Baltimore Orioles 2013 in review: Adam Jones

Al Messerschmidt

Adam Jones delivered nicely on his megacontract in 2013.

Adam Jones had a very Adam Jones year in 2013. In his age-27 season, the recipient of the largest contract in team history (six years, $85.5 million guaranteed) basically repeated his breakout 2012 season that got him signed in the first place. In 2012 he achieved 4.3 fWAR on the strength of 126 wRC+ (.287/.334/.505, 32 HR). This year he notched 4.2 fWAR with 118 wRC+ (.285/.318/.493 with 33 HR).

Note the drop in OBP. That's because Jones walked nearly 5% of the time in 2012 but just 3.6% of the time this year. That walk rate was third-worst in the AL, ahead of only A.J. Pierzynski and Alcides Escobar. Fun fact: from May 19th to July 3rd, a span of 43 games, Jones didn't draw a single walk. Not one! As you might expect, it was the longest such streak in the AL; only Juan Pierre in the NL had a longer streak in the majors.

I mentioned that Jones created 18% more runs than the average hitter. Among AL center fielders, only Mike Trout created more runs. Looking back historically, it was the 11th-best offensive season for a full-time center fielder in O's history. (Jones's 2012 season ranks #7.) That's something Jones, the Orioles, and the team's fanbase can be proud of.

If you add in defense and base running to the mix, you get 4.2 fWAR. This was the third-best on the team (behind, of course, Chris Davis and Manny Machado), third-most among AL CFs (behind Trout and Jacoby Ellsbury), and 13th-best among O's center fielders throughout history (behind, among others, himself in 2012).

Some people (okay … including me) became frustrated with Jones as he swung at pitch after pitch in the dirt, racking up a seemingly-endless number of strikeouts. After all, he had four hat tricks and a golden sombrero on the year, and he did strike out more often than he did last year. However, so did everyone else, meaning Jones's K rate this year was actually below average (his 19.7% to the game's 19.9%). And only 12% of his 136 strikeouts came with a runner on third, when a K hurts the most.

What fans may have felt is the fact that nearly a third of his K's occurred in a high-leverage situation (something like when the score is close in the later innings and there are runners on base). I have no idea whether that's unusual or not, but it certainly doesn't help fans calm down when watching him miss a slider low and away. But overall it's not like Jones had trouble driving in runs -- he knocked in over 100 of them this year. And if you measure the boost he gave to the O's chances of winning games, he was the 13th-best in the AL this year, strikeouts and all.

Anytime your season ranks in the top 20 all-time among your team's nearly 60-year history, you can be proud of what you're doing. But Jones not only racked up big numbers, he saved the O's a bunch of money. FanGraphs estimates he was worth about $21 million to the team this year. His salary? A paltry $8.5 million. That's $12.5 million worth of production the O's got for free. To put it another way, he provided about 1/4 the value of his contract in 1/6 its length. That $12.5 million is nearly equal to his 2014 salary, meaning Jones can miss the entire season and, from a monetary perspective at least, still come out even in terms of value.

Speaking of 2014, Jones's prospects remain bright. There's no strong reason to believe he can't repeat what he's done from 2012-2013. His BABIP this year was almost exactly career-average, indicating his performance was defined largely by his skillset and not luck. And 2014 will be his age-28 season. If anything, there's a small chance his HR/FB rate will regress, given that he has set career highs three years in a row now. But given that he's in his prime, the chance is small, and even if he hits 28 HRs instead of 33, Jones will be a valuable member of the 2014 Orioles.

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