An underrated part of a successful team is a reliable bench bat, who can fill in as a starter or be relied on to pitch hit in clutch situations.
For this season’s Chicago Cubs, Jon Jay is filling that role and thriving in it.
A free agent signing this offseason after one year in San Diego and six in St. Louis, Jay was expected immediately to be the Cubs’ fourth outfielder, backing up the planned starting trio of Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, and Albert Almora Jr.
Generally speaking, he’s maintained this role through the 2017 season so far, but his true value comes as being the most reliable bat off the bench.
Jay’s value is exacerbated by his heroic performance on Wednesday, as his pinch-hit three-run home run drew the Cubs even with the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth inning (the Cubs eventually won 7-3).
Wednesday wasn’t the first time Jay has helped the team off the bench this season. In fact, he’s become one of the best pinch hitters in all of baseball.
Entering July 6, Jay is 11-for-28 as a pinch hitter this season with a .919 OPS, impressive considering his Wednesday home run was his first as a pinch hitter this season.
New acquisitions for the Cubs have been hit or miss this season, considering the struggles of starting pitcher Brett Anderson, and the inconsistencies from relievers Brian Duensing and Koji Uehara.
In a year in which the Cubs have plodded along and struggled to stay above the .500 mark, consistency from Jay is a refreshing reprieve from the doldrums of mediocre baseball.
Jay has been productive in whatever role he’s been wedged into this season. His overall slash line this season is .305/.382/.409, one of the best of his career.
He’s also on pace to play in 141 games this season, which would be the third-most in his career.
Nobody will ever confuse him for a slugger, considering he has just two home runs and only 24 percent of his hits are of the extra-base variety this season, but his ability to simply get on base is extremely valuable to this team.
Again, there’s been a great deal of mediocrity on the north side this season. To have Jay consistently produce, even with a lack of power, has turned him from a potential luxury signing into a vital part of the club.