Can We Finally Stop Underrating John Jaso?

Dave · October 15, 2012 at 3:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

January update: Sigh…

Over at the official team site, Greg Johns weighs in with a piece on the team’s options at catcher for next year. There’s nothing earth-shattering in there, as it contains a bunch of non-committal quotes from Jack and Wedge about how they’re going to sort out the catching situation. The piece focuses primarily on Montero and Zunino at the beginning, then closes with these two paragraphs on John Jaso:

Jaso was a pleasant surprise for the Mariners both as a clutch hitter and capable catcher, but his playing time was limited by his difficulties against left-handed pitchers. The lefty swinging Jaso batted .302 with a .927 OPS in 308 plate appearances against right-handers compared to .119 with a .393 OPS in 53 plate appearances against southpaws.

Jaso caught many of Felix Hernandez‘s starts, including his perfect game, and Wedge gave him more of a full-time role either at DH or catcher as the season played out. But it remains a reasonable debate as to whether Jaso excelled because Wedge put him in the best position to succeed by limiting his exposure to lefties or if he should play every day, no matter who is on the mound.

I’m not trying to pick on Johns here, who I like and who does a good job covering the team’s beat. But, I gotta be honest, the continual downplaying of John Jaso by the local media is getting tiring. Jaso’s playing time wasn’t limited because of his problems against left-handers – it was limited because Eric Wedge didn’t realize that he was actually a good player, and ignorantly kept him on the bench for the first month of the season before an injury forced him into putting Jaso in the line-up.

Let’s not talk about him like some young kid who had a good September but doesn’t have a track record for the team to really know what they have yet. John Jaso is a 29-year-old with 1,048 plate appearances in the big leagues. He has the equivalent of two full major League catcher seasons under his belt, and during that time, he’s hit .255/.359/.395, good for a 116 wRC+. Here is the entire list of Major League catchers who have hit accumulated 1,000 or more plate appearances in the big leagues since 2008 (when Jaso debuted, albeit briefly) and posted a wRC+ of 110 or higher:

Buster Posey – 142 wRC+
Joe Mauer – 139 wRC+
Mike Napoli -133 wRC+
Carlos Santana – 124 wRC+
Victor Martinez – 121 wRC+
Brian McCann – 118 wRC+
John Jaso – 116 wRC+
Alex Avila – 115 wRC+
Miguel Montero – 113 wRC+
Jorge Posada – 113 wRC+
Carlos Ruiz – 112 wRC+
Yadier Molina – 110 wRC+
Ryan Doumit – 110 wRC+

That’s the whole list. Notice how none of them have been pigeonholed as part-timers by their franchises? Every catcher who shows this kind of offensive performance is rewarded with a regular job. Now, let’s look at just the left-handed hitting catchers in baseball, which includes four guys from that list and one regular who hasn’t even been anywhere near as good but is still considered an everyday guy on a contender, and see how they’ve fared against left-handed pitching over this same time frame.

Joe Mauer – 117 wRC+
Brian McCann – 100 wRC+
Alex Avila – 89 wRC+
Miguel Montero – 86 wRC+
A.J. Pierzynski – 85 wRC+

Notice how they’re all significantly worse against lefties than against righties? Mauer’s the only one who even grades out as an above average hitter against lefties, and he’s still not even remotely as effective against LHPs as he is against RHPs. McCann, Avila, and Montero are three of the better catchers in baseball, and all have their problems against southpaws. Pierzynski has been a starting catcher for the better part of the last decade, even despite his problems against left-handed pitching.

Instead of deciding that struggles against left-handers are some kind of deal-breaker, these franchises have realized there isn’t really such a thing as a left-handed hitting catcher who excels against left-handed pitching. Mauer — one of the game’s truly elite players, who is making $23 million per year for the next six years — is the only example in the sport of a left-handed catcher who you feel strongly needs to be in the line-up against most left-handed pitchers. Every other guy on that list can comfortably be platooned, and in fact, most of them have been to some degree.

Again, same 2008-2012 time period, here are the percentages of plate appearances that these five regular left-handed catchers have gotten against RHPs and LHPs.

Mauer: 64%/36%
McCann: 68%/32%
Montero: 76%/24%
Pierzynski: 77%/23%
Avila: 78%/22%

In other words, if we extrapolate out to 500 plate appearances over a whole season, these “full-time” left-handed catchers will get between 110 and 180 plate appearances against lefties. And, really, 180 is artificially high because the Twins use Mauer at 1B/DH against left-handers occasionally in order to keep his bat in the line-up. McCann is really more of the example of what an “everyday” left-handed catcher would expect, and out of 500 plate appearances, he’d face 160 lefties.

Jaso, for his career, is at 86/14, so he’s been platooned more heavily than any of them, of course. But, this idea that he just can’t handle an expanded role falls apart when you actually apply the math. Let’s assume that the Mariners and Rays had given Jaso the kind of workload that Montero/Avila/Pierzynski got, so his platoon distribution was actually 77%/23% instead of 86%/14%. We’re also going to assume he wouldn’t have performed any better against left-handers than he actually did even while seeing them more often (a dubious claim, especially since most of his problems against LHPs stem from a low BABIP, but that’s a separate argument), and that playing regularly wouldn’t improve his overall performance against righties, which has been argued by local beat writers before when we called for Raul Ibanez to be platooned. For now, we’ll just forego both of those discussions which could argue for improved overall numbers from Jaso and just go with what he actually did.

