Here’s an idea I’m instantly regretting: instead of empty open thread posts for playoff games, as we’ve done around here in years past, each day I’m going to attempt to have a hopefully-quick look around at some splits and stats and whatever else stands out on a Jays player’s 2013 season, because… what the hell else is there to do for the next month? Or the next week. Or just today– or however long I actually continue to follow through on this exercise.
1:00 PM ET – Oakland vs. Detroit – Jarrod Parker (1.9 rWAR) vs. Anibal Sanchez (6.3 rWAR)
3:00 PM ET – St. Louis vs. Pittsburgh – Michael Wacha (1.7 rWAR) vs. Charlie Morton (0.5 rWAR)
6:00 PM ET – Boston vs. Tampa Bay – Clay Buchholz (4.3 rWAR) vs. Alex Cobb (4.0 rWAR)
9:30 PM ET – Atlanta vs. Los Angeles – Freddy Garcia (0.9 rWAR) vs. Ricky Nolasco (0.4 rWAR)
Get news updates on the game as they happen, and whatever else fun comes along the way, by downloading theScore app for free on your moblie device!
It’s funny how Jays fans can see so clearly how the undervaluing of defence played such a role in the run-prevention issues that blasted the 2013 season apart, yet when you ask them to name the best Jays player, most of them will completely miss the mark. Bluebird Banter polled readers last week, and at the time of this writing, Edwin Encarnacion had a massive lead, with 67% of the vote.
The correct answer, of course, is more likely Colby Rasmus. It certainly is if you believe the defensive components of both Baseball Reference’s and FanGraphs’ WAR, where Colby’s high quality defence at a premium position makes up the not insignificant gap in the offensive production between him and Edwin (23 points of wOBA), with him topping Encarnacion by more than a half a win according to both metrics. Baseball Prospectus’s WARP, on the other hand, gives Edwin a slight edge (4.1 to 3.9), but at the very least, even if you don’t trust the precision of the defensive numbers, it’s pretty unlikely they’re so skewed as to not think it’s damn close between the two.
And yet here we are, with Edwin crushing the vote– at least the one in that particular corner of the internet– and Colby coming in with just 22%.
It’s… impressive, actually. Because while Edwin provided no defensive value, or even negative defensive value, he was still so good because he was magnificent with the bat.
Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout he’s not, but he doesn’t have to be otherworldly to be great. By league- and park-adjusted wRC+ he was slightly ahead of Joe Mauer, Troy Tulowitzki, and Robinson Cano. Perhaps best of all about that, over the next three years Tulo will be paid $56-million, Mauer will earn $69-million, and Cano will surely be paid more than, and probably by a healthy margin– maybe even as much as $90-million, if he and his agent, Jay-Z, get their way. Encarnacion, if the Jays pick up his 2016 option, will make just $29-million over that span.
Yeah, there’s that whole ignoring defence thing again, but so what? Edwin’s awesome.
Last month I wrote about Adam Lind, and I tried to make the case that the Jays need to pick up his $7-million option by comparing Lind’s stellar line against right-handers with Edwin’s. Against right-handers!
That’s actually one of the more interesting things about Encarnacion’s season: for the first time since he was a 23-year-old back in 2006, he had a reverse split. And the sample against right-handers was much larger than against lefties– 419 plate appearances versus 111.
From this newfound success in the split, it actually doesn’t even take a lot of wishcasting to think that he might even have more ceiling to attain as a hitter. No, really! If he can maintain the production he had against right-handers this season, while also getting back to last year’s 182 wRC+ against lefties (this year it was just 134), look the fuck out!
I’m not saying it’s going to happen– frankly, it’s probably more likely he regresses from this peak against right-handers– but after the two years of Encarnacion we’ve just seen, considering what depths we all saw him come from, it would be impossible to rule it out.
But why be greedy? Encarnacion made 2012 look like no fluke, and certainly that’s the most buoying thing about his season. After posting walk rates around 8% in his first two full seasons as a Blue Jay, Edwin walked 13.0% of the time in 2012, and was slightly better than that this year. More remarkably, he cut his strikeout rate down by 4.5%, striking out in a career low 10% of his plate appearances this year– a figure that was driven by his split against left-handers, in which over those 111 PA he struck out just 4.7% of the time.
Strikeout rate is said– by Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus– to normalize after 60 plate appearances, so that number should be believable, but it certainly stands in contrast to last season’s rate. In 2012 he struck out 18.5% of the time against lefties and, given that he was much better in the split in last year than in this (.440 wOBA versus .372 wOBA, and a .368 ISO versus .216), uh… maybe he should consider going back to selling out for power against them.
But again, with the numbers he put up, who can really complain?
Sure, there’s the giant defensive elephant in the room, but we’re still talking over four wins of value for each of the last two seasons.
Still, none of the advanced defensive metrics like him very much. Of the 31 first baseman with 600 innings played this year, he ranks fourth worst by UZR/150, and by DRS he’s tied for fourth-worst. DRS, of course, is a counting stat, so that’s a bit skewed; only one of three behind him, Adam Dunn, played fewer innings at the position, and the next closest guy played 100 more. Hey, but while Edwin may come up a little short compared to the defensive standard set by a guy like Prince Fielder, you’ll be pleased to note that he hit a decent amount better than the Tigers’ $214-million man, too (145 wRC+ compared to 125 for Fielder).
Yeah, I’ll take it. And I get why fans saw him as so valuable, too. I mean, are we sure we think enough of first base defence to hold what the numbers are saying against Edwin? Easy to say no when it denigrates your club’s best hitter, but seriously… he’s fine! And can bloody hit! Uh… right??