What do Salvador Perez, Torii Hunter, Coco Crisp, Carlos Santatna, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Jones, Jason Kipnis, and David Ortiz all have in common?

They all received votes for the American League MVP award, despite being less valuable– by FanGraphs’ WAR– and playing more games than Colby Rasmus.

Now, WAR is hardly an argument-ender. There are far too many valid arguments to be had within it for me to be able to sit back right now, cross my arms, and marvel at the wondrous job I’ve done in arguing for Colby’s superiority over those guys. It’s a complex number that does a very, very good job– in my view– of giving the appropriate weight to the various components of performance that, added together, make up the totality of a player’s on-field value. Yet there can be elements of what a player contributes that are not quantified within its boundaries, and one can quibble with either the weightings, or what “replacement level” is, or with something like its reliance on a one-year sample of fluctuating and imperfect defensive metrics like UZR,

Still, though, more than any tool we currently have at our disposal, WAR is able to distill all of what a player did on the field and spit it out as a single number. And when you look at those numbers for American League players in 2013, Rasmus ranked 14th, despite having played fewer games than anybody ahead of him, save for the Twins’ Joe Mauer.

Some crude math: the 118 games that Rasmus played represent less than 80% of 150 games played, which, rather than a full 162, seems like a pretty good expectation in a season for a player who didn’t suffer some kind of major injury– as Rasmus did, in a very low-level sense, missing a month with a strained oblique. Had he avoided that injury, then, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to have seen him adding another 20% to his 4.8 WAR total as well, which would have vaulted him pretty clearly among the top ten AL position players, between Robinson Cano and the Boston trio of Pedroia, Ellsbury and Victorino.

The world doesn’t work that way, of course, and frankly, Rasmus doesn’t need any sort of fanciful explanation to tell anybody that he had a tremendous year. He ranked fifth among all centre fielders in league- and park-adjusted wRC+ (behind only Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Shin-Soo Choo, and Carlos Gomez), and sixth among his peers in terms of the defensive component of FanGraphs’ WAR. In fact, the only reason Jacoby Ellsbury– who, it should be noted, is about to get a free agent contract in the $120- to $140-million range, most likely– ranked ahead of Rasmus in total WAR was that he was much better on the base paths and played in more games.

Colby, in other words, is going to get paid when his time comes to test the market after next season– should he keep it up, and should the Jays let him get there– but even before that we can say something quite remarkable, and quite unexpected by so very many in this town, and so very many who jump to overstate the detriment of his strikeout totals: the title of this post. There is no doubt in my mind that, had he not missed that month, Rasmus would have seen his name on someone’s MVP ballot.

I mean… I don’t know this for sure, but come on! Obviously! And how completely fucked is that!!?!??!

I mean, it’s not– he’s always had abundant talent– but even the most staunch believers in that talent, among whom I consider myself, couldn’t honestly say that they saw this coming after the two dog shit seasons at the plate he’d put in prior to this one. Maybe “someday down the line,” but definitely not for certain in 2013. And definitely not after hearing the conversation repeated ad nauseam in the mainstream media– and on one radio station I can think of, in particular– about how abysmal he was.

Sure, it takes a hefty positional adjustment, and defensive metrics that suggest he played the field this season far better than he ever has before, for him to even enter the conversation. But enter it he would have, if not for a little too much time on the shelf.

So rather than get worked up (once again) about the (once again) absurd results of this year’s vote– especially absurd as they are, given that I’d always kind of thought it was more within character of the “old school” thinkers to put a premium on a playing-the-right-way kind of thing like defence (hey, but why let intellectual integrity and consistency get in the way of sticking it to the VORPies, amiright?)– this is how I choose to see it.

We’ve spoken a lot this winter about the Jays’ need for players who simply do not suck– about the positives of an Ubaldo Jimenez, who can be counted on for innings, even when pitching at his very worst. Jays fans would do well to remind themselves that, faint praise as this may sound like, they have got themselves one of those in Rasmus. Even when he was posting sub-.300 on-base percentages he was a positive value player simply because of the position he plays and how well he plays it. And when he contributes with the bat the way that he did in 2013? He’s one of the best players in baseball.

