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By the numbers, 2014 was Adam Jones's best season yet for the Orioles

You might not guess it from looking at his counting stats or slash line, but FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference agree that 2014 was actually Adam Jones's best performance to date.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes we Oriole fans take Adam Jones for granted, getting frustrated when he swings at and misses a low-and-away slider or gets a bad jump on a fly ball, but forgetting about the thirty or so home runs, solid .280 to .290 batting average, and good baserunning. His weaknesses stand out because they contrast so strongly with his strengths - strikeouts versus power, middling OBP versus good batting average, speed versus sometimes inconsistent defense. Worse still is that Jones has some serious competition: Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen are out there, and in 2014, six center fielders were worth five or more wins according to FanGraphs.

In short, Adam Jones may not quite be a superstar, but he is a star, and we're lucky to have him. That said, a brief glance at his offensive numbers over the past few years might be cause for concern:

2012 .287 .334 .505 4.9% 18.1% .218 127
2013 .285 .318 .493 3.6% 19.7% .208 119
2014 .281 .311 .469 2.8% 19.5% .188 117

The pattern there isn't inspiring, as Jones's OBP and SLG both dropped a bit from '12 to '13, and his SLG fell even more from '13 to '14. Notice, though, that hitting around the league has declined enough over the past couple of years that Jones's offense relative to the league hasn't really fallen off that much, as reflected by his wRC+. Now, here's another set of stats:

2012 -6.5 -16 127 4.4 3.8
2013 -6.8 -2 119 4.2 4.1
2014 +8.3 +2 117 5.4 4.9

Jones won a Gold Glove, as was announced last night. He's been a frequent target of writers in the past for winning the award without having the numbers to back them up. This year, though, as our own Mark Brown argued, he's a reasonable choice at worst (with apologies to Leonys Martin for not making the final three nominees). The result of that improved defensive evaluation is that both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference think Jones was better in 2014 than he was in any prior season, despite his offense falling off a bit. He may not have made it to thirty home runs this year, nor double-digit stolen bases, but Jones was this year's true Most Valuable Oriole.

Given that the Orioles have Jones under contract through 2018, it's very good indeed that his defense is still decent. Granted, defensive statistics are still works in progress, and we shouldn't let a single year's worth of their data drastically change our assumptions about a player's skill with the glove. But another year of above-average to plus defense from Jones would go a long way to affirming the opinions around the league that Jones is better than the metrics indicate, as well as give hope that he can remain not just a good hitter, but Baltimore's center fielder over the course of his contract.