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Monday, November 21, 2011

Hot Stove: Adam Jones vs. LHP

Adam Jones - Baltimore - 2009 Black Alternate

Given that I started the book in April, you would probably say that I am slowly making my way through the 2011 Baseball Prospectus. Moreover, I do not read the team (and adjoining player) summaries in order. Rather, I read the comments for the good teams first. I'm now on the Baltimore Orioles section (meaning I'm nearly finished), which is why I read the Adam Jones comment today. Jones is a right-handed hitting outfielder for the Os.

In any case, the 2011 BP points out that Jones has had a weird platoon split in his career. He has been fairly bad against left-handed pitchers (LHP), which is abnormal for right-handed hitters. Put succinctly,
"The average platoon advantage for right-handed batters in 9%. Righties hit 9% better against lefties than righties."
I checked the end of year statistics for 2011 and Jones did it again this season. His "triple slash" line vs. LHP was .242/.293/.373 (batting average, on-base average, slugging percentage) for an OPS of .685 in 2011. Versus RHP, he hit .295/.329/.829. For his career, he's now .253/.303/.370 vs. LHP and .285/.326/.464 vs. RHP. That's over 100 points in OPS advantage against same-sided pitchers.

The career lines include about 700 plate appearances versus LHP and nearly 1700 versus RHP. Jones is a talented and fairly young player and still could improve his game. However, as BP points out, if he does not improve in some areas, he could end up as a fourth outfielder -- a useful, but ultimately replaceable reserve.

It seems more-and-more clear that Jones's reverse-platoon split is not the product of an overly small sample size from a single season. Rather, it is a fairly odd (and in this case, unfortunate) player trait. As BP said.

Yahoo has a link to let users see Batter vs. Pitchers matchups, so I had a closer look at Jones. He has had quite a bit of difficulty against some of the league's premier left-handed pitchers. John Danks (CHX), Gio Gonzalez (OAK), Cliff Lee (CLE-SEA-TEX-PHI), Jon Lester (BOS) and David Price (TAM) have dominated him. Against these five pitchers, Jones is 18-for-101 with 3 doubles, one home run. and only 7 walks received. That would make for a horrible triple slash line, around .178/.231/.238. That is an approximation because I didn't bother to see if Jones had reached base because he was hit-by-pitcher or if he had any sacrifice flies against these hurlers.

Moreover, against Brett Cecil (TOR) and Jason Vargas (SEA), guys who are not household names and not discussed as potential Cy Young candidates, Jones is 5-for-33 with 1 walk. That's around a .152/.176/.152 line. I didn't find very many other LHP that Jones has faced more than 10 times in his career.

To show the importance of sample size -- and to reveal that Jones has done much better against some lefties -- consider Jones's performance against staff aces Ricky Romero (TOR) and C.C. Sabathia (NYY): 22-for-70 with 3 doubles, a triple and 3 home runs, plus 4 walks. That's about a .314/.351/.514 line. If Jones could hit that well against all LHP, he'd be a star given his proven ability versus right-handed pitchers and his defensive skills.

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