21 December 2012

2012 Orioles Retrospective: Adam Jones

Adam Jones. Above average hitter despite plate discipline issues. Gold Glove center-fielder, even though the defensive stats don't like him. Team leader, who entered the season only 26 years old and approaching free agency. Jones may not have quite lived up to the expectation some had of him when he was acquired from the Mariners for Erik Bedard* in previous seasons, but he sure made up for some of that with how he started the 2012 season.

* Along with Chris Tillman. And George Sherrill, who go the team Steven Johnson. And Kam Mickolio, who was sent to the D'Backs in the Mark Reynolds trade. That Erik Bedard deal ended up having big ramifications for the '12 O's playoff-bound team. And to think, many fans hated it at the time.

The Orioles got off to a hot start, going 14-9 in April, and a big part of that was Jones tearing the cover off the ball - .333/.368/.611 with 6 home runs. And it didn't slow down in May, as a lower batting average was made up for with some extra pop and a few more walks - .298/.362/.623 and 10 longballs. Was the Adam Jones some people always thought he could be finally arriving? Well... no, not really. It was pretty clear even in the early going that his home run per flyball rate was unsustainably high, and would surely come down (dragging his batting line with it somewhat).

That didn't stop the Orioles from giving Jones a 6 year, $85 M contract though. Panned by some due to the obviousness of the first two months being a hot streak and Jones' low OBP, (and obviously loved by most O's fans), I thought it was a solid deal for the club - one which paid him to be the guy he was in previous seasons (good, but not great) as opposed to expecting him to have reached a new level. (And with the increase in salaries we're apparently seeing, the contract might look a little better now.)

Adam rewarded the team by having an atrocious June, combining a power-outage with a lack of patience as he hit just .272/.299/.427. There were ups and downs after that, but from the day he agreed to the contract extension until the end of the year, Jones hit .277/.325/.467. From 2009 to 2011, Adam Jones hit a combined .281/.326/.455. Generally speaking, he was who we thought he was, plus maybe a little bit extra. He still swung at way too many pitches out of the strike-zone (and missed a lot of them), but the additional extra-base hits (not so much the homers, which is what people noticed, but the doubles - Jones hit 39 of them after years of only 21-26) made up for it, as they have in the past.

Overall, Jones ended up getting some MVP votes with his career high 32 home runs and .287/.334/.505 line (and 4.6 fWAR, but I doubt his voters were looking too closely at that). I think he was undoubtedly the Orioles' 2012 MVP, even if his playoff performance was a horror show (.077/.074/.077). Going forward, it seems more likely Jones will settle in more in the 2.5-4 win range than approach 5 as he did (or 7+, as he was on pace for early); and it's at least possible that the increase in doubles portents that an expected drop-off in HR/FB rate might be mitigated somewhat by some of those two-baggers clearing the fence, and he's closer to the higher point in that range.

And that's just fine. An above average hitter (105 wRC+ career, 126 in 2012 due to his hot start) with plate discipline issues (4.8% walk rate career, 4.9% last season) is still an above average hitter (with some upside potential). A center-fielder who the defensive stats don't like (-7 UZR, -16 DRS) is still a guy playing up the middle (so he could be an OK corner outfielder, where his bat would still play - and, to my eye, I thought he looked a little better out there for much of the season). A now 27 year-old team leader who's going to be hanging around for the next few years (and is also a good player) isn't a bad thing to have around for a club that's hopefully going to at least have a chance of being competitive.

No comments: