(BaseballStL) -- When the name "St. Louis Cardinals" gets thrown around on a national landscape the first names to pop into the conversation are Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, etc.
And, quite frankly, rightfully so. They've got track records of performing at the highest levels for an extended period of time.
But one name you will almost never hear associated with the core of this team is Jon Jay. He'll never be considered the Cardinals' best player. He'll never make $15 million a year like those other guys mentioned above.
What he will do, however, is continue to do everything that helps the Cardinals win baseball games. I'm not sure there is a more underappreciated or underrated player on the club today.
In 857 career at-bats, Jay has a .303 batting average and .355 on-base percentage. Those are very good numbers by anyone's guage. But the thing that makes Jay, to me anyway, is how he's consistently getting better.
How many times do you see supremely talented players come up to the big leagues and have most of their success right away. But they don't build on it. Colby Rasmus come to mind?
Jon Jay, as good as he's been, is still improving as an all-around player. Defensively he's become the unquestioned quarterback of the outfield...making key catches all over while directing traffic among his fellow defenders.
Offensively, he's making similar strides. Jay's .339/.392/.426 line represents marked improvement over 2010 and 2011. He's an outstanding contact hitter that does not strike out very much. He's a line drive kind of guy who can beat you with power if you make a mistake over the heart of the plate. And he's starting to take a few more walks which will raise that OBP even more.
It's not a complete surprise Jay's absence from the lineup with an injured shoulder coincided with the offense's downturn. Sure there were other factors involved there inluding injuries to other players while the healthy ones didn't perform as needed. But Jay's return also coincided with the offense's recent explosion against Kansas City.
Is it all Jon Jay that's responsible for the ebb and flow of this offense? Not a chance. Is he an often overlooked piece that has more to do with it than many realize? I believe the answer to that is yes.
He's not the best player on the Cardinals...but he's awfully important to their success.