Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Curious Case of Adam Jones

The Future meets The Present
First I want to apologize for my lack of posts recently.  I finally feel like I'm back in the groove, just over a week after getting back from China.  Yesterday was the first time since getting back that I could sit down and watch an entire O's game and chat with the good folks over at the Baltimore Sports and Life Forums.  That said, something hit me while discussing the dominance that is Adam Jones (or @SimplyAJ10) - is he really a top 5 player in the AL?

Dave Cameron wrote an interesting piece last week titled, "Is Adam Jones Pulling a Matt Kemp?" where he talked about the career trajectories of Kemp and Jones as well as his potential future payday.  It's funny because we heard Braves fans essentially bashing Jones all offseason, as they couldn't believe that the O's would balk at an offer of Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado for Jones.  The first note about that trade is that Prado has quietly crushed this season to a triple slash of .316/.392/.481 while putting up 2.3 WAR.  Jurrjens has been apocalyptically bad posting a -.5 WAR before being demoted.

This basis of Duquette's refusal was presumably the potential of Jones, knowing that any day now he had the ability to become one of the best in the game.  Well, Duquette (and those who panned the proposal) look pretty good now, given the emergence of Jones as a star.

I ran across one funny note yesterday.  Jones has produced 2.8 fWAR (WAR as calculated by fangraphs) so far this season, just .1 WAR below his career high.  He's currently on pace to put up a WAR figure above 8 to be conservative (assuming he keeps up similar production) which would have landed him among the top 10 hitters last season.  One reason for this tremendous turnaround in WAR production might be a result of Jones' UZR figures beginning to match the eye test for Jones' ability.  Jones has a career UZR of -9.2, but this season has put up a respectable 4.6 Ultimate Zone Rating.  I should note that quoting 43 games worth of UZR data is essentially useless as sample sizes need to be around 3 years for reliable figures.  However, UZR's evaluation of Jones as a well below average defender has never passed the sniff test for me.

Jones has benefited from an absurd HR/FB ratio of nearly 27%, almost double his career rate.  However, his Line Drive % is also a career low this year, so the HR numbers will likely slow (he's not a 50 HR guy) but not as much as we might think.  His K rate has also dropped a bit which means that he's making more contact as he's not swinging significantly less than before.  Adam has also stolen 6 bases, half way to his career high of 12.

What does it all mean?  Adam isn't going to keep slugging .602 this season, and won't threaten the 50 HR mark.  However, he does have the potential to hit .295 or so with 30+ HRs, 20 SBs and above average defense in CF.  That makes him mighty valuable to both the O's and other teams.  The question then becomes: do you trade Adam Jones while his value is high?  Or do you sign him to a long-term deal and hope he can be a cornerstone of the next playoff Oriole team.

As for me, I'd love to see Jones in Orange & Black for many years to come (and not just because I don't want the black Jones jersey I have go unused).  We'd love to hear your opinions in the comment section below about the future of the O's CF.

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