On May 1 of his first season with the Blue Jays, he hit .106 / .208 / .227. Less than a year later, he signed a $ 52 million extension. His 2019 made that decision a mistake, even though his 2020 offered some redemption. He ran hot and cold, seemed to turn corners and doubled, and in the end he hit .248 / .297 / .477 in his 359 games with the Blue Jays – almost identical to his .249 / .297 /. 488 in 404 games with the Saint-Louis Cardinals.
As he nears his 30th birthday, Grichuk may appear to be a guy who he is, a player with above average power, below average plate discipline and the ability to provide solid defense in the middle. the right field. This characterization is widely believed to be true, and a good start to 2021 is not enough to change it.
While skepticism about Grichuk’s ability to grow is justified, it’s clear he’s changing as a hitter. While 29 games so far this year is undoubtedly a small sample, if we include his 2020 Grichuk hit .283 / .322 / .481 in his last 84 games compared to .244 / .293 / .483 which he managed between 2014 and. 2019. That 29-point jump in the OBP helped Grichuk evolve from an all-or-nothing power hitter to a more consistent threat.
Surprisingly, this is not the result of a more patient approach. Grichuk’s walking pace hasn’t changed and he’s swinging a bit more on the courts outside the strike zone. Instead of drawing goals on balls, the outfielder gets on the bases by putting the ball more systematically in play. Having started his career as one of the major strikethrough artists of the majors, it is now more difficult to hit than the average hitter:
The stats for 2020 and 2021 come from small samples, but even though we’re looking at durations of 84 games, the closest we’ve seen is his hot finish to 2018, and his strikeout rate has been down for almost 200 games. :
The reason for this decline is not difficult to see. Grichuk’s contact rate soared, but what really exploded was his contact rate on courts outside the zone. From 2014 to 19, he sat 55.2 percent – 328th out of 375 skilled hitters. In 2020 and 2021, this number rose to 68% – 45th out of 147 qualified
Again, if we’re talking about 84-part sequences, he’s never done anything like this before:
While this is all rather granular, Grichuk making contact on pitches outside the area is crucial as it caused him to foul pitches and stick to bats with two strikes, giving himself more opportunities to make damages.
No one or two shots can tell the full story of his progress, but it’s easy to imagine Grichuk hitting either of those 99 km / h fast balls in previous years:
Grichuk not only avoided strikeouts, he turned out-of-zone shots into hits – as he did with his starting single on Saturday:
Considering that Grichuk has a reputation for being a baseball crushing Statcast darling, it seems fair to assume that reducing Ks significantly would allow for a more dramatic improvement than we’ve seen. However, it looks like his new hit-strike abilities came at the expense of some power.
The .199 Isolated Slugging Grichuk produced in 2020 and 2021 – while strong – is lower than all of its previous full seasons, even declining years like 2019. It has also seen its average release speed and hard hit rate drop. since the start of his career. heights, especially compared to the league average:
It looks like Grichuk has reduced his swing a bit in order to make more contact, and sacrificed a bit of power to do so. However, the gain appears to run deeper than the loss, and the 29-year-old looks better at plate than he has since his scorching arrival until 2018.
This season, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is getting a ton of attention for his transformation – and rightly so – but Grichuk also deserves credit for changing his game. While it’s easy to see the outfielder as a finished product whose strengths and limitations are well documented, this perception does not match what it has been doing since the end of 2019.