To reallocate his playing time into a more “full time” role, we’re going to simply shift his 1,048 PAs from its current distribution and into one where 77% of his plate appearances come against right-handers and 23% come against left-handers. The redistribution would leave him with 807 PAs against righties and 241 PAs against let-handers, so it moves 90 plate appearances from vs RHP tally into the vs LHP side of the ledger. Now, let’s recalculate Jaso’s total offensive performance after re-weighting his line against each side by his new distribution.

New PA wRC+   Old PA wRC+
Vs RHP 807 125   Vs RHP 897 125
Vs LHP 241 61   Vs LHP 151 61
Total 1,048 110   Total 1,048 116

By playing him like a “regular”, Jaso’s career wRC+ would drop all the way from 116 down to 110. Truly, a crushing blow to his value. If you prefer it in run values, the total negative from not platooning him any heavier than Montero, Avila, or Pierzynski would have cost him a whopping seven runs over the equivalent of two full seasons worth of playing time.

Here’s the reality – the idea that his line is massively inflated because of the way he was handled simply doesn’t add up. Jaso’s overall line is slightly better than it would have otherwise been had he faced a more normal split of righties and lefties, but the gap is not anywhere close to what it’s being made out to be. Even if John Jaso had been put into a Brian McCann-style role, he still would grade out as an above average hitter, simply because his performance against RHPs has been so good.

No, he’s not good at throwing out opposing base stealers, having gunned down just 20% of opponents trying to take a base off of him in his career. But, guess what? A.J. Pierzynski’s only thrown out 23% of career base stealers, and Brian McCann’s at 24%. The Major League average for caught stealing this year was 26%. Jaso is marginally worse at this than most regular catchers, but the gap is in all honestly not very large.

And no, opposing runners simply aren’t taking advantage of Jaso and turning games into a track meet when he’s back there – teams have attempted one steal every 11.4 innings off of him during his career, compared to a league average of one attempt every 9.9 innings off an average catcher.

There is simply no argument to be made that Jaso’s problems against left-handers or his throwing serve to significantly drag down his value to the point where he’s best served in some kind of part-time bench role like he was used this year. His usage this year was a mistake, and one that should absolutely be corrected in 2013.

John Jaso is a Major League quality starting catcher, and based on his MLB performance to date — again, in over two full seasons worth of playing time — he’s showed that he’s probably one of the 10 best catchers in baseball. That doesn’t mean you have to run him out there against every left-hander, but using him like the Diamondbacks used Montero or the White Sox used Pierzynski is completely rational. That’s around 120 starts per year, with a bias towards using his days off when a left-hander is on the mound.

John Jaso is pretty obviously the team’s best hitter right now. He might very well be the team’s best player, even with his moderate power, big platoon splits, and his mediocre throwing arm. While Eric Wedge failed to recognize Jaso’s strengths and simply focused on his weaknesses, that doesn’t mean that we have to do the same. Jaso isn’t a perfect player, but besides Joe Mauer, there are no perfect left-handed hitting Major League catchers. Other organizations have realized that the positives so far outweigh the negatives that they’ve simply found a capable right-handed hitting back-up to start 40 games a year and let their lefty hitting catchers be significant assets to the organization.

The Mariners just need to do the same thing. At some point in the near future, it’s quite possible that Mike Zunino is going to push John Jaso out of the way, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that there’s some kind of sense of urgency to get him to the Majors to fill a gaping hole. The Mariners already have one of the better catchers in baseball and a guy who has done everything possible to deserve a shot as a full-time regular Major League player. At this point, not giving him that opportunity would simply be stubbornness. There are just no other part-time players in baseball that have played this well and not been given the chance to run with a full-time job. When someone performs as well as Jaso has over 1,000+ plate appearances, they get a chance because they’ve earned it.

Wedge might not love Jaso’s skillset. He might prefer a catcher with a cannon arm or better framing technique, or a louder personality who takes charge and looks more like a general behind the plate. None of that should matter. It’s time for Jack to simply tell Eric Wedge that John Jaso is his starting catcher next year, and that the roster will be built accordingly. Jaso has earned that opportunity.

Pretending that he’s just some kind of unproven, unknown entity with questionable value is not an accurate representation of the facts. John Jaso is a very good Major League hitter, and as a left-hander who can also catch, that makes him a pretty rare commodity in the sport. Rather than focusing on what he can’t do, it’s time for everyone to recognize what John Jaso can do, and give him the opportunity show it over a full season.

Comments

73 Responses to “Can We Finally Stop Underrating John Jaso?”

  1. rlharr on October 15th, 2012 11:55 pm

    Catchers take such a beating – I think it is an lucky thing to have two catchers who are also capable DHs (well, we’re hoping with Montero still, aren’t we?) and then a backup catcher who can take some of the catching load away (Gimenez in the DOSP – Dave’s off-season plan, that is). I expect that Jaso will perform better if he doesn’t really catch 120 games – but does start 130+ when including DH time.

