14 May 2014

Don't Panic About Adam Jones

It's still probably too early to panic about any (non-injured) O's player. It's mid-May, after all, and there's plenty of season left. But despite frequent small sample size warnings, that's not quite how things work; after all, some fans were overreacting to Chris Davis's lack of power in April before an oblique injury forced him to the disabled list.

So, with that in mind, let's discuss Adam Jones. It can be frustrating to watch him hit. He swings the bat a lot, which is fun, but he also constantly chases pitches that are not close to being strikes. Perhaps if Jones chased fewer pitches, he'd be a better hitter. But then he wouldn't be Adam Jones, who already happens to be a very good player.

Right now, he has a batting line of .264/.279/.399 and a wOBA of .295. That is not good. Jones has a career wOBA of .337, and the last two seasons he has had wOBAs of .361 and .350, respectively.

In 2014 so far, he's walking less (2.6%) than his already low career walk rate (4.5%), and he's striking out a little more than normal (21.4 K% vs. career 19.5%). But, surprisingly, he's actually chasing fewer pitches (38.5 O-Swing%) than his career average (40.7%). For what it's worth, Jones's chase rate last season of 44.8% was the highest of his career, and he still posted strong numbers. Overall, he's swinging about the same as he always has (55%), and he's still making about the same amount of contact on all pitches. (His O-Contact% is 57.9% right now; his career average is 59.9%. So, it's slightly down. But in 2012, he made contact on only 56.2% of pitches outside the strike zone and yet still had his best offensive season.)

But one thing in particular has plagued Jones, and it's something I discussed last week: a lower-than-normal HR/FB rate. Since that post, Jones's home run rate jumped from 3.0% to 9.1% (he went from one home run to four). Still, that's below his career average of 14.9% of fly balls leaving the ballpark. (Jones is even hitting more fly balls than usual (37.9 FB%; career 33.2 FB%).)

Jones's fly balls are still traveling pretty far. Here are his fly ball distances since 2008 (with HR/FB rates included for each season):

Year
Distance
HR/FB
2008
281.25
6.9%
2009
301.89
17.8%
2010
292.01
11.4%
2011
291.80
16.7%
2012
293.59
18.8%
2013
297.49
19.9%
2014
296.83
9.1%

(Note: The 2014 average distance does not appear to be completely up to date; I could not find out when it was last updated.)

In all likelihood, Jones's HR/FB rate will be north of 10% by the end of the season, and probably closer to his career average. That doesn't mean he's necessarily in store for a great offensive season, but his power numbers should be fine.

(Quick update: Jones hit his fifth home run last night (watch it here). It was his first home run that wasn't hit to center field, and it was also his first that didn't travel at least 420 feet.)

Stats (as of May 13) via FanGraphs and Baseball Heat Maps. Photo: Keith Allison

3 comments:

Chris P said...

I'm not panicking about Adam, he seems to be heating up. I am however panicking about Hunter.

Jacob Becomes Israel said...

Adam Jones is a good, not great hitter. If he would take walks and make people throw him strikes, he could become a great hitter.

He makes better contact and is better at not chasing the slider in the dirt than 5 years ago but he's not that much better a hitter than he was 5 years ago.

He should be one of the best in the game and he simply isn't. IMO, he just doesn't get it. Don't think he ever will.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

I guess any player could always improve. But he's really good at something that's extremely difficult.