Jacoby Ellsbury, who starts tonight in centre for the damn Red Sox as the World Series begins, came to the plate 636 times in the regular season this year, and led the Majors in stolen bases with 52 of them. The man with the second-most steals in the American League? Rajai Davis, who came to the plate just 360 times. In fact, had it not been for Eric Young of the Mets swiping two bases on the final day of the season, Davis would have been second in all of baseball in steals.

That’s pretty seriously impressive, as is the fact that he also ranked second in baseball– again behind Ellsbury– in FanGraphs’ base running component of WAR, which combines their Ultimate Base Running metric with Weighted Stolen Base Runs, and that he was caught just six times in stealing his 45 bases, for a success rate over 88%.

Imagine what that would look like over the course of a full season’s worth of at-bats, right?

Pretty ugly, actually. Or… the base running stuff would still be elite, but everything else? Yeesh. Yes, if Davis gets his wish this winter some team is going to find out that… hoo boy… is he ever a platoon player.

That’s not to say that we didn’t know as much before this season, but the numbers are quite striking.

Against right-handed pitching, over three years and 802 plate appearances, he’s posted a .232/.269/.329 line, which was good for a league- and ballpark-adjusted wRC+ of 59– just a hair ahead of the abysmal J.P. Arencibia’s 57.

It’s so bad, in fact, that maybe there’s still hope for a reunion, which actually would be a tremendous gift to the Jays, provided Davis would be– finally– used correctly. That is, of course, because over those same three years he has killed it against left-handed pitching, at least in relative terms. His line in that split, over a mere 383 plate appearances, has been .297/.363/.455, which works out to a 124 wRC+, and would look absolutely perfect next to Adam Lind’s fantastic split in the other direction.

That situation would have been ideal this year as well, but the ill health of Melky Cabrera, and eventually Jose Bautista, pressed the Jays’ fourth outfielder into a whole lot more duty than was optimal. The same was true of 2012, when the demotions and subsequent trading of Eric Thames and Travis Snider opened up a tonne of playing time for Davis, who missed his career high in games played by just one, with 143.

Looking at the splits, giving him all of this playing time seems like a really, really poor decision, but that’s not entirely fair. Many of the games he got into were as a late inning defensive replacement, or as a pinch runner– where obviously he shines. His defence– particularly his often whirling routes to fly balls– certainly didn’t make him look, at times, like he was an ideal candidate for duty as the former, though, and the fact that his contract is up and the Jays have Anthony Gose, Kevin Pillar, and Moises Sierra working for cheap and ready for greater opportunity in 2014 would seem pretty clearly to mean the end of his time in Toronto.

It’s a shame. He’s really a perfect fit for the club, offering speed, versatility in the outfield, and a potential platoon partner for Adam Lind, all in the guise of a fourth outfielder. Anthony Gose offers some of that, though, like Lind, he’s is a left-handed hitter. Moises Sierra could spell Lind, but he’d have a hard time spelling anyone in centre field, the possibility of him putting up elite numbers in base running metrics is beyond hopelessly remote.

Kevin Pillar didn’t impress terribly in his first turn in the big leagues this year, but he may actually be the club’s best hope for the role: he’s certainly not an elite speedster, but he stole 23 bases across two minor league levels this year, and 51 across two different levels the year before. Plus, he played in centre 70 times in the minors this season, and actually had a pretty crazy platoon split, now that you mention it. Against same-sided pitching, Pillar hit .254/.305/.388 in the minors this year– good for an OPS of .693. Against left-handers? The line was a slightly more impressive .361/.398/.545. Yes, a .943 OPS.

Maybe he could do it. But it’s a tall order to fill, given how successful the fourth outfielder he would be replacing has been. But Davis seems set on trying to find a full-time gig.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” he told Gregor Chisholm of BlueJays.com of his impending free agency earlier this month. “I think it’s another opportunity, a great opportunity, a better opportunity. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what’s available.”

“When I played in Oakland,” he continued, “I was able to play a lot more regularly, and Iwas able to produce when given the opportunity. I’m definitely looking forward to getting another chance to do that.”

Godspeed, Rajai.

Comments (55)

  1. That is one fast black dude. Fan fave wish him the best

  2. “And when he was good, he was very, very good,
    But when he was bad he was horrid.”

    I’m going to miss Rajai.
    Good luck to him.

  3. What evil drives me to watch this wretched game?

  4. why do we still have 60 year old umpires who can’t see a ball 2 feet in front of them?

  5. Fucking Red Sox. And it has to be Napoli that gets that hit.

  6. Jays will win in 2014
    If the sox win this year
    It’s karma

  7. gotta love those NL pitchers. this is going to be a bloodbath.

