The Best Case For Jon Jay

Peter Bourjos was supposed to start in center field last night against the lefty Cingrani.  Because of a stomach virus, Bourjos was scratched and Jon Jay started instead.  Jay had a good night at the plate, going 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs.  The Cardinals won the game and everyone was happy.

However, I noticed something during the game as I was following on Twitter.  Folks were saying that Jay doing so well was proving the “haters” wrong.  Well, first of all, the results in one game hardly prove anything of significance about Jay except that he had a good night.  Secondly, I wondered who were the “haters” exactly?  I didn’t see any overt expressions of hate on my Twitter timeline last night toward Jay or for that matter any other night in recent memory.  There are certainly people such as myself that are quite vocal in our preference for Peter Bourjos as the starting center fielder, for what should be some pretty obvious reasons.  I don’t see preferring one player to play over another as an expression of  “hate” for the unchosen player.  I want Bourjos to play simply because I think he is the better player, but I have no hate for Jon Jay.

Jon Jay is a fine extra outfielder who I think plays better off the bench and with an occasional start under the right circumstances.  Jay has a history of being a streaky hitter who can go on prolonged slumps.  Moreover, Bourjos is clearly the superior defensive player;  Jay takes bad jumps and routes to balls and has a limited amount of range.  He also has a very poor throwing arm.  When Jay is overexposed, in my opinion, his hitting slumps.

Let’s look at some numbers for clarity.  At the beginning of this season, almost the entire team was not hitting.  Bourjos didn’t get a hit in his first 5 starts, but when he started to hit, at the home opener against the Reds, he hit at a .348 clip in his next 6 starts, raising his BA from .111 to .222.  Jay on the other hand was hitting .188 during this same time period. Then Matheny benched Bourjos to play Jay, who went on a hot streak, hitting at a .400 clip for a 9 game period, raising his BA from .188 to .326.  Then, the slump began and Jay’s BA plummeted from .326 to .267 in the next 10 games.  It was at this point, at the beginning of the series in Atlanta, that Bourjos began playing everyday and Jay went back to the bench.  Since that time, Bourjos has hit at a .311 clip, raising his BA from .179 to .227.

The interesting part is that while Bourjos was playing everyday and getting better at the plate, Jay, hitting off the bench, has maintained a stable BA, hitting .294 from May 5 to now.  The book on Bourjos is that the more he plays, the better he gets.  Playing off the bench or in a platoon situation is death to Bourjos.  Jay, however, seems to thrive hitting off the bench, as his performance at the plate since returning to that role appears to indicate.

Now, this is just a cursory evaluation using small sample sizes, so there can be no hard conclusions drawn from any of this.  What I do know from watching both Bourjos and Jay play for the last 3 seasons, is that Bourjos hits better when he gets regular playing time, and Jay is a streaky hitter who can have brutal slumps.  Given this knowledge, is it a stretch for me to say that the best utilization of talent here is to play Bourjos everyday, and use Jay off the bench and as a spot starter?  Well, if you are a big Jay fan, you might disagree.  I can understand that.

Let me put it another way then.  John Mozeliak traded for Peter Bourjos because he wanted to improve the defense in center field.  He has said this many times publicly.  He also has a log jam in the outfield, with several good outfield prospects in the minor leagues vying for playing time.  In the not too distant future, decisions will have to be made as to who can be brought up and where they will play.  Mozeliak already knows what he has in Jay, but not so for Bourjos, who has only had one season where he played regularly, due to the emergence of Mike Trout and time down due to injury.  Mozeliak needs to see what he has in Bourjos, and the only way he can do that and be fair to Bourjos, is for him to play as much as possible.

Mozeliak has some hard decisions to make regarding the outfield situation, and he needs all the information he can get to make those decisions.  That’s why it doesn’t make sense to play Jay over Bourjos because that would not aid Mozeliak’s decision making in the slightest.

The best case for Jay right now is for him to continue to play off the bench.  It will all get sorted out eventually.  My believing this to be the best use of Jay’s talent does not make me a hater.

 

Thank you for reading.

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10 Comments

  1. Jerry Modene

     /  May 26, 2014

    Of course, there are still those who demand the Cards bench both Bourjos *and* Jay and install Taveras as the center fielder.

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    • Yes, I know. They want it for the offense, but most if not all have never seen Taveras actually play CF, and if they have, they are just not interested in how he plays defense. It’s the modern baseball fan, only the bat counts.

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  2. Jerry Modene

     /  May 26, 2014

    I saw over the weekend that stated rated Tavares OK in the corner OF positions and “lost” in CF. Amazingly, the fans seem to expect that when Tavares is recalled next week when we hit the AL parks he’ll be in the OF with Craig or Adams or Holliday DH-ing. But Goold, among others, have talked about Tavares (or whoever gets called up) getting AB’s in the DH position. That makes sense, since the batter’s box is really Oscar’s only good position.

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    • Taveras’ scouting reports over the years have all said he is a stretch as a CF. He doesn’t have the speed or the range.

