Strange Occurances in Early Numbers


We are 10% of the way through the 2011 season and there have been some amazing numbers so far, both pretty and ugly. It is early but who doesn’t enjoy a nice dose of numbers for your brain to chew on? Well, I’m providing the numbers so go ahead and give your brain an appetizer.

*Walk Rates*

Vladimir Guerrero and Brent Morel are the only two players with at least 50 plate appearances and no walks. Morel has 52 PAs and Vlad has 62 PAs. Adrian Beltre and Michael Young, the Rangers new and old thirdbasemen, have two combined walks in 133 PAs.

-The Rockies know how to walk. Chris Iannetta ranks 2nd with a BB-rate of 23.1%, Jonathan Herrera is 4th at 21.6%, and Troy Tulowitzki is 9th at 19.2%. They have 37 combined walks, more than the entire Twins team, the same as the entire Orioles team, and one less than the entire Astros team. Three up-the-middle players have as many or more walks than two American League teams. Unbelievable.

**Strikeout Rates**

-Apparently Chicago is a good place for contact. A.J. Pierzynski only has one strikeout in 53 PAs for a 2.1% K-rate, tops in the Majors. Aramis Ramirez, who had a career K% of 15.5% and a 19.4% in 2010 only has three strikeouts in 68 PAs this year for a 5.0% K-rate, the 2nd best K% in the league. Starlin Castro has the 3rd best rate at 5.6% and Darwin Barney is 6th best at 6.7%.

-Detroit outfielders are exempt from making contact. Ryan Raburn leads the Majors with a 41.5% K-rate and Austin Jackson is 10th at 32.8%. They have a combined 42 strikeouts in 128 PAs. Only two others have reached the 20 strikeout mark so far this season. By comparison, teammate Justin Verlander, a good strikeout pitcher, has faced the 2nd most batters this season (116) and has 27 strikeouts.

***Extra-Base Hits***

Jason Barltett is the only player with at least 50 PAs that does not have an extra-base hit. Another former Ray, Carlos Pena, only has one extra-base hit (a double) in 53 PA.

-Tulowitzki, Alex Rodriguez, and Jonny Gomes rank 1-3 in ISO with each at or above .400. Sick early power! More on Tulowitzki: With a Major League leading 7 homers he has more homers than the Twins (5) and as many as the A’s.


-These are very early numbers but the Mariners, who have long been known for good defensive metrics, are dead last in UZR with -16.1 and have the 3rd and 4th worst players according to UZR. Ichiro Suzuki apparently has a -4.6 UZR and Milton Bradley has a -4.5 UZR. Early UZR numbers are hard to take as gospel especially when you see Carl Crawford with a -4.2 UZR.

-The Indians are amazing on defense with a Major League leading +10.3 UZR lead by Jack Hannahan who leads all players at +4.2 UZR. Shin-Soo Choo is tied for 10th with a +3.2 UZR.

*****Biggest Team Stat Surprise*****

-If you thought the Astros were a horrible offensive club you were correct. They have a wRC+ of 91 (100 is league average) and are hitting .262/.315/.381 which is bad by itself but actually may be higher than their norm. That poor triple-slash line is carried by a .326 BABIP (3rd best in the league) which means that once the BABIP evens itself out you might see a decrease in production from an already poor offense.

******Biggest Player Surprise******

-There really is no bigger surprise this season than Sam Fuld, is there? Fuld was a career minor-leaguer who was the last piece, a throw-in, of a trade. He made the Rays out of spring training as their 5th outfielder and found himself in the starting lineup shortly after. He is currently hitting .396/.431/.604 with a .449 wOBA, wRC+ of 197, and AL leading 7 stolen bases. He also has a +2.4 UZR and has been worth 1.0 fWAR. He is a human highlight reel and has become a Legend in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.


The Legend Of Sam Fuld

The Legend of Sam Fuld is something that is sweeping the Rays fan base and is a popular tag on Twitter right now. Sam Fuld Eats Chick Fil-A on Sundays. The Red Sox check under their bed for Sam Fuld. Sam Fuld is bored by The Most Interesting Man in the World, who bows whenever Sam Fuld enters the room. Sam Fuld routinely puts Baby in a corner. Sam Fuld made Murray Chass like bloggers. Sam Fuld once let a ball drop in the outfield just to see what it felt like. Sam Fuld was walked while in the batter’s box. Sam Fuld can delete the Recylce Bin. Sam Fuld does not dive, he flies.

Most of those very true statements were where most of the population’s Legend of Sam Fuld began, but not mine. The legend started for me when Sam Fuld got his first start of the season on April 3rd and threw Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy out at the plate with a perfect throw that beat Hardy by close to a mile. He wouldn’t start again until April 6th when he 2-3 with a double and a stolen base. His bandwagon gained a few that night.

That same night I wrote my first piece for DraysBay titled “Is It Time To Replace Dan Johnson?” My replacement idea had Johnny Damon moving to first base and Sam Fuld getting the playing time in left field. The post went on to get 263 comments, most bashing me for wanting to bench Johnson and some for me wanting to play Fuld, but there were a few who were on the Fuld bandwagon already.

Now it’s April 7th, the day of my post, Fuld goes 1-3 with a walk at the plate and steals 3 bases! The bandwagon tripled in size that day. Some still believe Sam Fuld to be a myth.

