The endless debate of Adam Jones and his plate discipline

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones has never been the type of player to shy away from controversy or controversial comments; he speaks his mind whenever he feels the need and doesn’t back down from when confronted about his feelings.  With this being true it’s funny that the biggest controversy coming from a guy who said he wished a fan shattered his shins when jumping on the field doesn’t involve any of his off the cuff comments.  The controversy surrounding Adam Jones these days has more to do with his aggressive approach at the plate and the perception of his inability to lay off a low and away slider.  As always if you wish to investigate any issue you need all the facts…. so here I am to provide them to you.

A hitter’s approach at the plate can change, grow, or develop for many reasons.  Many hitters will change their approach during an at bat based on the count, how they are being pitched, or how the defense is positioned.  Approach can also change based on the situation in the game, where a player sits in the line up, or what opponent they’re facing.  Along with these players there are guys in the league who view the game and their approach to the game in one way and don’t alter or adjust to anything.  They play their game and win or lose rolling with what made them who they are.  Along with guys like Brett Lowrie, and Carlos Gomez, Adam Jones is one of these players.  So how successful is Adam with this approach?  Take a look at some of the numbers below

Some career numbers for Adam Jones

First pitch of an at bat:  .391 Avg 1.052 OPS 27 Home runs (19% of his career home run total) 37 Doubles (20% of his career total).

On a 1-0 count:  .364 avg .973 OPS 12 Home Runs 18 Doubles

On 0-1 count:  .362 avg .972 OPS 20 Home Runs 27 Doubles

This gives him a total of 59 home runs and 82 doubles on the first two pitches of an at bat so 41.8% of ALL of his career home runs and 45.8% of his doubles have been hit on the first two pitches of an at bat

In addition to the career numbers in 2013 he hit 33 home runs… 8 of which were on the first pitch of an at bat and 10 of which were on the second pitch of an at bat…. 18 of 33 (54.5%) on the first 2 pitches of an at bat.  He also hit 15 of his 35 doubles on the first two pitches of an at bat, had a 1.094 OPS on the first pitch; 1.011 OPS on a 1-0 count; 1.294 on a 0-1 count. Jones is aggressive and it seems to be working for him; he jumps on pitches early and makes pitchers pay.  Yes…. once in a while he gets burned and like any power hitter he strikes out but If you ask Jones to be less aggressive you risk losing what makes him great.

So we talked about the good; what about the ugly?  If Adam is so good early in the count he must be atrocious late in the count or we wouldn’t even be having this debate right?  In his career Adam Jones with two strikes has hit .203 with a slugging percentage of .314; to put this in perspective in these same situations Miguel Cabrera in his career has hit .229 and slugged .395 and Mike Trout has hit .230 and slugged .346.  So what does all this mean and how does Adam truly compare with some of the best in the game?

Well Miguel Cabrera’s .229/.395 with 2 strikes is exactly .100 points below his career average of .329 and .172 points below his career Slugging of .567. Mike Trout’s 2 strike numbers of .230/.346 are .085 and .201 below his respective career numbers. Jones career .203 avg and .314 slugging are .076 and .145 below his career average and slugging. So he actually loses less in 2 strike counts than Cabrera and Trout; of course the overall numbers are lower because he is being compared to THE TWO GREATEST hitters in baseball but the moral of the story is… hitting with 2 strikes is really……. really….. really……. really….. really hard. So hard that the best hitters on the planet have a 22-23% success rate and AJ is just behind them at 20%.  Comparing him to players closer to his skill level Andrew McCutchen hits .203 and sluggs .335 in his career with 2 strikes. Matt Kemp hits .194 and only sluggs .311. Jose Bautista has a career .181 avg and .313 Slugging with 2 strikes.

As a team leader and franchise player Adam Jones should try to get better every day in any way that he can but this doesn’t necessarily mean that he needs to adapt and change his style of play to do more of what fans want him to do.  If Adam can lower his K rate and increase his BB rate it would make him a better player but that shouldn’t be done by driving him away from what he does that makes him great.  Without making any changes Adam Jones is a career .279 hitter coming off of back to back seasons of 30+ home runs and 30+ doubles while hitting over .280 in each of those years.  If you’re into advanced metrics (I am not) Adam’s oWAR for the past two seasons is 4.1 and 5.6, not far off from Chris Davis’ 6.7 and better than Joey Bats 2012 and 2013 numbers where he finished slightly above 3.  Solid numbers for a guy who is a leader on and off the field and contributes to the team with his bat, glove, legs, and heart.

The Orioles as a team have an issue with plate discipline; guys like JJ Hardy, Manny Machado (in 2013), Johnathan Schoop, and even Chris Davis should be working to be more selective, wait for their pitch, and if that pitch never comes take the walk and stand on first.  I personally feel asking Adam Jones to stop hacking aggressively would be like asking Brett Favre to stop throwing across his body or asking Allan Iverson to stop throwing up every shot he can get his hands on.  In theory it may be the right call but you risk taking away what makes that player special.