Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Adam Jones Breaking Out?

edit: I had this post ready to go on Friday morning before The Great Blogger Outage of '11 happened. I lost most of the post but pieced it back together. I updated with current stats but I may have missed something as I cobbled it back together. But here it is anyway...

Oriole center fielder Adam Jones is hitting .284/.333/.447 (wOBA .346)this season. Through May 11th of last season, he was hitting .230/.257/.353. His OPS+ of 118 (117 wRC+) would be the highest of his career if he can maintain it. The question is, is Adam Jones finally having a breakout season?

Jones was my pick for Oriole breakout player in 2011. I didn't predict big things. A .295/.340/.450 line with 20 home runs. Mild breakout. And right now, those numbers look very reachable for him.

But Jones has had his hot streaks before. Is this just another tease? I wanted to take a closer look.

Some peripheral data from the last three seasons:

BB%    K%   BB/K   HR/FB%   ISO   BABIP
2009     6.9  19.7   .39     17.8   .180   .308
2010     3.7  20.5   .19     11.4   .158   .328
2011     6.4  17.7   .40     12.5   .163   .307


The walk rate is up from his career numbers, his strikeout rate is at a career low and his homer rates, ISO and BABIP are certainly sustainable numbers. This hot streak does not look lucky at all. This is all pretty encouraging but I went and grabbed some plate discipline data from FanGraphs.com.

Plate discipline data from the last three seasons:

Season     O-Swing%    Z-Swing%    Swing%    O-Contact%    Z-Contact%    Contact%    SwStr%
2009        35.2 %      73.3 %     53.6 %      57.3 %        83.3 %       74.5 %     13.3 %
2010        40.6 %      71.0 %     54.6 %      62.1 %        84.0 %       75.2 %     13.2 %
2011        45.4 %      71.2 %     58.4 %      66.1 %        84.7 %       77.6 %     12.3 %


This is the troubling part about Jones. He is swinging at balls outside the strikezone more than ever. He's becoming even more of a free-swinger than he ever was. Now, he's making much better contact on those balls (a trend that has continued over the past three seasons) and is striking out less than ever.

There are two possibilities here. Either he has been getting extremely lucky with the production he's been getting by hitting those balls outside the strikezone or he has developed a freakish Vladimir Guerrero-like ability to hit anything near the plate well enough to keep on swinging.

So consider me a skeptic...if Jones keeps this up for most of the season, I guess we could consider this a breakout. But I'm betting on some regression in the near future.

3 comments:

Jeff said...

Heath, my take from watching nearly every game this season (all but 3 or so) it seems that lately he's driving the pitches in the zone more. He still seems to have pretty awful plate discipline, but when the pitches are in the zone he hits them. Hard. I have no data to support my claims, just observations from the games.

Heath said...

I agree. But the big difference so far is that he's hitting the ball hard (for hits) even when it is slightly out of the zone. I don't know if that's sustainable but if he's learning to recognize when balls are at least close to the plate...well, that might work out for him. Fewer K's for a guy with that speed is not a bad thing.

Jeff said...

Yeah I agree. Honestly, I think he'll always be a sucker for the curve or slider in the dirt. Having 1 weakness though isn't the end of the world if he hits line drives all over the field. His 3B against Seattle is a perfect example of what he *can* be.