As it turns out, J.P. Arencibia isn’t all talk.
That the Toronto Blue Jays catcher is one of the more vocal players on the team is no secret. Having been under fire for the majority of the season for his disappointing performance at … well, everything except power, I suppose, it was perhaps his latest spat — this exchange being with former bluebirds catcher and now television analysis Gregg Zaun — that finally sparked him to really do something about it.
Now, that’s unlikely to be true, of course.
The fact is likely that Arencbia is already his biggest critic, and has been working to “slow down” his game for some time now as reported by the beat writers; that said, you can’t really say that the public semi-confrontation with his fellow Rogers employee wouldn’t have provided any extra motivation either.
Whatever the case may be, a switch has seemingly been flipped.
Culminating in Friday’s 2-for-4 performance that saw JPA hit his 16th homer of the season (his first since June 18), the catcher has been riding a hot streak in July, successfully recording a hit in all but two games that he’s appeared in. No, the power hasn’t exactly shown up yet (the home run was his first extra-base hit for the month), but the Blue Jays will take a .320/.414/440 triple-slash from Arencibia every single time.
Oh, but the best part? He’s actually drawing walks.
No, seriously — with four free passes over 25 PA in July (which equals his total from his first two months combined), the free-swinging catcher now has a 13.8 percent walk rate.
If anything, that’s probably the most positive sign that Arencibia’s current boon at the plate isn’t just one of his signature hot streaks, as his dramatically reduced swing rate (44.1 percent in July vs. 51.6 in season) and swinging strikes (8.9 percent vs. 14.1) suggest that all the work he’s been putting into not be so aggressive might actually be paying off.
He’ll have his work cut out for him, of course, given that his momentum will be cut off by the All-Star break, and there’s a very large sample size that says such a dramatic change can’t be sustained.
Then again, maybe that’ll just provide the maligned Blue Jays catcher with extra motivation too.