Adam Jones was bitten by the injury bug multiple times in 2015. He had back spasms, a strained shoulder, and messed up his neck and wrist running into an outfield fence. And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head. Jones, up until 2015 had been a model of consistency in the Orioles lineup.
From 2010 to 2014 Jones hit between .280 and .287 every year. From 2011 to 2014 he posted an OPS+ of between 111 and 125. A hitter the team could always count on to grind, as he likes to say, day in and day out.
However, 2015 was also the first year since 2011 he played in less than 150 games. He was injured for large portions of the year and tried to play through it all the best he could. However, while he was having an excellent season, as the schedule dragged on into August and September his numbers nosedived.
In 194 Plate Appearances in August and September Jones hit .227/.258/.427 striking out 23.2 percent of the time. It’s hard to play baseball well when perfectly healthy, it’s even harder when you have to deal with nagging injuries.
2016 started off no easier for Jones as some “sore ribs” or what was probably an oblique injury popped up in the very first series of the year. Oblique injuries are tough to rehab and tough to play with. Jones played anyways. From April 4th to May 26th in 170 plate appearances Jones hit .223/.282/.357. A bad line for anyone, especially for Jones.
Since May 27th in 346 plate appearances Jones has hit .299/.333/.513 with 19 home runs and 11 doubles (numbers do not include Sunday’s game). This run has brought his overall season line to .274/.317/.461. Good for a 103 wRC+. His numbers are rebounding and he is showing no signs of slowing down with a .825 OPS to date in August.
The May 27th is the one I chose because that is the day that Buck Showalter chose to bat Jones in the lead off spot. While I find it hard to believe that batting order is the main driver of Jones’ recent success, the results cannot be denied. So, that leaves me wondering what the actual reason is for the huge uptick in production.
The most glaring difference between the two sets is that in the first part of the season Jones had a .254 BABIP whereas now he has a .302 BABIP. The .302 number is much closer to his career .309 BABIP.
Among other batted ball data, there is not much of a difference. Interestingly, he has gone more to opposite field more in recent months (27.6 percent compared to 18.7 percent). Also, a few more line drive and a few less ground balls. Good for the BABIP.
From a plate disciple standpoint, during his hot streak he has both walked less (7.1 percent versus 5.2 percent) and struck out less (20 percent versus 15.6 percent). Also, he is swinging at more pitches overall (57.8 percent versus 62.2 percent). Including more pitches inside (79.6 percent versus 85 percent) and outside (39.2 percent versus 46.5 percent) of the strike zone.
Also, on those swings he is making more contact (73.6 percent versus 75.4 percent). All the while his swinging strike rate has stayed exactly the same at 15.3 percent. Jones has never been all that patient, but I doubt many people thought him swinging at more pitches would lead to better results. I guess that goes to show you that people do not always know what they are talking about. That includes myself by the way.
Maybe it all has to do with the fact that he is batting lead off. Lead off hitters might get pitched differently than a hitter in the 3rd spot. However, that at least is not the case for Jones. He has basically seen the exact same mix of pitches as he did when batted lower in the order.
The only somewhat intriguing difference is that his first pitch strike percentage was 63.5 percent in April and May and has been 67.1 percent since he begun hitting out of the lead off spot. Otherwise, the pitch locations are very similar
That does not leave much in the way of an answer, or at least a good answer. But, Jones’ peripheral numbers have been basically in line with his career averages all season long. The only real difference was his BABIP which in 2015 and thus far in 2016 has been well off his career mark.
The reversion to the mean over the last three months might alone explain his ever increasing numbers. It pays to have good luck from time to time in baseball. Baseball is a grind and you have to go out and do it everyday and wait for the tide to swing back in your favor and in that sense there is no superior to Adam Jones.