The Power and the Patience of Adam Jones

Greg Fiume

Adam Jones hits a lot of home runs. He doesn't walk a lot. This contrast deserves further study, don't you think?

Adam Jones has never walked a lot, but in 2013 he's making other hitters look like Zen monks of patience. Your average major leaguer draws a walk between 8 and 9% of the time. Here are Adam Jones's walk rates:

  • 2008: 4.5%
  • 2009: 6.9%
  • 2010: 3.7%
  • 2011: 4.7%
  • 2012: 4.9%
  • 2013 (70 games): 2.6%.

Let me be clear: I'm not here to argue that Jones doesn't walk enough, because the same can be said of nearly any baseball player. Jones is worth a lot: he's sitting around league-average in OBP, plays great defense in center, steals bases like crazy (he hasn't been caught yet this year) and obviously hits a lot for power. I just think it's fascinating what Jones is doing this year.

Adam's pace this year is historic. Since 1932, I found only one player who slugged over .500 with a walk rate that low. In 1994, Carlos Baerga did the trick. He slugged .525 with a 2.1% walk rate (10 walks in 469 PA). You'll note that 1994 was a shortened season, meaning Baerga would have likely walked a few more times had the strike not occurred. We shall never know.

Adam has 8 walks and is on pace for 18 walks over a full season. This would be a little more than half of his 2012 total (34). The highest SLG ever recorded for someone with 18 or fewer walks over a relatively full season of 600+ PA is .458 by Gary Templeton in 1979.

In 2013, Jones is the only one in the .500 SLG club with fewer than 11 walks. Carlos Gomez has 11, Carlos Beltran and Jean Segura are next with 12, and Mitch Moreland has 14. As far as his 2.6% walk rate is concerned, only Jeff Keppinger, Salvador Perez, and J.P. Arencibia walk less often.

This year Jones has hit 1.75 home runs for every base on balls - well above the average of 0.40. Only Arencibia has a higher ratio (2.33 HR/BB), and he is slugging .445. J.J. Hardy (0.76) and Chris Davis (0.72) also represent the O's in the top 20.

Adam has walked so infrequently that I can describe each occurrence to you:

  • April 7th against Minnesota: Leading off the bottom of the 2nd, with the score tied 0-0, Jones walked on a 3-1 count from Pedro Hernandez. He scored two batters later when J.J. Hardy hit a home run, but the O's would go on to lose, 4-3.
  • April 20th against the Dodgers: In the bottom of the 1st, with the Orioles down 3-0, Jones worked a full count walk against Hyun-Jin Ryu. The walk forced Nick Markakis to second base; unfortunately, Matt Wieters immediately GIDP'd. The O's won, 7-5.
  • April 30th against Seattle: With the O's leading a 7-2 blowout in the top of the 8th, Eric Wedge ordered Oliver Perez to intentionally walk Jones, who had not yet reached base that day.
  • May 4th against the Angels: The O's were ahead 2-0 and there was one out in the top of the 5th. Manny Machado was on third, and Jones worked Tommy Hanson for a walk. He then stole second, and Nolan Reimold hit a sacrifice fly to bring Machado in. Jones was left on the bases when Hardy flew out to left. The O's won, 5-4.
  • May 5th, also against the Angels: In the top of the 4th, Jones led off with a walk against Jerome Williams. He scored three batters later when J.J. Hardy brought him around on a two-run home run. The O's won 8-4.
  • May 7th against Kansas City: Adam must have been on some kind of muscle relaxant to make him more patient; this was his third walk in three days. With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th, Jones worked a leadoff walk against Tim Collins. He moved to second on a throwing error by Luke Hochevar, who'd replaced Collins and attempted to pick Jones off first. It was a fruitful endeavor, as Jones scored the go-ahead run when Wieters doubled him home. The O's won, 4-3.
  • May 12th against Minnesota: The O's were up 4-0 in the top of the 5th with runners on second and third, and Ron Gardenhire ordered Scott Diamond to intentionally walk Jones to load the bases. The tactic backfired when Chris Davis grounded out to first, scoring Nick Markakis. The O's eventually won, 6-0. Jones kept his HR/BB ratio consistent by hitting a home run in this game.
  • May 18th against Tampa Bay: with the O's ahead 6-4 and one out in the bottom of the 6th, Jones took a 3-2 pitch from Alex Torres and walked. He would be stranded by Chris Davis (flyout to right) and Matt Wieters (swinging strikeout). The O's lost the game 10-6; Jones homered in this game also.

May 18th!? Yep, that's it. Jones hasn't taken a base on balls, intentional or not, in a month. And that's OK by me.

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