Resilience key to Bichette's eruption at plate

September 13th, 2022

This story was excerpted from the Blue Jays Beat newsletter; reporter Julia Kreuz is filling in for Keegan Matheson today. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

TORONTO -- In a lineup stacked with stars, Bo Bichette appreciates how pivotal he can be to the Blue Jays’ ambitious goals. Now, he’s putting to rest any doubts about his ability to meet expectations.

Less than a month after dropping to seventh in Toronto’s batting order, Bichette has regained the status of clutch run producer. And he didn’t really change anything to get there.

“I know how important I am to this lineup,” Bichette said on Monday from the Blue Jays’ dugout at Rogers Centre, just moments after being announced as the AL Player of the Week. “So, every day I come here and try to do my best.”

Bichette’s performance this season was bound to be scrutinized, especially after the shortstop earned his first career All-Star nod in 2021. His trademark aggressiveness at the plate, though exciting when it’s working, has also made for some ugly whiffs and tough moments. It didn’t help that the errors piled up on the field, either, amounting to minus-4 Outs Above Average and minus-12 Defensive Runs Saved.

Then, September came around, and Bichette has since looked like the absolute best version of himself.

Mental resilience has been at the forefront of his resurgence.

“Everybody has negative thoughts in there,” Bichette said of potential frustrations or shortcomings at the plate. “It’s just about if you can fight it better than others.”

Any demons he may have encountered in this up-and-down season have been duly exorcised. Bichette entered Tuesday with seven home runs and 21 RBIs, having gone 24-for-47 in his first 11 games in September. Monday’s game-winning two-run homer over the Rays was just the latest example of that dominant stretch.

“It’s kind of remarkable,” said Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider about Bichette’s run this month. “We’re all shaking our heads. It’s kind of the hitter that he is and that he can be. He’s locked in right now, not missing pitches, taking pitches, [playing confidently]. His plan is great and his execution is better.” 

That plan remains what it’s always been: Use the whole field and swing to do damage, which has worked particularly well in two-strike counts for the 24-year-old, when Bichette eliminates his high leg kick in favor of a wider stance at the plate. 

When he’s seeing the ball as well as he is right now, that stance helps lower his strikeout rate and put more balls in play. That’s precisely why Schneider has emphasized the team’s desire to have Bichette hit with runners on base. 

“With two strikes, I’m just competing,” said Bichette. “I’m trusting my ability to get to the fastball, not have to rush for it and give myself a chance on a slider.” 

He’s given himself plenty of chances and has capitalized on them more often than not. That’s precisely the version of Bichette the Blue Jays need with just a few weeks to go. 

“Every game from here on out is a really big one,” Bichette said before the Blue Jays’ series opener against the Rays, who are neck and neck with Toronto in the AL Wild Card standings. “We need every win we can get.” 

It’s the home stretch, the fatigue is real and the moments aren’t getting any smaller. If anything, though, that has served as fuel for Bichette. 

“Yeah, I’m tired, but everybody is,” he said. “This game is a grind, it’s every day, no breaks. But I feel fine. Dealing with what everybody else is dealing with. I’m just going to continue to go out there and compete.”