Jon Jay’s Value

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This past spring, I wrote a post (you can find it here) attempting to defend Jon Jay as a solid center fielder. I wasn’t attempting to suggest that he was the best in the league, but that he was a middle of the road guy who we’re paying roughly 500 grand. He’s an acceptable player and he comes very cheaply.

In an attempt to disprove me, Jon Jay spent the first four months of the season playing baseball about as well as I do. He crawled to a .253 batting average, well below his .300 career mark, and generally disappointed everyone.

Since then, however, Jay has hit very well, posting a .351 batting average and streaking down the stretch.

Surprisingly enough, he has the second most RBIs among National League center fielders behind only Andrew McCutchen. But I don’t want to deal with counting stats today.

Speaking sabermetrically, his 1.2 wins above replacement puts him at the lower end of MLB’s center fielders. Here’s the chart, courtesy of Fangraphs and me:

Center FielderfWAR
Mike Trout8.6
Andrew McCutchen6.2
Carlos Gomez5.8
Jacoby Ellsbury4.9
Colby Rasmus4.1
Shin-Soo Choo3.5
Adam Jones3.3
Gerrardo Parra3
Desmond Jennings2.8
Austin Jackson2.6
Dexter Fowler2.5
Brett Gardner2.2
Andre Ethier2.1
Alejandro De Aza2
Michael Bourn1.8
Coco Crisp1.8
Gregor Blanco1.7
Denard Span1.5
Jon Jay1.2
Drew Stubbs1.1

As you can see, Jay ranks right down there at the bottom of the list. Should he stay hot, he may improve as the season finishes, but he’s not going to be anywhere near the top of the list. So why do I think that Jay is worth while as a starting center fielder? Here’s another graph: 

Center FielderfWAR2013 SalaryCost per Win
Mike Trout8.6$510,000.00$59,302.32
Desmond Jennings2.8$501,800.00$179,214.29
Jon Jay1.2$524,000.00$436,666.67
Andrew McCutchen6.2$4,500,000.00$725,806.45
Carlos Gomez5.8$4,300,000.00$741,379.31
Gerardo Parra3$2,350,000.00$783,333.33
Gregor Blanco1.7$1,350,000.00$794,117.65
Alejandro De Aza2$2,075,000.00$1,037,500.00
Colby Rasmus4.1$4,675,000.00$1,140,243.90
Brett Gardner2.2$2,850,000.00$1,295,454.55
Austin Jackson2.6$3,500,000.00$1,346,153.85
Dexter Fowler2.5$4,250,000.00$1,700,000.00
Jacoby Ellsbury4.9$9,000,000.00$1,836,734.69
Shin-Soo Choo3.5$7,375,000.00$2,107,142.86
Drew Stubbs1.1$2,825,000.00$2,568,181.82
Adam Jones3.3$8,500,000.00$2,575,757.58
Denard Span1.5$4,750,000.00$3,166,666.67
Michael Bourn1.8$7,000,000.00$3,888,888.89
Coco Crisp1.8$7,000,000.00$3,888,888.89
Andre Ethier2.1$13,500,000.00$6,428,571.43

As you can see, Jay ranks at the bottom of fWAR, but ranks right up there at the top as far as value goes. In fact, since the absurd Mike Trout and Desmond Jennings are both AL players, Jay is the most cost-effective center fielder in the National League. The Cardinals are paying a paltry 436,000 dollars for each win from Jay.

I understand, of course, that paying an extra 300,000 per win is certainly worthwhile if you’re getting an extra five wins from a player, but some of the most competitive players, such as McCutchen and Gomez, have pretty big jumps in annual salary after this year, meaning that their cost effectiveness is set to drop next year, and the following years.

Basically, Jay’s stats may not be (aren’t) the greatest in the league, but before you start replacing him, ask yourself who you’d rather have? Because dollar for dollar, Jay is one of the best in the league.

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