barney has been far out-performing Goins this season. His current line sits at .352/.400/.452 and while he's definitely not that offensively gifted over a larger sample size, he has yet to show the valley that Goins is in. In Barney, you definitely don't have to worry about losing defensive abilities given he's a former Gold Glove winner with one defensive run saved this season.
This isn't to suggest that once Travis returns he's going to fall back into his past success and that Barney can continue this hot run he's been having. Rather, if Goins is unable to improve and improve quickly, average levels of Travis and Barney could finalize Goins's bus ticket south to Buffalo.
That said, the best thing about sports is that Goins has the ability to earn his playing time back and throw this whole analysis into the garbage. At the end of the day, it's up to him to determine where he will play.