The power of Adam Jones

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Adam Jones (US Presswire)

There has been no bigger breakout this season than Adam Jonesin Baltimore as his power and defense are at career highs.

With the Orioles still hanging around at the top of the AL East, the big question right now is how real is the power, and will he still be dominating pitchers this September?

In the first 54 games, Jones has been slugging at a career-high rate. His best season before now was 2011 when he slugged .466, but so far this season he has jumped over 100 points to .602.

That is a huge jump and about the only thing 2012 Jones is doing much better than 2011 Jones.

While Jones has gotten better in his contact at the plate, he has never had much patience. This season is no exception with a 5.6 percent walk rate compared to a career rate of 4.9 percent. He won’t be leading the league in on-base percentage any time soon, but that doesn’t take away from his other skills.

While his walks are at career levels, his strikeout rate has dropped to a career low of 16.7 percent, which has helped him post a .315 batting average so far this season. Obviously, hitting 16 homers and the .287 ISO have helped as well.

Only three other players this season currently have a walk rate under six percent and more than 10 home runs. None of those three (Dayan Viciedo, J.J. Hardy and Adrian Beltre) have more than 12 long balls, and only Viciedo has a strikeout rate above 14 percent. That isn’t to say it’s not possible to be a great power hitter with a low walk rate, but there are few who do it well. Last year followed much the same pattern as only Hardy and Beltre had a walk rate lower than six percent and topped 30 homers.

You would think Jones is benefiting from playing in Camden Yards with his pull power. Here is a graph showing his 2012 hit data.

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Adam Jones Hit Chart, texasleaguers.com

That approach surely will benefit him, although he does spray a bit to right field, which might hurt him at home. The thing is, Jones has done much better on the road with 11 homers coming away from Camden Yards. If he starts to use his home park, it’s possible we could see Jones become the 2012 version of Curtis Granderson. Even regression projection systems like ZIPS update his projected HR total for 2012 to 34.

I’m curious if Jones can maintain this new level without any changes at the plate. It’s tough to say this is anything more than either luck or a growth in natural power. Jones is not swinging at any more pitches with a 53-percent swing rate versus a career rate of 54.5 percent. He’s also making the same level of contact on pitches in and out of the zone.

Without any major changes, it’s tough to see Jones maintaining this level of power. I also wonder when his power at home will match the road numbers. In his career, he has hit for slightly more power at home, making it possible he could even be better right now. That should be a scary thought for AL East opponents for years to come.

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