How Unlucky is John Jaso?

It seems like the Mariners traded for John Jaso so long ago that he must have flamed out already and is now poised to sign a minor league deal with Houston. He’s not. He’s still a Mariner. He hasn’t even struck out or grounded into a double play yet. The trade has been surrounded by such negative rhetoric its a bit silly. Mainly it seems, it came from people who wanted Prince Fielder in Seattle no matter how little sense it made, and a “backup catcher” wasn’t enough to feed their appetite for homers.

I loved the trade for Jaso. I think that Jaso is the best catcher on the Mariners. I think that he should end up getting upwards of 400 plate appearances this year. I think most of those should come at catcher, and maybe some of them should come at DH depending on the matchups.

That said, I also think that Jaso has been plagued by some bad luck so far in his young career. When we look at Jaso’s batted-ball types and use the same theory to determine his luck as when we looked at Doug Fister’s likely regression, we see that he’s been quite unlucky.

The last two years the league average BABIP has been .297 and.295. The last two years Jaso has had BABIP’s of .282 and .244.

2010 League 2010 Jaso 2011 League 2011 Jaso
Grounders .234 .237 .231 .178
Line Drives .723 .680 .701 .622
Fly Balls .236 .142 .225 .143

The first thing we notice is that Jaso is below league average in every category but his 2010 ground ball BABIP. But when we bring his batted-ball types to league average BABIP, his expected BABIP grows considerably.

Jaso% 2010 Jaso% 2011
Grounders 46.3 43.1
Line Drives 16.7 17.7
Fly Balls 37.0 39.2

According to our method, Jaso should have had a BABIP of .316 in 2010 and a .312 in 2011. There is certainly some idea that some of Jaso’s grounders that may be become hits for players with better foot speed wouldn’t have become hits for Jaso. For the purposes of this article it’s good to know that exists, and that it should perhaps temper our expectations, but doesn’t mean that our findings aren’t valid.

If Jaso had a league average BABIP in all categories he’d have gotten 24 more hits in the past two years. If we add those 24 hits to his total over the past two years, and an extra 36 total bases based on Jaso’s average of about 1.5 bases per hit.

With only average luck, Jaso’s triple slash line would have been .287/.395/.429.

That looks pretty palatable from the catcher position. Hell, that looks palatable for first base at this point. I don’t think that Jaso is necessarily a true talent .295 BABIP guy. He is however a guy with good contact and walk rates, and a guy who has power, but has hit in a home park with an 89 park rating for lefty home runs. Safeco’s rating was 95.

I’m very excited about John Jaso, and I think that he’s got a good chance to push Jesus Montero to DH permanently.

  • Anonymous

    There are a bunch of M’s who have been on the south side of the luck line in the past two seasons. If they just regress to their norms they are going to score some runs.