Don’t Worry About Andruw Jones

Once again, Andruw Jones has gotten off to a slow start (.241/.379/.457) by his standards. Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily a pattern that means something. If fact, his career March/April line (.266/.356/.501) is nearly identical to his overall line (.266/.345/.504) (B-R PI splits). His batting average and power are down a bit, but it’s down league-wide. His OPS+ 126, which isn’t much off what he’s done during the past two seasons: 133 (2005) and 129 (2006).

So, I wonder why Joe Simpson won’t quit riding the guy for not “going the other way” during Braves broadcasts. Andruw responded in the press yesterday.

“I’m not a right-field-ball hitter,” Jones said. “I’m a pull hitter. That’s the way it is.”

The Braves haven’t hit a home run in six games, but Jones said he wasn’t worried about that or his own sluggish start.

“This road trip coming up, we might hit 50 homers,” he said. Of his skid, he said, “A slump’s a slump. It’s a long season. I think I had an 0-for-40 once. I’m not worried. At the end of the year, I’m going be where I want to be.”

As I’ve shown before, Andruw succeeds when pulls the ball (also see here), and his slumps are the product of poor plate discipline. Of course, last night and the night before Andruw had hits to “right” field—meaning to the right of second base, but they were more towards center—and Simpson attributed these hits to his working with Terry Pendleton and his “go the other way” approach. Well, one thing we know is that Andruw ignores Terry Pendleton’s advice on this. He said as much in the quote referenced above, and he’s said so before. He hasn’t changed his approach in terms of where he hits the ball, and after examining those recent hits on the Tivo I believe he was trying to pull the ball but was just late in both cases. But, that’s not important.

The reason Andruw Jones is struggling has nothing to do with him turning outside pitches into weak grounders to the left side. Andruw is striking out more: 23% this year versus 19% last year. Might he be striking out because he’s trying to pull pitches and ends up missing and getting in bad counts? That is possible, but Andruw seems to have improved his plate discipline. He’s walking more—16.55% in 2007 versus 12.25% in 2006—and he’s seeing more pitches–4.1 compared to 3.9. In fact, while Andruw is about 25 points below his career batting average his on-base percentage is about 35 points above his career mean. His isolated power is down, but there is more to the story here. First, his iso-power of .216 isn’t bad—he’s third on the team behind Chipper Jones (.341, wow!) and Kelly Johnson (.222). Second, he’s on a pace to hit nearly 50 doubles, well over his career best of 36 (2000). I expect some of those doubles will turn into home runs will turn into home runs, especially as summer temperatures arrive.

When I look at the big picture, I am optimistic about Jones. He started the year with the plan, telling the AJC that he intended to up his walk total quite a bit this year. So far, he’s on a pace to walk 117 times—well above his career hight of 83 (2002). I give him a lot of credit for staying the course and not paying attention something that is probably the result of a random run in the data. His plate discipline will pay off, and I expect that Andruw will finish the season with an OPS over .900.

9 Responses “Don’t Worry About Andruw Jones”

  1. John W says:

    I saw that quote and immediately thought of your study about Andruw pulling the ball, just as I have with every Joe Simpson comment all year. It was refreshing to hear Andruw say that.

  2. Shawn K says:

    There is only one thing about Andruw Jones that worries me: Will he still be a Brave next year? Let’s hope so.

  3. Gordon says:

    The increased Ks may be a natural result of his effort to draw more walks. If Andruw is taking more pitches, we would expect more Ks. So far, he’s increasing Ks and BBs the same amount, which is very good: essentially, that’s a .500 OBP on these PAs in which he isn’t putting the ball in play (but would have last year).

    Do you have data on how many pitches he’s taking vs. swinging?

  4. JC says:

    The data is available on his Baseball-Reference page. It’s hidden until you click on “Pitch Data Summary.”

    AJ is swinging at 42% of the pitches he sees compared to 43% last year. However, his career average swing% is 47%

    In 2006 he struck out looking 2.2% of the time. This year he’s struck out looking 4.8% of the time. I agree that this is consistent with his looking for more walks. However, he’s only been caught looking 7 times, so it’s hard to tell with such few observations. I’m curious to see how these numbers look after some more time.

  5. chrisklob says:

    It’s not hard to figure out why Joe Simpson is riding Jones so hard (and why so many Braves fans are too).

    Until two nights ago, it looked as though he is trying to crush every pitch out of the stadium. Yes, Andruw has always hit for more power than average but he looks ridiculous swinging from his heels in every AB. Has anyone noticed how many times he has dropped to one knee or fallen down after a swing?

    He has had many opportunities this year to drive in runs by simply slapping the ball into right center but he insists on swinging for the fences. Terry Pendleton has been quoted as saying that AJ has his own “agenda” and is not listening to him. Many of us Braves fans feel that this agenda is his impending contract negotiations. Big power numbers = big contract dollars. Bottom line: he’s not being a team player.

    So, it’s really NOT hard to figure out why Simpson is hard on him.

  6. LatNam says:

    chrisklob says:… So, it’s really NOT hard to figure out why Simpson is hard on him.

    I agree, it is easy to figure out why. But I think our rationales are different. I think Simpson is mad at Andruw because Andruw is so much better than Joe was. Joe Simpson had to try to hit to right field, ’cause it wasn’t going to leave the park anyway. He didn’t have a choice. Jealousy really.

    I really get frustrated at Joe for saying such stupid crap, when Joe Simpson wasn’t a 1/100th of the ballplayer Andruw is. It would be like Mark Redman telling Greg Maddux where to throw his change-up.

    And besides yourself, I’ve not heard any Braves’ fans talk about Andruw’s “agenda,” especially in re contract negotiations. He’s gonna get a huge contract no matter what. While he’s still on the Braves I want him to be as good as he can, which means pulling the ball as much as he can. Andruw doesn’t hit to right field. He’s supremely valuable without hitting to right field. Ryan Howard, Barry Bonds, Carlos Delgado, David Ortiz, Ken Griffy Jr. All of these guys are dead pull hitters, and also some of the best hitters ever. Can Andruw help it he hits Right-handed so he doesn’t mix in perfectly with them?

    (Oh, and I also suggest you go read the earlier articles on the subject JC mentions in the entry, but whatever.)

  7. Stu says:

    Those guys are not all dead-pull hitters, LatNam. On grounders, yes, but I can think of quite a few Howard and Ortiz homers to the opposite field. If Andruw would try and drive that outer-half pitch over the right field wall, it would help.

  8. LatNam says:

    If Andruw would try and drive that outer-half pitch over the right field wall, it would help.

    I really don’t think it would. While it might be true that Howard and Ortiz go the other way in the air for an advantage, (something I have no idea where to find the data for) I don’t know how one can expect making Andruw change his approach would only help, but not hurt. (Who’s to say that for the additional 15 doubles/singles he’d lose 10 home runs, or whatever the ratio would be, is that really worth it?) I could just as easily argue that if they’d only try to pull the ball in the air more, they’d be much better players.

  9. Richard says:

    The thought that andruw not trying to go the other way on some of the pitches away from will not help is ridiculous. The fact is he is failing to make significant contact more and more with each passing week. Look at francoeur…he has drastically improved at the plate by using the whole field….by the way he also has more homeruns. When andruw has had some success this year it has appeared that he just guessed right. Whenever he makes effort to take what the pitcher gives him, he will get back on track.