Toronto Blue Jays’ J.P. Arencibia: Regression To The Mean
The conclusion of the major league baseball season is all but a week away and another disappointing season north of the border. Rewind back 5 months earlier when the Toronto Blue Jays were the prognosticators overwhelming favorite in the American League East. The Jays were tabbed the World Series front-runner and the best betting experience money could buy in early April.
Well back to reality where the Jays have been cemented in the basement for the better part of the season limping to the finish line. When I reflect on the disappointing performances of 2013 the one player that jumps off the stat sheet is the Blue Jays 27-year old catcher J.P. Arencibia.
Prior to the start of the 2013 campaign the Toronto Blue Jays traded away their top catching prospect in Travis d’Arnaud to the New York Mets. The move solidified their faith in Arencibia as the teams catcher of the future moving forward and I for one expected a big season from J.P. without d’Arnaud breathing down his neck.
Unfortunately the backstop regressed and may become a part of major league history before the season plays itself out. Arencibia is currently tied for the 3rd worst on base percentage in American League history since 1918 with at least 400 plate appearances.
1. Mario Mendoza– Seattle Mariners- 1979- .216 OBP
2. Rob Picciolo– Oakland Athletics- 1977- .218 OBP
3. Joe Dugan– Philadelphia Athletics- 1918- .230 OBP
3. J.P. Arencibia– Toronto Blue Jays- 2013- .230 OBP
Arencibia is currently batting below the aforementioned Mendoza line hitting a pathetic .196 in 134 games this season. For most of the season Arencibia has looked lost at the plate swinging at pitches out of the strike zone a whopping 39.7 percent of the time. The former 1st round draft pick has an atrocious walk to strikeout ratio of 0.13 having whiffed 144 times while only taking a free pass 18 times all season.
The backstop sports the worst wins above replacement (WAR) of all the catchers in the majors at -0.0 tied with Devin Mesoraco for the honour.
On a positive note J.P. has swatted 20 home runs good for second amongst all catchers and only one big fly off the major league lead for catchers. Arencibia was also the Blue Jays nominee for the Roberto Clemente award as the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball,sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”
But the million dollar question the Jays are poised with is where do they go from her behind the dish?
The Jays not only traded d’Arnaud but also catcher Yan Gomes who had a solid season for the Cleveland Indians. Gomes is hitting .297 with a 3.8 WAR in his first season with consistent playing time.
The Jays minor league catching position is bleak without any blue-chip prospects on the cusp behind the dish. A.J. Jimenez is the most major league ready but is a defensive specialist with no power to offer.
The Jays could look to free agent catchers Brian McCann, A.J. Pierzynski or Carlos Ruiz but all three will come with a hefty price tag attached. In this case Arencibia could be designated to a back-up role until he proves he can hit major league pitching.
The unexpected catching dilemma is another issue the Blue Jays will need to address this off-season if they plant to right the ship in 2014. If Arencibia cant figure it he may find himself being Ricky Romero‘s personal catcher in Buffalo.