NEW YORK – Ryan Goins’ most productive night at the plate this season included the first two-RBI sacrifice fly in Toronto Blue Jays history. It was a ball scorched 410 feet at 102.9 m.p.h., but chased down spectacularly by Jacoby Ellsbury.
“A little pissed, a little happy,” is how the slick shortstop described his feelings about the play, although he did concede later that the rare feat “is pretty cool.”
“I’ll put that in my back pocket,” he said.
The long, long sacrifice fly was one four balls lasered off Goins’ bat between 102 and 104.3 m.p.h. in Monday’s 7-1 drubbing of the New York Yankees, including his second-inning home run off Luis Severino. Though the results haven’t always shown it, the performance is the latest example of how the gifted defender has been delivering a higher quality of at-bat so far this season.
In the 10 games since Troy Tulowitzki suffered a right hamstring strain, Goins is slashing .200/.237/.429 with two homers, two doubles, eight RBIs and three walks in 38 plate appearances. Overall for the season, he’s slashing .208/.264/.396 in 53 plate appearances.
But with a hard contact rate of 36.6 per cent, up from 27.5 per cent, and a BABIP of .205, down from a career mark of .273, it’s reasonable to think he’s hit into some bad luck (like on Monday, when three of the four balls he crushed resulted in outs, despite each having a hit probability of at least 57 per cent).
His line-drive rate up is to 19.5 per cent from 11.3 per cent last year and his strikeout rate is down to 15.1 per cent from 24.5 per cent. His chase rate of 31.5 per cent over his career is down to 20 per cent.
When you put it all together, he’s giving the Blue Jays more offensively than expected.
“I’ve made an adjustment with my hands, trying to have a little more rhythm, move a little slower,” says Goins. “It’s something Tulo preached to me all off-season, all spring training, just loading and seeing the ball. Breathing slow, trying to make everything feel slow – like a laziness – and then explode into the baseball.”
“I’m seeing the ball better, recognizing the ball better,” he continues. “Staying in the strike zone is probably the biggest thing, not swinging at balls outside the strike zone, and just not caring if I get a hit or not. Just trying to hit the ball hard and if it falls, it falls, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t, come back tomorrow and do it over again.”
Goins’ four RBIs against the Yankees were one short of his career high set against the Boston Red Sox on June 14, 2015. During Tulowitzki’s absence, he’s also hit a two-run homer in a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels and added a pivotal two-run single that positioned the Blue Jays to win in what finished an 8-4, 11-inning loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
By no means has he managed to replace Tulowitzki’s production. But with Josh Donaldson also on the shelf, the combination of premium defence along with timely hits has helped cover the gap.
“You don’t want see injuries, obviously, but any time you can contribute it’s a good thing. It feels good to be in there every day again like I was in 2015,” says Goins. “Those guys are going to come back and we’ll see how it all plays out. But I’m going to keep doing the same thing, regardless of if I’m in the lineup, not in the lineup, stay with my routine before the game, stay with my BP, just stay on top of my game as much as I can.”