Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hot Start for Adam Jones

One of the biggest stories of Opening Day (well, other than this) was the great game played by Adam Jones. The 23-year old started the season with a bang, recording three hits, including a triple, two walks, two RBI and two runs scored. I was just walking into the school building on Lombard Street, following ESPN's Gamecast on my BlackBerry, when he connected on his triple; the roar from the stadium could be heard loud and clear six blocks away. A few minutes later, a business school friend walked in and proclaimed 2009 to be "the year of Adam Jones." And Orioles fans aren't the only ones with high expecations. Joe Sheehan:
I really need to get that "My Guys" piece together before all of them become too
obvious. Adam Jones, who I love just slightly less than I do the salt-and-pepper
Kettle Chips, had three hits and two walks yesterday, and basically killed the
Yankees. He's also two years away from his first Gold Glove in center field.
What you saw yesterday from the Orioles, the quality ABs, the big hits, the good
defense... that's the reason to think they're on the way back. It's when the
back of the rotation shows up that you'll see the problems, but for one day, you
could see the return of baseball in Baltimore, and it looked great.

When Adam Jones started the season last year, he struggled. In April, he slashed .263/.311/.389 and May was worse (.226/.273/.312). But as spring turned to summer and Jones accumulated more at-bats, he improved mightily in June (.323/.349/.455) and July (.280/.330/.450) before an injury derailed his breakout. Watching games in the early going, it was obvious that Jones was overmatched; he swung at balls out of the zone and frequently struck out. However, when watching him play in July, it was like watching a different player. His walk and strikeout rates did not improve, but he was more selective at the plate and was able to recognize pitches to drive. The difference was palpable, and it showed in his numbers. While a sample size of one is obviously too small to draw any conclusions, 2009 could very well be the year of Adam Jones if he continues to improve at the rate he did last season.

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