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The Season that Was: Rajai Davis

Hey, I caught it.
Hey, I caught it.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

2013 was Rajai Davis' 3rd season with the Blue Jays (and was his best).

Rajai has always been a bit of a disappointment, at least to me. When the Jays' signed him, I figured he could be a pretty decent center fielder. In 2009 Rajai hit .305/.360/.423 with 41 steals. I kind of thought that, moving to the much better for offence Rogers Centre, he could do much the same for us. Well, his first season for us was terrible and we traded for Colby Rasmus, and Rajai lost the center fielder job. I figured he would make great fourth outfield/platoon player against lefties/pinch runner. Unfortunately, we really didn't use him properly.

We would have been that much better off if we could just use Davis against LHP, but since all three of our starting outfielders spent considerable time on the DL, we couldn't be choosy about who he played against.

In our prediction thread, I guessed:

80 games. .270/.310/.350, 20 steals.

2013 - Rajai Davis 108 331 49 86 16 2 6 24 21 67 45 6 .260 .312 .375

Fairly close, I was a bit short on games played and a lot short on stolen bases, but not bad on the rest.

Fangraphs has him at a 1.2 WAR, playing him worth $6 million to the Jays.

Rajai had a .308 BABIP, right about his .314 from last year and his .317 career mark.

He walked a tiny bit less than 2012 (5.8%, down from 6.0) and struck out a bit less (18.6% from 20.9).

Davis hit line drives at about the same rate as last year (22.7%, down from 22.9), had fewer ground outs (39.4%, down from 45.0) and had more fly outs (37.9%, up from 32.1). Fly balls left the park at a slightly lower rate (6.0%, down from 7.3).

As always, Rajai hit LHP very well (.319/.383/.474) and RHP hardly at all (.228/.273/.321). Until he learns to recognize pitches spinning away from him, it will always be this way.

He hit a little better at home (.250/.316/.410 with 3 home runs) than on the road (.269/.309/.343 with 3 home runs. The difference was that he had 12 doubles and 2 triples at home, but just 4 doubles and no triples on the road.

Rajai was terrible with RISP, .164/.213/.301.

By month Davis hit:

April: .279/.313/.410 with 1 home run, 4 RBI and 6 steals in 19 games.

May: .300/.364/.350 with 0 home runs, 0 RBI and 2 steals in just 7 games.

June: .378/.408/.400 with 0 home runs, 4 RBI and 11 steals in 22 games.

July: .203/.261/.297 with 1 home run, 3 RBI and 12 steals in 20 games.

August: .227/.298/.307 with 0 home runs, 5 RBI and 9 steals in 22 games

September: .242/.296/.485 with 4 home runs, 8 RBI and 5 steals in 18 games.

His season breaks nicely into 2 halves. The good first half (.288/.335/.380) and the poor second half (.232/.290/.369). Likely there were some lingering effects from the oblique strain.

Defensively, Rajai Davis played all three outfield positions. 57 games at left field. 35 at right field. 16 in center field. All in all, he was more or less ok, Fangraphs has him at a -3.4 UZR/150 at the 3 spots, much better than his -8.0 in 2012 or his -13.6 in 2011. To me he looked better out there this year too, fewer roundabout routes to fly balls than in the past. He made 2 errors, giving him a .989 fielding average, right about the league average of .987 for outfielders.

Of course, Rajai is a very good base runner, Fangraphs has him at 10.2 runs better than the average. That would put him 2nd in baseball, behind Jacoby Ellsbury at 11.4 runs above average.

His favorite team to play? He hit .352/.426/.444 with 10 stolen bases in 16 games vs. the Red Sox.

Least favorite? He hit .095/.136/.095 with 4 steals against the Astros.

His longest hitting streak was 9 games. Longest on base streak 11 games. His longest streak without a hit was 5 games.

The Jays were 31-49 in games Rajai started, for a .388 win percentage. We were .524 in games he didn't start. So I guess we now know what the problem was with the Jays this year. Nah, not fair to blame Rajai for that mess. I had totally forgotten that Davis missed almost a month of the season with an oblique injury, and we had our one little good streak while Rajai was on the DL.

Rajai's a free agent now and I really can't imagine he'll be back with the Jays. He was great to watch steal bases, but then he wasn't much fun to watch take a circular path to fly balls. And watching him chase breaking balls off the plate accounts for a couple of hundred of my gray hairs. In case you want an example, here is the third worst swing of the season, at least according to Jeff Sullivan, and who am I to argue with him:



I do have a slight worry that, whoever he signs with, will be able to convince him that there is no rule that says you have to swing at every breaking ball and he starts hitting RHP at the same rate he does lefties. It won't happen, will it.

Whoever does sign him, if they can use him only against LHP, and as a pinch-runner, then they'll get a fair bit of value out of him.