The Blue Jays make an enormous change by making huge modifications

Toronto Blue Jays outfield
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports activities

It is a enjoyable time to be a Blue Jays fan. (Properly, regardless of Tuesday night time’s loss to the Yankees.) Vladimir Guerrero’s titanic circuits are enjoyable, George Springerit’s diving sockets are enjoyable and Kevin Gausmanit’s wicked separators are enjoyable. Principally the entire staff is a pleasure to look at. To an off-the-cuff fan, Toronto should appear to be the perfect baseball has to supply. And for a critical nerd like me, Toronto additionally seems like the perfect baseball has to supply – in a single particular respect, that’s.

At FanGraphs, I’ve written extensively about the passage. It is a matter I am enthusiastic about not solely as a result of there’s quite a lot of room for evaluation and debate, but in addition as a result of groups by no means agree on tips on how to use it and dissent is entertaining. The Padres solely change against left-handed hitters. The Dodgers change against everyone! Final season it regarded like groups had been beginning to reduce shifts in opposition to right-handed hitters. This season they’re more popular than ever. And if there’s one protagonist within the newest (and probably the newest) story surrounding baseball’s understanding of change and all its variations, it is none aside from the Toronto Blue Jays.

I’m not the primary to pay attention to this. Summarizing the primary weekend of the season, Mike Petriello wrote about how the Blue Jays had been transferring in opposition to everybody. Emma Baccellieri covered the continued improve in discipline shifts and the way Toronto is main the cost. Furthermore, what follows is nothing revolutionary. These observations have been made earlier than, however they bear repeating as a result of they’re ridiculous. It is just like the Blue Jays are taking part in an entire completely different recreation. But when we simply have a look at the most typical number of modifications, these in opposition to lefties, there’s nothing so particular to seek out:

A fast observe on this and future charts: they present quantity, not charge, which makes them inaccurate in judging which groups are probably the most and least enthusiastic. For instance, whereas the Yankees are twenty ninth in variety of groups in opposition to left-handers, they’re twenty third by staff charge, just because their pitcher confronted a league-low variety of left-handed hitters. However for the needs of this text, utilizing every staff’s whole appeared like the best choice. You will note why later.

Getting again to the purpose, the Blue Jays are in the midst of the pack relating to transferring in opposition to southpaws. They comply with a uncommon change-related consensus, however not an excessive amount of, that the majority left-handed hitters are good candidates for change. Why? In comparison with right-handed hitters, left-handers shoot a higher rate of balls on the ground and have a tendency to hit more often within the face of change. A normal left alignment additionally leaves much less holes within the infield. Even probably the most conservative groups are altering much more in opposition to lefties than they did three or 4 years in the past.

In that sense, the Blue Jays are moderates. However not for lengthy, as a result of that is the place issues get uncontrolled. Whereas each staff has swung to a right-hander not less than as soon as this season, extremists are uncommon. It is because these righties are a dangerous bunch; they or they don’t pull so much of their founders and strike much less usually in opposition to lag. A normal proper fielder can cowl the pull facet, however any ball hit even barely the opposite manner has base hitting potential. Most groups favor to give attention to lefties. The Blue Jays, nevertheless? They only do not care:

What’s fascinating is how rapidly the Blue Jays got here up with the concept of ​​concentrating on right-handed hitters. They moved in opposition to right-handers on 11.3% of the possibilities final season, a charge that has skyrocketed to 66.4% this 12 months. In some unspecified time in the future in the course of the offseason, individuals within the Jays entrance workplace considered that risk, crunched the numbers, and got here to the conclusion that it was certainly viable. I do not know what sort of revelations led to such a fast change in philosophy, and from the skin, they appear loopy. Public analysis suggests transferring in opposition to so many right-handers is a foul concept. However clearly, some groups argue the alternative. The Blue Jays, past becoming a member of them, at the moment are the spearhead of their marketing campaign.

Nonetheless, groups do not simply take note of their residence defence. Like the 2 Robert Arthur and Russell Carleton having detailed, outfield positioning had a far larger affect on batting BABIP than on-field modifications, which obtain the majority of sports activities media consideration. One methodology groups use to catch hard-hit line drives and fly balls is to shade the middle of the sector to the fitting (in opposition to left-handers) or left (in opposition to right-handers). Hitters additionally have a tendency to fireplace their air balls, and it’s these fired balls which are probably the most harmful. Labeled a “strategic” outfielder on Baseball Savant, he’s refined, environment friendly and has unfold all through the league. Let’s have a look at the place the Blue Jays are when it comes to utilization:

There may be not a lot so as to add right here. The Jays are in first place as soon as once more, and this time by a fair greater margin. They alone accounted for 16% of all strategic outfields this season. Since these outfield modifications occur concurrently the infield modifications, it is virtually by no means true that Toronto’s protection is regular. No matter your emotions concerning the change, you sort of must applaud that dedication, do not you? Oh, and the Blue Jays are additionally connoisseurs of the outfield 4, which few groups try because of the threat concerned. It is definitely an acquired style, however the Blue Jays have a voracious urge for food:

This graph lacks no worth – there are actually solely six groups to date who’ve dared to position 4 males within the outfield. Fittingly, the Blue Jays’ whole is greater than the opposite 5 groups mixed. Curiously, of the six, 4 of them are AL East groups. It’s partly due to Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizo, two Yankees who rank first and second in most outfield fours had been confronted. However what separates the Blue Jays is their relentlessness. Fairly than reserving four-man outfields for terribly particular conditions, they made some extent of utilizing them in opposition to choose hitters no matter pitcher or opposing rely. They do not simply dip their toes within the water; they appear totally engaged.

In conclusion, the Blue Jays transfer rather a lot. How a lot is it? It is rather a lot :

A bunch of groups crashed, with a Toronto skyscraper towering over them. This graphic completely sums up why the Blue Jays have been so wonderful this season. Gamers are good, positive, however from a entrance workplace perspective, that is additionally what a want to win seems like. Not {that a} maximalist strategy is essentially good, however the Blue Jays appear satisfied that 4,000+ shifts and counting are half and parcel of their method. They’re all in! The identical can’t be mentioned for a lot of groups.

What am I don’t going to do right here is attempt to perceive what their reasoning is, and if it actually is sensible. This can be an article for later – no math this time. The Blue Jays’ aggressive methods give us loads of questions to think about, although. Their acquisition of Matt Chapman encourage them to push the boundaries of what is potential within the infield? Does Rogers Heart’s broad outfield entice them to cowl extra floor? Or did they one way or the other discover a option to undo the walking penalty? For now, nevertheless, I’m content material to step again and admire their efforts. If change turns into a relic of baseball’s previous, we’ll at all times have the 2022 Blue Jays to remind us how far it is come.

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