Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bautista Leading Off?

To lead off this blog I could not think of anything more fitting to write about than the Blue Jays lead off spot for the 2010-11 season.

By the sounds of things Jose Bautista will head into spring training with the spot his to lose. Coming off a season in which he hit .235/.349/.408 Bautista is certainly not the worst option on the current Jays roster. Those numbers certainly will not excite any Jays fans after the stellar season Marco Scutaro gave them last season (.282/.379/.408).

Unfortunately, Bautista's splits differed greatly when matched up against a lefty and when facing righties.

Against Lefties: .293/.382/.537/.919

Against Righties: .202/.331/.333 /.664

That OPS difference is similar to sending '09 Adam Lind (.932 OPS) against righties and '08 Kevin Mench (.678 OPS) against lefties. Yikes!

This massive split is cause for concern and definitely a driving force behind the Johnny Damon talks. I am all for bringing in the veteran left fielder who put up one of his best major league seasons at the top of a potent Yankees lineup in 2009 (.282/.365/.489). At the age of 36 he would not go along with the "building" theme that has been stated, but the move would certainly have it's benefits. The idea of not seeing Bautista against righties would seemingly be reason enough, but the potential for compensation at seasons end or a trade at the deadline is good too.

The disdain against Cito Gaston and some of his head scratching managerial decisions is definitely growing amongst Jays fans and it is well founded in most cases. The idea that he has pencilled in Bautista to be the everyday right fielder is scary considering the way he handled the Jays young masher Travis Snider last year. Obviously the projected Lind, Wells, Snider outfield would not inspire confidence in the Jays young pitching staff, but there are no excuses for Snider not to be playing everyday he can handle.
Also, the offseason acquisition of speedy outfielder Joey Gathwright (who of course can be viewed leaping a parked car here) may help Gaston in his search for a lead off man. This has the potential for disaster. Gathwright checks in with a career .327 OBP which is just bad. The defence, speed, and base stealing ability is great for late inning pinch running or defensive sub situations, but not effective in a lead off role because as they say "you cannot steal first." Heck, I would prefer a guy like Lyle Overbay (.372 OBP in '09) leading off just because he is willing to take a walk to get on base for guys behind him like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind.
So does an Overbay/Bautista platoon at the leadoff spot make sense. Overbay mashed righties to the tune of .282/.396/.509/.905 in 2009.


  1. I hope some consideration is given to having VW in leadoff as this will take away the pressure of being a run producer which seems to bother him immensely. Then Snider/Bautista platoon in RF and Lind in LF with Ruiz as DH. A second catcher and JMac leaves one open position. Wallace? he can play third and first and DH if necessary allowing Ruiz to play first platooning with Overbay although I think Lyle's defense will be needed with the new infield.

  2. Thanks for commenting, I don't really think it would be wise to leave Snider out against lefties, which would happen in a platoon situation. If he is our "future" then he has to be comfortable against all pitchers like Lind. Also, Snider has shown the ability to hit lefties in the minors so it is seemingly a matter of time before he gets his groove in the bigs. For Vernon there is the same issues of on-base percentage, he gets out way too often to be hitting at the top of the order for my liking. Wallace is unlikely to break camp with the team because of "clock" issues. If they wait until about the halfway mark of the season, the Jays will be able to delay the arbitration process for another year and therefore have him for another year down the road before they must sign him long-term. Unless he absolutely rakes in the spring and Overbay is moved then I just don't see it happening.

  3. If Snider does not platoon, then it would seem that Bautista is a bench player again. Wonder if Cito will go for that? Gathright does not seem to have too much of an upside as with the questions re pitching, pinch running will not be as valuable as a "bopper' coming off the bench. However, the squad still needs someone to fill in at 3rd and outfield. Snider seemed to have more problems with LH pitching so platoon, while cutting at bats might still work out for 2010 as the club does not expect to be more than 4th or maybe even last depending upon Baltimore. Now, maybe the brass/Cito just don't see the value of Ruiz but for 2010 what is lost if he is DH and Lind get OF experience. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in the ST weeks. Frankly, I'm not convinced that the Jays can go with a 12 man pitching squad but might be better to not wear out arms by going with 13 man squad. Biggest problem then is that LV is a tad far away for quick call ups for position players.