In the third inning yesterday, Adam Jones hit a line drive homer. It got out of the park in a hurry. When I say in a hurry, no home run hit in the major leagues this season exited the park faster.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, that homer had a flight time of 3.09 seconds, the quickest of any home run this season. Does any play-by-play guy even have a call that fast?
While the homer was impressive maybe an at-bat Jones had last Wednesday in the first inning of a game was impressive in a different way for him.
Jones was down 0-2 in the count to Kansas City right-hander Luis Mendoza. Mendoza threw a breaking ball down and away, a pitch that has given Jones trouble in the past. But this time Jones went with the pitch and punched it into right field for a single.
That sure beats striking out or trying to pull the ball and grounding out to shortstop. It seems any time Jones strikes out on a pitch low and away, some fans rush to the message boards to post about Jones chasing pitches again.
While he can chase pitches like many batters, Jones feels he is doing less of that recently and that specific at-bat against K.C. may show that he is growing some as a hitter.
"I'm trying to really stay off the down and away pitch," Jones told me recently. "If I could find a way to lay off that pitch more, I'd find myself on first base a lot more often and score more runs. Trying to lay off it, but if I can't, shoot it in that hole (on the right side). Second baseman will probably be playing me up the middle more. I'm just trying to make contact," he said.
By going with that pitch more to right field - and Jones had to swing at a close pitch with two strikes on him - he could possibly hit for a higher average this year.
"I'm just trying to get on base anyway I can," Jones said. "Take the hits over there if they want to pitch me away. You see what Miguel Cabrera does. He takes what they give him and I'm learning that. Obviously I'm not on the same caliber as he is but my growth can be. I'm still growing as a player."
Jones gets some criticism for his lack of walks but he may be making some progress with his strike zone judgement even if it is not showing up with an improved walk rate. A few more of those two strike singles to right and his batting average could climb even if he isn't taking more walks.
Right now Jones is batting .321 with 14 doubles, five homers, 25 RBIs, an OBP of .353, a slugging percentage of .503 and OPS of .856.
He is on a pace to hit fewer homers than he did last year but produce many more doubles, drive in a lot more runs and steal more bases.
At his current pace he would hit 60 doubles, 21 homers, steals 21 bases and drive in 107 runs. But he walked just 34 times all last season and right now is on a pace to draw just 30 walks. His strikeouts are also up a bit.
It is interesting in that right-handed pitchers would be the hurlers pitching him down and away with breaking balls but Jones is batting .353 vs. right-handed pitchers with an OPS of .887 after those numbers were .285 and .852 last year.
Does he actually chase fewer pitches than some think he does?
What is your take on Jones and the walk rate? Should it matter that much if he is more productive with other offensive stats? If he hits fewer homers this year but has more doubles, RBIs and steals, is that a fair trade off?