  8. The fix is in

  9. Why is emilio bonifacio playing shortstop for the cards?

  10. Pfft, announcers losing their minds over a fly ball in every other parl

  11. I was excited by Rajai when they signed him. I had heard something about his 50m dash being on pace with the Olympic record for the 100m. But then I saw him throw a baseball…Although he clearly worked on it last off season cause he was much improved.

  12. A converted touchdown makes this interesting.
    At least Lester is finished.

  13. The Red Sox–the new Evil Empire.

  14. This Red Sox team has to be the most unlikeable WS team of all time, right? It’s so hate-able that it even makes Big Papi unlikeable by association.

  15. Never in a million years would i believe the red sox are 3 games away from a world series trophy after AA’s off season moves. It is a nightmare.

    The cherry on the top will be Farrell hoisting the World Series Trophy & thanking AA for letting him pursuing his dream job.

    • @Oakville

      Let me set your mind at rest. Farrell forgot about AA and the Jays the minute he walked out of the RC with his little cardboard box of stuff with the family pix and the Jon Rauch bobble head doll.

  16. Also no more “HEY, HEY, RAJAI!!”

  17. STL should hire Brutus The Barber Beefcake to put all the Sox in a sleeper hold, shave off their beards, then wake them up with a chop to the back of the neck and show them his work with a giant mirror.

  18. I’m going to miss Rajai. I don’t blame him one iota for taking the opportunity if it presents itself. I’d love to see him stay here, because of how useful and versatile a player he can be when used correctly.

    Best of luck to him.

    PS it always felt like he had a knack for getting picked off at the most inopportune moments ( if there ever is an opportune moment )

  19. At this point Rajai is a “want” not a “need”. If the Jays are worried about money at all – they’ve got to try to make it work with one of their young outfielders next season. The $2.5M he made last season didn’t kill the team – but certainly could help in other areas if the guy who replaces him only makes in the neighborhood of $500k. Still – he was a lefty killer who is one of the few guys in the league who can truly use his speed as a legitimate tool for turning singles into doubles and triples by swiping bases.

  20. On a good team (especially in the NL), Rajai is an excellent weapon off the bench and hitting against LHP. Anyone with an immobile LF could use him. His ability to steal bases in the late innings is almost unparalleled.

    • Holy shit Rajai Davis in the NL would be pretty fucking awesome actually. I would piss my pants if he was pinch hitting for the pitcher in like the 8th inning.

      Especially since it would be shitty NL pitchers, amirite?

    • You’ve missed the point entirely.

      Any team (including the Jays) would love to have Rajai, as you said. He’s a very good platoon player and an all-world bench player.

      The problem is: he wants a starting job.

      Otherwise, we’d love to have him back.

  21. I loathe numbers. But even I thought this article was fascinating. Either JP himself is as thick as a brick and totally unteachable or it’s a horrible indictment of JP’s batting coach. Maybe this is why Mottola hit the bricks.


    • Wow you needed to see fancy stats and graphics to tell you JPA strikes out a lot?

      • Hey now, if you actually took the time to read the article you would realize that it was dissecting how JPA’s strike zone as absolutely terrible before AND after 2 strikes. Where as Kawasaki is the poster boy for a tough out, maintains his strike zone before 2 strikes, and then vastly expands it after 2 strikes, making contact both inside and outside the zone to become a very tough out. Granted his 2 strike numbers are not pretty, but it is at teh very least a productive out.

    • You loathe numbers? Hey, pat yourself on the back for the ignorance!

      • Did you not read my next post? It’s not ignorance. I understand how important maths is. It’s dysfunction. I’m the number equivalent of dyslexic. So when I see slash lines and stuff I read them wrong and can’t understand them. That graph in the article is helpfully supplied with colour codes.

        That having been said, I’m still not convinced of the total importance of metrics as the way to evaluate a team. But let’s not start that one up again!

  22. PS Just to make clear, I’m not baiting you, Stoeten. I’m completely number-blind. So it’s not jest metrics I can’t understand. It’s anything mathematical at all.

  23. This morning I awoke to the image of David Price in my Cheerios….make it so AA.

  24. Love Rajai. He’s ripped. Must work out a lot.

  25. I like Rajai as much as the next person and wish him the best.

    With that being said, did I hear this year MLB dropped “fielder indifference” and instead credited the runner with a stolen base?

  26. I still have no clue why the Jays held on to Rajai through the last two months of the season without a contract extension, especially when they had so many young outfielders that warranted a look. Here’s hoping he’s back at a reasonable rate.

  27. Did anyone else notice this last night. Seems the Sox are up to no good once again…


  28. The pic isn’t coming up. This article in CBS Sports talks about it.


    Gonna be interesting to see Lester’s glove either way if he pitches again. Which I surely hope he does. Because if there’s nothing on the glove then, begs the question what was on the glove before?

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