It’s kind of nice to sit here and be able to appreciate that.

And I suspect, with a June 2015 draft pick already hanging over his head (because at this point it looks very likely he’d turn down a qualifying offer next winter, should the Jays let it get to that) and needing to be compensated for in any trade agreement for him that may be forged this winter, that we will be able to appreciate it for at least another season as well. He’s still, probably fairly, pegged as volatile, but holy shit, he’s undeniably also very, very valuable.

Cheers to Colby for a terrific fucking season.

Comments (98)

  1. good stuff.

    But if he is healthy for all of 2014, I can totally see him being in a position to turn down a QO.

    Given his age and talent, an all-star calibre 2014 makes him a potential 5 year $80-100M guy….I know that sounds crazy, but it is enitrely possible.

  2. I’d like to believe you, but then again…

  3. as the JP Morosi tweet makes clear, Colby has a weird rep around the league; better for the Jays when they try to resign him? only if it goes to free agency, i guess – and then the decision gets wrapped up in their perceptions over where they are.

    point is, gotta love me some Colby this year, because don’t know how many are left for him as a Jay.

    • Teams are mostly smart, except the Phillies. The media may be stupid, but the teams aren’t.

      He is getting paid, a lot, and I don’t see a discount for him because of any rep.

  4. Lock Cletus up!

  5. Something we all said last year as well, but assuming everyone is healthy and playing to their abillities, Jays offence for next year looks pretty potent.


    If they can get average production out of C and 2B, look out.

    Obviously the big if is the health.


  7. Would love to see Colby locked into the 5th spot in the order this year, ahead of Lind. Or if he’s just able to reduce the strikeouts, he’d be a fantastic 3, ahead of Edwin and then Bautista (hope that switch happens this year).

  8. The metrics overrated defense. At least, that’s how it seemed to me. He was good but not much above average.

  9. This is just the worst. Blue Jays fans are the most uneducated (in terms of baseball), unknowing, having faith in absolutely nothing at all people in baseball. Worse than Cubs fans. At least they know they suck. Looks like a potent offense next year eh? Just gotta get a couple of big arms eh? AA is a ninja! Colby would have got MVP votes for sure eh? He just has to stay healthy ya know? C’mon.

    • Awww. Adorable.

      • Why respond to trolls?

      • Funny Stoeten, many of us thought the same after reading this post of yours. You’ve had some great reads lately but quite frankly this one is something I’d expect from Damien Cox.

        • Then you’re clearly an idiot.

          • I don’t understand what getting any at home has to do with anything at all. What an odd question. Strange. Fact is, I’m single and I’m living with my parents this off season. So no, I’m not getting any, I guess. Thanks for asking? Its just that growing up in Ontario, first as an Expos/Nationals fan and now as a seasonal employee of the Houston Astros as a minor league clubhouse manager (I know, Astros suck, no payroll, Astros suck), I’ve been subject to this Maple Leafs style enthusiasm for the Jays over nothing for most of my life. It can be maddening, so I voiced my opinion. If you want to call it tolling, that’s fine. I think Stoeten is a good contemporary blogger, I just disagree with this opinion this time.

          • Jesus man, take a nap

            This is a very bold statement to make and needs to be taken with a big grain of salt. What do those players not have in common? Rasmus has never been a consistent player for an entire season yet he plays less than 75% of a season and we’re assume he’s going to continue production to MVP vote status. The kid’s got potential but he’s also had annual prolific type slumps too. He still needs to consistently repeat his plate adjustments and knock down the K’s. I just really don’t like the comparisons and quite frankly the assumptions you’ve made.

            • Then you’re an idiot.

              I mean… read the damn piece and find me what’s so bold about it. I certainly didn’t “assume he’s going to continue production to MVP vote status.” I said it was *likely* he’d turn down the qualifying offer, yes. Not the same thing.

              Sorry if you don’t like the facts I cited about his WAR, though.

