2012 Player Profile: David DeJesus

David DeJesus did it all for the Cubs this season. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Positions Played: RF (68%), CF (30%), LF (2%)
2012 Batting (AVG/OBP/SLG): .263/.350/.403 in 583 PA
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 1.7
2013 Contract Status: Signed (through 2013)

David DeJesus is the type of player that’s easy to take for granted: solid across the board but without one specific skill that stands out from all the rest. It turns out that’s exactly what GM Jed Hoyer and Manager Dale Sveum like most about him.

DeJesus played 148 games in his first season as a Cub, after signing a two-year, $10 million deal last winter. Setting the table from the leadoff spot, his .350 on-base percentage led the team’s regulars. He also was an intelligent, above-average baserunner who knew when to take an extra base on balls in play even if he wasn’t an effective base stealer. Speaking of extra bases, he added eight triples and 28 doubles to his nine home runs. And his defense was considered solid across the board, even though he took a dip in defensive metrics this season.

In general, it can be advantageous to evaluate each of these components—hitting, plate discipline, speed, etc.—separately. But inevitably we get to the point where we want to compare different players and weigh their offensive, defensive and base running contributions as an entire package. We often do this in our heads, constructing our own personal formula to deem which players are the most valuable. We also can turn to statistics like Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which are based off the relationship between performance, runs and team wins.

While WAR often does us just fine, it’s based on playing time. Let’s instead look to Baseball Prospectus’ True Average (TAv), which takes the value of every offensive event (including base running) and puts it on a scale similar to batting average. It also controls for a player’s park environment, which is important when looking at DeJesus’ career across three different uniforms. Simply, .260 is always league average, .300 is a great season, and so on. DeJesus has consistently ranked above-average, aside from 2007.

As you can see, the Cubs signed the 32-year-old outfielder betting on a bounce-back year, and they got one. He set a career-high in walk percentage (10.5%) and brought his strikeout rate down from a career-worst mark in 2011 (17.0% to 15.3%). This came along with a slight uptick in power, as he feasted on low-to-middle-in pitches from right-handers.

Here’s a classic case of what Hoyer and Theo Epstein talk about when saying they want to pay for future, not past performances in the free agent market. Look for this type of short-term commitment to be a model again this winter, as the Cubs look to address needs at third base and center field. And look for DeJesus to continue to be a model player for the fledgeling “Cubs Way.”

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