As much as I preach sample size and patience, I watch the same games that all of you do and see the same things. Namely, I see Andruw Jones going up to the plate, looking completely lost and making me just hope he makes contact. Not really what you want from your prize acquisition over the summer. Even with small sample size in mind, I have to wonder if there’s anyway that he can get his offense going this year.
Andruw Jones’ problems are two fold right now. First is that he simply can not hit a breaking ball. He’s hitting only .118 against sliders , and hitting .000 against every other breaking pitch, good for a sub .100 average overall. More distressing is that Jones isn’t really getting around on fastballs either, hitting only .212 against them and slugging .339. The only pitch that Jones is seeing remotely well is the change up where he’s hitting a still sad .235, but he’s at least slugging .412 off of them.
This gives us two big reasons why he’s struggling. He’s failing to recognize breaking pitches, and his bat has slowed down to the point where he can’t really catch up to fastballs. Sadly, the bat speed issue might be a permanent thing where Jones simply isn’t as strong as he used to be and just can’t get around on the ball. The only solution may be for him to go with a lighter bat which will take some power away from him and give the guys in the clubhouse a few laughs.
The breaking pitch thing seems like something that should be very fixable. I don’t have the historical numbers, but I’m sure at some point in his life, Jones was able to hit a curve ball or a slider. The pitch recognition thing becomes very evident when you see that Jones hasn’t even swung at a curve ball in the upper part of the zone yet. Since his hits are almost entirely coming from straight balls in the upper part of the plate, Jones needs to be launching these pitches, not taking them for strikes. The trend isn’t as apparent against sliders, but he’s still taking a ton of them up in the zone, and the ones he’s swinging at are just getting fouled off. If Jones can’t get around on fastballs, he needs to be able recognize the pitches that he can catch up to and drive, not foul them off.
The fact that Jones has such a huge gap in his game right now actually does give me hope that something can be fixed. If he can start recognizing breaking pitches up in the zone and driving them like he should, he should be able to pull himself up to at least his 2007 numbers, and represent an improvement over Juan Pierre thanks to his glove. In the end, as long as Jones can be better than Juan Pierre, signing him wasn’t a terrible idea. His performance right now gives me hope that he can do it.