What's wrong with Adam Jones at the plate?

First a disclaimer - I love Adam Jones on the Orioles. He is, by far, my favorite player and personality on the team. I follow his Twitter updates, I love his gum chewing, and the next O's jersey I will buy will be his.

But my man ain't right in 2010. His decline began in the second half of 2009 before an injury ended his season prematurely, and he's picked up where he left off this year. So what is wrong with Adam Jones at the plate this year?

To answer the question, I went to the data. FanGraphs and TexasLeaguers provide some great resources, so the data I'm using comes from them or their sources. I decided to compare Adam Jones' Fangraph data to the best-known batting eye on the Orioles - Nick Markakis and his FanGraph data. The main problem? Believe it or not, it's not curveballs.

The data, and my thoughts, after the jump.

I start in 2008, Adam's first full season in the majors and Nick's third. I've focused on two areas - pitches seen (how pitchers treat them) and plate discipline (how the batter reacts to what's thrown).

Starting in 2008, contrary to what I believed, Adam hasn't really seen that many more curves than Nick - less than 1% more in 2008, less than 0.50% in 2009, and even with the small sample size of 8 games, only 3% more this year. So it's not like pitchers are feeding him nothing but curves. The amount of sliders he's seen has declined every year he's been in the league, and although his 2010 number of cutters is skewed due to small sample size, he's seen a rather small number of those, too.

So, in many ways, the two batters have seen similar pitches for the last three years. For 2008 and 2009, the difference in the amount of strikes thrown to each batter is almost statistically insignificant - 2 more strikes for every 100 pitches for Jones in 2008, less than 1 every 200 pitches in 2009. Jones sees, on average, 5% fewer fastballs, but that's basically one fewer fastball every 3-4 plate appearances.

So where does the fault lie? In what each batter does with pitches in and out of the zone.

Markakis, as one would guess, doesn't swing at balls out of the zone. He swings at about 1 out of every 5 balls that aren't a strike. Last year, he swung at about 5% more than the year before, driving down his walks. So far, after 8 games, he's back to being more selective, although not yet at 2008 levels.

Jones, as is his reputation, is a much more free swinger. For his career, he's swinging, on average, at about 1 out of every 3 balls outside the strike zone, and so far after 8 games, it's almost half. He's swinging at 9 out of every 20 balls that AREN'T in the strike zone. He's swinging at junk of every kind. He's more than 10% above the league average in Swing Percentage, while Markakis is 10% below.

And Jones is seeing more strikes in 2010. Almost 50% of the pitches thrown to him this year have been strikes, while Markakis has seen significantly fewer. Only a little more than 1 out of every 3 pitches has been a strike for Markakis.

The spray chart for pitches for Jones tells a tale, also - a tale of a hitter swinging and missing at too many pitches within the strike zone, and a hitter taking too many inside pitches for called strikes.  Simply put, pitchers are busting him in, and he's not making them pay.

So what is Jones doing different so far this year?

  • He's seeing, or swinging at, 72% of first pitches for strikes. That's almost 3 in every 4 plate appearance he's either put the ball in play (usually for an out) or down 0-1 before he's seen the second pitch.
  • He's also swinging at almost half the balls outside the strike zone that he sees. And when you swing at 45% of the balls out of the strike zone you see, and only make contact with 56% of them, that's not going to lead to success.
  • He's taking too many pitches inside for strikes - pitchers aren't afraid to bust him in close.

Adam Jones should find more success by swinging less at balls outside the zone while protecting the inner third of the plate (seemingly incongruous goals), and swinging less at the first pitch. Those three slight changes might go a long way to helping Jones find his way out of this season-beginning slump.

All Data as of end of games Tuesday, April 13.

PITCHES SEEN

Season

Fastball

Slider

Cutter

Curveball

Changeup

2008 JONES

54.50%

19.50%

6.30%

10.80%

6.70%

2008 MARKAKIS

60.90%

12.90%

5.40%

9.90%

8.90%

2009 JONES

56.60%

17.30%

5.90%

9.40%

10.40%

2009 MARKAKIS

61.90%

13.00%

6.80%

9.00%

8.20%

2010 JONES

56.00%

12.00%

15.00%

8.00%

9.00%

2010 MARKAKIS

71.20%

7.90%

4.30%

5.00%

10.10%

PLATE DISCIPLINE

Season

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

2008 JONES

36.20%

69.10%

53.50%

62.10%

83.80%

76.90%

52.70%

66.00%

12.10%

2008 MARKAKIS

18.00%

64.20%

41.20%

69.20%

88.90%

84.60%

50.10%

58.00%

6.20%

2008 MLB AVERAGE

25.40%

65.40%

45.90%

61.70%

87.90%

80.80%

51.10%

58.60%

8.60%

2009 JONES

35.30%

73.20%

53.70%

57.60%

83.30%

74.60%

48.40%

57.80%

13.30%

2009 MARKAKIS

23.00%

60.90%

41.50%

73.10%

91.70%

86.40%

48.80%

57.10%

5.40%

2009 MLB AVERAGE

25.10%

65.90%

45.20%

61.80%

87.80%

80.50%

49.40%

58.20%

8.60%

2010 JONES

45.10%

68.80%

56.60%

56.50%

87.90%

75.00%

48.50%

72.20%

14.90%

2010 MARKAKIS

21.40%

58.00%

34.50%

79.00%

86.20%

83.30%

36.00%

55.60%

4.80%

2010 MLB AVERAGE

26.50%

64.00%

44.80%

64.20%

88.50%

81.10%

48.80%

57.40%

8.20%

O-Swing% - Percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone

Z-Contact% - Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown inside the strike zone

Z-Swing% - Percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone.

Contact% - Total percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches

Swing% - Total percentage of pitches a batter swings at

Zone% - Percentage of pitches seen inside the strike zone

O-Contact% - Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone

F-Strike% - First pitch strike percentage

SwStr% - Percentage of all pitches missed by a swing

 

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