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The season that was: Randal Grichuk

A look at Randal’s 2019 season

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays picked up Randal Grichuk in trade from the Cardinals, back in January of 2018, sending Dominic Leone and Conner Greene to St. Louis. At the time, we were pretty happy with the trade. Then, by the end of April, we were less thrilled, as Randal was hitting .106/.208/.227. A trip to the DL with crappy batting average syndrome seemed to set him straight. After coming back from the DL he hit .271/.319/.553 the rest of the way.

Checking in on the guys sent to the Cardinals:

  • Greene was DFAed by the Cardinals and claimed by the Royals off waivers, last November. He spent most of 2019 in AA, with a 5.29 ERA in 21 games, 16 starts.
  • Leone pitched in 40 games for the Cardinals this year. He had a 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings.

Randal had an interesting start to the season. In quick succession:

  • Kevin Pillar was traded.
  • Randal was installed as the new center fielder.
  • Randal signed a 5 year, $52 million contract.
  • Randal was uninstalled in center field.

They seemed to give up on him in center fairly quickly. I thought that, if you give a guy a big contract and move him to a new spot, you would want to give him a chance to prove he does or doesn’t belong before moving him from that spot.

Along with all that happening, Randal didn’t show us that he deserved the contract:

Standard Batting
151 628 586 75 136 29 5 31 80 2 1 35 163 .232 .280 .457 .738 93 20
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/3/2019.

Baseball Reference has him at a 0.3 WAR. FanGraphs at a 0.5 WAR, making him worth $4.4 million to the Blue Jays.

He had a wOBA of .307 and wRC+ of 90.

Compared to 2018, his walk rate was much the same (5.6%, from 5.8) and strikeout rate was also much the same (26.0%, from 26.4).

His line drive rate was much the same (18.8%, from 18.4), ground ball rate slightly higher (39.1%, from 35.1) and fly ball rate was down (42.1%, from 46.6). His fly balls were leaving the park at the same rate (17.3% from 17.8).

Hard contact rate was much the same (37.2%, from 36.4) and soft contact rate down slightly (19.3%, from 21.6).

Randal’s BABIP was down (.266 from .282). Maybe he was getting slightly unlucky.

He hit RHP (.224/.265/.450) worse than LHP (.250/.311/.473).. He’s had slight reverse splits in the past.

He hit much better at home (.243/.284/.507) than on the road (.222/.277/.412).

Randal had troubles with RISP (.229/.289/.410). Last year he was very good with RISP (.262/.352/.534).

He did hit some better in the second half (.231/.266/.508) than the first half (..233/.281/.417). Well, not sure about better, but he showed more power in the second half. I have a theory that he realized in August that he really couldn’t save his OBP or BA, and decided to go all out for home runs.

Randal by month:

  • April: ..245/.303/.418 with 4 home runs in 29 games.
  • May: .214/.281/.398 with 5 home runs 27 games.
  • June: ..220/.278/.440 with 6 home runs in 25 games.
  • July: ..238/.282/.375 with 2 home runs, 3 walks and 19 strikeouts in 21 games.
  • August: .255/.296/.529 with 6 homer runs, 6 walks and 23 strikeouts in 26 games.
  • September: ..220/.234/.582 with 8 home runs, 1 walk and 23 strikeouts in 23 games.

You see what I mean about home runs late in the season, he seemed to give up on working counts and trying to get on base and just swung for the fences. There is a question, would you be happy with a Randal Grichuk who hit .220/.234/.582 on the season?

Not surprisingly, he hit far better in wins (.287/.336/.616) than losses (.189/.236/.332).

On Defense?

In right field he had a UZR/150 of -0.7 in 724 innings. That’s way down from his 4.9 of last year. I disliked the Jays decision to play the outfielders deeper this year. I wonder if that hurt his UZR numer. He made 1 error in right, being our one outfield who you expected to hang on to the ball if he could get his glove on it.

In center field he had a UZR/150 of -0.6 in 486 innings. I really am mystified by why the team decided to move him out of center. I didn’t think he was that bad out there, but they likely have different numbers than we see. He made 1 error in center.

FanGraphs has him at a -3.8 runs on the base paths. He was 2 for 3 as a base stealer. He seems fast enough, maybe a little cautious on the bases. I’m ok with that, but apparently he could be better on the bases.

Where Randal hit in the order:

  • 2nd: 8 times.
  • 3rd: 34 times.
  • 4th: 43 times.
  • 5th: 41 times.
  • 6th: 13 times.
  • 7th: 9 times.

He hit pretty good batting fifth: .267/.303/.545, but I don’t think there is a magic to any spot in the order.

His longest hitting streak and on base streak was 11 games in early September. Most games without a home run was 13 games.

The team was 61-87 in games he started.

His favorite team to play? Randal hit .321/.368/.830 with 7 home runs in 13 games against the Orioles. And he hit .391/.462/.826 with 2 home runs (and 2 triples) in 6 games against the Rangers.

Least favorite? He hit .056/.217/.053 in 6 games against the Tigers.

We were hoping for better from Randal. I hoped that he would take his very good second half from 2018 into 2019, but it didn’t happen. When you sign the big contract and then have a down year, fans tend to turn on you.

The comments in the post about the signing were very positive, most of us feeling it was a good deal. It could still be a good deal, if he can just stop chasing pitches out of the zone.

Center field is a problem spot for the Jays which has me wondering why they gave up on Randal so quickly. His UZR/150 is much better than Teoscar’s (Teoscar’s is -8.4) and the eye test, at least to my eyes, has Randal the better defensive player, but then the Jays may have different internal numbers or maybe see something I don’t. I think Randal could be at least average defensively in center (which isn’t a small thing, there are a lot of good center fielders out there), I have a hard time believing that Teoscar could be an average defensive player.

Randal is 28 (he’ll be 29 in August of next year), so you would think he’d have it figured out by now. He’s not a rookie, it would be nice to see some consistency. With Smoak most likely gone, Randal will be the old man in the lineup. It would be nice if he could be a steadying influence for the younger guys, but he’s still got stuff to figure out for himself.

Looking for a big moment of the season for Randal, this grand slam against the Orioles with 2 out in the ninth inning to give us a win is likely it.