John Jaso Compared to NL Central First Baseman: Anthony Rizzo

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-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 Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

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. Anthony Rizzo has become of the best first baseman in all of baseball over the last three years, hitting .281/.389/.526 and becoming a franchise player. But how does Jaso’s solid year compare to that of the cream of the crops year?

John Jaso v Anthony Rizzo

John Jaso has started off his Pirates’ career hitting .278/.352/.408 with a .760 OPS (106 OPS+), very respectable numbers, especially batting first. Rizzo is off to a career best .277/.402/.558 with a .960 OPS (156 OPS+). Jaso has 21 RBIs in 296 plate appearances compared to Rizzo has 54 RBIs in 251 plate appearances. However, RBIs are a statistic that is a product of situation – Jaso has 56 plate appearances with runners in scoring position and Rizzo has 106 plate appearances, in this case, it shows both the volume and success Rizzo has had this season with RISP – 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-Rizzo OBP))+(Jaso SLG-RizzoSLG). Rizzo will come out on top, as he has the advantage in OBP and SLG, but how large the difference bewteen the two players are, is the question.

  • (1.80(.352-.402))+(.408-.558)
  • -.09+(-.15)
  • -0.240

Anthony Rizzo, when using OBP and SLG as the variables, is clearly the favorite towards run scoring, and the 0.240 difference between the two is more than the 0.200 difference in OPS, so the difference when adjusting is 0.040 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 by Fangraphs as:

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-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 9.74 and Anthony Rizzo has an impressive 25.22 RE24, that ranks 4th in baseball. Rizzo has capitalized on his chances more so than Jaso.

A more simple approach could be to look at their runners in scoring position splits. John Jaso is hitting .267/.382/.422 and an 0.804 OPS with RISP compared to the .367/.509/.684 and a 1.193 OPS for Rizzo, a difference between the two players OPS of 0.389. When adjusting the OPS values to calculate the extra value of OBP, the difference for Rizzo comes out as a +0.4906, an even higher difference in OPS for him 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 + 0.878×1B + 1.245×2B + 1.575×3B +
2.029×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

John Jaso has a wOBA of .329 and Rizzo has a .403. Jaso has been average and Rizzo has been great. Another large edge for Rizzo . Even in wRC+ Rizzo 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 111 wRC+ making him 11 percent better than league average. Rizzo comes in today with a 155 wRC+ making him 55 percent better than league average. Rizzo has been 44 percent better than Jaso in terms of run creation.

Rizzo has been better than Jaso using these numbers, even in WAR with his 2.5 fWAR compared to Jaso’s 0.4 fWAR. With the glove Adams has the edge, as his 5 defensive runs saved is better than the -1 from Jaso. Rizzo eveb has the edge in UZR/150, as he is at 6.7 compared to Jaso’s 2.4, showing Rizzo has had slightly better range this year for 150 attempts. Rizzo also has the better fielding percentage, 0.995 to 0.993, and has done so in more innings – 596 to 435.1, an 160.2 difference for Jaso to Adams.

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All across the board, Rizzo has the edge over 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."

John Jaso has managed to have a WPA of 0.94, where as Rizzo has a WPA of 1.67. 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. Rizzo once again comes out on top with a 1.94 WPA/LI to Jaso’s 0.62.

In conclusion, Rizzo, as figured, is having the way more valuable and productive season, and right now he is the National League Central’s best first baseman. Jaso is the fourth best in the division right now, ahead of Chris Carter who has been slightly worse in his production, although the two are close using different fashions.

*Numbers as of games before Friday’s games and from FanGraphs

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