  2. Novler on October 16th, 2012 12:02 am

    Great read, Dave. I wish so bad that Jack would use this offseason building a team based on these facts. He seems too smart not to.

    If anything, I hope the work you’ve put in here will expedite the exodus of Everybody-Knows-Who and his $3 million option.

  3. Celadus on October 16th, 2012 12:30 am

    Wedge seems to be one of those managers who, as a talent judge, is prone to Ken Phelps misevaluation syndrome.

    Many readers here probably remember him as the player who was traded for Jay Buhner. In his own right he was as good a hitter, perhaps better, than Buhner. OPS+ for Phelps = 132, Buhner = 124.

    Phelps was perceived as a platoon hitter only, which inflates his stats as he definitely hit right handed pitchers better than left handers.

    Like Jaso, he was seldom given a chance to hit left handed pitching because of the received wisdom that he couldn’t hit left handed pitchers and hence shouldn’t play against them.

    However, like Jaso he had good to excellent plate judgment. His walk to strikeout ratio, lifetime, was superior to Buhner’s. He could also crush the ball, and did, with power similar to Buhner’s.

    At one point during his career, Phelps had a home run per at bat ratio better than that of Babe Ruth. Announcers and traditional analysts treated this as though it were an amusing fluke.

    Jaso is not as good a hitter as Phelps, clearly, but he is an excellent player who does not fit into the traditional mold of a Wedge catcher, as Dave indicated.

    Which means that Wedge will be reluctant to give Jaso sufficient at bats against left handed pitching to improve his approach.

    Perhaps the only way for Jaso to play 120 games or so is for Z to get an inexperienced backup catcher who can’t hit. And definitely cut Olivo.

  4. calim on October 16th, 2012 12:48 am

    “And no, opposing runners simply aren’t taking advantage of Jaso and turning games into a track meet when he’s back there – teams have attempted one steal every 11.4 innings off of him during his career, compared to a league average of one attempt every 9.9 innings off an average catcher. Over the course of 1,000 innings, you’re looking at 14 additional stolen base attempts.”

    Wouldn’t those numbers actually mean Jaso sees FEWER stolen base attempts than the average catcher?

  5. MT on October 16th, 2012 1:16 am

    Dave, can you clarify a little.

    are you advocating for the M’s to use Jaso against left handers, even though Jaso’s career wRC+ is 61?

    I guess his numbers would probably improve once the BABIP stabilizes. However, it seems like his numbers against left handers would still be below average, with his wRC+ being so low to start with.

    If, even with his BABIP stabilizing, he is a below average hitter against left handed pitchers, is it really a smart move to use Jaso against them if the team can platoon him?

    I understand that some of these teams have played their left handed catchers against left handed pitchers with the resultant below average performance. Is that smart baseball? It seems illogical and old school to me.

  6. djw on October 16th, 2012 2:17 am

    Thank you. This team has been trying to come up with good hitters for years. Then they acquire one more or less by accident and can’t be bothered to even notice. It’s driving me crazy.

  7. maqman on October 16th, 2012 2:55 am

    Playing Jaso more negates the need to sign another catcher at more than the minimum wage and the money saved can be better spent elsewhere. You make a very good case Dave.

  8. vj on October 16th, 2012 5:25 am

    You know, I was hoping that with the Zduriencik administration, this kind of nonesense would end. Jaso was by far our best hitter last season. Bummer.

  9. Slats on October 16th, 2012 6:02 am

    But, but, but Miguel Olivo is a veteran guy!

  10. PackBob on October 16th, 2012 6:40 am

    Not playing the best hitter on the team in 2012 as much as possible was inane.

    The idea that Jaso would have floundered with more playing time is meaningless backward logic that is not based upon any evidence. I would love to see him get more ABs against lefties to find out where his true level is at. He still gets his walks.

  11. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 7:17 am

    Just imagine if he was given the chance to hit LHP’s regularly. Does anyone really think his numbers wouldn’t improve? His BABIP last year against lefties was .143. There’s no where to go but up.

    For those arguing for platooning him, one of the key points is that we simply don’t know how good he can be against LHP yet. He’s earned the chance to show us. Hopefully Wedge and Z have recognized that.

  12. Westside guy on October 16th, 2012 7:21 am

    What Dave’s actually proven here is the Twins are dangerously misusing Joe Mauer. They need to take some of those ABs against lefties and give them to someone else – preferably someone who brings veteran presence into their clubhouse, since it’s obvious the lack of veteran presence has led to all their woes.

    There’s a free agent catcher who’d fit the bill nicely, and he’s got a cannon for an arm. Yes, you heard me – the Twins need to pursue Miguel Olivo with a vengeance.

    (Great article Dave)

  13. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 7:49 am

    Jaso is outstanding against righties but is incredibly poor against lefties. His defensive abilities don’t make up for his poor hitting versus lefties.

    I LOVE Jaso in a platoon catcher/DH role. But there’s no way he should be starting against left handed pitching.

