Rasmus Reality Check

Rasmus smiling? Obviously faked.

It’s Opening Day, the whole city is going to be talking about baseball, and one of the few players on the Toronto Blue Jays that just about every radio-listening, casual-fan imbecile is going to be able to agree needs to absolutely get his shit together and stop polluting this otherwise championship-calibre club is centre fielder Colby Rasmus.

Now, nobody’s going to pretend that Colby Rasmus had a good season in 2011.

But if you happen to run into anyone who’s ready to cut bait on him, feel free to point out that it’s beyond– beyond– ridiculous to infer that he’s useless, based solely on that off-year, a poor spring training, and their inability to think through a paper bag when it comes to assessing the absolute fucking meaninglessness of all the St. Louis blather about his attitude problems, or Gregg Zaun talking dumb-as-fuck about supposed loafing, or whatever else they’ve decided is a better indicator of future performance than a bunch of numbers and concepts they can’t be bothered to understand.

This isn’t to say that Rasmus is assuredly going to be a star, or that his 2010 in St. Louis couldn’t have been a staggering, 2009 Adam Lind-like outlier– for which, I must point out, Lind still gets slack from fans for two years later, while Rasmus gets shit on after one bad turn– but there is still a shit-tonne to be encouraged by.

Such as, you ask?

Well… admittedly, we’ve learned from cases such as Travis Snider’s that one-time prospect status doesn’t really mean a whole lot in the cold light of MLB reality. It does, however, speak to a player’s talent when he is considered among the top 5% or better of his peers, especially for position players. Yes, lots of prospects flame out, but so few reach that level that it alone is encouraging.

So too is the 152 wRC+ Rasmus put up at age 20 while at double-A in the Texas League– a far more impressive number than Brett Lawrie’s 117 in the double-A Southern League at the same age, if we want to allow ourselves to take much meaning for such comparisons.

But that was a long time ago– 2007. What has he done lately, right?

Well, there was 2010, where he was fantastic for the Cardinals, in just his age 23 season. How fantastic? Funny you should ask, Stoeten. FanGraphs have just introduced age filters on their leaderboards, which allows us to more easily put Colby’s 2010 into a context that maybe has a chance of finally getting through the thick skulls of the mush-headed haters.

Here are the qualified 22- and 23-year-olds who, since 2005, bested the 129 wRC+ Rasmus put up at 23 in 2010– which, don’t forget, was his most recent season exactly one disasterfuck of a calendar year ago.

Miguel Cabrera (2005, 2006)
Prince Fielder (2007)
Hanley Ramirez (2007)
Pablo Sandoval (2009)
David Wright (2005, 2006)
Joe Mauer (2006)
Justin Upton (2011)
BJ Upton (2007)
Jhonny Peralta (2005)
Evan Longoria (2008, 2009)
Grady Sizemore (2006)

Aaaaand… that’s it. That’s the list. It’s a pretty fucking impressive one. Not a lot of fluky seasons there.

Add in qualified 24-year-olds over the same period, and the list of players above Rasmus expands to include Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Avila, Nick Markakis, Brian McCann, Billy Butler, Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Zimmerman and Dustin Pedroia.

Tied with Rasmus were Ryan Braun (2008) and Andrew McCutcheon (2011).

Does that mean 2010 Rasmus won’t be one of the few flukes among this generally-outstanding set of hitters? Of course not. But let’s not forget just how good he was, and how much more important that ought to be to our assessment of him than all this other bullshit.

On the list of qualified 22-, 23-, and 24-year-olds his 2010 tops seasons from Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Joey Votto and more, for fuck sakes! (In wRC+, that is.)

Again, is this any kind of smoking gun that shows Rasmus is going to be fine? No. Are there surely plenty of other ways to raise red flags on the Jays’ centre fielder? Of course. But the impression I get is that fans who are ready to dump Rasmus don’t quite grasp precisely how fucking good he was as recently as the season before last.

They’d do fucking well to be reminded.

Comments (47)

  1. And now we know why Colby doesn’t like to smile.

    Good job Stoeten. People are being all kinds of crazy with regard to Rasmus. The fact that Gose stole 3 bases in one inning has not helped. Yes – he has a lot to prove – in terms of erasing the memory of last year.. but what he did as a young player has certainly earned him the leeway to figure it out without a bunch of Leafs fans running him out of town because he didn’t do it right out of the gates.

