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The season that was: Randal Grichuk

A look at Randal’s 2020 season

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Three seasons into his Blue Jays career, Randal has watched a pretty complete turnover of the roster. The batting order in his first Jays game:

1-Devon Travis 2B

2-Josh Donaldson 3B

3-Justin Smoak 1B

4-Curtis Granderson LF

5-Kendrys Morales DH

6-Randal Grichuk RF

7-Russell Martin C

8-Kevin Pillar CF

9-Aledmys Diaz

J.A. Happ started and took the loss. John Axford, Aaron Loup, Danny Barnes, Seunghwan Oh and Tyler Clippard pitched in relief.

The guys we traded to get Randal:

  • Conner Greene hasn’t pitched in the majors yet. He went to spring training with the Royals this year.
  • Dominic Leone pitched in 12 games for Cleveland and had a 8.38 ERA. Since the trade he’s pitched in 81 MLB games, and had a 5.57 ERA.

2019 wasn’t a great season for Randal. The team traded Kevin Pillar to make room for Randal in CF and signed Randal to a 5-year contract extension, worth $52 million. They quickly decided that Randal was best suited not to be in the middle of the outfield, which didn’t make the contract look any better. And he didn’t hit much, just .232/.280/.457 with 31 home runs. If you aren’t going to get a lot of hits, you might as well make many of them home runs.

Going into this season, we were told about his ‘new hitting philosophy’. We heard a lot about it when he was on a hot streak at the start of the season. He was ‘letting the ball travel’. Starting his swing a little later, so that he got a better view of the pitch coming. On August 19th, his batting line was .344/.400/.656. It seemed like he had figured things out.

The rest of the way he hit .243/.273/.408 and we heard less and less about his new philosophy.

In all:

Standard Batting
55 231 216 38 59 9 0 12 35 1 1 13 49 .273 .312 .481 .793 114 5
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/18/2020.

Baseball Reference has him at a 0.1 WAR. FanGraphs at a 0.6 WAR.

He had a wOBA of .334 (up from .307 and wRC+ of 112 (up from 90 last year).

Compared to 2019, his walk rate was exactly the same (5.6%), but his strikeout rate was down (21.2% from 26.0).

His line drive rate was up (21.9% up from18.8), ground ball rate slightly higher (41.4% from 39.1) and fly ball rate was down (36.7% from 42.1%). More of his fly balls were leaving the park (19.4% from 17.3).

Hard contact rate down (34.9% from 37.2%) and soft contact rate down slightly (18.9% from 19.3).

His BABIP was up (.299 from .266).

Randal hit RHP (.252/.293/.439) far worse than LHP (.328/.359/.590), which reads like a guy who should be platooned, but he has had reverse splits in the past.

He hit much better at Buffalo (.304/.357/.529) than on the road (.246/.269/.439). It makes me want to see his home, LHP split.

Randal was very good with RISP (.306/.357/.565).

Randal by month:

  • July: .400/.455/.400 with 1 walk and no strikeouts in just 3 games.
  • August: .287/.328/.593 with 9 home runs, 7 walks and 28 strikeouts in 26 games.
  • September: .245/.279/.367 with 3 home runs, 5 walks and 21 strikeouts in 26 games.

Not a surprise, but he hit far better in wins (.294/.331/.613) than losses (.247/.288/.320).

On defense, he played only center field (well, 7 games at DH). He had 1 error and 2 outfield assists. UZR had him at a -11.8 per 150. Small sample size for UZR.

FanGraphs has him at a 0.1 run better than the average base runner.

In games he started, Randal hit:

  • 2nd: 25 times.
  • 3rd: 1 time.
  • 4th: 9 times.
  • 5th: 8 times.
  • 6th: 6 times.
  • 7th: 5 times.

The early hot streak messed with where Charlie thought he should hit in the order. It is always a mistake to move a guy around based on a hot stretch, but then it was a weird year.

Every season some Blue Jays player gets off to a hot start. Every season they tell us that he is doing things differently, he’s figured the game out, he needed that 1500 at-bats to become a ‘professional hitter’ or some such thing. I was calling it the Kevin Pillar syndrome for a while.

Not that guys can’t change, but let’s give it more than two weeks to conclude that they have channeled the spirit of Babe Ruth.

Maybe there was a change. Randal, and several of his teammates, had trouble with the fastball. Perhaps ‘letting the ball travel’ is not a great thing if the ball is coming in at 95 mph. Or maybe there is a subtle change that they can make to keep the positives from letting the ball travel while still getting around on the fastball.

Randal turned 29, back in August. Pretty soon, we are going to have to give in to the idea that this is the player he is, someone who, in a good season, can be a 2ish WAR player. Someone that won’t hurt your team but isn’t going to carry a team to the top of the division.

I’m not a fan of Randal in center field. I want a center fielder who goes and gets the ball, not one that waits until it bounces and tries to make sure not to make a mistake. I think that the team will have to improve the ‘up the middle’ defense. Short, second, and center will have to be better if we want playoffs again. I think it would make our pitching look that much better. Of course, I’ve spent the last two weeks being amazed by Willy Adames.

Maybe it is possible that the guys we have can take a step up, but with Randal heading into his 30s I really can’t believe he’s the long-term solution.

Randal reminds me of the scene in Moneyball when Billy Beane is listening to his scouts talk about how player ‘x’ looks like a ball player. Randal ‘looks’ like he should be good. Good speed. Power. Handsome. All the parts are there, they just haven’t added up to what we expected. Maybe 2021 will be his year.


For his 2020 season, I would grade Randal Grichuk a

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