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Posnanski: Adam Jones the next defensive catfight


Tony-OH

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Maybe I missed us talk about this but the great Joe Posnanski had this to say about Adam Jones buried in a blog about lineups:

I think that the next big defensive cat fight will be over Adam Jones. As you probably know, the defensive cat fight the last few years has been over Derek Jeter — with some people whipping up numbers that show him to be a dreadful shortstop and others throwing Gold Gloves at him the way women used to throw underwear at Tom Jones. And there was a mini-fight over Torii Hunter, who was beloved by the eye but not so much by the stats.

Now we have Jones. I spent the other day at the MLB Fan Cave, where two guys are watching every single baseball game all year. They seem like good guys. And they LOVE Adam Jones. I mean that with all capital letters. They believe him to be the “best-looking young center fielder since Ken Griffey Jr.” and “probably the best defensive center fielder in the American League.” And, as mentioned, they watch every game.

The stats tell a very different story. Jones’ defensive WAR this year is -2.1 (Baseball Reference). His Ultimate Zone Rating is minus-10.1 (Fangraphs … and it has been negative for three years). His Dewan Plus/Minus says that this year he has made 20 fewer plays — TWENTY — than the average center fielder, which is 35th in baseball, an astonishing feat considering that there are only 30 teams. Obviously, defensive stats are not black and white, and there’s a small sample size going with his defensive WAR. Still, the numbers point in the direction of “lousy.” And, in this case, there are a couple of scouts I have talked with who agree (though they say it’s about his “instincts”).

I don’t want to take sides in the matter … it’s bad enough being an Orioles fan these days without having one of your few positive vibes shattered by bloodless and vaguely incomprehensible stats. But the conflict is worth watching. Interesting side note: In the very game that I watched at the Fan Cave, Jones made one running catch and had another ball go over his head. In the narrative of the Adam Jones’ lover, the first was a great play and the second was an impossible catch anyway. But it’s not out of the question that in reality the first play was made harder than necessary by a bad route and that Jones should have caught the second ball. Defensive quality is not easy to lasso.

http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/07/12/ducks-on-the-pond/

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Maybe I missed us talk about this but the great Joe Posnanski had this to say about Adam Jones buried in a blog about lineups:

I think that the next big defensive cat fight will be over Adam Jones. As you probably know, the defensive cat fight the last few years has been over Derek Jeter — with some people whipping up numbers that show him to be a dreadful shortstop and others throwing Gold Gloves at him the way women used to throw underwear at Tom Jones. And there was a mini-fight over Torii Hunter, who was beloved by the eye but not so much by the stats.

Now we have Jones. I spent the other day at the MLB Fan Cave, where two guys are watching every single baseball game all year. They seem like good guys. And they LOVE Adam Jones. I mean that with all capital letters. They believe him to be the “best-looking young center fielder since Ken Griffey Jr.” and “probably the best defensive center fielder in the American League.” And, as mentioned, they watch every game.

The stats tell a very different story. Jones’ defensive WAR this year is -2.1 (Baseball Reference). His Ultimate Zone Rating is minus-10.1 (Fangraphs … and it has been negative for three years). His Dewan Plus/Minus says that this year he has made 20 fewer plays — TWENTY — than the average center fielder, which is 35th in baseball, an astonishing feat considering that there are only 30 teams. Obviously, defensive stats are not black and white, and there’s a small sample size going with his defensive WAR. Still, the numbers point in the direction of “lousy.” And, in this case, there are a couple of scouts I have talked with who agree (though they say it’s about his “instincts”).

I don’t want to take sides in the matter … it’s bad enough being an Orioles fan these days without having one of your few positive vibes shattered by bloodless and vaguely incomprehensible stats. But the conflict is worth watching. Interesting side note: In the very game that I watched at the Fan Cave, Jones made one running catch and had another ball go over his head. In the narrative of the Adam Jones’ lover, the first was a great play and the second was an impossible catch anyway. But it’s not out of the question that in reality the first play was made harder than necessary by a bad route and that Jones should have caught the second ball. Defensive quality is not easy to lasso.

http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/07/12/ducks-on-the-pond/

This is why I put so much more stock in hitting statistics than fielding ones. Adam Jones looks good in the outfield to me, but the numbers tell another story. Jones is not below average in the outfield. That is not to say that he deserves the Gold Glove, but he should be in the conversations based on some of the things he has done out there. I watch a lot of games and no young outfielder impresses me more than Jones. I am not trading Jones for McClutchen or Rasmus. Jones really does play hard and seems to get a bad rap by a lot of folks. The guy will also be a real force at the plate someday and he could hit 25+ homeruns this year.

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As you probably know, the defensive cat fight the last few years has been over Derek Jeter — with some people whipping up numbers that show him to be a dreadful shortstop and others throwing Gold Gloves at him the way women used to throw underwear at Tom Jones.

You have to admit, the man can turn a phrase.

I don't think Jones is as bad as his UZR numbers suggest, but overall I see him as merely an average CF defensively. He makes some great plays but also fails to reach or catch some balls that he ought to.

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This is why I put so much more stock in hitting statistics than fielding ones. Adam Jones looks good in the outfield to me, but the numbers tell another story. Jones is not below average in the outfield. That is not to say that he deserves the Gold Glove, but he should be in the conversations based on some of the things he has done out there. I watch a lot of games and no young outfielder impresses me more than Jones. I am not trading Jones for McClutchen or Rasmus. Jones really does play hard and seems to get a bad rap by a lot of folks. The guy will also be a real force at the plate someday and he could hit 25+ homeruns this year.

I understand there will be disagreement when there were no good objective metrics, and when there finally are they disagree with casual observation. But it seems silly to say that careful observation where you're recording the results in a systematic way leads to dramatically worse evaluations than casual observations of the same events.

