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Does Father Know Best? The Colby Rasmus Edition

Posted By Wendy Thurm On June 19, 2012 @ 1:00 pm In Blue Jays,Daily Graphings | 43 Comments

We went for a nice family hike on Father’s Day. On the drive south toward the Santa Cruz mountains, we were listening to Marty Lurie’s show on KNBR before the Giants game against the Mariners. Lurie had a nice selection of audio cuts from players and coaches talking about the role their dads played in their lives. And then Lurie played a long interview with Giants manager Bruce Bochy. My ears perked up when I heard Lurie ask Bochy if he’s ever had to deal with a player’s father calling him up, complaining about playing time or raising other issues. Bochy chuckled and said he’s never had to deal with that. “One of the nice things about being a big-league manager is that the parents aren’t involved at this level,” Bochy said, or words to that effect.

I thought about Chris Lincecum and the role he’s played as a sometimes-consultant to Tim and pitching coach Dave Righetti. And I thought about Colby Rasmus and his dad, and all that went down in St. Louis before the Cardinals traded Rasmus to the Blue Jays last July. Then I turned off the radio and went on a nice, long hike.

When I returned to the interwebs Sunday night, I found this article in Canada’s National Post. The title? Trade to Blue Jays “Saved” Colby: Tony Rasmus. It turns out the Blue Jays invited their players’ fathers to travel to Toronto and watch the team’s game on Sunday against the Phillies. While he was there, Tony Rasmus gave an extended interview to the National Post. He has a lot of interesting things to say, so when you have the time, read the whole story.

Here’s the takeaway: the trade sending Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays turned his career around. Tony Rasmus:

So whenever they called and told me [about the trade], I was dancing the jig around the house. I called him first thing and he was like, ‘That’s an answer to a prayer. Thank goodness.’ Everything since that day has been absolutely awesome here. We’ve been happy ever since the trade.

–snip–

I’ve watched every game this year, just to show you that’s the kind of difference a year’s made in his life as far as baseball goes – to watch him smile. I watched him out there do a couple of things; I’m like, ‘Wow, look at that: It looks like it’s fun again.’ And you see the last month or so he’s kind of picked it up and played a lot better. So it’s been super for us.

Is Tony Rasmus right? Has the Colby Rasmus revitalized his career in Toronto?

Rasmus broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2009. He put up decent numbers for a rookie, but ended the season with below-average offensive stats:  a .311 wOBA and an 89 wRC+. The next year, Rasmus arrived. He showed patience at the plate, raising his walk rate from 6.9% to 11.8%, and flashed considerably more power, with a .498 slugging percentage, compared to .408 in 2009.

Last year was a different story. Rasmus had a strong start out of the gate, batting .301/.392/.476 in April. But his production dropped steadily as the season progressed. The walks vanished, the strikeouts mounted, and the power fizzled out. In July, the month before the Cardinals traded him to Toronto, Rasmus batted .169/.234/.310 in 77 plate appearances. That’s pretty close to his final line for the Blue Jays in 140 plate appearances last season. Not much of a turnaround there.

New season. Fresh start?

April wasn’t much kinder to Rasmus than August and September had been in 2011. He struggled to hit for average. He struggled to get on base. He struck out alot. As the calendar turned to May, there were signs of improvement. The walk rate rose, the strike out rate dropped, and the power nudged up ever so slightly.

And then June. This month has been very good to Colby Rasmus. In 67 plate appearances, Rasmus is hitting .313/.343/.563, which translates to a .381 wOBA and a 182 wRC+. He’s traded ground ball outs for fly ball hits, including four doubles and four home runs.

So, what gives? Is Rasmus finally reaping the rewards of his move to Toronto? Sort of. Kind of. Maybe.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell sat Rasmus for two days in May and Rasmus used the time to make some adjustments in his swing and to move closer to the plate.

Here’s a video clip of Rasmus’ first game as a Blue Jay in 2011, when he went 0-for-5. Notice his crouched stance, his unsteady bat and his high leg kick.

Here’s Ramsus in April. His stance is still crouched, but the bat wiggle is calmer and the leg kick is not as high. Better results.

And now Rasmus in June. Here’s a clip from the game on June 5 against the White Sox. Rasmus collected five hits, including one home run. He is standing closer to the plate. He’s also more upright. The bat wiggle is there, but seems more balanced. And the leg kick is the smallest it’s been in Toronto.

To the extent Blue Jays manager John Farrell and batting coach Dwayne Murphy have helped Rasmus adjust his approach at the plate, then yes, the move to Toronto has revitalized his career. At least with the improved production he’s shown in June.

But Rasmus has always been a streaky player; one good month followed by one down month. That was true in 2009, his rookie year. That was true in 2010, his breakout year. That was true in 2011, when he started out hot and faded quickly. And it’s been true this season.

So we’ll have to wait a while longer to know if Rasmus is having a hot month or has made the necessary adjustments to sustain this level of production for the rest of the season.

I’m sure Tony Rasmus will let us know, either way.


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