FanPost

Who Should Really Play Second Base for the Jays?


With spring training just around the corner, there is a battle brewing for the Jays' second base job between Emilio Bonifacio and Macier Izturis. Let's try to sort this thing out by taking a look at recent comments made by GM Alex Anthopoulos.

Just last month, Anthopoulos was interviewed by Peter Mansbridge where he stated in response to a question the top two stats he focuses on for a hitter more than anything else - BB% and SO% (percentage of plate appearances that result in a walk or a strikeout).

My expected response from him was to naturally say On-Base Percentage, or On-Base+Slugging Percentage, which obviously is a good measure of how much a guy gets on-base either via a hit or walk, and the amount of extra-base power a player has, but he didn't. This intrigued me a bit, and when he said what he did, it made me think, huh, that actually makes sense. AA explained that a good BB% shows a selective eye and a good SO% shows hand-eye coordination. He wants players on his team that have those qualities.

What exactly though is a good percentage of walks and strikeouts for a batter? A nifty search of Baseball-Reference.com showed that MLB player averages for these metrics are the following: 17.7% for SO%, 8.4% for BB% and 2.10 for SO/BB. I included SO/BB here obviously because it provides a good ratio for these stats. So an average hitter in the big leagues strikes out just over double the number of times he walks.

Let's put this into context and take a look at Jose Bautista's stats, one of the best hitters in the game, in the table below.

Year Age Tm Lg SO% BB% SO/BB
2008 27 TOT MLB 21.5% 9.4% 2.28
2009 28 TOR AL 21.0% 13.9% 1.52
2010 29 TOR AL 17.0% 14.6% 1.16
2011 30 TOR AL 17.0% 20.2% 0.84
2012 31 TOR AL 15.8% 14.8% 1.07
9 Yrs 19.2% 13.5% 1.42

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com showing Jose Bautista's stats as a Blue Jay except in 2008 where he had most of his at-bats as a Pirate. View Original Table

Notice the marked improvement in each category. 2011 seems to be the outlier since his BB% was way about his career average of 13.5% and his SO/BB ratio of 0.84 was insane. Clearly Jose Bautista is one of the league's best hitters since his BB% and SO/BB numbers are far above average.

Now concerning the title of this post, let's look at Emilio Bonifacio's respective ratios:

Year Age Tm Lg SO% BB% SO/BB
2008 23 TOT NL 24.7% 7.5% 3.29
2009 24 FLA NL 18.7% 6.7% 2.79
2010 25 FLA NL 20.9% 8.5% 2.47
2011 26 FLA NL 20.1% 9.2% 2.19
2012 27 MIA NL 19.0% 9.1% 2.08
6 Yrs 20.0% 8.3% 2.40

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

As you can see, Bonifacio meets the league average for taking a walk, but has a higher SO% and subsequently a higher SO/BB ratio as well.

Now let's have a peak at his competition in Blue Jays camp, Macier Izturis' ratios:

Year Age Tm Lg SO% BB% SO/BB
2004 23 MON NL 16.5% 8.3% 2.00
2005 24 LAA AL 10.0% 8.1% 1.24
2006 25 LAA AL 8.8% 9.5% 0.92
2007 26 LAA AL 10.4% 8.8% 1.18
2008 27 LAA AL 8.4% 8.1% 1.04
2009 28 LAA AL 9.4% 8.0% 1.17
2010 29 LAA AL 11.3% 8.8% 1.29
2011 30 LAA AL 13.2% 6.7% 1.97
2012 31 LAA AL 11.9% 7.8% 1.52
9 Yrs 10.7% 8.2% 1.32

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table

Izturis also meets the league average in taking a walk, but look at his SO% and SO/BB ratio...undoubtedly we have a winner!! So if Anthopoulos puts his money where his mouth is, Izturis is unmistakably the starter at second base for the Jays. Sure other things like defence and footwork will factor into the decision of who wins the job in spring training, but when AA gave Izturis a 3-year contract, evidently he had him in mind to man the right side of the infield in Toronto.

If it was up to me, I wouldn't care if each player split all the games at second base and filled in at other spots on the diamond. As long as they both play admirably accepting their role however which way it plays out. The beauty in both players is that they're clearly capably of playing all over the diamond which adds to the flexibility that John Gibbons has to his disposal.

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