Back on September 12, I wrote an article suggesting that the Cubs may be best served by returning Jon Jay – who was then the everyday leadoff man – back into more of a complementary role.
You can check out the piece for the full context, but in short, Jay had a ton of success when he was mixed and matched appropriately early in the season and a lot less success when he was just the everyday guy throughout most of August.
Indeed, from August 3rd – September 12th (the period discussed in the article) Jay appeared in 35 of the Cubs 37 games and was a starter in 26 of them (70.3% start rate). During that stretch, he slashed just .250/.336/.328 with a rough 78 wRC+ and an uncharacteristically high 18.9% strikeout rate.
In the 18 Cubs games since that piece published, however, Jay appeared in every one, but actually started in just ten of them (55% start rate). During that stretch, he slashed a magnificent (and kinda weird) .370/.386/.426 (114 wRC+) with a sparkling 8.6% strikeout rate.
Of course, this sort of streak cuts two ways. On the one hand, Joe Maddon could now be convinced that he should probably continue to pick and choose the right time to deploy Jay, so as to continue the success of the past month. But on the other hand, he might look at this recent hot streak as a wave he’d like to ride right through the postseason (and, frankly, I wouldn’t blame him for either approach).
And further muddying the waters is the simple fact that despite boasting reverse splits the entire season (108 wRC+ v. lefties, 98 wRC+ v. righties), this most recent stretch of success is a bit of the opposite:
Since September 13:
Versus Righties: 119 wRC+
Versus Lefties: 93 wRC+
Then again, he got just 11 plate appearances against left-handers during that stretch and 47 against righties. Which, maybe that’s actually a good thing.
In other words, I’m glad the “bad” sample, which came against lefties, is the small one, because we already know he’s capable of hitting lefties well (i.e. it’s probably just a sample size problem). Likewise, I’m glad the “good” sample, which came against righties, was much larger (even if it’s not huge), because it does a slightly better job of convincing me that what he’s done against righties lately might carry forward for a few more weeks.
And given that we were likely to see a whole lot of Jay in the 2017 postseason no matter what – his manager and teammates love him – I’m just glad he’s hitting well, period.
And, while we’re on it, don’t brush off that off-field value he provides to the Cubs. Ben Zobrist recently discussed it at NBC Sports Chicago and he had some convincing things to say.
“Jon Jay, to me, the 2017 Cubbies don’t go without him,” Zobrist said. “He picked us up on the field and off the field in a lot of ways when we struggled. He wasn’t around last year to talk about last year, so he was so focused on this year. He’s like: ‘OK, well I want to win a championship with you guys now. You guys did it last year, but turn the page.’ He definitely helped us do that.”
The Cubs suffered from a pretty serious World Series hangover (in one sense or another) at the beginning of the year, and if Jay was one of the guys to help push them through that, perhaps he can do it again this October. We’ll see, starting today.