The unsung heroes driving the Blue Jays' September surge

Sep 17 2021, 4:21 pm

The Toronto Blue Jays have one of the best lineups in baseball this season. But if there’s one nitpick about their one-through-nine, they’ve been a little top-heavy.

Driven by MVP-calibre performances by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien, paired with All-Star campaigns from Bo Bichette and Teoscar Hernandez, and accompanied by George Springer (when healthy), that one-through-five stacks up against any team.

But once their batting order drifts into the bottom half, especially the lower third, the offence fell off dramatically. That’s to be expected with any lineup anchored by two top-five MVP candidates, but those guys can’t be expected to do all the heavy lifting.

But then a funny thing happened as the calendar turned to September. After their seven through nine hitters hit well below average through four of the first five months of the season, their bats have suddenly become red hot.

The timing couldn’t be better as the Blue Jays entered their most critical juncture of the season, and players like Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Danny Jansen authored some of the biggest regular season hits of the season.

The result has been Toronto winning 13 of 15 games this month.

Semien, Vladdy, Springer, Bichette, and Hernandez get plenty of credit, but the bottom-third of the Blue Jays orders has nearly matched the top-third during the month of September in terms of production.

Blue Jays Hitters in September (1-3 vs. 7-9)

1 to 3 .304 .376 .581 .957 157 28
7 to 9 .299 .366 .548 .914 141 42

That’s right, the bottom of the Blue Jays order is neck-and-neck with the top of the order in batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS. Their 7-9 hitters have driven in 14 more runs than the 1-3 hitters during the first 15 games of September.

Most of this bottom-third September surge comes courtesy of Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He leads all Blue Jays hitters with 26 RBI’s this month, his .385 AVG ranks third on the team, his .808 slugging percentage ranks second, and his 229 wRC+ ranks third.

Heck, Gurriel even has eight walks over his last 15 games, which is saying a lot for a player who owns a lifetime OBP of .327. He’s using that increased plate discipline combined with those great bat-to-ball skills to catch fire at the ideal moment.

With those insane numbers, how on earth does Gurriel “only” rank second or third among several of those offensive categories? Because there are a few hitters even hotter than Gurriel, and one of them is another member of the bottom-third brethren.

Blue Jays Batting Leaders in September

Danny Jansen .417 .481 .917 1.398 266
Teoscar HernƔndez .400 .500 .745 1.245 233
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. .385 .459 .808 1.267 229
Marcus Semien .300 .408 .700 1.108 192
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. .355 .412 .677 1.089 192
Randal Grichuk .382 .436 .559 .995 168

It’s a small sample size, but Jansen’s bat has caught fire in the six games he’s played in September. The Blue Jays catcher is slashing .417/.481/.917 with a 1.398 OPS and 266 wRC+ in those six games.

Again, it’s only a handful of games, but this a huge turnaround for Jansen, who slashed .176/.259/.336 prior to his return from the injured list on August 31.

Filling out the rest of the bottom-third of the order, guys like Randal Grichuk and Breyvic Valera have contributed to this avalanche of a lineup. After an atrocious month of August for the outfielder, Grichuk bounced back and his OPS is hovering close to 1.000 during September.

For the most part, the top portion of the Blue Jays lineup has remained consistent since Opening Day. Aside from a bit of a dip in production last month, Toronto’s one-through-three hitters have been money all year long.

While those hitters are largely responsible for the bulk of offence, the unsung heroes in the bottom of the Blue Jays batting order have pushed this team over the top. Suddenly the Blue Jays look like an American League juggernaut, and a squad nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

When a team like the Blue Jays comes along ā€” who already have one of the most potent lineups in baseball ā€” and their number seven hitter posts eye-popping numbers at the plate, that’s when you know you have a behemoth on your hands.

Ian HunterIan Hunter

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