  14. Mariners35 on October 16th, 2012 7:53 am

    Take Jaso’s splits and analyze them the way Johns did… then see Jaso come up with so many big hits from the bench… sprinkle in a bit of pining for more veteran-he-man-carry-the-lineup guys as Wedge has done… now finish off with the anemic offense of the team overall, and how much a decent hitter like Jaso looks like an all-star compared to them. and well, you end up with Jaso’s 2012 playing time.

    “can’t hit lefties” reputation + clutch reputation + not a grizzled veteran + only decent hitter = pigeonholed as the only reliable pinch hitter on the team, with the part time playing time to go with it.

    I wish someone in the front office would read Dave’s post today and take it to heart. However,

    It’s time for Jack to simply tell Eric Wedge that John Jaso is his starting catcher next year, and that the roster will be built accordingly.

    I don’t think Jack gets to give Eric directives like that. I know on paper Eric works for Jack, but I don’t get the sense that Wedge is the sort of manager that takes kindly to being told how to use his guys or make his lineups. I understand that I’m completely speculating here, and mind-reading doesn’t go well with sabermetrics. Still. Good luck seeing a 2013 roster with John Jaso as the everyday catcher. Especially if a grizzled veteran who’s “been through the wars” is brought in, a la Olivo.

  15. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 7:58 am

    ^Read the post again. Pay close attention to his PA’s against lefties. Then take a look at his BABIP. While you’re at it, take a look at his walks.

    He simply hasn’t had enough PA’s to brand him “incredibly poor against lefties”.

  16. HighBrie on October 16th, 2012 7:59 am

    This post is great. I have this question: did Jaso’s use against lefties increase as his use increased generally throughout the season? Does the front office/Wedge recognize Jaso’s value more than the media, or do they both undervalue his contribution?

    Without trying to steer this thread off topic, is the easier way to fix catcher tactics just to fire wedge and hire Sandy Alomar Jr.?

  17. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 7:59 am

    My last comment was directed at Mekias, not Mariners35!

  18. Alec on October 16th, 2012 8:15 am

    Dave is not arguing that he’s the best option against LHP’s. It’s about resources. Jaso is good enough that it makes sense to move forward with him as your starting catcher and spend resources you would have used on a full time platoon partner elsewhere, and instead hunt for a cheap, right handed catcher to spell Jaso against tough lefties. We don’t need to spend a few million on Olivo (I mean as an example of a catcher who should only play vs. lefties, doesn’t have to be Olivo), when we can reallocate that money to Swisher and go after someone like Gimenez or any cheap right handed backup who will be happy to get a big league job.

  19. Paul B on October 16th, 2012 8:46 am

    Yes, no catcher plays every game (although there have been a few who played a lot). So Wedge should just look to give Jaso his day off when a lefty is pitching (unless a night game followed by a day game turns out to be against two righties, but then he could use Jaso as DH in one of those.) Jaso could still catch against some lefties, maybe play 4 or 5 games out of 6.

    And Dave, thanks for this post.

  20. Mariners35 on October 16th, 2012 8:50 am

    My last comment was directed at Mekias, not Mariners35!

    That’s why it’s helpful to get a snippet of what you’re quoting in your reply sometimes. ;) Either through surrounding in quotes, or putting html around it (less-than, i, greater than at the beginning, then less than, /, i, greater-than at the end).

  21. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 9:07 am

    stevemotivateir,

    All I can go by is what I see from Jaso against lefties. He maintains his good batting eye and patience but I never see him hit a ball hard against a left-hander. Sometimes a low BABIP exists for a reason.

    Could he learn to hit lefties better if given more ABs? Possibly. He’s got a great approach at the plate. But we can’t give Jaso the full time job just based on hope. The stats say he can’t hit lefties and until I see him hitting the ball with authority off lefties, I’m considering him a platoon guy.

    Maybe we can give him a lot of ABs next spring and see what he does.

  22. Dave on October 16th, 2012 9:13 am

    John Jaso’s line drive percentage against left-handers this year: 22.9%. Sorry, you’re not going off what you actually saw. You’re going strictly off the numbers and creating a narrative based on that.

    And no, the numbers don’t say that Jaso can’t hit lefties. The numbers say Jaso has no power against lefties, but that his walk rate is still good, his strikeout is average, and that his balls in play results are so far out of line that they have to be heavily regressed. Is Jaso a good hitter against lefties? Probably not. Is he any worse than A.J. Pierzynski against them? Almost certainly not.

  23. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 9:41 am

    Line drives can either softly hit or rocket off the bat. From what I’ve seen Jaso’s are the former.

    Looking back at his minor league career, I see some ability to hold his own against lefties.

    http://mlsplits.drivelinebaseball.com/mlsplits/playerinfo/444379

    I guess I’d just like to see it happen in the majors as well before giving him more ABs verses the lefties.

    Quite frankly, I don’t see a need to make Jaso our full time catcher. His defensive abilities don’t force us to play him behind the plate and if we did that, he could end up wearing out over the course of a full year. Catcher is a nice spot for a platoon anyway and we already know Jaso can handle the left side. We don’t need to spend a fortune on a platoon partner.

  24. georgmi on October 16th, 2012 10:22 am

    I guess I’d just like to see it happen in the majors as well before giving him more ABs verses the lefties.

