It’s time for the Toronto Blue Jays to rethink their use of Troy Tulowitzki as a leadoff hitter
After a sizzling debut for the Jays in late July, Tulowitzki has gone 6-40 in his last 10 games, hitting a minuscule .150 with a dangerously low OBP of .244. Keep in mind he’s our preferred leadoff hitter these days, which only magnifies his struggles.
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From the leadoff spot, Tulowitzki has one hit to start things on the entire season. Overall, he’s hitting .067 with an OBP of .222 as the first man to enter the batter’s box. These numbers improve to a BA of .276 and an OBP of .323 when subsequent innings are factored in the equation, but this isn’t the kind of sub-par first-at-bat performance you expect to see from a top-of-the-order hitter, especially on a team like Toronto with all the big bats behind him. In other words, the Jays need their first batter to reach base with some sense of regularity during the first inning.
To put this in perspective, former Jay Jose Reyes is hitting .246 (.242 to start each game) with a .285 OBP (.296) from the leadoff spot this season. Ben Revere, another potential leadoff option on the current roster, has similar numbers on the season: he’s hitting .300 (.288) and claims an OBP of .329 (.307) when seated at the top of the batting order. The main consideration here is who represents the best first-strike option. Baseball is a game of momentum and Tulowitzki is constantly putting the Jays behind.
Jul 30, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes (7) prepares to bat against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
The Jays may have caught some lightning in a bottle during those first few games where they used Tulowitzki as a leadoff hitter, but that bottle has since been smashed to pieces (in place of baseballs) by Tulowitzki over the past two weeks. It’s time to try his bat somewhere else.
If the Jays move Revere to the leadoff spot, they could reinsert Tulowitzki as the No. 5 hitter. This would allow them to rest Russell Martin and play Dioner Navarro for a few days (as it’s pretty clear Russell needs a break and change of scenery himself).
Alternatively, the Jays could drop Tulowitzki to the No.3 spot, but this would see them break up the formidable duo of Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. There should be no suggestion of putting Tulowitzki in the No. 2 spot over Donaldson – that would be reckless and insane.
Aug 6, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Ben Revere (7) walks out of the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
There are many places where the Jays could move Tulowitzki; my point is they should move him. Some people claim he works in the leadoff spot because it lets Donaldson, Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion see easier pitches, but Tulowitzki wasn’t brought here to benefit the other batters in the lineup. He was brought here to solidify the defence and the offence at short stop.
To further this point, Reyes has put together a slash line of .293/.329/.404 in 320 plate appearances at the No. 1 spot this season. Revere has gone .298/.333/.360 (340) from the same spot. In other words, both players work best in the leadoff spot as these are beyond doubt their best numbers.
This isn’t clearly the case for Tulowitzki, however. He’s gone .219/.313/.384 (83) from the No. 1 spot; .250/.255/.375 (51) from the No. 2 spot; .319/.370/.500 (270) from the No. 3 spot; and .238/.304/.286 (23) from the No. 4 spot. These are his best numbers and they don’t necessarily support the idea of using him in the leadoff spot, but they don’t really show where else the Jays could use him either given the formidable nature of their roster. There may already be better bats at the Nos. 2-4 spots – that’s something to consider as well.
In any event, if the Jays insist on using Tulowitzki at the leadoff spot, they might as well bring Reyes back. They got more out of him at the top of the batting order.
What are your thoughts? Is it time to pass on this experiment or should the Jays stick at it for a bit longer? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
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