It has long been said that one of the hardest things to do in baseball is to pinch hit. Well, for John Jaso, this has not been the case this season.
As anyone who frequently reads our site or follows us on Twitter knows we are huge fans of John Jaso here at Rum Bunter. So, this is not a surprise to anyone here. However, it may come as a surprise to some.
What may come as a surprise you ask? Well, John Jaso’s pinch hitting ability that is. Some players possess the ability to be great pinch-hitters, and John Jaso is proving to be one of those players and the Pirate bench is much stronger because of it.
Through 148 plate appearances this season John Jaso owns a .338 on-base percentage, .328 wOBA, and a 104 wRC+. All of these numbers are slightly above league average. However, after starting the season 0-for-19 Jaso has been much better at the plate.
Ever since his abysmal start John Jaso owns a .372 on-base percentage, .366 wOBA, and a 129 wRC+ in 129 plate appearances. A lot of Jaso’s damage during this stretch has come as a pinch hitter, and this should come as no surprise.
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When called upon to hit off the bench this season, John Jaso has been excellent. In 19 plate appearances as a pinch hitter he owns a .526 on-base percentage, .559 wOBA, a 255 wRC+, and he has hit a pair of home runs.
This is the second consecutive season during which John Jaso has been a strong pinch hitter for the Pirates. In 2016 he owned a .370 on-base percentage and a 104 wRC+ as a pinch hitter. However, he did not have as much power as this season as his ISO was just .040 when this season it is .467.
A big reason for John Jaso’s success as a pinch hitter has been his ability to make good contact. In 2016 he owned a 27.8 percent line drive rate and a 33.3 percent hard contact rate as a pinch hitter.
This season, those numbers have dropped some. His line drive rate is down to 16.7 percent while his hard contact rate checks in at 25.0 percent. However, these numbers are still strong. Also, he is making soft contact just 16.7 percent of the time as a pinch hitter this season when last season that number was 38.9 percent.
The biggest reason for the increase in power from John Jaso this season as a pinch hitter is a drop in ground balls. In 2016 he owned a 61.1 percent ground ball rate as a pinch hitter, in 2017 that number has dropped all the way to 33.3 percent. Hard hit fly balls are always going to produce more hits, especially of the extra base variety, than hard hit ground balls. And Jaso has benefitted from that this season.
For whatever reason, many Pirate fans do not like John Jaso. Maybe it is his perceived lack of interest or passion for the game due to his laid back personality. Maybe it’s grumpy old men who don’t like the fact he has dreadlocks. Whatever the reason, that is not the case at Rum Bunter.
John Jaso is a much better hitter than a lot of people give him credit for. And he really excels as a pinch hitter.