Charlie Montoyo tactical report: Blue Jays find winning stability

Yahoo Canada Sports

Thus far in his young managing career, Charlie Montoyo has made a point of mixing things up.

His lineups have been all over the place, which hasn’t necessarily been a negative as he’s tried to learn as much as possible about his team. The Blue Jays struggled mightily at the plate early on, which also played a role in the constant state of flux.

Last week, the Blue Jays started to swing the bats well on the way to a 6-1 stretch. That gave us some insight into whether Montoyo’s mix-and-matching ways would persist when he found something that worked.

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As it turns out, he’s more of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type than he appeared in the early going. On Tuesday he put Eric Sogard in the leadoff hole and had him followed by Freddy Galvis, Randal Grichuk, Justin Smoak and Teoscar Hernandez.

That top five hasn’t changed since, with the exception of Alen Hanson drawing in to give Sogard a breather on Sunday. As long as the Blue Jays are averaging 5.67 runs per game - as they have with that basic configuration - there’s no hurry for Montoyo to make a move.

Here’s a gumbo of facts and figures to help us sort through Montoyo’s best week to date:

Lineups: As mentioned above, the Blue Jays have found some consistency in their lineup. Although Montoyo insisted the constant churn earlier in the season wasn’t an issue, baseball players are creatures of habit and defined roles tend to do them good.

Even beyond the aforementioned top five, Rowdy Tellez seems to be settling into the six hole unless there’s a tough lefty on the mound. With the seven through nine holes, Montoyo has been rotating players through, including whoever is catching.

Long-term, Galvis will likely slide down while Tellez and Danny Jansen have potential to move up, but that won’t happen while the Blue Jays stay hot.

There's no two ways about it. Montoyo had a good week. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
There's no two ways about it. Montoyo had a good week. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Pinch-Hitters: Two.

Because the offence was generally so effective, Montoyo rarely had to replace anybody. Instead, the only reason he went to his bench was to get some work for a couple of his reserves.

That meant Hanson hit for Smoak and Socrates Brito hit for Hernandez late on Saturday during the team’s 10-1 rout.

Pinch-Runners: One.

At long last, the Blue Jays used their first pinch-runner of 2019 on Monday as Brito and his famous 99th percentile sprint speed took over for Smoak with the club down a run in the eighth inning.

The call made sense, and it worked considering Brito scored. Of course, he scored on a home run, but still, a run’s a run.

Sacrifice Bunts: Two.

Both of the Blue Jays’ bunts this week came in the exact same situation. Third inning, 0-0 game, runners on first and second, none out, ninth hitter up.

In both cases the call was questionable. The validity of trading outs away early in a game when you don’t know how many runs you’re going to need is always up for debate. Also, the theory of bunting across hitters with your ninth guy to give the top of your lineup a chance makes more sense when the top of your lineup is composed of reliably above-average hitters. As hot as Sogard and Galvis are, it would be unfair to ascribe that label to them.

In terms of raw results, one runner came home in the first example (on Saturday) and both scored on Sunday.

Intentional Walks: Zero.

The Blue Jays had been fond of putting men on, but Montoyo gave away no freebies last week.

Starter Strategy: When two of your starters leave due to injury it’s pretty hard to judge the week as a whole. Montoyo should get some credit for cleverly stretching out Sam Gaviglio on the fly to get him ready to take Shoemaker’s next spot, though.

Trent Thornton and Clay Buchholz faltered to various degrees and couldn’t make it through five and Montoyo made the right call lifting Buchholz as opposed to trying to get him a win in his outing. Managing for a player’s stats, particularly archaic and borderline meaningless ones, is not a good idea.

MISC: The Blue Jays got running again last week, thanks in part to Sogard swiping a couple of bags. Of course it’s hard to give them too much credit for better work on the bases when they made an egregious error on Monday with Hernandez getting picked off wandering between first and second during a Drury walk that wasn’t.

Montoyo tends to err on the side of positivity, but his evaluation of that situation (per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith) was fairly blunt:

“They both have to be in the game. The hitter and the guy at first. There’s no excuses for that. We’re not going to make excuses. That was bad base-running there.”

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