    You see how this is logically problematic, right?

  25. Dobbs on October 16th, 2012 10:28 am

    We finally have a great catcher on our team and for whatever reason, we’re looking for ways not to play him.

    I’d like to be excited about this team next year, let’s hope Jack’s got some moves up his sleeve that will do what Dave’s off-season plan does for us.

  26. fdeezle on October 16th, 2012 10:31 am

    Wonder if Jaso’s beard was an attempt to get that “grizzled veteran” look. If so it apparently didn’t fool Wedge…

  27. californiamariner on October 16th, 2012 10:35 am

    I really enjoyed this article. This is exactly why I hope the M’s either don’t bring in a catcher for next year, or just bring in someone that isn’t very good like Dave’s guy in the offseason plan. If you bring back Olivo or bring in another “veteran”, Wedge is just going to keep misusing Jaso.
    And for those claiming Jaso is horrible against lefties, would you really rather see Olivo playing or some other bum? If we had Buster Posey or something it would be one thing, but were talking about Miguel freakin Olivo.

  28. Sports on a Shtick on October 16th, 2012 10:47 am

    Somehow the Mariners squander one of the rare good players on the team.

    No chance Wedge gets the ax this offseason but I wouldn’t complain if he was gone. The roster mismanagement has been discouraging during his tenure.

  29. Paul B on October 16th, 2012 10:52 am

    Maybe we can give him a lot of ABs next spring and see what he does.

    Not very useful. Remember who the best Mariner hitter was in Spring Training last year?

    (Mune!)

    We finally have a great catcher on our team and for whatever reason, we’re looking for ways not to play him.

    We’ve seen this before, as in Rob Johnson over Kenji. And we all know how that turned out.

  30. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 11:10 am

    While stats accumulated during Spring Training don’t always mean much, the coaches should be able to distinguish between good at-bats and bad at-bats, regardless of end results. That’s really the only time Jaso would be able to get an extended look in that role. The only problem is, Jack would likely have already paid money for another catcher by the time Spring Training rolls around.

  31. Dave on October 16th, 2012 11:13 am

    You’re joking, right? Spring training results are what got us into this mess. Jaso went 1-16 in spring training last year, so Wedge evaluated him as a useless player that shouldn’t play, just like Hisashi Iwakuma was judged to be a useless pitcher who shouldn’t pitch.

    Everyone would be better off if the coaches weren’t allowed to even watch spring training. Spring Training is anti-information.

  32. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 11:27 am

    Spring Training isn’t useless information. It’s simply a relatively small sample size. It’s only useless if you prioritize it over larger data points, built up over years of major league service. And, like I said, results should be seen as secondary to approach and good contact. Jaso doesn’t have much prior major league success versus lefties to fall back on so should welcome an extended look in Spring Training.

    If Jaso’s main problem is not enough ABs versus lefties then, let’s face it, Spring Training is probably his only opportunity to prove he can do it. Wedge won’t give him those plate appearances during the season unless he sees some success. There’s nothing we can do or say to change his mind. If he’s convinced that Jaso can’t hit lefties, Jaso’s only option is to do the best he can with the few opportunities he’s given.

  33. Dave on October 16th, 2012 11:35 am

    It’s not just a sample size issue. It’s games in minor league ballparks against minor league players that don’t count, so no one is actually trying to win. It has no more predictive ability than batting practice. It doesn’t matter. At all. Your insistence that somehow coaches can separate “good contact” from “results” is simply incorrect. They saw John Jaso go 1-16 or whatever it was last spring and decided he was terrible. They’re humans, and just like you’re doing, they incorrectly interpret results and turn them into narratives.

    Jaso’s main problem has nothing to do with “not enough ABs versus lefties”. His main problem is that people who are bad at evaluating baseball players are in charge of filling out the line-up card.

  34. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 11:52 am

    I completely agree that managers put too much emphasis on Spring Training stats. Benching Jaso due to a 1-16 was ridiculous. What I’m saying is that, since Jaso hasn’t proven he can hit lefties during the regular season, Spring Training may be his best chance at changing the coach’s minds.

    Regardless, while I think Jaso could improve versus lefties if given more opportunities, I don’t see why we need him in there. I can’t see Jaso suddenly tearing lefties apart and his defense certainly doesn’t make up the difference. A solid low-cost right-handed catcher should’t too hard to find. I’m not talking about Olivo either.

  35. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 12:16 pm

    ” But we can’t give Jaso the full time job just based on hope.”

    So, you’re content with him in the same role next year? Giving him the full-time job has nothing to do with hope. It has to do with how he’s produced both offensively and defensively. He’s earned it. Even against LHP his strike-out and walk-rate’s nearly the same. It’s a small sample size, but it’s a good sign that there should be improvement with more PA’s.

    He’s the best catcher we have at the moment. He’s also the best bat we have.

  36. californiamariner on October 16th, 2012 12:26 pm

    “I can’t see Jaso suddenly tearing lefties apart”

    If there were 9 players on this team who could “tear lefties apart” I would be thrilled. I think we know that is not the case.

  37. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 12:31 pm

    I’d be thrilled with Jaso in the same role next year. He’s fantastic at it. What’s so wrong about sitting him against lefties?

