We read a lot about the successful instances of increasing launch angle but rarely see examples of failures. John Jaso increased his loft dramatically, resulting in a few more balls clearing the fences, though the vast majority nestled in leather, torpedoing his BABIP. In addition, Jaso's contact suffered, combining for a career-worst .211 batting average, 47 points below his lifetime mark. The 34-year-old journeyman continued to walk at an elevated pace, but it wasn't enough to salvage a down campaign, highlighted by 10 homers in 302 plate appearances. Jaso, a free agent, hinted at retirement at the conclusion of the 2017 season. If he decides to come back another season, he'll be at the bottom of a large list of lefty swinging first basemen/corner outfielders looking for employment.
Jaso, who will become a free agent this offseason, said Sunday that he'll likely retire from professional baseball, Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. "Honestly, this is probably it for me, as far as baseball goes," Jaso said. "I don't know, I've played this game for a while, it's done a lot of great things for me, and I got to meet a lot of really cool people along the way. But I don't know, my mind is going elsewhere and everything like that. We'll see. I mean I can't say anything for sure. I can't really tell you what the future holds or whatever. But if I left now, it would be a really good feeling to leave right now, if I did. These last couple of years with the Pirates were good." The 34-year-old indicated that rather than pursue a new contract this winter, he plans to travel to Puerto Rico and pitch in on the relief efforts for the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria. If this is it for Jaso, he'll wrap up a nine-year career that included stops in Tampa Bay, Seattle, Oakland and Pittsburgh, during which he slashed .258/.356/.407 across 808 games.
Jaso went 2-for-2 with a solo home run and a walk in Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Cubs. Jaso got his team on the board in the seventh inning with a solo homer off reliever Koji Uehera. It wasn't surprising to see the left-handed slugger do his damage against a righty, as 52 of his 54 career home runs have come when facing right-handed pitching. Expect Jaso to keep earning starts in right field against righties.
Jaso will start in right field and bat sixth Tuesday against the Cubs. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hasn't named a primary replacement in right field for the injured Gregory Polanco (hamstring) and Adam Frazier (hamstring), but it appears Jaso could be the leading candidate for regular starts at the position against right-handed pitching. He'll start in right for the third time in five games Tuesday after the righty-hitting Jose Osuna manned the position in the series opener Monday, when lefty Mike Montgomery took the hill for the Cubs.
Jaso launched a pinch-hit, two-run homer in a 3-0 win over the Tigers on Monday. At-bats have become harder to come by for Jaso following the addition of Sean Rodriguez, as he's started only three times since July 16. That said, Jaso -- who recently snapped an 0-for-34 slide -- has collected four homers among his last 12 hits. He also leads Pittsburgh with three pinch-hit home runs.
Jaso went 2-for-4 with his seventh homer Sunday against San Francisco. He now has three home runs in his last 21 plate appearances. Since bottoming out at .111 in late April, Jaso is slashing .299/.373/.575 with seven homers in his last 142 plate appearances. He's likely overexposed as an everyday player, but Jaso is showing value on days he starts. His home run Sunday off reliever Steve Okert was just his second ever off a left-handed pitcher.