5 Reasons the Orioles Need a Healthy Adam Jones to Have a Chance

Alexander Van Rees@Alex_VanReesContributor IIIJune 11, 2012

5 Reasons the Orioles Need a Healthy Adam Jones to Have a Chance

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    When the Baltimore Orioles (34-26) acquired the five-tool, slugging center fielder, Adam Jones, from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for former ace Erik Bedard in 2007, I was not sure what to expect.

    Jones was the talk of Baltimore when he arrived; he was supposed to be the next big, star athlete and he would be the face of the Orioles in the future.

    Since his acquisition, they have worked on building around Jones from the bottom up, and this year, it is finally paying off as they continue to stay competitive in the American League East.

    Jones is a huge part of the Orioles 2012 success so far; he will be wearing the black and orange for the next six years at least, and if he continues to post impressive power numbers, exhibit strong leadership skills and make jaw-dropping catches in the outfield, the Birds will be tough to beat in the East.

    Check out my list of five reasons why the Birds need a healthy Jones if they want to have any shot at winning the East, or at least keeping pace until Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold return to the lineup.

1. Strong Power Numbers

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    Yes, it might be cliché, but we’ll start with his power numbers this season because this has been the breakout season the Birds have been waiting for; he is on pace set a number of career-highs in all of the major power departments.

    Jones is batting a very respectable .300 on the season with 17 home runs, 37 RBI, 71 base hits, including 10 doubles, two triples over his 60 games played this season.

    Currently, Jones sits 10th in the American League in batting average, 4th in the league in home runs, 5th in runs scored (42), 6th with nine stolen bases, 6th in the AL in slugging with a .568 percentage and 10th in OPS (.913) in the league.

    If he stays on his current pace, Jones is projected to finished the season with 46 home runs, 100 RBI and almost 200 hits for the first time in his career. However, Jones has played in each game for the Orioles this season, so he most likely will take a couple of games off.

    He probably will not hit more than 35 home runs, however, the possibility of 30-35 home runs and 100 RBI is very likely and if he were to accomplish these feats, I’m sure the league would look at him differently in the future.

    Jones leads the Birds in major offensive category, and without him this season, who knows where the Orioles would be, but I’m sure they would not be in the race.

2. Clutch Hitter

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    It seems like every time the Orioles need a pick-me-up hit or a home run, Jones is there. And, that’s what you want out of your star-studded, number one player.

    Jones jacked his second walk-off home run of his career on Saturday afternoon against the Phillies after he smashed a402 foot home run on a 1-2 pitch over the center field wall for a 6-4 win in extra innings after snapping an 0-for-18.

    This season, Jones has delivered three extra-inning home runs in the 12th inning or later tying a Baltimore record; entering this year, he had only smashed one home run when playing extra innings. Also, he has recorded seven of his 17 home runs in the 7th inning or later this year.

    With runners in scoring position, he is batting a clutch .289 on the year as he is 13-for-45 with two doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI and 22 runs scored.

    Jones has really shined in late-inning pressure this season; Jones is batting .326 (14-for-43) with five home runs, eight RBI, nine runs scored and a .383 on-base percentage. Those are impressive numbers he has posted during the later innings in games.

    Not to mention, with two outs, Jones is one of the toughest outs in the game; he is batting .299 with 26 hits in 87 at-bats, including four home runs, nine RBI, three doubles and 10 runs scored.

3. Strong Defense

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    Jones is one of the best center fielders, both in regards to his arm and his glove, around the American League, if not the majors.

    The 2009 AL Gold Glove winner finished with nine assists that season, five errors and a .986 fielding percentage. However, over the last three years, he has steadily increased his assists numbers as he continues to grow and mature at the major league level.

    In 2010, he ended the campaign with 12 assists, seven miscues and a .984 fielding percentage. Last year, he slipped a bit as he committed one more error (eight), but, he also collected four more assists (16 total). He finished with a .980 field percentage last year.

    This season, he has struggled a bit more in center; he has committed four miscues (.976 fielding percentage) and has only recorded one assist to this point. If history is any indication, Jones will snap out of his defensive woes and garner more assists as the season moves along.

    His career defensive numbers do not tell the entire story however. Jones has made numerous outstanding plays in the outfield, from laying out across his body, to racing in on a low-line drive, to scaling the center field wall to rob someone of a potential home run or extra-base hit.

    Jones is the rock in the outfield, especially since Markakis is out for a while, and I’m sure there will be more gold gloves in his future.

4. Makes Everyone Around Him Better

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    I’m sure everyone is familiar with the saying “he makes everyone around him better” and that’s exactly what Jones does when he is in the lineup for the Birds.

    Jones has been accustomed to hitting in the clean-up spot in the order, and for most of the season, J.J. Hardy has been batting 2nd, Markakis in the 3rd spot,  Matt Wieters right behind him and Chris Davis behind Wieters.

    Hardy, who got off to a slow start, has come along recently; possibly due to the fact that pitchers do not want to face Jones at the dish in the first inning, they feed meat pitches down the middle of the dish so they record outs, as opposed to issuing walks and base runners in front of him.

    Hardy is batting just .253 on the year, but he has smashed 11 home runs and driven in 27 RBI. Last year, he finished with 30 home runs and 80 RBI on the year in front of Jones; he looks to be on the same pace this year.

    The Birds’ backstop, Wieters, is putting together his best season in the major leagues, and I’m sure it has something to do with Jones hitting in front of him. Although he is only batting .255, he has recorded nine long shots and 27 RBI.

    Orioles first baseman/DH Davis is also having a strong season and he usually bats either right behind, or two behind Jones in the lineup; he is batting .298 with 10 bombs and 26 RBI in his 51 games this year.

    Jones is the type of player who can and will make his other teammates better hitters because they will see more fastballs and pitchers will be more deliberate with them. 

5. Continues to Improve at Major League Level

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    Another reason why the Birds need Jones in order to stay competitive is because he is only 26-years-old and he continues to get better and better each season.

    In his first year with the Orioles after he was traded from the Mariners in ’08, he finished batting at .270 with nine home runs and 57 RBI. In 2009, his sophomore year with the club, he delivered 19 home runs and 70 RBI while batting at a .277 clip.

    In 2010, although he recorded the same number of home runs (19) and one less RBI (69), Jones finished with a .284 batting average. Last season, he broke out for 25 home runs and 83 RBI while batting .280.

    Jones only needs eight home runs to ties his career high, and it’s June 11th (he still has three and a half months of the season to go). There is no doubt that he will break both his home run and RBI career-highs as long as he stays healthy and continues at this pace.

    His on-base percentage (.344), slugging (.571) and OPS (.915) are the highest in his career to date and his average continues to hover around .300, which are all strong signs for Jones and his future.

    Jones has been given the unofficial title of captain and leader of the Orioles. It took a couple of seasons for him to be comfortable in his new home in Baltimore, however, he seems to be enjoying his time and making the best of it.

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