      The majority of people who want Taveras in CF either have never seen him play there, or if they have, see what they want to see because they want him to play there. It’s the idea of the offense in an outfield of Holliday, Taveras, and Craig that motivates them, the defense is unimportant.

      “Lost” sort of describes it, but I would call it more “uninterested”. Taveras wants to hit, that’s all he really cares about. He goes about his fielding in the outfield as if it is just a chore he has to get through to get to the batter’s box.

      You can bet Mozeliak is not too keen on putting Taveras out there, or else he wouldn’t have traded for Bourjos. But he realizes Bourjos has got to hit enough to justify playing him, and if he doesn’t, then Mozeliak may not have another choice. I think that is part of the reason he is delaying bringing Taveras up, because he wants to give Bourjos a chance to prove himself. He couldn’t have been too happy that Matheny was thwarting him, but that seems to have changed for the time being.

      I certainly hope if Taveras comes up for interleague play that he is the DH for the majority of the time. That is the ideal role for him since hitting is his only above average tool.

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  3. Jerry Modene

     /  May 26, 2014

    Well, over on the forum, even Brian is challenging those scouting reports re: Tavares in CF. I give up.

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    • He is only disagreeing with the term “lost” as an accurate description. I don’t think “lost” describes it either, it’s more disinterest.

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  4. Jerry Modene

     /  May 26, 2014

    You may be right. He’s starting to remind me of Ted Williams in his attitude towards everyday play; Ted’s natural position was likewise in the batters box. He was historically indifferent to playing defense. Now, if Oscar can *hit* like Ted, then all is forgiven. 😉 Seriously, though, I’m growing increasingly annoyed at those who seem to think that Tavares is some sort of savior who’s going to energize this team – he’s simply a good-hitting young player who still has a lot to learn. But in this modern game of ours, hype trumps all, which is why MLB is so ga-ga over guys like Harper and Puig (and at least they can play defense).

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    • I have already become annoyed with most Cardinal fans, and the posters on the Scout message board in particular. The amount of baseball ignorance that gets posted on there on a daily basis is just unreal. I sometimes wonder if a few of them are watching Cardinal games in an alternate universe, because they can’t possibly be watching what I’m watching and spit out the stupid things they post. It’s why I don’t post there anymore, because I don’t trust myself not to go ballistic on somebody. It isn’t much better on Twitter.

      Taveras is a one tool player. His hit tool has a very high ceiling, but he can’t field, he can’t run and his arm is just average. Yet people seem to think he is the next Pujols and that cannot be farther from the truth. Albert was a much more all around talent.

      And the folks who think Jay should start over Bourjos just blow my mind. Defensively, they are not even close, and Bourjos can hit if he plays enough and folks would just be patient. But patience is a foreign concept to most it seems. The situation isn’t helped by MM’s love affair with Jay, who double switches Jay in for Bourjos every chance he gets. I like Jay well enough, but I cannot understand the attraction people have for him. But then, I never could understand the attraction to Skip Schumaker either.

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  5. Jerry Modene

     /  May 27, 2014

    The modern fan cares only for offense. They don’t realize that the game has changed; the pendulum has swung back considerably. I doubt we’ll get back to the point where the game was in the late 70’s and early 80’s – artificial turf is all but gone, after all – but the big power game of the late 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s is gone thanks in large part to the crackdown on PED’s. The problem is that the fans got spoiled and expect 50-home-run seasons, not realizing that before the PED days, a power hitter was a guy with 20-25 home runs, and the really good ones would have 30-35. They look at a guy like Henry Aaron and wonder how he could be regarded as a great power hitter when he never hit more than 47; they look at Musial and are aghast to see that his career season high was 39. That’s the real harm of the PED era – the inflated totals that everyone took for granted, when ordinary players like Luis Gonzalez and Greg Vaughn and whatzisname in Baltimore were hitting 50, 55, 57 home runs.

    Sure, home runs are nice. But even Earl Weaver, when reciting his mantra on how to win ballgames, cited the “three-run homer” as only one of the trifecta. The other two: pitching and defense. The Cards have that, especially when Wong and Bourjos are in the starting lineup (and Ellis is no slouch on defense either). Adams has shown him to be remarkably mobile around the bag, especially for such a big guy, Peralta has paid a lot of attention to Oquendo’s positioning and is doing better at SS than anyone could have expected, and Craig, for all his struggles offensively, has been a defensive upgrade over Beltran in RF. Holliday, healthy for once, may not be hitting for power but I haven’t seen him play defense at this level for many years.

    If we could just get the power back a little bit. I really thought the Molina drive last night was gone; we seem to be doing that a lot lately – and I wonder what’s going on. Has MLB deadened the ball or something? Is it the ballpark? The weather? Drives that we would assume are out are dying on the warning track. It’s weird.

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    • Busch played as a pitcher’s park last season when they were constructing Ballpark Village. Now that’s it up, the park may be even more of one.

      The obsession with big offense is what is ruining the game for me. I want to see good defense, and base stealing, and some small ball. I can’t just watch a slugfest, there has to be a balance of all the things.

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