In December the Pittsburgh Pirates signed John Jaso to a two-year contract and his first season in Pittsburgh has drawn mixed reviews from fans.
John Jaso began the season as the Pirates’ starting first baseman against right-handed pitching. However, when Josh Bell reached the Major Leagues this changed. While Jaso has still made some starts since Bell debuted his playing time has not been as regular.
After John Jaso hit for the cycle last night I figured today would be a good day to take a look at his season as a whole. Because, Jaso’s season has been better than many fans think. And the Pirates have a strong bench player in Jaso for 2017.
Jaso has a career high 420 plate appearances this season. He came to Pittsburgh as a hitter that was known for getting on base and putting the ball in play which is exactly what he has done in 2016. This is evident by his 10 percent walk rate, 16.9 percent strikeout rate, and 84.5 percent contact rate.
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When the Pirates signed John Jaso they had one thing in mind for the left-handed hitter, get on base against right-handed pitching. And in 2016 Jaso has done just that. Jaso owns a .279/.359/.427/.786 slash line, .343 wOBA, 115 wRC+, and a .148 ISO against right-handed pitching this season. All of these numbers are above league average.
Furthermore, John Jaso’s 21.5 percent line drive rate and 29.5 percent hard contact rate against right-handed pitching are both above league average. Very quietly, Jaso has been an above league average hitter this season.
Now, I’ll admit, Jaso’s defense at first base has not been the best. 2016 was Jaso’s first season playing full-time at first base and, well, let’s just say he won’t be confused for Keith Hernandez any time soon.
John Jaso’s .995 fielding percentage at first base was very strong. However, in my opinion, fielding percentage and errors are not the best way to judge fielders. His -2.0 UZR/150 and -4 defensive runs saved are both below league average. This poor defense is why Jaso’s WAR is just 0.4 despite having a strong offensive campaign.
Next season, however, Jaso will not be looked upon to play much defense. Josh Bell will start almost everyday at first base. John Jaso’s primary role in 2017 will be as a pinch hitter/bench bat. And this bodes well for the Pirates.
As a pinch hitter in 2016 John Jaso has excelled. He owns a .320/.370/.360/.730 slash line, .325 wOBA, and a 103 wRC+ as a pinch hitter this season. In my opinion, pinch hitting is an acquired ability and that it is not something that everyone can do. And, it appears, Jaso has developed this ability.
Many Pirate fans are not a big fan of John Jaso. Or, at least, it appears this way on social media. People call him things such as a ‘journeyman’ (which makes no sense due to the fact he’s only played for four teams), a ‘bum,’ that he sucks, etc. Well, contrary to what a lot of people believe, Jaso is an above average hitter.
Due to re-signing David Freese and Josh Bell now being an everyday player it is possible that the Pirates look to trade John Jaso this offseason. However, I hope that this does not happen. In my opinion, the Pittsburgh Pirates should have a very strong bench, once again, in 2017. And I believe John Jaso will be a big part of this.