It's often taken for granted, as is the notion, but Adam Jones continues to be one of more unappreciated commodities in baseball. It is known.
Jonesy's lifetime .278/.318/.462 slash as a do-it-all center fielder remains overlooked. He whiffs too much they say. His UZR is strangely negative, they input into a formula. That's bad and all, until you see .270ish/.320ish/.460ish with 25ish home runs, 90ish RBIs and another Gold Glove on the mantle. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Where there is understanding in the frustration folks stammer in the mention of Jones, the coinciding strikeouts and oft-careless aggression, rational and irrational fans alike tend to expect too much rather than appreciating a player for what he is.
With that being said, Jonesy was borderline Jack and Jill unwatchable at the plate in April.
Hitting .224 with a .626 OPS and lone home run in 74 plate appearances last month, Jones just looked off. Something wasn't quite right. There was, of course, the lingering oblique issue that seemed to perpetuate much of the early struggle.
Hitting a baseball versus a Major League pitcher is an inhuman act injuries not withstanding, so a strain associated with a player's core, the most vital element of a hitter's success, isn't deserving of your scoff. Jonesy is a violent hitter who thrives off of his guided aggression. Subtract the force that makes him what he is and he turns into something he is not. Though, if Jonesy was somewhat 100% for most of the way, then, well, I got nothin'.
Yet, as bad it was in April, the fortunes have reversed in May, more specifically, the past two or so weeks. Excluding last night's win, Jones is hitting .304/.350/.550 this month with four home runs, equating to a .386 wOBA. That is more than a .100 point jump compared to April. To the eye of the couch beholder, he looks more locked in and swinging without restraint. As Jonesy will always be a man with a demonstrative, fearless swing, one of his pros is the ability to hit even the best fastball.
Jonesy has historically been a hitter skilled enough to lift a fastball on the inner-half of the plate, but early on, he just wasn't meeting the barrel of the bat to the baseball. Jones' swing and approach hasn't changed much, if it all, for as long as we've seen him, which makes seeing ground balls to the left side of the infield such as this so frustrating.
I do think there is blame to be placed on his oblique for a possible lack of explosion. Fear of re-injuring your side when trying to hit big league pitching is not ideal when you are in fact trying to hit big league pitching. Even the slightest lack of assurance probably means you're at-bat is ending in an out.
Is Jones fully healthy? We'll likely never know the extent of the oblique unless it reoccurs, but by golly is Jones recompensing for his troubles. The number of ground balls after May 10 has shot down substantially, while line drives and impressive exit velocity continue to mount. In a surprising twist, Jonesy has cut down on his branded reckless abandon.
In April and early May, Jonesy fell victim to his own hubris, swinging at nearly every off-speed or breaking pitch he saw. Most of these numbers actually fall close to his career swing numbers, shocking no one. However, Jones has turned the aggression dial down from 11 to about an 8, easing his transition from the doldrums.
Maybe Jonesy himself was overcome with angst after a lifetime of whiffing on first pitch sliders, but here we are. A world where he is under control. The range that opens the eyes the widest is the nearly 13% increase in swings at fastballs. And with Jones being Jones, still managing to swing at nearly everything but somehow with a purpose, where are the other swings being deallocated? From sliders and changeups.
Though Jonesy's whiffing at more changeups and sliders, he's also declining invitations. Rather than being suckered into a 1-1 changeup or slider, for example, Jones is working ahead in the count, seeing more fastballs. And when someone such as Jose Berrios or Brandon Kintzler tries to sneak a get-ahead curveball to start an AB, Jonesy has made them pay. Ol' number 10 is seeing the ball much better than he was to start the year, and in baseball, it happens.
How long the fun lasts is anyone's guess, but Jones was sure in need of getting going, as were the Orioles needing him. I'm not sure it's coincidence the Orioles strung together seven-consecutive wins while Jones was knocking off the cobwebs. So kids, the lesson we learned today is that if Jonesy swings at NEARLY everything rather than everything, good things are more likely to occur.
But it's hard not to love him anyway.