Friday night I was listening to the Glenn Younes show coming back from an errand. It was at the moment where Adam Jones hit his three run home run leading to Younes to do his best pro wrestling chat radio takedown of all of the supposed fans who dare to question Adam Jones’ offensive abilities. To the best of my memory, the argument was basically that Adam Jones hit a bad pitch for a home run and that negates any negative aspect of his approach at hitting and his recognition of the types of pitches thrown to him. It was articulated that the fans who question Jones are also the fans who expect the Ravens to go 21-0 every game. For those who have a broader appreciation of the game, this is the Jeff Franceour or Mike Jacobs argument. The idea that a few positive events make up for the many negative events.
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My reason for bringing that up is that, yeah, Jones does get unfair treatment. I also think that there is also a lot of people who over appreciate him as those who under appreciate him. My view has remained pretty steady over the year with him being a very good hitter with some pitch recognition issues that will prevent him from ever being an elite hitter. In addition, his great defensive talent is limited by his poor initial reads and below average hands. I think as he ages, his marginal, but highlight film worthy, play in centerfield will play much better in left than it would in right. In fact, I think we already are seeing it. Outside of his excellent play last night, Jones has seen some decrease in his ability to hold runners going from being one of the best in centerfield three years ago to being league average last year and this year. There is some talk about how gold gloves are often handed out for seasons prior (as well as for offensive prowess) and that just might be the case. All that said, he is certainly a fine player to have in the lineup and play centerfield.
As you can see in the table below. For qualified centerfielders, Jones ranks 6th out of 22 for Runs Created. If you turn it into a rate, then he drops down to 8th and in a tie with Jacoby Ellsbury. That is a fringe elite centerfielder. Defensive metrics (and a significant number of scouts) tend to rate Jones as below average in center field. If you accept those assessments, then you wind up with a player who is an average to slightly above average centerfielder.
Offensive Numbers for Qualified CFs (>280 PA with 140 as CF) for 2013
|11||Alejandro De Aza||48||379||CHW||85||11||29||89||10||4||.265||.322||.418|
However, this is not what I really wished to write about on Jones. Above is merely a false start to the column. The remarkable thing about Jones this year is that he has a shot of making history. At this moment with 94 games in, Jones has 10 walks in 405 plate appearances. If he winds up playing every game for the rest of the year and maintains not only the walk rate, but the plate appearance rate as well, then he should finish the year with the following numbers:
698 plate appearances
Below is the comprehensive table of players who had logged at least 698 plate appearances and have earned fewer than 20 walks.
Yes, above is the comprehensive list of players who have accomplished what Jones is setting out to do if he maintains this pace, which (admittedly) is a pace that is extraordinary for him and, as a general rule, we should never assume that extraordinary paces will continue (sorry, Chris Davis). If Jones reverts back to his 4.9% walk rate then he will wind up with 24 walks. Just a word about Woody Jensen…this was not a very good season. His offensive numbers made him worth about three runs below replacement value.
The comprehensive list for batters with 698 plate appearances and 25 or fewer walks?
That is still a pretty exclusive club. However, contrary to the army of one that is Jensen (to date), this group actually has a couple of players who puts up big seasons. Felipe Alou’s 1966 season was in an offensively depressed era and was explosive enough to put him in fifth for MVP voting. Soriano’s second year in the big leagues was enough to earn him a third place finish in voting in 2002. So a dearth of walks alone does not mean a failed hitter. It can certainly contribute to being a failed hitter, but it is not a guaranteed way to arrive there.
So has anything changed in pitch location or swing rate for Jones from last year to this year?
|ISO in Play||.197||.133|
|ISO in Play||.353||.243|
Three things really seemed to emerge from this data. First, it does not appear that pitchers have changed their approach with respect to location from last year to this year (also, pitch type is not shown here, but that has not changed either). Two, that Jones has improved his contact rate when swinging for balls, but that improved contact rate has resulted in a rather sizable decrease in power. Three, Jones has swung more at strikes this year while missing more of those strikes while also producing much less power when connecting.
The easy narrative produced here is that Jones is trying to cover more of the strike zone and, in doing so, is either not being selective enough in the pitches he is swinging at to produce solid power or that he has changed his swing mechanics in a way where his power is not as efficiently transferred to the ball. What may challenge that narrative is that Jones is swing at fewer first pitches (35% in 2013 vs. 38% in 2012) while pitchers have thrown more first pitch strikes (55% in 2013 vs 51% in 2012). It may be that him being more patient on the first pitch has resulted in him finding himself in the hole more often. I doubt though that the 4% difference (which amounts to having about 20 more first pitch strikes over the first 405 PA as compared to last year) would explain such a large difference in ISO.
The answer is somewhat unclear to me, but it does seem obvious that Jones’ approach at the plate this year is to be more willing to swing at pitches for whatever reason. It is also apparent that when he makes contact with those pitches that he has produced less than he did last year. Maybe last year was a remarkably unique season for him and it is unfair of me to compare him to what may have been his career season. Although possibly quite unfair as it might be, that season is somewhat what he needs to do in order for the team to get back in production for what they are paying him over the life of his extension. Otherwise, we might be in for a lot of griping about his performance in a similar way to which Baltimore has thought about Nick Markakis’ contract.