If you aren’t a Jedd Gyorko fan, you’ll have to forgive me for writing about him twice in three weeks. I first wrote about him in an attempt to examine his value. Although we talk fairly frequently about how players project in the coming years—Marcell Ozuna, Matt Carpenter, even Adam Wainwright—I found that Gyorko’s name was only mentioned in trade proposals for Machado, Donaldson, and the new San Francisco Giant Longoria.
Today, I write about Gyorko wondering why there is so much discontent with his performance. I realize that not everyone is disenchanted with the third baseman, who can feasibly play any other infield position—an added plus to roster flexibility. But I also understand that there is a certain level of frustration with him. Why?
I am baffled. As I mentioned in my last article about him, his wRC+ has been 112 in each of his two years with the Cardinals. That compares similarly to Machado and Longoria. Still, I join the many fans who find themselves frustrated with him for no apparent reason.
Is it because he hits home runs with no men on base? Fourteen of his twenty home runs in 2017 came with the bases empty. Sure, that’s not ideal, but are we in a place to complain about a player who has hit 50 home runs over the last two years? Is anyone? Even when we only look at the past year—twenty home runs--he is tied for 21st with Evan Longoria among all active third basemen.
Perhaps more traditional fans are not pleased with a corner infielder ranking in the bottom third of power production? That’s fair. He came in at 23rd in RBIs this past year as well. But with an outfield as the Cardinals have assembled, that should not be a problem. Keep in mind, too, that Gyorko only played 3⁄4 of a season. What the team needs from the third base position is above average value, which he unquestionably provides.
Does he always strike out when there are runners on base? That would be excruciating, but it is simply untrue. In 221 plate appearances with runners on base, he struck out 51 times. That is a rate essentially on par with his career number of 22.6%. What’s more, he hit .307 with runners on base—a pretty productive number. Could he improve upon that? Absolutely. But someone who complains about an average that starts with a 3 loses a considerable amount of credibility.
What about double plays? Does he hit into them often, snuffing out rally after rally? Gyorko grounded into a grand total of twelve double plays in 2017, one more than his total the previous year with the Cardinals. That doesn’t seem like too many, but how does it compare to other players? Albert Pujols led the league in double plays last year—26. The Cardinals leader was Tommy Pham with 18. I don’t see many of us upset with him. Next on the team was Yadier Molina with 14. So, the double play theory isn't it either.
Forget the bat. Is he an awful defensive player? He is certainly not the best. Last year, his UZR/150 was -4.8 at first base, but a whopping 20.9 at second base. These are each small samples of about 40 innings, so take them with a grain of salt. At third, where he played exactly 900 innings in 2017, his UZR/150 was 3.8. He’ll never win a gold glove, but he is an above average third baseman.
So what’s the deal, then? You might say Gyorko is frustratingly average and you would be partially correct. However, I would say that he is much more accurately categorized as an above average player. His wRC+ is 112 after all. And his defensive numbers are, for the most part, positive. The last remaining theory I have is that we simply want more from him. That seems to be a fair sentiment. But let’s not allow that to cloud our judgment. We want more from all of our players. Jedd Gyorko might not give us exactly what we want, but he really is a good player.