I think we need to come to grips with the reality that multiple defensive systems say that Adam Jones is a poor center fielder, and that even a simple calculation of what percentage of balls the Orioles turn into outs says something is terribly wrong with the defense and Jones plays one of the most important positions. I'd like to think we're better than a bunch of run-of-the-mill Yankees fans who cling to the misguided belief that Derek Jeter is a defensive God when all available metrics say otherwise.

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One thing that I've been wondering about lately...

It seems as though the Orioles lack discernible philosophies when it comes to playing the game. They don't seem to have a "game plan" in re: stealing bases, hitting with runners on, etc. They don't seem to preach any particular strategies to their pitchers (Lords knows if "low and away" is the strategy, something's been getting lost in the translation). I'm wondering if the same holds true for defensive positioning (again, if any of the preceding is "true"). I have no doubt that the O's keep extensive books on their opponents, and that they position themselves in the field according to what they know to be XYZ player's tendencies, but...if Oriole pitchers (collectively in the bottom five in the league in almost every counting category) are just kind of...throwing whatever seems to be working on a given night, and if half the time they don't know where it's going, wouldn't that have an impact on defensive positioning, which in turn would have an impact on defensive stats?

I'd be interested to see how the OFers on the worst pitching teams in baseball are rated defensively.

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It's simple. Defensive metrics are spot on when it comes to Jeter and dead wrong when it comes to Jones.The problem IMO, in both cases are players who are atheletic enough to make a lot of Web Gems, and in Jones case, has a great arm. These things are far sexier than the bread and butter things like, poor jumps, reads and routes, thus limited range, as reflected in the defensive metrics.

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I understand there will be disagreement when there were no good objective metrics, and when there finally are they disagree with casual observation. But it seems silly to say that careful observation where you're recording the results in a systematic way leads to dramatically worse evaluations than casual observations of the same events.

I think we need to come to grips with the reality that multiple defensive systems say that Adam Jones is a poor center fielder, and that even a simple calculation of what percentage of balls the Orioles turn into outs says something is terribly wrong with the defense and Jones plays one of the most important positions. I'd like to think we're better than a bunch of run-of-the-mill Yankees fans who cling to the misguided belief that Derek Jeter is a defensive God when all available metrics say otherwise.

I think there is a middle ground here. There is no way Jones is as terrible as the defensive metrics would indicate, but I will admit he does miss some balls he should catch. Ultimately, I have to believe Jones is an average CFer. Likewise, it just may be possible that Jeter is not the worst defensive shortstop to ever play the game...nah.

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I understand there will be disagreement when there were no good objective metrics, and when there finally are they disagree with casual observation. But it seems silly to say that careful observation where you're recording the results in a systematic way leads to dramatically worse evaluations than casual observations of the same events.

I think we need to come to grips with the reality that multiple defensive systems say that Adam Jones is a poor center fielder, and that even a simple calculation of what percentage of balls the Orioles turn into outs says something is terribly wrong with the defense and Jones plays one of the most important positions. I'd like to think we're better than a bunch of run-of-the-mill Yankees fans who cling to the misguided belief that Derek Jeter is a defensive God when all available metrics say otherwise.

I don't think we need to at all, because multiple baseball people have came out and said that many GM's put very little stock in these metrics as there are not accurate as of yet. You pick up the phone and call 29 other GM's and ask them is Jones is below-average, average or above average in centerfield and I think the majority will say above average with others saying that they would LOVE to have him.

The problem is that you can easily make an argument for Jones as one of the 10 best fielding center fielders in the game, but that is skewed by the fact that some are not young or are really not that good all. So Jones can provide an upgrade for so many teams, give them a high upside bat and be relatively inexpensive. A players value is not based solely on ability and we see that a lot. If the Orioles put Jones on the block I think most here would be shocked to see what other teams would give up to get him.

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I think there is a middle ground here. There is no way Jones is as terrible as the defensive metrics would indicate, but I will admit he does miss some balls he should catch. Ultimately, I have to believe Jones is an average CFer. Likewise, it just may be possible that Jeter is not the worst defensive shortstop to ever play the game...nah.

One thing to keep in mind is that Jeter played shortstop his entire life. Jones hasn't been doing it for 8 years. That is not an excuse, but all that talk about Jeter being less of a liability is center field is funny to me. If your range decreases at shortstop then how does your range increase in the outfield. Seems like Jeter would be more of a liability there. Besides, lots of guys who didn't deserve the gold glove have gotten it because they were the better player. Baseball is built to build superstars to represent the game. Jeter was a terrific fielder for a few of those seasons in NY and has won games for the Yankees with his glove and baseball IQ. I would have loved if Jeter was an Oriole and he will go down as one of the best Yankee players ever and that is a great class.

The funny thing about being compared to Ken Griffey as the best young centerfielder since, is that Ken Griffey Jr. has some really great fielding years, but it looks like he was average or below for a 12 or so years of his career. Anyone know where I can find UZR/150 for his entire career, I only see it dating back to 2002 on fangraphs?

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When I watch Jones, I don't see a terrible defender and I don't see a great one. When I watch the O's, I see a lot of hard hit balls and I see bad pitching in general.

I always wondered how well these different metrics take into account those measurables, much less measurables associated with simple inconsistent pitching strategies. I don't know the answer, but I have a hunch something worse (tangible or intangible) is happening with the O's and it's making our fielders look even worse. I could obviously be wrong though.

I guess the metric folks aren't quite good enough to calculate the distance from position to ultimate place where the ball lands, factor in time from bat to the ball and then find out if the player is actually getting the reads and routes right?

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