Jon Jay's defense proving he is an elite center fielder

CHICAGO -- Jon Jay's dazzling acrobatic catch on Friday -- a catch that ranks among baseball's best this season -- is just the latest feather in the cap for the Cardinals' center fielder, who has been turning heads with his defensive play all season.

While Jay insists that he does not compare his catches, Friday's backward leap and dive to rob Anthony Rizzo of extra bases has to be at or near the top of Jay's career list. And perhaps it takes such a sensational play to earn Jay the recognition that those in the Cardinals' clubhouse have been insistent he deserves for months now.

"From what I'm seeing, I can't imagine anybody doing any better job than what he has done," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's made all the plays he should make and then made a lot that we never thought he would. He's taking charge out there. Every pitch, he's thinking, moving, directing. To me, that's one of the most valuable things. That's where I've seen him take steps -- that he's leading out there."

Especially impressive is that Jay's leadership has come primarily with veteran All-Stars -- Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran -- to each side. He's done so, too, in what is his first full season as a starter. It was at this time last year that Jay took over as the team's everyday center fielder after the Cardinals traded Colby Rasmus.

"I just go out there and try to help the team win," Jay said. "I definitely take pride in my defense. It's something that I do work on a lot. I want to be a complete player."

The numbers back up the Cardinals' claim that Jay has been one of the league's best at the position. His ultimate zone rating -- a sabermetric statistic that reflects how someone compares to an average player at that position -- of 6.3 is second best among the 14 National League players to log at least 400 innings in center field.

Jay has also yet to commit an error this season.

"This year, I think he came believing that this was his job," Matheny said. "And he wants to do it right."

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