    Regardless of sample size, the fact is that Jaso has a 61 career wRC+ against lefties (24 last year). Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan laugh at those numbers. Just because there are signs he could get better doesn’t mean he has earned more ABs.

  38. Dave on October 16th, 2012 12:33 pm

    “Regardless of sample size…”

    /sigh.

    Your logic is so tortured, and you refuse to see it. It’s sad.

  39. Mathball on October 16th, 2012 12:40 pm

    Too bad for all the injuries early last season, or we would have had a great bench with Saunders, Seager and Jaso all sitting.

    I was wondering if there is enough evidence that would point to Olivo being a better batter when he plays less(requires deeper digging than I have time or know how to do). I can’t help but think (other than cost and Wedge’s stupidity) that he makes an okay back up for Jaso. Not ideal, but he knows the pitchers and sorta hits lefties.

  40. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 12:48 pm

    So, apparently, despite the data Jaso has accumulated in the major leagues, you’re convinced that he’ll be a good hitter versus lefties.

    I admit that he “could” be decent against lefties but I also know that he won’t get that chance unless he starts to prove it (either in his limited opportunities during the season or in Spring Training).

  41. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 12:53 pm

    “Just because there are signs he could get better doesn’t mean he has earned more ABs.”

    Wow, you really don’t get it.

  42. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 12:57 pm

    @Mathball

    Olivo’s spilts were faily similar. He was pretty terrible against lefties, slightly worse against RHP.

  43. Dave on October 16th, 2012 1:02 pm

    You really don’t want to mess with what worked last year. So, with that said, here are my new proposals for 2013.

    Start Iwakuma in long relief, only moving him to a starting role in the second half of the year. He hasn’t yet proven that he can handle a full starter’s workload in the Majors. Better not risk it.

    Chone Figgins should be kept around as motivation for Kyle Seager to continue to work hard. Seager had never shown this much power before, and didn’t even have a job coming out of spring training. If we force Seager to take a job away from Figgins again, we should be able to count on him repeating his excellent season.

    Mike Zunino is doing really well in Double-A. Why mess with that? Let him become the best player in Southern League history.

  44. diderot on October 16th, 2012 1:06 pm

    I have no problems with Dave’s analysis. But it’s rather surprising to see so little mention of Montero in this discussion.
    I’m all for making Jaso the starter and not resigning Olivo. But most of all, I want to make sure Montero gets his 150 starts, whether Catcher or DH.
    I realize Dave called for him to start at AAA in order to learn first base, but if that were their plan, I think he’d be playing first base somewhere this winter.
    In other words, if we want to maximize offense, maximize ABs for both Jaso and Montero.

  45. Mekias on October 16th, 2012 1:07 pm

    Excellent! Now we just need to give another $1.1 million to George Sherrill so he can bring that needed experience and veteran savvy to the bullpen.

  46. Paul B on October 16th, 2012 1:09 pm

    I was wondering if there is enough evidence that would point to Olivo being a better batter when he plays less(requires deeper digging than I have time or know how to do).

    He is what he is. He’s been pretty much the same player his entire career. The problem is that Wedge thinks that player type (.220-.250-.380) is an everyday player, and occasional DH and clean up hitter.

    If you bring Olivo back, and Wedge is managing, then you commit yourself to giving away over 300 plate appearances to a .240 OBA player. (who will be 34 next year).

  47. MangoLiger on October 16th, 2012 1:12 pm

    It wasn’t just spring training. Jaso was coming off a pretty bad-ish year in 2011 (only 273 PA, but still). Wedge might have been looking at it like 90% bad 2011 performance + 10% bad spring training performance, and still came to the conclusion that Jaso was no good. Not saying that was appropriate, but we can’t conclude that it was just based on his spring performance.

  48. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 1:25 pm

    @Mango

    He had over 400 PA’s in 2010 as a rookie and put up decent numbers. The point is still the same. Wedge’s process of talent-evaluation failed.

  49. Mathball on October 16th, 2012 1:31 pm

    “@Mathball

    Olivo’s spilts were faily similar. He was pretty terrible against lefties, slightly worse against RHP.”

    I was using wRC+ because it was quick and easy, not sure if it was the best choice.

  50. SonOfZavaras on October 16th, 2012 1:43 pm

    Agree, agree, agree. One hundred percent agree.

    I often do agree with you, Dave…but DAMN, do I agree here.

    (That has GOT to be the record for the most times the word “agree” was used in 20 words. Heh.)

    John Jaso is our Opening Day catcher, as far as I’m concerned- regardless of which hand the Oakland starter uses to throw. Jaso’s on the short list of our best current major-league players. And if Wedge doesn’t recognize that, he’s nuts and deserves to not even skipper the club in 2013.

  51. Thirteen on October 16th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Dave,

    While I agree with your assessment that Jaso is a better hitter vs. left-handed pitching than his wRC+ splits would dictate, I disagree with your dismissal (based on LD%) of the notion that he’s making weaker contact vs. those pitchers. Batted ball profiles take a long time to stabilize, and you of all people should know that it’s silly to chase unstabilized statistics over sample sizes as small as what Jaso has done vs. left-handed pitching. In small sample sizes scouting usually outpredicts statistical analysis. If we had Hit F/X data, or if line drives were better defined, it would be different, but we don’t and they aren’t. Line drive percentage often has as much to do with scorer’s whims as quality of contact. Remember Smoak’s above average LD% in April?

