It might not seem that way, but it really wasn’t until the 2013 season — and in particular the opening month — that Colby Rasmus got the reputation for being a strikeout machine.
Not to say that a player can’t be successful or achieve stardom despite swinging away, of course (just ask Chris Davis), but I think it’s fair to say that the players who are considered to be elite don’t usually end up being human air conditioners. Yet, despite a career-high 29.5 percent strikeout rate on the season, elite territory is exactly where the Toronto Blue Jays center fielder is treading this season.
Playing in just 117 games and getting just 458 PA, Rasmus doesn’t quite technically qualify for the leaderboards. If he did, however, his career-best 4.6 fWAR would rank sixth among all center fielders in the game, while ranking fifth with his 11.3 fielding runs above average and fourth with a .840 OPS.
No, he isn’t exactly Andrew McCutchen, but all things considering, his post-hype performance in 2013 has been one to remember.
And to do it as just one of two center fielders (minimum 450 PA) with a strikeout rate over 25 percent? Remarkable, really. While there’s probably some irony in the fact that Rasmus’ two best seasons in the bigs have come with his two highest single-season whiff rates (27.7 percent, 4.0 fWAR in 2010), swinging himself into oblivion is something that he’s trying to get away from, and it’s arguably the last thing holding him back from stardom.
Fortunately for the bluebirds, if we take a closer look at his overall swing-happy ways, you’ll see that he’s taken some major steps to getting there.
It’s no coincidence that Rasmus’ excellent .910 OPS in the second half of 2013 comes paired with a drop in his strikeout rate from 30.3 percent in the first half to 26.8, and that his best month of the season — a torrid July that say a .371/.413/.588 triple-slash — came with a 22.1 percent K rate that represents a season-low (monthly).
You might think that July was just a fluke given that he went right back to a 30.3 percent strikeout rate in August prior to getting hurt … that is, if it weren’t for the few games that he’s played since coming back from the DL.
Now, we are talking about a very small sample size of just 19 PA here, but it’s no less encouraging that the 27-year-old has played through three out of his five September contests without seeing strike three at all. Sure, he did come up with a pair of them on Thursday to give him a total of three (15.8 percent!) since his return, but he also did draw a pair of walks, so there’s some good that comes with the bad.
With Rasmus seemingly locked in, is it any wonder that he homered for four straight games upon return? Nah.
This is just a glimpse, of course — but it’s one that solidifies just what he is capable of entering his prime. Thoughts of him potentially losing his role as the Blue Jays’ center fielder of the present and future are long gone at this point, and with him entering his final arbitration year in 2014, the improvement (if it continues) to his plate discipline will also solidify that his bank account is more than likely about to get a whole lot bigger.