As fans of any team in any sports, it’s easy to take almost everything for granted. We expect perfection out of our teams on a nightly basis; it’s in our blood. And when something goes awry, even for the top one-percent of talented players in the league, boos can quickly rain down from the masses.
It might not be fair, but it’s the nature of the entire sports world. As fans, taking things for granted is one of the things we do best.
Throughout Adam Jones’ time in Birdland, he’s consistently been not only one of the Orioles best players, but one of the best centerfielders in the game of baseball. He isn’t — nor will he ever be — a poster boy for Major League Baseball and that’s perfectly OK.
Jones is the essence of the hard-working spirit of Baltimore, leaving it all out on the diamond every single night. It’s not appreciated enough, but his presence is vital to Buck Showalter’s club’s success. Without Jones, these winning seasons wouldn’t be happening.
Especially this season, in the crunch time of September, it’s time to give #10 a bit more appreciation, praise that he undoubtedly deserves.
A marvelous turnaround
Albeit facing a pesky rib cage injury, Jones struggled mightily throughout much of April and May.
In April, he slashed .224/.297/.328 through 67 at-bats, seemingly laboring through the 19 games he played in. As he and the likes of Jonathan Schoop and Pedro Alvarez struggled, the bats with high expectations were mercifully bailed out by bats of Nolan Reimold and Joey Rickard, who provided much-needed boosts in the OBP column.
May brought improvement as Jones fought through the ribcage injury, but the numbers didn’t total up much better. He hit just .241 as he saw his OBP dip to .288 on the month. There were flashes of a better Jones, but they were overshadowed by stretches like the one he faced between May 17th-26th, where he went 3-37 (.081).
Entering May 27th’s game against the Indians, he was hitting just .223 in total with an ugly .282 on-base percentage. Thus, when we look back on this season and wonder why Jones wasn’t an All-Star selection, we have our answer.
But once the calendar flipped into the month of June, Jones found a rhythm, a missing groove that had been hurting the lineup as a whole.
In 28 games in June, there were just four hitless games for the centerfielder. He collected 38 hits in total to compile a .314 batting average on the month, blasting 11 home runs and compiling 27 RBI. By the end of the month, he had his total average up to .267 to pair with a .317 on-base mark.
As the weather warmed, his bat did the same.
Both July and August saw Jones perform well in the dog days of summer, consistently adding a valuable bat to the one-through-nine. Last month, he hit .309 in 24 games, spraying the ball around and utilizing singles to get on base.
Patience is a virtue
What’s been impressive in Jones’ totals for 2016 is his ability to work a bit deeper into counts and find a way to earn free-passes. Sure, his numbers are still lower than you might like to see, but his improvements can’t be denied.
For reference, his past walk percentages since 2012 (BB/PA): 4.1% (2015), 2.7% (2014), 3.6% (2013) 4.8% (2012).
This year, Jones is walking at a rate of 5.6%, a number that would be his best since 2009. For a player that has been working to find a way to boost his on-base percentage, that’s encouraging.
However, that doesn’t mean Jones doesn’t have teeing off on his mind completely when he enters the box. He’s still swinging early in counts, but he’s had success while doing so.
He’s gone 30-93 (.323) when putting the ball in play on an 0-0 count, hitting 10 home runs in those situations. Now, swinging away 0-0 is generally a hitter-friendly situation, and it should be noted that he’s not even the best 0-0 hitter on the team.
However, he’s improved the mark from last year (.286) and has steadily shown seemingly improved pitch selection on the season, great news for the rest of the way in 2016.
The outlook for the rest of the season
September baseball is exciting for everyone involved. It separates the men from the boys and gives an opportunity for big-time players to make big-time contributions in playoff pushes. And even though he isn’t always treated as such on the national stage, Jones is undoubtedly one of those stars.
He’ll have to improve his numbers against left-handers (.228 average, .263 OBP) and perhaps draw even a few more walks, but winning numbers are on the horizon for Jones and the entirety of the Orioles lineup.
As #10 goes, the results should follow in similar form.
The 31-year-old has a bright opportunity in front of him — one to show the rest of the league that he truly is one of baseball’s brightest stars.
He won’t get the fanfare of the media’s favorite young-guns, but Mr. Jones is on pace to lead his club to potential new heights in the 2016 postseason. The time is now.
All stats compiled before Tuesday night’s game against Boston.