Staff writer Alex Conway runs his weekly notes post on all of his thoughts about the past week of Orioles Baseball.
Baseball is weird. Sweep the Pirates in a double header, feel great about the team, lose 2 out 3 to the hapless Twins pitching staff, all is lost, sweep the Rays, here comes the World Series. The seemingly horrendous at bats the Orioles were having against the Twins switched to much better at bats against the Rays as they were able to chase the starters early, especially David Price. The Orioles have a decent shot at an extended winning streak with Houston coming into town before the Tigers arrive on Monday. Although, predicting game to game outcomes in baseball is getting more and more pointless. Onto the notes…
Adam Jones is roundly criticized on on a nightly basis by the Orioles fan base and media. He is attacked for being undisciplined at the plate and in the outfield for his errors. He is accused of being unfocused, lazy, and overconfident. Fans focus on his flaws rather than his skills. I believe Adam Jones is unappreciated in his greatness as an Oriole. He has molded himself into one of the most productive outfielders in the Major Leagues, especially when you consider that his position is center field which is a premium position.
Adam Jones started his Orioles career in 2008. Beginning in 2008 he has had fWAR seasons of 1.6, 1.6, 2.5, 2.5, 4.4, and 4.3. According to fWAR, since 2008 he has been the 15th most valuable center fielder in major league baseball out of 64 qualified players. Since 2012, when he reached his career peak, he has been the 4th best center fielder in the major leagues and the second best in the American League only behind Mike Trout. Also, since 2012, he has been the 10th most valuable overall outfielder in all of baseball. Since 2008 he has the second most homeruns for a center fielder and since 2012 he has the most. He is a top flight outfielder playing in the most important position in the outfield.
Defensively, he does show some inconsistency. The advanced defensive metrics peg him somewhere around average to below average in the field. (By the way, even though its a small sample size, he has posted a positive UZR thus far this season). Watching the games he seems average with the glove. The mistakes are frustrating, but he makes up for them with some good plays. He’s far from the worst fielding center fielder. And,for what its worth (not much) he has won three gold gloves, so people in the industry seem to like his defensive skills.
Basically, Adam Jones is a great position player and a supreme talent. It would be great if he started walking 10-15% of the time, but that’s not the kind of player he is. Also, what happens to him if he tried to do that? If he took away his aggressiveness at the plate? Its hard to argue that a batter can simply increase their plate discipline without losing any other skills. His power might fall, his average might fall. Its too reductive to assume an increase in walk rate would lead to no decrease at all in any other part of his game. So enjoy Adam Jones for what he is now, one of the best outfielders in baseball.
Britton has been simply amazing this year and a joy to watch work. He is getting ground balls at a higher rate than any other reliever in the league at 83.9% of the time. This is backed up by the lowest fly ball rate, 7.1%, and the second lowest line drive rate at 8.9%. Britton’s swinging strike rate is double what it was when he was a starter. He has been far and away the best pitcher on the Orioles to date this season. It’s hard to know what would happen if Britton was transitioned back to a starting and the bullpen needs him right now, but Dan and Buck have to at least be considering the transition at some point down the road.