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Halfway point: What do we think of our Jays? Hitter’s edition

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Random thoughts on the half-way point of the Blue Jays season:

  • I’m surprised we are still playing. I had the feeling the season was heading to a crash and burn. I’m not sure if the players (or most) decided to take things seriously after a couple of teams had multiple positives. Or maybe we’ve had a run of good luck, and things could turn the other way at any moment. Either way, we’ve made it to 30 games, which wasn’t a sure thing a few weeks ago.
  • The Jays are 16-14. The way they were playing at the start of the season, I wouldn’t have bet on us being above .500 by now. We are just a half-game back of the Yankees (who have lost 7 in a row), for second place. Baseball Reference has us at a 78.8% chance of making the playoffs. The Yankees, a half-game up are at 95.2%.
  • On the positive surprise side:

Teoscar Hernandez is hitting .295/.350/.661 with 12 home runs. He’s getting on base, and he’s hitting the ball hard. His defense? Well, I’d love him to hit the cutoff man more often. It might be a symptom of the shortened camp and not getting time to work on drills, but he’s played the outfield since he was a teenager, and he should know it by now. UZR likes his defense (+13.3 per 150 in LF), but I tend to ignore UZR on small samples.

Randal Grichuk is hitting .311/.348/.613 with 9 home runs. He’s talking a good game about changing approaches at the plate, and yet his walk rate is virtually the same as last year (5.4% this year, 5.6% this year). His strikeout rate is down a bit (22.3% from 26.0%). His hard contact is up (48.1% from 37.2). I’d like to think it is the new him, but I still think it could be a hot streak. He is our one outfielder who knows how to hit a cutoff man. But then UZR doesn’t like his defense (-15.2/150 in CF).

Cavan Biggio, though I’m not sure it is a surprise. .265/.390/.487, with 5 homers, and 4 steals. That’s at the high end of what we could hope. There has been the odd mistake on defense. He’s been fine in his occasional games in the outfield.

  • Disappointments:

Danny Jansen (.169/.313/.292 with 2 home runs) and Reese McGuire (.094/.094/.188 with 1 home run). And there have been questions on their defense (though Danny throwing out 3 base stealers, yesterday, makes me feel better about his arm). There have been some questionable pitch selections (though I think it is funny that when the pitchers do well, we praise the pitchers, and if they give up a home run, we condemn the catchers). Overall, the pitchers are doing well, so maybe we don’t have to complain too much.

Joe Panik (.200/.259/.220) and Brandon Drury (.152/.184/.174 and gone). I expected better, but then not a lot better.

Travis Shaw (.207/.270/.329 with 3 home runs). He’s been hitting the ball hard (50.9% hard contact, 41.8% medium, and 7.3% soft), but his batting line doesn’t sound it. BABIP .269, so some bad luck. And he’s striking out a lot 30.3%. I’ve been impressed by his defense at third. UZR likes it too (17.6, but that’s just 151 innings).

Lourdes Gurriel (.248/.302/.419 with 4 home runs). He’s striking out less (20.7% from 25.1 last year) and walking more (7.8% from 5.8), but he just isn’t hitting. He is a streak hitter, so I’m hoping he finds a hot streak soon.

  • Somewhere in between:

Rowdy Tellez (.240/.293/.520 with 6 home runs). He can look terrible for several at-bats and then crush a pitch. I’d like them to put him in the lineup every day. Let’s decide if he is part of the future. I like guys whose home runs go a long way. Rowdy doesn’t hit cheap ones. I’m not sure if there are questions about how coachable he is, but guys that hit balls that far are few.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.263/.339/.482 with 5 home runs). He started slow, but July has been good (.294/.381/.553). He’s done better at first base than I expected, considering having just a couple of weeks to work at it. He is going to make mistakes. I’m hoping that he gets the full spring to work at it next year. I’ll admit I hate when everyone gets excited about a player taking ground balls at a different position. There is a lot of time to take ground balls in baseball; guys will stand at various spots. I remember watching Jose Bautista and Marcus Stroman taking ground balls at shortstop one time; it didn’t mean anything other than filling some time. If Vlad plays 10 innings at third this year, I’d be shocked.

Santiago Espinal (.270/.300/.324). He’s been fun to watch. 10 hits, 8 singles, 2 doubles. I think he is fine as a utility infielder. I’m glad he’s getting a lot of at-bats.

Tell us what you have thought of the batters in the first half of the season.