Lost in the midst of the Orioles running out to a division-best 14-9 record in April was the fact that Adam Jones ambled his way to a .626 OPS. In fact, his 72 wRC+ in April was second-worst to only Matt Wieters among regulars, but the electric starts of Manny Machado (189), Mark Trumbo (165), and Chris Davis (135) more than covered them.

In fairness, he battled a rib cage/oblique all month and it seemed to really impact his bottom line numbers. Plus, he usually has at least one month every season, but I think people tend to freak out a little more when it’s the first month of the season. However, he has had his bad month in April before, too.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

2012: Had .684 OPS in August

2013: Had .634 OPS in June

2014: Had .659 OPS in April

2015: Had .556 OPS in May (and .598 in September)

Of course, it wasn’t just April for Jones this year. Through May 8th, he had just a .543 OPS and I was ready to go ahead and sell him in fantasy. And I guess he didn’t take too kindly to that as he’s been on fire literally since that podcast. Check out his numbers from May 10th on: .520/.556/1.080 with four of his five homers and half of his 18 RBIs. So was it just the injury and now he’s feeling better or are there some fundamental changes in his game?


Usually the first things I look at when investigating a hitter is his strikeout and walk rates and then his BABIP in relation to his batting average. Jones only has 32 games played this year so any parsing of that sample is trimming an already-small sample so let’s understand that right away. I’m looking at his first 26 games (in which he accumulated that .543 OPS) and comparing it against these last six when he’s started to get loose.

First 26: 18% K rate, 8% BB rate

Last 6: 19% K rate, 7% BB rate

First off, it’s worth noting that the 18% and 8% rates from the down period are actually better than his 19% and 4% career rates so from a base skills standpoint, there was no real reason for him to be sputtering as much as he was through 26 games. His .240 BABIP in that time was a whopping 57 points off of his career mark. The only thing askew in his batted ball profile was that he hit on the ground a lot more, but that is often a positive for batting average, especially when you also consider that his hit-speed profile was in line with his career marks. He had an 18%-49%-33% soft-medium-hard contact profile which is in line with his 19%-49%-32% career marks.

Maybe a lot of sharp groundball right at the defense?

In these last six games, he’s obliterating the ball. Like I said, the strikeout and walk rates are basically the same, but he’s got an absurd .563 BABIP, a 35% line drive rate, and 55% hard-contact rate. Now, this obviously isn’t who he is any more than the downturn was, but it’s nice to see him smashing the ball again. Have pitchers approached him differently in the two periods?


The approach in location has changed some against Jones between the two samples. Early on they were working him more low in the zone and he wasn’t doing any damage.

First 26: 16% High, 31% Middle, 53% Low

Last 6: 22% High, 30% Middle, 49% Low

Jones is actually still struggling a bit with stuff low in the zone, but middle-up he has been devastating.

First 26 OPS: 1.126 High, .219 Middle, .618 Low

Last 6 OPS: 3.457 High, 1.333 Middle, .700 Low

Low in the zone has never been a strong suit for Jones, though, so it’s not particularly surprising to see him struggling there in both samples. Dating back to 2009 (which is as far as this dataset that I have goes), he had just a .697 OPS on pitches in the lower third in 2115 PA. Combining middle-up, he’s at .885 in 2290 PA.

As for pitch mix, things aren’t too different:

First 26: 54% Hard, 46% Soft

Last 6: 55% Hard, 45% Soft

The mix in soft stuff has changed a bit as breaking balls are up in these last six games from 31% to 39%, but his .500 OPS on breakers hasn’t really impacted Jones because it’s only four PA. In the first 26 games, he had a .548 in 37 PA. If pitchers won’t to cool him off, they need to get back to breaking balls down in the zone.

Of course, he’s not really giving them a chance to get to their soft stuff because he’s swinging early and often. He’s ended 56% of his PA in three or fewer pitches over these last six games, compared to 47% in the first 26 games.


It is difficult to make any sweeping judgments off of the 26-game sample let alone the six-game one, but looking over Jones’ statistical profile and how he’s being approached suggests an Occam’s Razor type answer to his outbreak: he’s healthy. Let’s be honest, obliques are a bitch. They can linger and really impact a player long what we might expect, especially since they don’t always require a DL stint and so the fact of the matter is that he may not be fully out of the woods yet for this season, but he certainly appears to be much closer to 100% now than he was at any point in the first month-plus of the season.

He’s getting lift back into the ball and doing a lot of damage. The surge puts him just 11 points away from his .781 OPS from the last two years and the FanGraphs projections systems expect him to maintain that level going forward. Jones getting back to and maintaining his above average level of production will help offset the pending regression of some of his teammates, namely Mark Trumbo.

I was originally going to look into his start to see if it was sustainable, but a cursory glance suggested it was like the many hot starts that Trumbo has had in the past. And the lack of any discernible skills changes means he will come down from this peak. Being back in the AL where he’s logged two 30+ HR seasons and another 29 plus being part of a stacked lineup in a great hitter’s park gives him a chance to match his previous highs of 34 HRs (2013) and .808 OPS (2012), but that’s a far cry from the 50/.955 he’s pacing toward currently. Putting a quick fantasy spin on it because that’s what I do, maybe see if you can trade Trumbo for Jones straight up.

Paul Sporer
Paul Sporer

Paul Sporer is currently a contributor to FanGraphs / RotoGraphs. He has worked for/still works for Rotowire, Baseball Prospectus, Rotogrinders, The Fantasy Fix, Draft Day, and PaintTheBlack.com – his own website centered around pitching. Additionally, he’s written for several Baseball Prospectus Annuals, contributed to Rotowire’s 2015 magazine, and spoken at a couple of BaseballHQ First Pitch Arizona events. His popular starting pitching guide is available at paulsporer.com.