The Toronto Blue Jays’ recent Darwin Barney-at-leadoff experiment, thankfully, lasted all of two days (five if you count his three games leading off in late July). How it took that long for the team to realize a hitter with a .297 career on-base percentage, .320 this season, should be hitting lower in the order ...
In Barney’s place, Jose Bautista has returned to the leadoff spot, making each of the past five starts there, to give him 34 starts at leadoff this season. They’re his first since the 2010 season, but the strategy -- using one of the team’s best all-around hitters in the leadoff spot -- is hardly a new one for this team.
After the team acquired Troy Tulowitzki on July 28, 2015, the team batted him leadoff in 26 of their next 28 games. During that span, the Blue Jays were baseball’s highest-scoring offense, averaging 6.39 runs per game. Once again, the Blue Jays are on an offensive tear since returning to the bat-your-best-hitters-soonest strategy; they have totaled 40 runs in their past five games.
With Bautista leading off, Josh Donaldson in the midst of a six-homers-in-five-games streak batting second, and Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin and Tulowitzki batting third through fifth, the Blue Jays once again rank as one of baseball’s most threatening offenses. They’re an elite stacking choice, and can even pad the RBI totals of some of their lower hitters, like Michael Saunders, Kevin Pillar and Melvin Upton Jr., who typically rotate between the sixth and seventh spots.
On Tuesday, the Blue Jays draw as their opponent Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed 10 runs on 10 hits in 2 2/3 innings in his past two appearances against them in June.
Red-hot Pomeranz, ice-cold Rays
Though Drew Pomeranz’s stats thus far with the Boston Red Sox are less than extraordinary -- 4.06 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in eight starts -- he has picked up the pace of late, with a 2.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 25.6 percent strikeout rate in his five starts that have occurred in August. Perhaps workload concerns were overstated; he’ll set a new professional high in innings pitched in his next outing.
Pomeranz dominated the Tampa Bay Rays in his most recent outing, and he’ll get a rematch on Tuesday. It’s one worth the costly price in daily games.
Consider that, in the month of August, the Rays have faced nine left-handed starters, with eight of them tossing quality starts. Five of those resulted in a game score of 60 or better, and the group combined for a 2.36 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 30.9 percent strikeout rate. Among the success stories: J.A. Happ, Christian Friedrich and CC Sabathia.
The Rays’ trades of Brandon Guyer and Steve Pearce depleted their depth against lefties, and they usually roll 2-3 left-handed hitters (Corey Dickerson, Kevin Kiermaier and/or Brad Miller) against them. In addition, Evan Longoria has struggled mightily against them in August, batting .172/.200/.345 with a 23.3 percent K rate.