              • “Had he avoided that injury, then, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to have seen him adding another 20% to his 4.8 WAR total as well, which would have vaulted him pretty clearly among the top ten AL position players, between Robinson Cano and the Boston trio of Pedroia, Ellsbury and Victorino”

                You stated your reasonings along with this, but that doesn’t make it real

    • Not getting any at home Stew?

      • Good grief man. Agree with my thought process on the post or you’re clearly an idiot or your position is horse $hit. Read it again, still don’t agree with it. Get over it

        • Not about agreeing so much as at least understanding– or attempting to understand– what the post is saying and how lightly it’s saying it. But OK then.

          “I just really don’t like the comparisons and quite frankly the assumptions you’ve made.” Jesus fucking christ man.

          • wow. So there’s that.

            • So if Rasmus added to his WAR and thus adding to his good season no one can grasp that he might have gotten an MPV vote or 2? No one said he would win or even come close. Didnt Michael Young get some from texas not long ago for no reason?

    • People have their teams. Optimism is part of being a fan. I don’t understand what you don’t understand.

      But hey, you clean up peanut shells in a clubhouse. You’re an expert. Keep up the good work, John.

    • Hey stew, if you don’t want to get treated like a troll, don’t act like a troll. There are tactful ways to voice a differing opinion but your ridiculous first comment wasn’t one of them. My favourite part was when you defended your comment by proving your knowledge of baseball by posting your resume like anybody actually gives a fuck. Hilarious dude. Alls I’m saying

  10. Wow. Bold.

    After watching JJ go from 100 million, sure fire QO or extension guy, here you go placing the same honour on Colby.

    I’m just not sure how you can predict this with any certainty…but I can get how this MAY happen.

    Anyways, I do love Colby. And if he has a good first 1/2 I’d like to see the Jays try to extend him midseason like they did with EE.

    • Did you read the article? Fuck. Colby did well this year. Even in cumulative stats, despite missing a month. Meanwhile many people still have complaints about him. This sets that straight. And says “if he plays like this next year, then…”.

      That is NOT “predicting with certainty”.

  11. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. If all you ever do is bitch and moan about your team, might be time to choose a new hobby.

  12. I think rasmus still has another level yet that he could reach but I for one agree that he is a standout CF and is in incredibly valuable guy especially when he’s raking. He could swipe a few more bags too

    • I totally agree with you in that I think Rasmus has the ability to reach another level in all aspects of his game. I would like to see Lawrie offer him the occasional Red Bull.

  13. +1 to this post.

    In 2014 Rasmus > Ellsbury.

  14. Maybe you exercised a bit of hyperbole but nice to see Rasmus get some recognition beyond the norm.Even with a full season,it’s unlikely to garner MVP votes for him.
    The WAR stat is flawed but it’s best thing we’ve got at this point ( until something better gets developed).
    Not trying to troll you Stoeten so no need to respond but It’ll be interesting to see if he blossoms offensively this year now that TLR gets even farther into his past.Changes in his batting stance seemed to produced results.His ability on the basepaths gets overlooked sometimes because of the lack of SB’s.
    To me ,IMHO, his defense is worth the price of admission.His reads,his routes,the speed, the whole package is a thing of beauty.

    • What do you mean by blossom offensively?

      Rasmus was already tied with Carlos Gomez as the 4th best offensive CF in the MLB (min 100 PAs), behind only Trout, McCutchen and Shin Soo-Choo who shouldnt even be playing CF.

      • Sorry to clarify i was ranking by wRC+ there, so if you include baserunning in offense that order probably changes a bit.

      • @ Yunel
        I’m aware but by blossom,I meant more consistant throughout the year. I haven’t looked at the stats month by month so I could be talking out my ass. I think Colby has the ability to be elite for a long time. There was a story that he backed off his after game regimen because he was working too hard in the cages.
        With absolutely no proof on my part, I think Colby will be better than even last year.

    • Hyperbole?

  15. Rasmus had a real nice season, although somewhat babip-aided (.356, compared to a .298 career). That might be one of the few red flags. It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments if any Seitzer can make with him.

    Question now: extend Rasmus by the ASB if he’s sorta duplicating his 2013 season?

