Tampa Bay Rays: Time for More Belief in David DeJesus
By Robbie Knopf
David DeJesus is in the 13th year of his productive major league career, and he will always be remembered as a Kansas City Royal. It can’t be a surprise that DeJesus’ .787 OPS with the Royals is the highest that he has recorded with any team. One interesting statistic, though, is that once we look at OPS+, which factors in how pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field and baseball in general are these days, DeJesus’ best numbers have actually come with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Of course, there are reasons for that. At this point in his career, DeJesus doesn’t play at all against left-handed pitching, making his overall numbers better. We can also say that DeJesus has only accumulated 405 plate appearances with the Rays the last three years versus the 3799 he had with the Royals. There is a small sample size effect going on here, and with more at-bats, DeJesus’ statistics will likely decline.
There is also the broader point that despite DeJesus’ strong numbers at the plate, his extension with the Tampa Bay Rays has been considered a failure. The Rays were trying to trade him, but the $6 million in guaranteed money on his contract prevented any deal from coming together. A few teams were deemed to be possible suitors for DeJesus, but not once have we heard any rumor of a franchise actually being interested in him.
Yet on the other hand, DeJesus was the Rays’ best hitter for a couple of months last year, and he is right there with Kevin Kiermaier to begin 2015. Even when he was a prime trade candidate, he was arguably the Rays’ most sensible leadoff option against right-handed pitching, and he has proceeded to do extremely well at the top of the Rays’ lineup to start the season.
Is David DeJesus really in decline, or are people simply saying that he is? I have found myself saying that he isn’t a good defender anymore only to look at the statistics and see that he has only declined in centerfield and remains fine in left. We want to say that DeJesus is declining at the plate, but even if you take no stock in OPS+, can you really look at his numbers and see a washed up player?
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After J.P. Howell returned from shoulder surgery in 2011, a national television broadcaster saw his fastball sitting in the mid-80’s and said a comment that struck me. His words were something along the lines of “Wow. How sad is it that his fastball is only hitting the mid-80’s now after it was in the mid-90’s pre-surgery?” Look at the statistics, and what he was saying made a lot of sense. After all, Howell had struck out 9.9 batters per 9 innings and saved 20 games from 2008 to 2009 but was suddenly throwing in the mid-80’s in 2011.
However, the part about him reaching the mid-90’s simply wasn’t true! Any fan who had seen Howell a few times knew that he had always thrown in the mid-to-high-80’s, even when he was closing games. The statistics and the shoulder surgery made for a nice narrative, nice enough that the broadcaster failed to check the facts. Is the same true for DeJesus here? Is he being written off because of his age and injury history even though he is still a player that a contender should want on its team?
David DeJesus will still be a trade candidate for the Tampa Bay Rays if the rest of the team gets healthy and performs. The Rays would love to clear more payroll, and it would drive them nuts if DeJesus ends up making some portion of the $6 million he is owed on the disabled list. However, while he is needed and as long he is healthy, DeJesus will remain a player that makes the Rays a better team. No matter what our preconceived notions are, let’s do our best to remember that.