    I shy from predicting he’ll be an all-star like Wilner.. but it wouldn’t shock me if it happened.

  2. Applause.
    Very well done. Let’s hope Colby has a great year.

  3. Lawrie hitting 3rd and Joey Bats cleanup today! Boner!

  4. Holy fuck, according to Shi Davidi, Lawrie batting 3rd and Bautista cleanup. Farrell is coming to his senses!!!!

  5. Cock tease, apparently. meh.

  6. Now I know why he never smiles. Yeesh.

    Anyway, it will be an interesting year for him. He has everything a centrefielder needs to be a huge success, but will he put it back together? If Gose takes off down in Las Vegas and Rasmus falters, the blogs will be interesting with all the poo-flinging and arm-waving and finger-pointing


    But in all seriousness, I’m not worried about Rasmus. If he hits anywhere close to what is average for himself, we’re going to have some great production from centre field.

    As for Zaun, he’s entertaining to listen to on the radio with Howarth, but he’s an absolutely terrible analyst.

  8. the jays game is the mlb.tv free game of the day – does that mean i can watch it in toronto?

  9. bluejays twitter seems to disagree with the lineup

  10. Good post. An additional point- Colby’s 110 wRC+ (.236/.332/.420) that he posted over his 94 games in St. Louis in 2011 is very fine for a CF, especially one with plus defense.

  11. Stoeten – I agree wholeheartedly with nearly all of what you said; however, I simply cannot agree with your and Dustin’s constant downplaying of the importance or significance of “perceived” loafing or lack of hustle.

    This is not coming from some puckhead who values guys who hustle over guys who are actually, you know, good at baseball (see: fans of McDonald, John). This is coming from someone who actually believes that it is important to hustle and not “loaf” as Zauner or whomever else might accuse Colby (not to mention EE and Yunel) of doing. I believe it is important not because there is some quantifiable stat that shows why it improves the team’s overall chances of success, but because sometimes unquantifiable things matter to the overall cohesiveness of a team.

    If Player X who hustles all the time sees Player Z not hustling or loafing (especially in the scenario where the not hustling results in not getting to a ball that otherwise was obtainable), that could easily affect the team’s dynamic, and I’m certain many players – not to mention managers – would agree.

    I just don’t see why you and Mr. Parkes seem to consistently denigrate the significance of this part of the game. Part of me feels like you guys are so caught up in latching on to only the new wave of statistical evaluation that you are willing to make short shrift of every single traditional view of what “matters” in baseball. Lord knowns I certainly value OPS+ a heck of a lot more than AVG., or FIP over ERA, but man, some traditional things actually matter.

    Just my thoughts.

    • You aren’t offbase but you’re taking Zaun’s word as the word of Rasmus’ teammates, which is folly.

      You also assume “cohesiveness” is a key component to winning. It could well be but “talent” is more important. Winning streaks make for cohesive teams – except when they don’t. Wins make for winning teams.

      • OK – again though, I get the sense that you guys simply ally yourselves with the position of opposing traditional values to the point that you lose credibility. Can you actually take the position that you are totally fine with a player not running out a groundball or not tracking down a line drive or grounder as hard as possible?

        I recognize there are things that are MORE important (as you noted), but that does not mean that other things are UNimportant.

        • I’m not sure Stoeten or Parkes have ever downplayed the importance of hustle or the other intangibles you mention. I think it’s more that Rasmus does have the hustle, he just doesn’t look as much like a nuclear cheetah as Lawrie when he hustles.

          • I specifically recall Parkes downplaying the significance of Bautista not running out a groundball to first, making some sarcastic comment to the effect of, “it’s much more worth it for him to risk injury as long as he hustles”. I called him out on Twitter for this position but didn’t hear back.

            I”m not talking about “intangibles”; this is a tangible, readily observable quality.

        • No, but other than Zaun saying so, has anyone else ever accused him of a such a thing? Have his teammates?

          Running stuff out is important, dogging it in the field is bad. But does this stuff ever actually happen?

      • You seem to imply that “winning” and “talent” are synonyms.

        Yes, wins make for winning teams. But talent does not automatically translate into wins. If it did, there wouldn’t be such a high rate of prospect failure.

        Wilner used to constantly tell callers complaining about Alex Rios that you can’t “will your way” to first base. While that’s true, going closer to 100% while running down the line as opposed to 80% would likely result in reaching base a few more times a year, right? I’m not accusing Rios of consistently doing this, though.

