John Jaso Compared to NL Central First Baseman: Joey Votto

Jun 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman John Jaso (28) reacts in the field against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 3, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman John Jaso (28) reacts in the field against the Los Angeles Angels during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

John Jaso has played well as the Pittsburgh Pirates starting first baseman, but how has he compared to the other National League first baseman? A look at Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto.

The Pittsburgh Pirates non-tendered 2015 starting first baseman Pedro Alvarez on December 2, 2015. The club signed current first base John Jaso on December 23, 2015. The Pirates and Joey Votto have had their run ins, especially him going over the boiling point a couple of times the last few seasons.

Joey Votto has been the best first baseman in the division for the last couple years, ever since Albert Pujols left St. Louis, but with Anthony Rizzo coming on, that title may have changed. John Jaso has been a solid player for the Pirates so far this season, but how does he compare to the NL Central’s best?

John Jaso v Joey Votto

John Jaso has started off his Pirates career hitting .280/.352/.398 with a .750 OPS (104 OPS+), very respectable numbers, especially betting first. Joey Votto has hit .247/.373/.432 with a .805 OPS (117 OPS+). Jaso has 20 RBIs in 237 plate appearances compared to Joey Votto’s 36 in 295 plate appearances. However, RBIs are a statistic that is a product of situation – Jaso has 52 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and Votto has had 64 – and OPS is skewed heavily toward power hitters.

To start, lets take a true value of each players contribution to runs created, using OBP and SLG, the two numbers that make up OPS. To make an accurate assessment, OBP has to be multiplied by 1.8 because in terms of run scoring, OBP is 1.8 times more valuable than slugging. To see which player has been more valuable to run scoring this season – only using these two variables instead of OPS – the formula becomes(1.8(Jaso OBP-Votto OBP))+(Jaso SLG-Votto SLG). Votto will come out on top, as he has the better on base and slugging to begin with, but how large the difference is, is the question.

  • (1.8(.352-.373))+(.398-.432)
  • -0.0378+(-0.034)
  • -0.0718

Joey Votto, when using OBP and SLG as the variables, is clearly the favorite towards run scoring, and the 0.0718 difference between the two is greater than the 0.055 difference in OPS, so the difference when adjusting is 0.0168 points higher.  But there are far more variables in baseball than just how a player gets on base and how much power a player has. It’s also important to look at when a player’s valuable moments have occurred to help them win. It’s also important to look at defense and other advanced numbers.

Run Expectancy, or RE24, is described byFangraphs as:

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

"On the hitting side, RE24 is a measure of how well hitters are capitalizing on their opportunities while also not assigning extra credit (like RBI) to hitters who happen to come to the plate with men on base very often."

It’s important to note, that RE24 is not based off of the context of the score or the inning. Jaso comes in with a RE24 of 9.30 and Joey Votto has a 10.28 RE24. Votto has capitalized on his chances more so than Jaso.

A more simple approach could be to look at their runners in scoring position splits. Jaso is hitting .286/.392/.452 and a 0.845 OPS with RISP compared to the .327/.453/.551 and a 1.004 OPS, a difference between the two players OPS of 0.159. When adjusting the OPS values to calculate the extra value of OBP, the difference for Votto comes out as a +0.2088, an even higher difference in OPS for Votto with RISP.

Another way to look at the players is through their wOBA and wRC+ values. Fangraphs describes wOBA as:

"Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively."

The wOBA formula for the current 2016 season is:

wOBA = (0.689×uBB + 0.719×HBP + 0.879×1B + 1.246×2B + 1.577×3B +
2.031×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

Jaso has a wOBA of .329 and Votto of .346. Jaso has been average and Votto has been slighlty above average. Another large edge for Votto. Even in wRC+ Votto has the edge, the description from Fangraphs is as followed:

"Weighted Runs Created (wRC) is an improved version of Bill James’ Runs Created (RC) statistic, which attempted to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.  In Runs Created, instead of looking at a player’s line and listing out all the details (e.g. 23 2B, 15 HR, 55 BB, 110 K, 19 SB, 5 CS), the information is synthesized into one metric in order to say, “Player X was worth 24 runs to his team last year.”  While the idea was sound, James’ formula has since been superseded by Tom Tango’s wRC , which is based on Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA)Similar to OPS+, Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures how a player’s wRC compares with league average after controlling for park effects.  League average for position players is 100, and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average."

John Jaso has a 109 wRC+ making him nine percent better than league average. Votto comes in to today with a 114 wRC+ making him 14 percent better than league average. Votto has been four percent better than Jaso in terms of run creation.

Votto has been better than Jaso using these numbers, even in WAR with his 1.0 fWAR compared to Jaso’s 0.4 fWAR. With the glove Jaso has the slight edge, as his -1 defensive runs saved is better than the -8 from the typically sure handed and great defensive first baseman in Joey Votto. Their UZR/150 are roughly similar, Jaso at 3.0 and Votto at 2.6. Their fielding percentages of 0.993 for Jaso and 0.992 for Votto. All of these defensive numbers come in a difference of 183.1 innings in favor of Jaso. Votto’s been worth more wins than Jaso has, but the only plus is the runs Jaso has saved.

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All across the board, Votto has the edge of Jaso, but what about in the win probability each has added. Win Probability Added (WPA) captures the differences in terms of value of situation, such as a blowout home run compared to a home run to give the team a one run lead, and Fangraphs describes it as such:

"Win Probability Added (WPA) captures the change in Win Expectancy from one plate appearance to the next and credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning. Most sabermetric statistics are context neutral — they do not consider the situation of a particular event or how some plays are more crucial to a win than others. While wOBA rates all home runs as equal, we know intuitively that a home run in the third inning of a blowout is less important to that win than a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of a close game. WPA captures this difference."

Jaso has managed to have a WPA of 1.08, where as Votto has a WPA of 1.86. The problem with WPA is the amount of opportunities. To have higher WPA numbers, you have to be presented with more opportunities, it’s another example of product of situations. When taking each player’s WPA and dividing it by the league index (WPA/LI), we are able to compare the players. Votto once again comes out on top with a 0.89 WPA/LI to Jaso’s 0.53.

Related Story: An interview with Will Craig

In conclusion, the mainstay at first for the Reds is once again superior to the Pirates starting first baseman. Votto has done all this while starting off the year cold, hitting .220/.330/.404 with a .314 wOBA and 93 wRC+. Joey Votto should never be counted out, even with an incredibly slow start. In this battle of National League Central first baseman, Joey Votto comes out on top, which has been a recurring theme year after year.

Tomorrow will take a look at John Jaso compared to St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams.

*Numbers as of games before Monday games and from FanGraphs

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