With all due respect to Bernie Miklasz, I have to disagree with him about one thing: Jon Jay. As a regular reader of Mr. Miklasz’s generally fantastic "Bernie’s Bytes," I have noticed a continual disdain for the Cardinal’s center fielder that I fail to understand.
His latest beef is with Jay’s home/road splits last season. By comparing Jay statistically with ten of baseball’s most prolific center fielders, I hope to legitimize him as the Cardinals best option for many years to come (and perhaps even sway Mr. Miklasz . . . perhaps). Here are some preliminary 2012 statistics for all eleven players (taken from 2012):
I intentionally left out power numbers such as home runs, RBIs, and slugging percentage because Jay isn't a power hitter. His strength comes from his ability to get on base, not drive in runs. It's also important to note how many games each player played and how that affects statistics such as runs.
Now, let’s take a look at the problem that Bernie noticed: Jay’s low batting average on the road.
__________________Road BA____________Road OBP
Jay is nearly the worst in both batting average and on-base percentage. But he’s not the worst in either category: Jay hit better than Granderson on the road (just barely) and got on base more often than Upton. It’s not much, but it is something. What about at home?
_________________Home BA___________Home OBP
There is no doubt that Jay under performed on the road, but for the 61 games he played at home, he’s beyond comparison. No one is within fifty points of him in either on-base percentage or average. That level of play is incredible. At least in Busch Stadium, there is no bat any team would rather have in their lineup.
Mr. Miklasz did suggest that perhaps Jay’s disappointing road statistics were a fluke and would level themselves out with time, and a quick glance at his career splits seem to show exactly that:
___________________Career Road BA _________Career Road OBP
Jay’s career batting average on the road is far from amazing, but he puts himself in the middle of the pack, and while his on-base percentage is a little bit lower than everybody else’s, he’s still comparable. Given the small sample size available for Jay, it seems likely that his splits will fix themselves before long.
Now I want to look closely at Jay’s fielding statistics:
Jay isn’t at the top of the list, it’s true, but his UZR places him decidedly in the upper half amongst these elite center fielders. He isn’t outstanding defensively, but he’s more than adequate.
Jon Jay is also in the middle of the pack as far as WAR is concerned. He’s good, but not great:
Jay's statistics make him a decidedly decent player. He's an above average fielder and an above average hitter who excels at getting on base. But that's not the end of the story. The really interesting thing about these players is their price tags. These are the 2013 salaries for each player:
Jon Jay__________________$504,000 (2012)
Mike Trout______________$480,000 (2012)
Players such as B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino, who underperformed Jay both in terms of UZR and WAR (Upton also had a worse on-base percentage on the road than Jay), will make eight figures in 2013. Jon Jay will likely make six. For that matter, every player other than Jay and Trout will make at least two million dollars a year. And these aren't players failing to deliver on huge contracts that their respective teams now regret; they're being paid for how well they play right now. Bourn, Victorino, Upton, and McCutchen all have brand new multi-year contracts ranging in value from 39 million to 72.5 million. The market is saying that a center fielder of Jay’s caliber is set to make somewhere between 7 and 20 million dollars a year. The Cardinals are paying him half a million.
I concede that there are better center fielders out there, but I deny that there are any who can perform as well as Jay offensively or defensively for as little as St. Louis pays him. The player with the most comparable stats is Bryce Harper: he has a Rookie of the Year Award and is destined for stardom (and a huge contract to boot). Jon Jay has never won a league wide award and will probably never be up for a big payday. He’s an inexpensive center fielder who consistently outperforms expectations. He at least deserves a little recognition from the Cardinal Nation.