John Jaha – 1994 UD Collector’s Choice

May 20, 2011

With That Form, He Was A Natural DH

The Brewers used to grow guys like this on trees. That was the perception anyway.

There was no difference in many people’s mind to players like Jaha, Joey Meyer, Rob Deer, Gorman Thomas, Mark Brouhard, Glenn Braggs, Greg Vaughn and the like. Big lummoxes that hit the ball far – and that’s all they did.

As you know, baseball isn’t so black and white. None of those aforementioned players were that similar, really, but perception of course beats reality two falls to a submission.

Jaha was a DH that played first because the Brewers always seemed to have someone WORSE in the field (like Kevin Reimer). The thing was, he wasn’t a three-true outcome guy like Deer. He could hit for average as well and didn’t always just go “MONGO CRUSH”.

His big problem was injuries. He had more than his fair share. Jaha really only played three full seasons in the bigs and in two of them, he had WARs of 3.4 and 4.6. He didn’t come up to the bigs until he was 26, but again it was due to injuries that stalled him in Class A for three seasons. Jaha’s career was ‘what could have been’, big time.

His best season was 1999, when he mashed the ball for Oakland in their first year of their renaissance. That team crushed 235 home runs, and Jaha was second on the team with 35 (behind Matt Stairs with 38). His OPS+ was 152, one behind Jason Giambi. With guys like Jaha, Stairs, Giambi, Tejada, Ben Grieve (before he went south), a young Eric Chavez, Olmedo Saenz, and Tony Phillips’ last gasp, the A’s went 87-75 and were fourth in the AL in runs despite being 13th in batting average.

What was more impressive was that the home park of the A’s was a horrible hitters park. They had the third best ERA in the AL and had an ERA+ of under 100 and gave 52 starts to Jimmy Haynes and Mike Oquist.

Oh, and they had horrid offensive players like AJ Hinch, Ryan Christenson and Jason McDonald eating a lot of ABs.

Oh, oh, and in a park that required good defense due to the parks quirks, the A”s were…well…defensively challenged. Jaha, Giambi, Grieve, Stairs, Saenz, Phillips and Scott Spiezio were less than stellar. Ok, that’s kind. Grieve’s DWAR was -2.o and Stairs had a -2.6 DWAR. Jaha still was the DH, because if you but him or Giambi out in right or left…well…um, do they make a DWAR that low?

Jaha got MVP votes, made the All-Star team, and was on his way to big things. He signed a big time contract.

And of course,  injuries wiped out his career – the same injury problem that derailed his ascent.  And when Oakland really started to make their move in the AL, he was gone.

Who knows, without his injuries, maybe Jeremy wouldn’t have needed to slide!

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