    • If he’s on his way to another 5 WAR season at the break he’ll be very difficult to extend. At that point in the season wouldn’t you just take your chances as an FA?

      • Edwin didn’t.

        • That is way different.

          Edwin signed his deal in the middle of his first career 4 WAR season. He didn’t have a track record like Colby, as his previous career high in WAR was 1.8. Edwin was really in the middle of his breakout season. Colby has already compiled two 4+ WAR seasons.

          Plus Edwin was older, and never an elite prospect like Rasmus, so some people may have thought what he was doing was fluke (like Bautista). Edwin was placed on waivers twice the off-season before, so he did not really have the history.

          • I really don’t understand why you think that makes anything so different. Edwin stood to make or lose a tonne of money based on how the rest of his season went, and I think the same would be said for Colby, even with the track record, which I think is far too volatile to be looked at in the “two 4-win seasons” way you’re suggesting. Would anybody actually do that if Colby repeated his 2011 second half as he headed into free agency??? All the same kinds of incentives for him to sign if they’re offering a fair number. Shouldn’t be a concern.

    • the flukey BABIP worries me, too… the k rate actually went backwards last year… a whopping 29.5% k rate vs. his career number of 24.1%. his k rate was in arencibia territory (29.8%).

      • is it really flukey? he hits the ball HARD, so i guess there’s an element of luck to those line drives falling in vs. being hit right at someone (something that seemed to happen regularly early in ’12, if memory serves). i’d be more leery of it if it was the result of bloopers falling in, or him beating out infield singles. hitting the ball hard & on a line tells me he’s refined his approach/mechanics & is squaring the ball more frequently (or, just missing it completely, but you win some, you lose some).

        • his line drive rate was up… but only 2.5% vs. his career rate (22% this year vs. 19.5% career). his BABIP was a full 60 points above his career number (.356 vs. .296) his HR/FB rate was a career high but that doesn’t figure into BABIP because HRs are not in play. so yeah, i’d say his BABIP was flukey.

    • When I played Lance Parrish had the biggest babips in the league. It wasn’t even close.

  16. What are the chances that Colby gets the first 2 years of free agency bought out this year in avoiding arbitration with the Jays? It would be in the best interest for AA to try for a 3 year extension, no? 36 million over 3, or something in that neighbourhood?

    • Maybe after the season starts. AA has little wiggle room as far as we can tell. Unlikely to voluntarily commit more to Rasmus this year.

    • That would be terrible for Rasmus, and no way he would accept that. He is gonna get $8+ million in arbitration, and is one year away from free agency.

      If you want to resign him, I cannot see him taking less than Adam Jones. Adam Jones was one year away from free agency, and signed a 6-year $85.5 million deal. Adam Jones was one year younger when he signed the deal, than Rasmus is now. But Adam Jones also never had a 4 WAR season when he signed the deal (he was in the middle of his first 4 WAR season when he signed, and had a career high of 2.5 WAR prior). Rasmus has had two 4+ WAR seasons now.

      I see Adam Jones as the best comparison, for Rasmus if the Jays try to resign him this off-season.

      But even since Jones’ signed his contract, way more money has been spent on players, and it is suppose to go bat-shit crazy this off-season. So that $85 million may even be too low.

  17. At risk of being unpopular, I find it offensive that people refer to Colby as “Cletus”.
    Yes, he’s a country boy and speaks with a (to our ears) think accent. “Cletus” always sounds to me as dismissive or mocking.
    Let’s respect his exceptional play and not make him into a caricature.

    • Its a term of endearment.

      • Hourani . now answer me.. Do you like PHP? Have you ever read any artilce by Rasmus Lerdorf?Its not very clear why would you just refuse to know them, making excuses. Tell your friends` names who work in Zend.Share us which better framework you know compared to jQuery.I did not know the names or works before reading hasin bros this post. But when I know about them I am more enthusiastic to know more about them. What holds you from knowing them? Of course there can be really good developers who never cared or knew the masterminds behind the technology they use. But when they come to know they`ll feel like yes I missed something. Its all about passion and obsession. After knowing their names if you never try to visit their webs know more about them. Then either you are not into this technology or you have lack of passion. Then dont waste time posting more comments any further.