    Jaso won’t put up a .130 BABIP vs. left-handed pitching given a full season of appearances, but I’m not sure I would expect him to put up a .300 BABIP either.

  52. MangoLiger on October 16th, 2012 2:45 pm

    @stevemotivateir

    I know he put up decent numbers in 2010. But he followed that up with not decent numbers in 2011.

    My point is that we don’t know how much weight Wedge puts on Spring vs Recent Past vs Distant Past. We are assuming that because he had a bad spring, and because Wedge didn’t play him much at the beginning, the two must be related. We can’t possibly know that, especially since he had a bad 2011.

    In fact, what if the Mariners thought the found a flaw in Jaso’s 2011 approach and were trying to fix it. Maybe he had a bad spring because he was adjusting to a new swing or something. Maybe Wedge didn’t play him much to start the year because Jaso wasn’t fully comfortable with his new swing/approach/whatever yet. That’s highly speculative, but we have just as much evidence for that, as for the theory that Wedge thought he sucked because of a handfull of AB’s in spring.

  53. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 2:57 pm

    @Mango

    Again, it still comes down to a poor evaluation of talent, no matter what influenced him or what his reasoning was. Olivo’s numbers stunk since he arrived, so there’s certainly an argument for poor talent evaluation there as well.

  54. Typical Idiot Fan on October 16th, 2012 2:58 pm

    If I may, there’s actually little reason to do this. I’m all for getting Jaso in more often, whether that be DHing or catching, for a majority of the games and plate appearances. But, while Jaso’s platoon splits might not be as bad as they have been, the obvious reply is “why would you put him into that position at all when you have a better option?”. Jaso did well against righties, and Montero did well against lefties. Leaving Jaso in there to produce less than what Montero could do against left handed pitchers is asinine.

    Now, obviously we don’t want to just relegate Montero to a platoon bat at this point either, so don’t get me wrong, and maybe Montero isn’t a catcher going forward, but if you’re bugged about what Montero IS going forward, you find another bat that can mash lefties and platoon him with Jaso instead. Let’s come down to brass tacks here a second: the problem isn’t Jaso being platooned, it’s who he’s being platooned with. In this case, Miguel Olivo was his primary platoon partner. While Miguel Olivo has hit lefties better in the distant past, he sucks too much now to be given so much playing time.

    If you want to give Jaso 120 games and ~500 plate appearances, then great, I’m fine with that. But he still needs a right handed partner for the other 42 games, who should primarily start against left handed pitching. Montero fills this role fine, but if you want him playing first or DHing, go find someone cheap who can do that. Just as long as it isn’t Olivo.

  55. gwangung on October 16th, 2012 3:08 pm

    So, basically, we can live with Jaso as a full-time-ish catcher. We find the second coming of Johnny Bench, we can replace, but there are other places we need to be looking for upgrades.

    I can live with that.

  56. Jordan on October 16th, 2012 3:47 pm

    I still think we’d be missing veteran grit and dingers w/ Olivo. + at just a 3 mil. option that is money well spent. The Mariners will definitely work on a new multi-year contract so that Zunino can than go back to rookie ball and work on a new position. If we didn’t re-sign Olivo, we’d be forced to use Zunino in a platoon role and that is a gross misuse of his talents; they are much better spent learning a new position in rookie ball.

  57. Thirteen on October 16th, 2012 4:51 pm

    This team is bad at hitting lefties, and Chone Figgins is better at hitting lefties than John Jaso. We don’t need another righty masher (Jaso), we need someone who can hit pitchers of both handednesses. If we teach Figgins how to catch in spring training, maybe he can be the starting catcher next year, with Jaso as his backup?

  58. stevemotivateir on October 16th, 2012 5:46 pm

    @Jordan and Thirteen

    Nobody’s gonna bite on those here. You gotta come up with something a little more believable and strike when someone’s really worked-up over something, so you catch them they’re more gullible.

    You could probably duke quite a few people over on the Mariner site, though. Maybe even get some insults thrown your way;)

  59. wilchiro on October 16th, 2012 7:56 pm

    I really want to send this in to Zduriencik. It’s true that Jaso is the best player on the roster besides Felix and he deserves full playing time – at least until Zunino is ready, then maybe he can share time at C/1B/DH.

    I hate seeing him sit on the bench. He’s the only hitter on the ballclub that actually gets my hopes up when he comes to the plate.

  60. bookbook on October 16th, 2012 8:36 pm

    Dave,
    The answer to your (rhetorical) question in the headline is clearly “No,” as evidenced by the comments here.

  61. The_Waco_Kid on October 17th, 2012 1:19 am

    Wow, how did this thread get so ridiculous?

    I think we all agree: Jaso is underrated/should have played more last year.

    I hope we all agree: Jaso’s had few AB vs. LHP. It’s not really worth spending a lot on a platoon partner. Let him face LHP a bit more, with a Gimenez-type backup. Hopefully Zunino’s ready sometime in 2013.

