The way baseball is structured, it’s inherently difficult to draw major conclusions from a single game. Success in the sport is predicated on consistency, not singular heroic efforts, and for hitters especially it takes long periods to demonstrate what they bring to the table.
That’s the general rule.
On Tuesday, though, Cavan Biggio showcased everything he brings to the table in just one performance. The 24-year-old not only hit for the cycle, but provided pertinent examples of the skills that make him a potential mainstay for the Blue Jays: power, plate discipline, and speed.
Any time you get three extra-base hits, it’s a pretty good indication you’ve got some thunder in your bat, and none of Biggio’s on Tuesday came cheap. The rookie’s double, triple, and home run all came in at approximately 100 m.p.h. For bonus points, the round tripper was to straight-away centre field.
The home run was particularly notable because it came on a first pitch - a rarity for a guy that swings in 0-0 counts just 17.6 percent of the time. Biggio has been criticized for being too passive at times, but this play demonstrates a willingness to be opportunistic on pitches he can drive.
After slumping brutally in July, Biggio’s extra-base power has come back with a vengeance. Even prior to his cycle he’d been slugging .600 in his last 15 games.
Biggio’s Isolated Slugging (.195) now sits about the league average of .183 and if he’s able to pair that kind of thump with his elite walk rate, his bat will remain a plus in the Blue Jays lineup.
Although Biggio has been driving the ball lately, his calling card remains his ability to work at-bats. The most obvious way that manifests itself is in his Joey Votto-esque walk rate (16.8 percent). That doesn’t mean there aren’t other applications.
Biggio can also use his prodigious eye to put himself in better positions to hit. That’s precisely what happened on the rookie’s double in the eighth inning. The second baseman took three elevated fastballs outside - precisely the pitch he struck out on in the first - which forced Shawn Armstrong back into the strike zone, where he provided a pair of extremely hittable pitches.
On the right-hander’s 3-1 offering, Biggio was able to strike, lacing the ball down the right-field line.
The second baseman also worked an eight-pitch at-bat on his game-icing triple. Mychal Givens couldn’t get him to bite on the high fastball or the low changeup and was unable to put him away.
Because Biggio has rarely been characterized as an elite athlete, it’s possible that his wheels have gone underrated in his rookie season. However, it’s pretty argue with a Sprint Speed in the 82nd percentile and 13 steals without being caught. According to FanGraphs, the plus-3.7 runs he’s provided on the base paths rank 37th in the majors ahead of a few prolific larcenists like Dee Gordon, Elvis Andrus, and Starling Marte.
Biggio has demonstrated the ability to steal bases both when he’s surprising opponents and when he they have a pretty good idea he’s going. He provided an example of both on Tuesday.
In the eighth, he swiped third off the battery of Shawn Armstrong and Pedro Severino without a throw.
That was a crucial play that led to a game-tying sacrifice fly from Lourdes Gurriel Jr. immediately afterwards.
In contrast, two innings prior, Miguel Castro looked over at Biggio extensively and used three throws to first in an attempt to hold him on base. Even so, the rookie took off and slid into second base successfully.
Biggio may not be Billy Hamilton, but he’s got speed and knows how to use it. There’s a reason only one player in the majors (Tim Locastro of the Arizona Diamondbacks) has more steals than Biggio without being caught.
All in all, the only thing missing from the 24-year-old’s tour de force against the Orioles was some kind of web gem, which probably would have been too much to ask. Spectacular defence isn’t a regular thing for Biggio, anyway. His feats of power, discipline and speed were far more in character.
Because of his miserable slide in the middle of the summer - and the presence of the Bo Bichette-Vladimir Guerrero Jr. duo - it’s been easy for Biggio’s rookie year to fall off the radar. Tuesday’s performance was a potent reminder that his 2019 has been an impressive introduction to the bigs.
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