Dalton Pompey is Stealing a Postseason Spot

Prior to this past week, when Dalton Pompey was selected to the major league club as a September call-up, he had not donned a Blue Jays uniform in 2016. The last time he had been seen wearing the jersey was in the ninth inning of game six against the Kansas City Royals. Pompey ended that game standing on third base with the Jays losing by one run. I don’t mean to bring up rough memories, but I was looking into Dalton Pompey’s playoff usage and if he was successful last year. I forgot that Dalton was standing on third because he stole two bases consecutively after coming into the game as a pinch runner for Russell Martin. The Jays were down by one run and Martin led the inning off with a single. Below is a table that shows the Jays chance to win the game going into the inning and after every play that occurs.

T9 - KC v Jays - Game Six

As you can see, Pompey got in the game when that Jays had a 36 percent chance of winning. He then increased the Jays chances of winning the game by 19 percent without ever even picking up a bat. He brought the Jays into a situation where it is difficult to not score a run. Then in his first game back this September, Pompey entered as a pinch-runner and stole second easily on the the very first pitch, before scoring the eventual winning run. If Pompey can be this useful a weapon, then why do the Jays not have in on the major league team for the entirety of the season?

The obvious answer is that the team does not have a spot for him to play. There was a small battle in spring training between Pompey and Michael Saunders, but the battle was really with Saunders health. If he could stay healthy, then he had the job. Pompey was sent to AAA with the intention of getting him everyday playing time to develop as a hitter. For the majority of the season this is what occurred, however, Pompey dealt with a rash of injuries that limited his plate appearances. To give credit when credit is due, the front office got that decision correct. Saunders was an all-star this season and has been a productive player for Toronto.

It is one thing to make the 40-man September roster and another thing to make the post-season roster. However, Pompey looks poised to be on the playoff roster again this season if the Jays make the dance in October. Why does the team value a player like Pompey in the post-season but not the regular season? The short answer is that the playoffs make it easier to add someone like Pompey to the roster who has one specific job because they can trim down on the starting pitcher numbers. My theory was that teams value speed more in the postseason, but it dawned on me that it’s not speed itself that teams are seeking.

I believe postseason teams are trying to increase their percentage to win baseball games (obviously), and they do so by improving on the margins. Your core pieces are not going to be changed, so trying to improve at the fringe is the easiest option. Speed just happened to be the most predictable way of doing so.  For example, increasing on the margins in baseball can mean your base runners consistently go first-to-third on a single, putting you in a better position to score, or they put pressure on the defense by stealing and moving them around as the pitch is being delivered, opening up holes. When combined over the duration of a game, these little moment can add up. Improving on the margins can also mean adding bench power, or a specialty reliever, but those skills are inconsistent. Speed, as they say, never slumps.

It is becoming evident that Pompey is an elite base runner and base stealer. That also happens to be a rarity for the Jays. If Pompey is not on the club, there next fastest guy on the team is newly-acquired Melvin Upton Jr, who has 25 steals on the year. Upton has the ability to swipe a bag, but there is a very good chance that optimal lineup has him starting, leaving him unavailable to sub in for a slower player in a key spot. Beyond him, you’re looking at guys like Darwin Barney or Ezequiel Carrera, neither of whom is a difference-maker on the bases (despite Carrera’s overall foot speed).

Pompey is the only player off the bench that John Gibbons can call upon and feel comfortable that he will do something to enhance his position on the bases. If someone like Dalton Pompey can ‘steal’ a game for you that perhaps you have no business winning, then he has proved his worth tenfold. R.A. Dickey almost certainly will be left off a postseason roster, and it looks like that spot will be “stolen” by the young Canadian speedster, Dalton Pompey.

Lead Photo: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

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