        Sure, there is a whole lot of bullshit in the way people perceive Rasmus. But I don’t think it’s irrational for people to detest lazy players. Is Rasmus actually lazy? Who knows…

        • Is Rasmus actually lazy? Who knows…

          Exactly. He LOOKS lazy therefore he IS lazy in the minds of too many people. It’s dumb.

          • Sorry Drew. It’s not dumb.
            Colby admits that he never even picked up a bat until 2 weeks before ST in 2011.
            He admits to not caring and just wanting the season to end in 2012.Basically mailing it in.
            I wish for nothing but the best for Colby.I hope he’s rejuvinated and remotivated for this year.
            Mostly I hope he can handle the adversity that will come during the season and not give up on himself.

          • Oh I could not agree more with this point. That comment he made at the end of last year about just wanting for the season to be over wasn’t a sentiment that endeared him to the fanbase either…

          • Jesus. The guy was leaving a *very* nightmare of a year/existence in St. Louis. So what, he exclaimed he just wanted the year behind him.

  12. Great read, Stoeten. I still don’t think the haters will agree, but who cares? Good luck finding them in 6 months. They get the doubt fed to them every day on the radio; even guys like McCown aren’t sold, but he at least is open to the idea of Rasmus finding his form again. But then a guy like Jeff Blair says “I don’t believe in Rasmus at all, but I do believe in Lind”. So yeah, go fucking figure.

  13. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Blue Jays player as irrationally hated as Rasmus. It will be funny to see the reactions if he has a good year.

  14. I don’t mean to throw cold water on your analysis, but it’s not fair to look at only the the players who have put up better numbers. Using the 22, 23, and 24 yr olds link, Rasmus lands 15ish, so looking at the next 15 puts him halfway between Miguel Cabrera and Jorge Cantu… still not a bad spot, but not quite as impressive.

  15. The reason Rasmus gets shit on and LInd doesn’t is that the majority of Jays fans got to see Lind be good, but didn’t see Rasmus when he was good. SImple as that. End of story.

    • You could also add that the Cards started winning the day Colby got traded. Ok Mr. Rasmus, show St. Louis the mistake they made, and help us to the playoffs

      • Except for the .579 winning percentage they posted for the first two months of the season, when he was their everyday CF.

        • On July 28th, the day Rasmus is traded, St Louis is .524 winning percentaage tied with the Pirates and 2 or 3 games out of the wild card. Not looking like the WS team that they would become

  16. I am more worried about having to watch the Buck and Pat wear identical outfits this year than I am about Colby Rasmus playing better than last year… all they have to do is wear shirts that are a different color.


  17. The trouble with Rasmus is two fold: Not only did he fall right off a pumpkin truck, he’s shy and has zero media saavy. Dude needs some kind of charm school/urban make-over. He makes Lind look regal by comparison.

  18. June 15, 2010:

    Colby Rasmus .298/.401/.596 .997 OPS
    Albert Pujols .309/.425/.559 .984 OPS

    At that time, Rasmus was 2nd in the NL in OPS. Fuck off haters.

    • WTF did you cherry pick the June 15 2010 date. Just so we are clear Colby is not, and is almost certainly ever, going to be anything close to Pujols. And I like Rasmus but he has to pick it up, or he will fail here.

    • this girl doesnt seem to think colby is lacking in the outfield, so neither should we

      • Awesome. Now all we need is for her to perform that live at the Dome on opening day and maybe all the haters will be as convinced as I now am. Not that I’ve ever hated on Colby… Nothing but optimism here!

        Let’s go Blue Jays!

  19. Your defense of Rasmus is starting to sound like your defense of Overbay and Snider. Overbay was a good player for years, until he wasn’t. Snider was a very good player in the minor leagues, but is obviously not a ML talent. Rasmus had one very good year for a different team in a different league with a different environment. He is obviously not cut out to play at a high level in the AL East. You don’t seem to understand that things change.

    • Well, we have loads of evidence suggesting that Rasmus can’t hack it as an everyday player in the AL East. Oh wait…

      Here’s a thought: How about we let him play a few before deciding he’s terrible?

  20. The Razz is going to be fine folks. He’s gelling better this year with the team. Shit, his defence alone is worth having him in CF.

    Good job in pointing that out Stoeten.

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