Through the first month of the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates season John Jaso has been one of the team’s best players. Here is a deeper look at the great start he is off to.
On December 23 the Pittsburgh Pirates signed John Jaso to a two-year contract to become their new first baseman. For a variety of reasons many fans were upset and hated this deal. However, a month into the 2016 season the John Jaso signing is looking like one of Neal Huntington’s best.
After 22 games John Jaso owns a .329/.390/.438/.828 slash line, and this strong slash line is accompanied by well a wOBA (.363) and wRC+ (125) that are both well above league average. Jaso’s strikeout to walk rate of an even one is also nice to see as it shows Jaso is putting the ball in play a lot.
John Jaso has also done a nice job of spraying the ball all over the field as 61.2 percent of the balls he has put in play have either been hit up the middle or to the opposite field. This makes Jaso harder for a defense to defend, because they can not play him as a pull hitter like many teams try to do with left-handed hitters. Just ask the Detroit Tigers who tried to do that with Jaso and he wore them out to left field all series long.
Having John Jaso at the top of the lineup to help set the table is a big reason why the Pirates currently rank third in all of Major League Baseball in runs scored with 119. Honestly, Jaso’s offensive success should not come as a surprise to anyone. Jaso has always been an above league average hitter against right-handed pitching, and that has continued so far this season.
The most impressive part of John Jaso’s game this season has not been his offense however, but rather his defense. Entering this season Jaso had five career Major League innings at first base, but the transition to first has been effortless for the former catcher. In 135 1/3 innings at first base this season Jaso has yet to commit an error, and has a dazzling UZR/150 of 20.2.
For those who do not know what UZR/150 is, a description of it can be found here. In a nut shell, UZR/150 is designed to judge how many runs a player has helped to save or surrender due to their defense. A UZR/150 of 15 or better is considered to be Gold Glove caliber. So according to UZR/150, John Jaso has been a Gold Glove caliber first baseman so far this season.
If the past few seasons should have taught Pirate fans anything it is the importance of infield defense. After years of watching Pedro Alvarez play abysmal defense at both third base and first base and years of Neil Walker having zero range at second base, the great infield defense the Pirates have gotten so far this season has been very refreshing. Especially John Jaso’s play at first base, as the Pirates have not had a first baseman play defense this strong since Adam LaRoche.
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One of the most beneficially aspects of John Jaso’s success is that it will allow Josh Bell to spend as much time at AAA as needed to get ready for the Major Leagues. Bell, one of the top hitting prospects in all of baseball, is currently mashing AAA pitching with a .914 OPS, .418 wOBA, and a wRC+ of 169. However, Bell’s defense at first base still needs a lot of work and he can get that work in at AAA without having to rush thanks in large part to the success of Jaso.
During his time as general manager in Pittsburgh Neal Huntington has made more great acquisitions then I could ever begin to count. Through the first month of the 2016 season, John Jaso is proving to be another name on this long list.
As I sit here typing this it is 12:15pm on Friday, April 29, 2016, and John Jaso is a Pirate. Praise the baseball gods!