The other day while watching the game I heard Jim Palmer make a somewhat strange assertion. He said that Adam Jones hit better when behind in the count. Now, this could be a little bit of hyperbole, but it made me wonder if Jones is a better than average hitter when behind in the count.
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(March 30, 2014 - Source: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)
The first step is breaking down Jones’ numbers by count. Adam Jones had 184 plate appearances that ended with him ahead in the count in 2013. That compares to 241 plate appearances where Jones was behind in the count. Finally there were an additional 255 plate appearances where Jones was even in the count at the conclusion of the at bat.
How did Jones fare in those at bats? His triple slash line in each situation is listed below…
Obviously Jones performed much better when ahead in the count, but that’s not much of a surprise. Compared to his season averages, he’s 18% better when ahead, 27% better when even, and 43% worse when behind. So IF Palmer was being literal, he’s wrong. However, if Palmer was being a bit hyperbolic, we should maybe compare Jones to the league to see if he’s better than average when behind in the count.
To do so we’ll need to know how the league fared in those same situations. MLB average triple slash lines can be found below for each situation:
Jones, who was an above average offensive player outperformed the league averages nearly across the board. The lone exception is when ahead in the count where Jones is actually a worse hitter compared to the MLB average. This isn’t apples to apples though, so we’ll take Jones’ sOPS+ for each split. Basically sOPS+ allows for apples to apples comparisons of Jones to the MLB average in each of those splits.
When ahead in the count, Jones’ sOPS+ is 80, meaning he’s actually 20% worse than the average MLB hitter. If the count evens up, Jones fares much better and comes out 64% better than the MLB average. Behind in the count? Jones’ sOPS+ is 151, meaning he’s 51% better than the average MLB hitter.
There’s no way you could massage the numbers or cherry pick examples to show that Jones is a better hitter when behind in the count. What you can do though, and quite easily I might add, is make the case that Jones has a very successful approach when behind in the count. His OPS+ for the season is 125, which means he’s 25% better than the average MLB hitter. However, when he’s behind in the count, he actuallly improves that to 151. That’s remarkable.
Once again, Adam Jones is 51% better than average when behind in the count. Sure the numbers aren’t pretty, but they really aren’t for anyone. Jones may not hit better when he falls behind, but he hits better than the vast majority of major leaguers in that situation.
If you took it literally, Jim Palmer was incorrect when he discussed Jones’ ability to hit from behind in the count. Realistically though, Palmer was on to something undeniable about Jones’ performance.