    No one may agree, but I’m thinking they may not send Montero down, and that he’ll still get time at catcher. In that case, let Montero and Jaso play every day at C/DH (maybe Montero at 1B too). If they continue their huge platoon splits, platoon them at DH and bring Zunino up to catch. Not a great idea, but it could be good under certain circumstances.

  62. GarForever on October 17th, 2012 6:14 am

    I don’t think Jack gets to give Eric directives like that. I know on paper Eric works for Jack, but I don’t get the sense that Wedge is the sort of manager that takes kindly to being told how to use his guys or make his lineups.

    If that’s true, Mariners35, then one of them desperately needs to be fired, either Z for his inability to hire field managers with whom he can work and/or lead, or Wedge for refusing to respect the organizational flow chart. As Billy Beane once put it, with regard to Art Howe, he wasn’t going to allow “middle management” to dictate how the franchise was run. If Z says “Jaso’s our starting catcher,” and Wedge says “no,” then Wedge needs to be out of a job.

  63. stevemotivateir on October 17th, 2012 7:50 am

    @Gar and 35

    There’s been many articles posted by both Johns and Drayer that talk about the relationship between Jack and Eric. And nearly every one of them mentions how the two of them discuss what’s best for the team on a regular basis. It’s not likely Wedge makes definitive decisions without running it by Jack first, or vice versa.

  64. amnizu on October 17th, 2012 9:19 am

    At risk of sounding like a complete Dave post fanboi. I 100% agree with his opinion on this.

    Giving Jaso the full time starting role with an inexpensive FA or rookie backup frees the organization to explore DH or 1B with Montero at either the MLB or the minor league level.

    It rewards Jaso for a productive season and gives him an opportunity to prove he can hit left handed pitching at the MLB level. It also, is a fairly small overall risk in terms of the total number of at bats he’ll actually see against LHP. Key at bats you can still pinch hit and have enough roster flexibility.

    Finally, it costs close to nothing. It is a great hedge.

  65. GarForever on October 17th, 2012 3:07 pm

    @ Steve — right. I was making a rhetorical point. My sense is they do NOT have a dysfunctional relationship; however, if it were as Mariners35 suggested, well then, that would be a problem!

  66. heyoka on October 17th, 2012 4:01 pm

    Why would we want a catcher who hits well when we’ve got plenty of guys who will take 1 walk a year?

  67. stevemotivateir on October 17th, 2012 6:07 pm

    @Gar

    I understood what you were getting at (and agree). Of course, if either of them has a dumb idea and the other concurs, it’s even worse!

  68. Prosser Steve on October 18th, 2012 12:17 am

    Jaso has more career BB’s than K’s. How many other players in ALL of MLB have done that?

  69. 9inningknowitall on October 18th, 2012 11:10 am

    Jaso is the real deal and although I would prefer that his days off come when the M’s are facing a LHP and not a RHP I have no problem with him facing LHPs on a regular basis. He isn’t going to be taking ABs away from Montero because Montero can DH and maybe even play 1st a little by next year.

    He isn’t taking ABs from Zunino because unless Zunino comes out and hits .900 in spring training with 15 home runs I don’t see the M’s rushing him, even though I think he is an amazing talent. So what does it hurt to have a catcher who gives us solid at bats playing as the every day starter.

    I’m okay with the M’s going out and getting a cheap back up catcher because worse case scenario Montero gears up and catches a few innings which isn’t going to kill this team. I’d even be okay with Montero being the back up catcher as long as he is limited to once or twice a week behind the plate and the rest of the time at either DH or 1st base.

    On a previous note, spring training is just a bunch of practice games. Players experiment with new swings, new pitches and don’t approach games the same way they do during the regular season. Heck that is why player sign autographs during the middle of a game. It is just practice.

  70. Sports on a Shtick on October 18th, 2012 11:38 am

    Jaso has more career BB’s than K’s. How many other players in ALL of MLB have done that?

    Joe DiMaggio did it and Miguel Olivo certainly has not.

    The Mariners traded Josh Lueke for one of the better catchers in baseball. That is amazing.

  71. ivan on October 18th, 2012 6:13 pm

    Hall of Famer Joe Sewell had 842 walks and 114 strikeouts in his 14-year major league career. I don’t know of a bigger ratio than that.

    He hit only 49 HR during that time (this was all after the advent of the lively ball) but finished his career with an .804 OPS.

  72. ripperlv on October 19th, 2012 6:59 am

    The Mariners win the Jaso/Josh Lueke trade!

  73. seattlesonsofbaseball on October 23rd, 2012 9:46 am

    I was wondering why Wedge never converted into a Jaso lover like many of us did. Though, there is one thing I disagree with you on Dave, and that is the comment that you said “Jaso is pretty obviously the team’s best hitter right now, and probably the best player.” I’m sorry Dave, I’d give that to Seager who excelled higher then most expectations with his glove and his bat this last year. But I’d put Jaso right next to him in importance.

    Isn’t it funny though… the two most needed players on this team were guys who weren’t slated to start the season, and injuries put them in… rather then smart managerial analyzations and decisions. What does that say???

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