Devil’s Advocate – Rasmus vs Jay

by on July 8, 2011 · 24 comments

Before the haters out there get too excited, this isn’t really about pitting the two against one another.  Instead, the point of this post is to try to explain why Jon Jay has such a positive perception among fans while Colby Rasmus produces more of a mixed reaction.  When fans of Jon Jay laud his good play, they aren’t necessarily slighting Rasmus, but time and time again there are Rasmus fans jumping needlessly to his defense.  If you don’t know what I mean, then just try following the #stlcards hashtag on Twitter one night when both men play.

Colby Rasmus:  Career slash line of .260 / .335 / .445 / .780.  He’s a five tool CF with good power and the ability to hit anywhere in the lineup.  He’s only 24, and he likely won’t be eligible to be a free agent until 2015.  He was good for 2.8 WAR in his rookie season, and he followed that up with a 3.2 WAR sophomore campaign.  If you put his best oWAR (4.3 in 2010) with his best dWAR (1.7 in 2009), you see that he has the potential to be an All-Star caliber player.

Jon Jay:   Career slash line of .297 / .347 / .427 / .781.  At age 26, Jay is in only his 2nd season, and he’s proven that he can consistently hit both RHP and LHP for a high average, although he has demonstrated more power against right-handers.  Although the book on Jay is that he lacks great speed, he compensates by getting excellent jumps on balls hit to the outfield.  He is currently leading the NL right fielders in both range factor per 9 innings (2.62) and fielding percentage (1.000).

Devil’s Advocate:  Jay is the kind of player that many fans want Rasmus to be.  While Jay seems to track down everything hit in his direction, Rasmus seems to shy away from contact with the outfield wall.  What Jay lacks in athletic ability, he makes up for with hard work, hustle, and savvy play.  Rasmus has a tremendous upside, but he tends to appear disinterested, and his baseball IQ has been questioned at times.  The Cardinals used a 1st round draft pick on Rasmus, and there are high expectations placed on Raz as a result.

My Take:  The Cardinals are fortunate to have both Jay and Rasmus, and many teams would be thrilled to have as much depth in the outfield as the Cardinals do.  Maybe Raz doesn’t get the best jumps on balls hit in his direction, and sometimes he doesn’t appear to be going 100%.  On the other hand, maybe he’s so fast and smooth that he just makes playing CF look easier than it really is.  Just because Jay may appear to be working harder to get to a ball doesn’t mean that he really is.  Looks can be deceiving, and speed is one of the more deceptive traits an athlete can have.

It’s also easy to forget that even though Rasmus has 1 more year in the big leagues, Jay actually has a little more experience.  Jay is a couple years older, and he attended college, so it wouldn’t be unfair to give Rasmus another couple years to mature.  It might also be fair to consider how Rasmus is playing this season within the context of his place in the lineup.

  • Hitting 2nd (180 PAs) – .272 / .350 / .399 / .749 with 2 hr & 14 rbi
  • Hitting 5th (79 PAs) – .219 / .278 / .384 / .662 with 2 hr & 3 rbi
  • Hitting 6th (80 PAs) – .273 / .392 / .591 / .983 with 5 hr & 19 rbi

His OBP, slugging %, and OPS are markedly higher in the 6th spot than anywhere else.  Maybe 80 plate appearances don’t quite constitute a large enough sample size to confirm anything, but it certainly appears that Colby likes that slot.  I’d vote for keeping him there.  That’s not to say that Jay couldn’t put up similar numbers in that spot, but it’s hard to argue with the results that Jay has produced from the #2 spot.  Putting a guy with a career .354 OBP in front of Albert Pujols sounds good to me.

Sure Rasmus was a 1st round pick, but Jay was a 2nd rounder, so it’s not like we shouldn’t expect quite a bit from him as well.  It just seems that despite his productive play, Rasmus hasn’t done or said all the right things to endear himself to the fanbase the same way Jay has.  That’s fine with me, because that’s not the most important part of his job, and he still has plenty of time to work on that aspect of it.  Hopefully he starts by teaching his PR-hungry dad to keep his mouth shut.

Final Analysis:  It is a luxury to have a 4th outfielder who hits .300, plays really solid defense, and doesn’t cost a fortune.  It’s also a luxury to have a really talented, young CF with All-Star potential.  I’m just glad that the Cardinals have both, and nobody really has to make a choice between the two.  It’s not a problem to appreciate one or the other without pitting the two against each other.  Then again, if that’s the biggest worry that Cardinal fans have, then things could be much worse.

TIDBIT:  If you really insist on criticizing Rasmus about anything, I’d suggest starting with his inability to consistently use/hit the cutoff man.  It’s impossible to tell whether he is indecisive, reluctant, or simply philosophically opposed to making the throw, but there are times when he simply airmails the cutoff man to no purpose at all.  If that’s the worst thing he does on a regular basis, then I’m fairly certain CF is in good hands.

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Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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