A Quick Note on Double Plays

Wednesday, July 12 2023 @ 08:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

So John Northey was lamenting that the GIDPs, among other things, were killing the Jays offense. I looked into the subject, made a few notes, and things got out of hand. Too out of hand to put in a comment...

I haven't worried that much about GIDPs since 2008, when they were such a huge problem that the Blue Jays found it necessary to fire the manager in the desperate hope that that might solve the problem. Which it did, although no one knows why. Almost halfway through the 2008 season the Jays had been on pace to set an all-time major league record for most GIDPs. In the end, they didn't even lead the league. After that harrowing experience, I haven't worried much since.

But the Blue Jays did lead the league in GIDPs one year ago with 136; this season they're on pace to hit into 130, and they have the third most in the league at the moment. Last season, they hit into a DP in 11.5% of their opportunities; this year, they're down to 10.6% (league average was 10.2% last year, 10.1% this year.) That's not too bad - only one team in the AL has had more opportunities to hit into DPs than the Jays, and that would be the Angels, who do in fact lead the league in GIDPs.

The team that makes the most of their opportunities is Houston, second in the league in hitting into DPs despite being middle of the pack in DP opportunities. And no one does a better job of avoiding the DP than Texas - despite plenty of opportunities (third most in the league), the Rangers have actually hit into fewer DPs than Kansas City and Oakland.

You would, however, expect the Blue Jays to have been reduced their GIDPs much more this year than they have actually managed. Teoscar Hernandez (18 GIDPs) and Raimel Tapia (12 GIDPs), who both hit into far more DPs than one would expect from their opportunities to do so, are no longer here. Neither is Lourdes Gurriel (11 GIDPs), who basically matched the team average. A great deal of those at bats have gone to Brandon Belt and Daulton Varsho, two players who practically never hit into GIDPs (just 4 between the two of them.)

You're all looking at Vladimir Guerrero - I know you are - he's second in the AL in GIDPs after leading the league a year ago. Not only is Guerrero as perfect a DP candidate as one could expect to see - only one AL hitter has had more opportunities to hit into a DP than Guerrero. But Guerrero has actually reduced the rate at which he hits into them. So has Bo Bichette. So has Matt Chapman, who never hit into many anyway. Neither does Biggio or Jansen.

Whit Merrifield is hitting into a few more DPs than you would expect, although he's not much above the league average. It's just that you wouldn't expect it - Merrifield doesn't hit that many ground balls, and he's got good speed. Still, he's a RH batter who makes a lot of contact. Stuff can happen.

But ultimately there are three main culprits, and one of them is a huge surprise to me - Kevin Kiermaier. He's a LH batter with excellent speed. But he's already hit into 7 DPs in just 44 GDP opportunities, which is simply shocking. His  career high is just 8 for a single season. Why? I don't knpw. He's hitting more balls on the ground this year than ever before. He's probably lost a step. But still, this is just plain weird.

The second culprit is Alejandro Kirk and we all saw this coming, surely. Kirk was born to hit into double plays. Like Guerrero, he is a RH batter who hits the ball hard and strikes out less than an average hitter. And Kirk is just a wee bit slower than Vlad. (He may be turning into Jose Molina right before our eyes.) He was probably very lucky indeed to only hit into slightly more than the league average a year ago (11 GIDPs in 90 opportunities, 12.2%). This year Kirk's hit into 9 DPs in just 48 opportunities, which 18.8% of the time. Yikes.

But George Springer? Last season Springer had 95 chances to hit into a DP. And he hit into just 7 of them, a positively Chapman-esque level of DP avoidance. But in 2023? He's already hit into 12 of them in just 65 opportunities this season. Springer is hitting into DPs with the same regularity as Alejandro Kirk. How is this even possible? What is going on?