      • I’ve been a lurker here for a while and it doesn’t really matter to me if it’s Stoeten or a guy at the Dome, it doesn’t sit quite right.

        • Don’t worry, we all got Cletus’s back ’round these parts.

        • This article coplletemy blew my mind! I cannot believe how engaging this article is and how easy it is to understand your points on this topic. You are very talented. I hope you continue writing.

    • We kid cause we love.

  18. Adam Jones got $85 million, while still having years of control left, and signed the contract before ever even having a 4 WAR season.

    Rasmus is gonna be a young free agent, and if he repeats last year, he would have three career 4+ WAR seasons.

    Also, next year’s free agency class is weak. I imagine Hanley to resign, meaning that Rasmus will be one of the two best positional players on the open market (with Chase Headley).

    I’d be shocked if Rasmus does not get more than Choo, who is rumored to be asking for $110 million. He may not got as much on a yearly basis, but will get more term I imagine.

  19. Rasmus has a very odd bapip profile;

    2010 – .354
    2011 – .267
    2012 – .259
    2013 – .356

    He’s either quite lucky or having a fair bit of misfortune, no in between. It’s very odd and makes him hard to project. Which is his norm?

    • That’s the multi million dollar question.
      At the risk of ridicule, you need to look at where Rasmus’s head was at during 2011 2012.

      • Invitation to ridicule accepted:

        How about you look at where his BABIP and his swing were at, huh?

    • k rate over the same 4 years:

      2010 – 27.7%
      2011 – 22.1%
      2012 – 23.8%
      2013 – 29.5%

      line drive rates:

      2010 – 19.4%
      2011 – 16.5%
      2012 – 20.1%
      2013 – 22%

      it is certainly an odd profile… when he k’s a lot he has a high BABIP – but not necessarily a higher LD rate…

  20. For context here’s the bapip of Adam Jones over the same period;


    I suppose I can see why the team is sitting back and waiting to see what they have here, although one hopes they’re not waiting too long.

  21. So where can I get my Colb-eh, wolf, americuh tshirt?

  22. Buy his first 2 years of FA, he has earned it. My favorite Jay.

  23. How can Colby end the season with zero stolen bases?
    Not even a fluke on the back end of a double steal.
    Heck, even Miggy had three.

    Some of you might find this interesting.
    It started out as a Fangraphs article on Profar
    and then got into Fangraph’s Jeff Zimmerman’s efforts
    to create a”Total Speed” metric.

    He then listed the “Total Speed” for 270 MLB players.
    Rajai ranked 4th, EE 58th, Bats 80th, Lawrie 120th, Lind 171 and Colby 247.
    Lack of attempted steals probably hurt one’s standing in this metric.

    The introductory article is here

    The list is here

    • Yeah, I’ve wondered about the lack of steals myself. He obviously has the speed, and he’s a really good base runner in other situations, like going 1st to 3rd on small mistakes. It’s very strange.

      I also think as good as he was this season he will have a true breakout year and become a star.

      • colby takes a while to get going. once he gets going, he can eat up plenty of distance in a short period of time. that type of profile doesnt lend itself to stolen bases.

  24. He gets good reads and comes in really well. He doesn’t go back on balls all that well and doesn’t throw well. Overall a good centrefielder but the metrics overrated his d last year.

  25. Question:

    My girlfriend is a huge Cletus fan. A while ago there was a post floating around with some Rasmus-dedicated merch. I can’t find any of it online though, any of you know where I could buy this potential christmas gift?

    Particular the Rasmus-Wolf shirt….if it actually exists.

  26. If Rasmus has starts next season off well, sign him to an Edwin Encarnacion extension at the all-star break.

    • Why would he accept an Encarnacion contract in that situation though? If he has another good year, he is set to possibly make 100 million or more in free agency.

  27. Translation: Colby is not yet a “namebrand” player, despite actual performance superior to many “namebrand” players.

    In other words, maybe we can still extend for a reasonable price. Not cheap, but not needlessly inflated either.

  28. What was EE’s WAR when he resigned?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *