John Jaso: The Californian God of Walks

ST. PETERSBURG - JULY 05: Catcher John Jaso #28 of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Boston Red Sox during the game at Tropicana Field on July 5 2010 in St. Petersburg Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

A couple months ago, it was easy to write off John Jaso's fast start as just that - a fast start. His walk rate was insane (25%) and he was tearing the cover off of the ball to the tune of a .509 wOBA (Weighted On-Base Average), and even the most optimistic among us didn't think he'd be able to keep up that pace. Heck, nobody outside of Barry Bonds puts up numbers like that and sustains them over the course of a season; it's just too superhuman to be real. And so I decided to see what time would tell - once he'd been around the league a bit and pitchers had begun to adjust to him, how good would Jaso be?

The answer, it appears, is still pretty darn good. We'll get to all of his numbers in a second, but first, marvel at these walk and strikeout rates:

No.

MLB Rank*

BB%

15.70%

11th

K%

10.40%

18th

* Minimum of 100 plate appearances.

Considering that Jaso now has around 200 PAs on the season, his walk and strikeout rates should have stabilized by this point, meaning that they can now be quoted without a Small Sample Size warning attached. These numbers still may change slightly by the end of the season, but we can safely say that they are somewhat close to Jaso's true talent level.

And when you look at the MLB leaderboard for both of these statistics, you find some funky things. For walk rate, Jaso is the highest ranked player with a strikeout percentage under 16%, and he's one of the only players that high that isn't a prototypical power hitter. And when you look at the strikeout rate leaderboard, Jaso is only the second player on the list to walk more than 9% of the time. In other words, Jaso walks like a power hitter and strikes out like a slap hitter, but the rest of his statistics don't fit into either category. Odd, for sure.

Enough messing around with walk and strikeout rates - how productive has Jaso been since that first month? It's felt to me like he's been slumping to an extent, so let's check the numbers:

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wOBA

Mar/Apr

36

0.400

0.556

0.640

1.196

0.509

May

74

0.273

0.351

0.364

0.715

0.325

June

76

0.213

0.368

0.311

0.679

0.333

So it does appear as though Jaso has been slumping recently, at least if you look at his batting average and slugging percentages. His wOBAs are still okay due to his on-base skills, but I can't help but wonder about Jaso's true talent level. Should we expect him to hit closer to that .213 batting average or the .273 average going forward? And what about that power?

BABIP

HR/FB

Mar/Apr

0.375

7.7%

May

0.304

5.3%

June

0.224

4.5%

For those unsure of what these statistics are, BABIP stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play and it's a way of determining how lucky or unlucky a batter has gotten on hit balls. Jaso hit a very similar number of line drives in May and June, yet in one month they fell for a hit and in another month they didn't. 'Dems the breaks, but it appears likely that Jaso is a .270-ish hitter, like what he posted in May.

Power-wise, it's tough to draw many conclusions from Jaso's HR/FB rate. He's been hitting less home runs per flyball each month, but he's also been cutting down on his astronomical 21% Infield Flyball Percentage (which are basically guaranteed outs) and hitting more flyballs to the outfield. The projection systems on FanGraphs suggest he's never going to be a big power hitter - projected for a .378 SLG and a .108 ISO - but that's okay if he can continue walking at his astronomical rate. Maybe the power will develop - maybe not. Either way, I'm fine with watching our God of Walks continue racking up the bases.

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