Considering that he got off to a late start in the season after hurting himself in the World Baseball Classic, you could probably chalk up Brett Lawrie‘s slow start for the Toronto Blue Jays to the fact that he’s pretty much still at Spring Training speed right now.
What that doesn’t change, however, is the fact that well … he’s simply well behind in his game right now as far as hitting goes.
The team’s spark plug got a rare day off on Sunday to take a breather as the Blue Jays were trying desperately to salvage a series with the Seattle Mariners, which should give you a bit of a clue as to just how much he needs the mental break.
Mired in a .197/.260/.379 start to the season with only three multi-hit games out of his 18 with a whole lot of zeroes mixed in, Lawrie is struggling mightily to avoid hurting the team at the plate, let alone be the offensive spark.
He’s not the only one of the team that’s vastly under-performing, of course, though considering how much of a fan favourite he is in Toronto, he is arguably the one that hurts the most. There’s more to the game that the 23-year-old provides than just numbers, and while it’s clear that he’s still the 110 percent-all-the-time player out on the field … that’s simply not getting him very far right now.
In short: it’s a shame he’s batting below the Mendoza line, because he’s might just be the guy who cares the most about it.
The problem is pretty clearly illustrated in numbers: With a steady 42.7 percent swing rate (he’s swinging at neither strikes or balls any more than he did last season) and a 6.8 percent walk rate, it’s not as though Lawrie is showing significant discipline problems. When he does take a hack, however, he’s barely hitting the ball at all.
A good contact hitter so far in his MLB career, the hot cornerman is making contact with just 78.7 percent of pitches in the zone (vs. 90.1 percent in 2012) and 56.8 percent of outside pitches (vs. 68.4). That’s led to well below career runs per 100 pitches for just about everything he’s seen (outside of a two-seamer and a sinker), and is illustrated by a 11.9 percent swinging strike rate.
The result? The un-Lawrie-like 26 percent strikeout rate which comes simply not having the bat speed to catch up to pitches right now.
Even when he is making contact, the results aren’t too much better, given his brutal 4.2 percent line drive rate and 15.4 percent infield hits rate.
But what choice do the Blue Jays have? Toronto needs Lawrie to find his second gear, and to find it quickly. A stint required in the minors (a drastic option) would mean more time with Mark DeRosa, which — despite his heroics on Sunday — isn’t much of an option at all.