Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Apparent Toronto DH Brigade


Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays had an insanely fine-crafted lineup, made up of a ton of great young stars, and some really wise new additions, including Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho, who made the outfield even more of a force. And yet the one oddball, wild card type portion of the lineup that didn't seem especially patterned out was the DH position, which they gave to Brandon Belt, in his first season away from San Francisco. They didn't know if Belt had anything left, they figured they should give it a shot. In 103 games, Belt hit .254 with a 2.0 WAR, 19 homers and 43 RBIs. Not peak numbers, and potentially the last stats of Belt's long career...but he got the job done.

The idea seemed to interest the Blue Jays, because the 'last legs DH' strategy is one they're continuing to go with this year. There are three potential DHs in this Jays system that are people nearing the end of their careers who can still at the very least do some damage at the plate. And funnily enough, one of them has been one of the key performers for the Jays so far.

Justin Turner, though not a Hall of Famer, has to be one of the most crucial supporting players of the last 10 years of baseball. I cannot imagine those Dodger teams without him, he could hit .300 and drill you when you thought you were safe. He was also a respected leader in a clubhouse that needed a stable, reliable figure like that. Last year in Boston he continued the strong degree of play, despite being 38. He still hit .276 with 23 homers and 96 RBIs, the latter of which, if you can believe it, was a career high for Turner. So, despite the Mets putting a word in, the Blue Jays signed him and plugged him in as their starting DH.

So far, Turner's been pretty excellent, hitting .319 with 12 RBIs and 2 home runs. He's been one of the team's best hitting performers so far, which is weird considering that the team also has Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer on it. The slow starts of the younger guys does let somebody like Turner, or IKF or Varsho, who may not be the central figure ultimately, be a hero early on. And isn't it wild that Isiah Kiner-Falefa can be seen as a hero again? Not much offensively but look at what he's doing at short.

Behind Turner in the DH brigade is Dan Vogelbach, for his 2nd time in Toronto. Vogey was essentially run out of New York on a rail after pissing off all the Mets fans, and this season was to be his redemption. It's...taking a bit, as he's yet to hit any home runs. This isn't like Pittsburgh where he can just find his swing again, I think because he's mainly a backup, he hasn't really found his footing yet, and I don't really know if he will.

And then there's the third man. I have no idea when he'll show up, as he's nursing an injury from Spring Training, but Joey Votto is somewhere on this roster, and I think he intends on making the team at some point. This will probably be his last MLB action, whenever it happens, and he wants to play close to home. Votto getting to be the Jays' DH, perhaps down the stretch, could be pretty awesome, and would be a wonderful sight, no matter the quality of the play. 

The Jays' overall approach may be hazy this year, but at the very least this DH strategy seems to be a hit. I hope they keep at it.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy I saw walk-off back in Cincinnati. He's...a long way from that season, to say the least.

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