Thursday, August 23, 2012

John Jaso is really good (no, really!)

I have a huge baseball crush on Seattle Mariners catcher John Jaso. Aside from his prolific beard (see above), his ridiculous stats with runners in scoring position, his tendency to shaving-cream-pie teammates during postgame interviews, and the number of game-winning hits notched into his belt this season, Jaso continues to push himself into statistically-rare territory. Not only does he lead the Mariners in pretty much every offensive rate statistic (including a whopping .901 OPS), which, granted, isn't that hard to do, he's also in lofty company in one particular area of his game.

This season, John Jaso has 43 walks and 38 strikeouts. It's pretty uncommon in this day and age to find a player with more walks than strikeouts, so I decided to scour through the statistics of every Major League team and see just what kind of company that put Jaso in. Out of qualified hitters, the only other players in MLB with more walks than strikeouts are:

David Ortiz. Prince Fielder. Joe Mauer. Chipper Jones. Joey Votto. And Carlos Lee.

And John Jaso?! What the f#$@!

Turns out Jaso did the same thing 404 plate appearances in 2010, but stumbled a bit last year (25BB/36Ks) before Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik traded for the backup catcher during the offseason. A dramatic swing change and a legitimate role in the lineup seems to have unleashed the bearded beast within. He's solidified a spot in the clubhouse and in the lineup, and Jaso was even behind the plate for Felix Hernandez's perfect game on August 15, drawing the praise of both players and pundits for the game he called (Felix, who normally calls all of his own pitches, only shook off Jaso a handful of times and applauded his catcher's calls after the game).

Even after Zduriencik traded for Yankees catcher Jesus Montero last offseason and drafted Florida catcher and NCAA player of the year Mike Zunino in this year's amateur draft, John Jaso continues to make himself invaluable to the Mariners lineup. And, no matter what happens with Montero and Zunino in the next couple years, it's going to be really hard for manager Eric Wedge to take Jaso out of the middle of the order. Unless, of course, Zduriencik and company decide to take on Miguel Olivo's $3M club option next season so they can run out a catcher who can't hit OR catch. Fingers crossed!

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