Exit Interview: Jon Jay

The last couple of years, I spent the time immediately after the season examining each player that had made an appearance in St. Louis during the season.  This series was well received and so I’m bringing this idea back for the 2014 offseason.  More summaries than anything, I imagine the player coming into Mike Matheny‘s office and having a short conference before heading home for the winter.  Stats are just the ones accumulated for the Cardinals during the regular season.

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Player: Jon Jay

Season stats:  140 games, 468 PA, 52 R, 16 2B, 3 3B, 3 HR, 46 RBI, 6 SB, 28 BB, 78 K, .303/.372/.378  111 OPS+

Hero/Goat: Hero 6, Goat 9

Overall grade: B

Positives: Came back from a very negative defensive year to post roughly league-average defense in center field….had a significant reverse split, roping lefties at a .375/.404/.455 clip….hit .323 in the second half, which was somewhat fueled by a .392 BABIP….was able to manipulate his personal gravity field to draw in baseballs, leading the league in HBP with 20.

Negatives: Was pretty much a singles hitter, with his HBP mark almost totaling his extra-base hits….interestingly, hit much worse with 0 outs than with one or two outs, even in roughly the same amount of plate appearances (.258 vs. .321 and .327)….while he hit lefties a bit better, his strikeout to walk ratio (21-4) against them was pretty ugly.

Overview: The early part of this season was taken up with a number of controversies, but few were more intense than Jay versus Peter Bourjos.  We talked about this some when we examined Bourjos last week, but when both players were scuffling, the debate raged much hotter, especially when Matheny seemed to favor Jay because he was one of “Matheny’s guys”.

Jay quieted that a lot in the second half, playing defense that didn’t completely make you cringe (even if it wasn’t close to the level of Bourjos) and seemingly hitting out of his mind.  While Jay wasn’t going to be able to fuel the offense by himself, his ability to get on base and keep innings going did help the lineup turn over a few more times than it had been doing.

Whether or not Jay should have been playing over Bourjos, it was difficult to see any manager, much less Matheny, taking out a guy that was producing to put in guys that weren’t.  Bourjos got caught in that trap somewhat (though, to be fair, Matheny probably should have let him play center and Jay play right more than he did), but as long as Jay was getting on base, Matheny was going to play him no matter what the splits and other stats said.

And kudos to Jay, because he worked hard to improve his defense and did a good job in that regard.  Jay was also the first overall Goat of one season to then play again for the Cardinals the next year, breaking that curse.  (Given Matt Holliday got the honor this year, I expect that curse is well gone.)  It seems like when you count Jay out, that’s when he finds his next gear.  It may not be accurate, but that’s what it feels like.

Outlook: John Mozeliak has already said that Jay will be the starting center fielder next season.  That’s a little surprising for Mozeliak to say, given how he tends to approach things, and it’s true that Jay could be moved this year as Mozeliak talks up his value.  However, I think it’s more likely that Jay will be playing a lot of center field next year, but my feeling is that the offense will drop some and we’ll be wondering where he stands with this team come the end of 2015.

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