Orioles center fielder Adam Jones came up to the plate Thursday afternoon with the bases loaded, one out and his team down 5-1.
A grand slam and he ties it. A double to the gap and the Orioles are likely down one. A walk and the Orioles are down three and Chris Davis is up with the bases loaded and one out.
All good scenarios.
What Jones did was ground a 1-0 pitch – one that certainly would have been ball two – to the left side for a run-scoring groundout. Davis then hit an inning-ending fly out, and, ultimately, the Orioles lost 7-2.
And everyone immediately began grousing – on the internet and in the press box – about another terrible, over-aggressive, Adam Jones’ at-bat. The key to the complaining is that the Seattle Mariners’ pitcher, Joaquin Benoit, had just issued a four-pitch walk to Manny Machado and threw two more balls to Jones, one of which he flailed at and hit weakly.
The argument is he needed to wait out a strike from Benoit.
But consider this: In his lengthy career heading into Thursday, when Jones swings at a 1-0 pitch and puts the ball in play, his average is .378 and he has 20 homers, according to baseball-reference.com.
His average and power actually go down when he puts a ball in play on a 2-0 count, a .349 average and nine homers. Not surprisingly, the aggressive Jones has nearly three times as many plate appearances in which he puts a ball in play on a 1-0 count than a 2-0 count.
For years, we’ve all heard about how Jones’ impatience and tendency to swing at the first pitch kills the Orioles. He is hitting .373 in those instances when he makes contact – his highest average in any count besides 1-0. Seriously.
Then there is the thought that he can’t hit in the clutch – in high-leverage situations. Again, according to baseball-reference.com, that’s pretty much in our heads, too. In high-leverage situations, he hits .271, in medium-leverage it’s .275 and in low-leverage it’s .282. All reasonable numbers separated by a few hits here and there.
There is one indicator that the Jones’ bashers will enjoy. According to baseball-reference.com, he has hit just .243 in late and close games – after the seventh inning or later with the score tied, Jones’ team up by one or with the tying run at least in the Orioles’ on-deck circle.
He does have 25 homers in 775 at-bats in those situations, though. And, before, Wednesday, he was 5-for-17 (.294 average) in late-and-close plate appearances this year.
So perception isn’t always reality, but I’ll agree that the times when he swings at a bad pitch and hits a slow roller are highly frustrating. They just don’t happen as often as what you’d expect. Here’s what Orioles manager Buck Showalter had to say about that at-bat after Thursday’s game.
“I’ve seen him take that same pitch and hit it off the right-center field wall,” Showalter said. “We try to throw everybody in a box and say everybody’s got to be this robotic way. At the end of the year, you like the finished product.
“Yeah (it’s frustrating). It’s more frustrating for him. But he’s done a better job of it this year,” Showalter added. “He wants that. He wants to do something good for the team. But sometimes more is not always better. He knows that.”
Rickard’s defense shining in all fields
Joey Rickard’s bat has slowed down some, but his contributions defensively are happening at an increased – and impressive – rate.
In the series against the Mariners, Rickard made a great sliding catch in left, a highlight-reel catch and tumble off the right field wall and then made a pinpoint throw from the left field wall Thursday to stop Seth Smith from doubling.
“There was a period, I thought, early in the season where you could tell he was a little tentative compared to spring training,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about Rickard adjusting to Camden Yards. “I think the third deck — he never used it as an excuse — the depth perception, getting to know a field he’s never played on, you’ve (now) seen him getting better and better in right field.”
The rookie has now started 19 games in left, six in center and 11 in right. Defensively, it’s the flexibility the club was hoping for when they selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I said it in the spring, he throws better than people think. He is very accurate. But now I feel comfortable (with Rickard playing) in all three,” Showalter said. “I think he really has got a feel for all of them. And he is going to be able to do that for us. That’s what we had hoped when we drafted him and when we took him on the club.”
Tyler Wilson’s education continuing
Right-hander Tyler Wilson was having a solid outing before he gave up a three-run homer to Adam Lind on Thursday that turned a potentially quality start into an unpleasant line: five runs in six innings.
He said he missed his spot to Lind and the veteran hit it to left. The wind at Camden Yards did the rest. Afterward, he handled the questioning like a pro.
“I missed. We were trying to get it up in under his hands and I missed out over the plate,” he said. “Sometimes when you try too hard to prevent something inevitably that’s what’s going to happen. … You try so hard to stop one run you end up giving up three.”
The kid keeps learning. And he recognizes he needs to keep learning. And that’s a valuable lesson in the majors.
“Whether it is a good game or a not so great game I try to learn as much as I can. And even the games that I’m not pitching, I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of guys with a lot of experience and a lot of wisdom,” he said. “And I try and take each and every day and learn from it. And today will be no different.”