08 May 2008
Adam Jones Spotlight
Posted by Jon Shepherd
Adam Jones has had a rough year so far. He has hit 231/272/359. This was expected. He is a contact-based hitter (meaning he does not and most likely will not walk much), so until he understands how to hit off speed pitches . . . he will be taken advantage of. There are some good things to like. Defensively, Jones has been quite good in the field. He has saved about 1.5 runs (+2 plays and 1 assist). He also has made 19 plays out of his zone, which is tied for the AL lead with BJ Upton and Torii Hunter. I imagine over the course of the season he will wind up being about +4 or +5 runs in the field, which is good for about a half win above median.
Offensively, well, we'll take the good with the bad here. Let's go into some Pitch f/x data.
Many folks want to place Jones in the two spot in front of Markakis. This would enable him to see more fastballs than when he bats in front of Luis Hernandez or some other below average hitters. At least, this is the hypothesis people use. Jones has seen 222 fastballs, which comprise 60% of the pitches he sees (this compares to 67% Mora sees in the 2-spot and league average is 58%). It doesn't seem like he is being thrown an abnormal number of off speed pitches. I also wonder to what extent Mora's 67% is a product of his declining bat speed because last year he was in a similar lineup position and saw the league average of fastballs. Anyway, lefties and righties throw him about the same number of fastballs. Two-thirds of his at bats end on a fastball. As you can see on his fastball graph . . . he goes after the inside pitches, but lays off the outside ones. Two guesses on this one: 1) he is trying to push the count and try to walk or 2) he is not an outside fastball hitter and is waiting for a pitch in his zone at which to swing. You may also note that when he does swing at pitches on the outside he makes contact. Every time. He has no swinging strikes out there, but when he chooses to swing he has four singles and a lot of fouls and in play outs. I guess the bottom line to take from this is that it appears he has a plan, which is good . . .usually.
Jones has seen 25 curves or about 6% of the pitches he has seen. Lefties and righties throw it equally and the percent is a third less than the league average. Only 3% if his at bats end on a curveball. As the graph shows . . . he swung for 12 of them, making contact with seven. Six of those balls were not in the strike zone. He also chose not to swing at five that were strikes. In terms of pure pitch recognition . . . he "saw" 14 of 25 as their correct calls (56%) assuming he did not choose not to swing at a pitch he knew to be a strike. Torii Hunter has a 50% recognition on curves this year.
So far, righties like to toss sliders at Jones. He has seen 65 (18%), which is 20% more than league average (this may be the result of us facing more right handed pitchers, but I am not sure about that being true). Almost 22% of his at bats end on this pitch. He displayed a 78% accuracy rate in reading these pitches with 6 called strikes. Torii identifies 62% correctly with 5 called strikes. Again this "accuracy" rate assumes the players are not choosing to ignore strikes. Jones seems more adept here.
Lefties love to toss the change to right handed Jones. Again, this is probably due to it being harder to hit a pitch breaking away from the batter than a pitch breaking into the batter as evidenced by personal experience, watching, and from several physics papers. A southpaw is three times as likely to throw a changeup to Jones than a righties. His overall rate is 10%, which is a sixth less than league average (probably due to my unresearched belief that we have faced more righties than the average hitter). Only 4% of these pitches end his at bat. He shows 68% recognition with five called strikes. He seems to be able to recognize these pitches as strikes, but misses them. This seems like it should be a pitch people could rely on to get him out as it appears he thinks a lot of these are fastballs. Torii recognizes 21% of these and hits them well. With a similar number of pitches, Jones is three times more likely to swing and miss a change up. This seems like an area he will need to improve upon if he wishes to hit better against lefthanded batters.
It should be noted that getting behind in a counter from the hitter's perspective is the opposite of that with the pitcher. So, if you want to compare this chart to the pitching version, flip them. Anyway, what we see here is that Jones, as most batters, gets behind in the count often. He is not as successfully aggressive as Jones is and is not as patient as Markakis is. Pitch counts for batters is not as effective as a measure as it is for pitchers because the data will skew much more due to individual batting approaches. What it does show is that, along with the Pitch f/x data, Jones needs to do more with his batted balls.
Jones is struggling like you would expect a young contact-based hitter to struggle. He is learning to identify much better off speed pitches than he faced in AAA and that takes time. Torii Hunter's career is a good comparison. He struggled early and as he learned to identify pitches . . . he has gotten a lot better. Adam Jones' approach may be similar to his, but I think Jones has more power potential and not as much defensive potential. That said, enjoy these moments as we watch a very good talent adjust his game.