As we've all seen over the years, Adam Jones has a propensity for swinging (and missing) at a lot of sliders down and away. This year, it seems like this is being taken to another level by pitchers across the league. What I want to do in this study is answer the following questions:
1. Are pitchers really pitching him any different this year compared to past years?
2. Just how much worse (or better) is Jones at pitches down and away?
3. Is Jones getting any better at laying off those pitches?
4. What does all this mean?
Let's answer these one at a time. I realize that there is a danger in considering only a month's worth of data vs. several years, but as you'll see in the end it didn't really amount to much. My apologies in advance for all the big pics, but I had to make them that way so the data could be seen clearly.
Are pitchers really pitching him any different?
To examine this, let's look at what brooksbaseball.net says about the location of all pitches he's seen prior to this year:
Note the amount of pitches down and away (Jones himself stands on the left side of all these charts). At first blush, it appears there's more pitches down and away than in past seasons, but that's not really the case considering the sample size. It appears that from a pure location standpoint, not much, if anything, has changed. This is also true of non-fastball pitches:
So if the location of pitches isn't any different, what about the types of pitches? Well, again brooksbaseball is not showing too much difference. So far this year, he's faced about 62% fastballs on all pitches, which is in line with his career numbers. The conclusion I draw is that despite my initial thinking, Adam Jones is not being pitched to any differently in 2014 than he was prior to 2014.
What are the results of these pitches?
Well, as can be expected, they aren't good. There is one surprise here though- despite being pitched down and away a lot more than any other location, especially with non-fastballs, his whiff rate for his career is lower above the strike zone on all pitches during his career:
However, when non-fastballs are considered, the whiff rate is very high below the zone:
He also does not connect on half of all non-fastballs low and over the plate, and 2/3 of all non-fastballs low and off the plate at either side. All other locations with a significant sample size are under 30%.
Lastly, let's look at his career slugging percentage, all pitches vs. non-fastballs:
Adding all this up, we can draw some more conclusions:
1. Combining the above plots shows that he is being pitched correctly. He has shown no power on non-fastballs down and away, while showing a high propensity of swinging and missing at them.
2. You have to wonder what goes through his mind when he sees those pitches coming. While Jones does have some good results within the strike zone, he is particularly strong on pitches within the top-left half of the strike zone. Absent knowing what pitch is coming, he'd be better served waiting on mistakes up, or at least mistakes inside.
Any improvement on laying off those pitches?
For this question, let's look at the swing rate of all non-fastball pitches, prior to this year and so far this year:
Welp, this was easy. These plots are virtually identical, even with small sample size working against us here.
What does it all mean?
During this study, I examined whether or not Adam Jones was being pitched to differently this year compared to past seasons. It doesn't appear so, at least in the location of the pitch and whether or not he gets a fastball. It was also shown that the typical approach taken by pitchers is the correct one, as Jones does not hit for power on pitches low and away, and is prone to swinging and missing at those type of pitches. I have also concluded that the approach Jones takes is not vastly different this year so far than the rest of career.
So what gives? Why is Jones a couple infield hits away from flirting with the Mendoza line and where has his power gone? If I were to guess, based on what I've done here, that since nothing has changed- in the way he is being pitched or the way Jones is approaching hitting- that we should expect previous results. Baseball is rife with guys who have gotten hot and into slumps, and Jones is just going through a bit of a slump for the first part of this year.