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John Jaso: Good News, Bad News


For the longest time*, many of us were impatiently waiting for Eric Wedge to show some trust in John Jaso's bat. Not so much in its potency but in its competence, in approach and results. Jaso's a neat guy to have around. He takes good at-bats. He takes good plate appearances, because not all plate appearances are at-bats, especially when you're dealing with guys like John Jaso.

*not really the longest time

Well how's this for a show of faith? Wednesday night, Eric Wedge is giving Dustin Ackley a break, and in his place, he's batting John Jaso leadoff. We talk pretty often about how batting order doesn't make a huge difference, but it makes a difference to players and coaches, and for Jaso to bat leadoff tonight - there's intended meaning in that.

Now, maybe Jaso's just going up there because he has prior experience in the leadoff slot, having hit there with Tampa Bay. That would in theory protect somebody else from getting exposed. But then, Chone Figgins has tons of experience in the leadoff slot - recent experience! - and he's batting ninth. Some call the ninth slot a second leadoff slot. Some might call the ninth slot as far away from being leadoff as possible. When Eric Wedge demoted Chone Figgins, he wasn't messing around.

So it's encouraging to see Wedge start to believe in Jaso a little bit. Jaso's definitely earned it, and even though it might have taken an injury to Miguel Olivo to get here, we're here. Wedge has seen what Jaso can do at the plate, and he'd like to see more of it.

An issue is that Wednesday night, the Mariners are facing a left-handed pitcher in Drew Smyly. John Jaso is a left-handed batter, and that puts him at a platoon disadvantage. Figgins is bad, but he wouldn't have a platoon disadvantage. Somebody else like, I don't know, Casper Wells could've hit leadoff. He wouldn't have a platoon disadvantage.

In his Major League career, Jaso owns a .588 OPS against lefties, with a .183 batting average. Those are very bad numbers. In Jaso's defense, those numbers come from all of 101 plate appearances. We shouldn't read too deeply into 101 plate appearances, especially when the BABIP over those plate appearances is .226. Against lefties, Jaso owns a .588 OPS. Against lefties, Jaso has 17 walks and 20 strikeouts.

We can get even more granular. Against righties, Jaso has seen 60 percent strikes, and posted an 89 percent contact rate. Against lefties, Jaso has seen 59 percent strikes, and posted an 85 percent contact rate. It's not like lefties make Jaso's solid approach disintegrate. He's just a little bit worse, as one would expect.

So Jaso probably isn't a catastrophe against left-handed pitching, as his career platoon splits presumably don't reflect his true talent. But Jaso also probably isn't good against left-handed pitching, because he's an average bat overall, including at-bats against righties. I don't know about Jaso batting leadoff tonight.

Ultimately, though, whatever, it's batting order, and what's more important is that Eric Wedge must be starting to believe a bit in John Jaso. Funny how a good approach and a line-drive swing can get a manager's attention. I wonder why it took so long for Jaso to get Wedge's attention. We'll still have to see how Wedge mixes Jaso in once Miguel Olivo returns, but for now I think this is a positive sign.