Adam Jones went yard in back-to-back games on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Angels. Opposing pitchers would be wise to just pitch around him in the first inning, as 11 of his 21 homers have come in that first frame. He’s Major League Baseball’s leader in first-inning homers. Jones shows up to the Yard hungry and ready to grind.
He has cooled off a bit after slashing .348/.383/.643 in June, but no one can argue his importance to the Orioles this season. He leads the club in WAR at 4.1 via FanGraphs, which ranks fifth in the American League, and coming into Wednesday’s game he has hit .310 in 100 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
In Orioles wins, Jones has posted a .336/.363/.586 slash line with a .949 OPS. In losses, those numbers have dipped to .234/.260/.364/ with a .625 OPS. Yeah, there’s a .102 difference between Jones’ average in wins and losses. How valuable is Jones to the O’s success? Perhaps he’s their most valuable player.
That has a good ring to it, don’t you think? Most Valuable Player - I like it.
Jones has received American League MVP votes in the past two seasons. In fact, he placed sixth in the voting in 2012 and 13th last year. Jones received one fifth-place and one eighth-place vote in 2013 for nine total points. He received 24 total votes ranging from third to ninth place for 120 points during the O’s postseason run in 2012. Depending on how the Orioles season finishes, perhaps he’ll get a few first place votes this season.
How about the intangibles? To me, Jones has has them all. The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association honored him prior to Wednesday night’s game as the Orioles Heart & Hustle Award winner for 2014. The award honors “active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game.” That sure sounds like A.J. to me.
Jones played in 162 games in 2012 and 160 last season and hasn’t missed one so far in 2014. Part of the reason his batting average has been so high this season has been because he’s recorded 15 infield hits. He’s the face of the Orioles, the clubhouse leader and the hander-out of postgame pies. I made up the title of the last one, but you get it.
After being projected to finish fourth or fifth place in the American League East, the O’s have a 2 1/2-game lead in the division and are 14 games above .500. Their postseason odds have increased to 71.2 percent according to Baseball Prospectus They currently have a 51.6 percent chance to win the AL East. Talk about overachieving expectations.
Of course, Jones will have some tough competition in the AL MVP race. Mike Trout is always a popular candidate for the award after finishing behind Miguel Cabrera the past two seasons. White Sox slugger Jose Abreu is the league’s leader in home runs and RBIs. While players like Josh Donaldson, Robinson Cano and the aforementioned Cabrera are sure to receive votes as well.
I’m admittedly biased, but to me, the formula is simple: a surprise team that has played some of the best baseball in the AL and a center fielder that has statistically proven to be the most important player on the roster. That sure sounds like an MVP to me.
Zach Wilt blogs about the Orioles at Baltimore Sports Report. Follow him on Twitter: @zamwi. His views appear here as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.