Skip ahead to April 9th. Fuld will end the day 1 for his last 9 including the game on April 8th and today’s game but he makes what might be the best catch of the season, erasing everyone’s memory of his 1-9 mini-slump and momentarily allowing the Rays fan base a glimmer of something to cheer about.

Now jump to last night, April 11th, the day that will forever be remembered as April Fuld’s day, where on national television the Legend of Sam Fuld breaks wide open on ESPN against the Red Sox and the bandwagon becomes overflowing with new fans. Fuld goes 4-6 at the plate with a homerun, a triple, two doubles, and another great catch. The Legend hit its high point when Fuld needed only a single to become the 2nd Ray to ever hit for the cycle and put his name in the Rays history books. In his last at-bat he laced a line-drive down the leftfield line and rather than stopping at first to collect his “cycle” he strolls into 2nd with a stand up double, erasing his name from the Rays history books but embedding it in our minds and in our hearts so that one day, sitting in a rickety rocking chair, telling our grandchildren stories, we can recall the Legend of Sam Fuld, allowing it to live on forever rather than fade away and deteriorate on dead trees.

Manny Machado’s Career is Off to a Hot Start

(Joy R. Absalon/

The Baltimore Orioles top position prospect, and my #25 overall prospect, Manny Machado is hardly old enough to be out of high school yet is the starting shortstop for the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Orioles’ A-ball affiliate. Most players his age (he won’t turn 19 until July 6th) are playing short season ball but Machado’s approach is so far beyond the players his age that he is capable of the level jump.

It is early in the season but through the first 5 games Machado has done nothing but rake and show the plate discipline of a veteran. He is currently hitting .467/.636/.733 in 22 plate appearances with 2 doubles, a triple, a stolen base, and a 7:3 BB/K rate. Seven walks in his first 22 PAs at a level higher than most his age is unreal. Strike that, it’s pretty unreal for any prospect at any level let alone an 18 year old shortstop. Last year, as a 17 year old, he hit .306/.359/.472 with a double, triple, homerun, and 3:3 B/K ratio in 39 PAs playing most if his games at low-A Aberdeen. His career minor league line in 61 PAs reads .353/.459/.549 with 3 doubles, 2 triples, a homerun, and a 10:6 BB/K rate.

Machado has been unfairly compared to Alex Rodriguez because he is Latino, from the Miami area, plays shortstop, and is of similar build at the same age. That comparison is completely unfair and no one should be compared to one of the 100 best players of all-time out of high school. But Machado is, without a doubt, the best shortstop prospect in all of baseball and it’s not even close. He projects to hit for average, power, and has enough speed to be dangerous on the bases. The A-Rod comparison is not fair but neither is a Troy Tulowitzki comparison but that is more his bat’s potential with A-Rod’s early glove at shortstop.

While the above stats are a very small sample sizes they are an indication, especially the BB/K rate, that he is definitely above his peers and I would not be surprised to see him in Double-A this year, in my top-10 prospect list for 2012, and a cup of coffee in September of 2012. The A-Rod and even Tulowitzki comparisons may be unfair but Machado has star potential and we may see him sooner than later and if you think that Baltimore team looks like a contender now or in 2012 then prepare for a real battle in the AL East come 2013 when I expect to see Machado as a full-time shortstop.

Random Predictions – AL

Who doesn’t love predictions? I know I do. I love mocking people for their outrageous claims but even more, I love making outrageous claims… and ending up right about them. Will my predictions be right? Only time will tell, but they do factor into my drafting and reaching of fantasy players. Some predictions will be bolder than others, especially my prediction in tomorrow’s post that says… well, you’ll have to wait for that one.

Here is my list of players that I predict bold outcomes for:

Baltimore Orioles – Matt Wieters will hit better than .280/.350/.450 with 20 homers. Adam Jones will go 25/10 or better. Mark Reynolds will hit below .200 again. Brian Matusz will pitch 210+ innings of sub-3.50 ERA, with 175+ strikeouts.

Boston Red Sox – Adrian Gonzalez will set career highs in Home Runs, RBI, runs, AVG/OBP/SLG, and win the MVP. Carl Crawford will be even better offensive season than he had in 2010. Daniel Bard will save 15 or more games. Daisuke Matsuzaka will not be starting games for the Red Sox in by August.

Chicago White Sox – Big league pitchers will stop throwing strikes to Alexei Ramirez and he will still swing and post an OBP that barely cracks .300. Adam Dunn will set a career high in home runs. Jake Peavy will make 25 or more starts and post an ERA below 3.75 with a K/9 over 8.0.

Cleveland Indians – Carlos Santana will be the best offensive catcher in the majors, hitting .290/.390/.470 or better with more than 20 homers. Shin-Soo Choo will be a top 5 MVP candidate. No other position player will be worth 3.0 fWAR or more and Orlando Cabrera will be off the team by the end of July.

Detroit Tigers – Ramon Santiago will be more valuable than Jhonny PeraltaAustin Jackson will take a minor step back before breaking out in 2012 and will be outperformed offensively by Casper WellsRyan Raburn will do like everyone else is predicting and break out this year. Detroit pitchers will be infuriated with the defense on the right-side of the field.

Los Angeles Angels – Vernon Wells will revert back to his 2009 form when he hit .260/.311/.400. Peter Bourjos is currently owned in 3.3% of ESPN leagues and will be owned in over 70% of fantasy leagues by mid-year, finishing with 40+ steals and 10+ homers. Dan Haren will be the best pitcher on the team.

Kansas City Royals – Melky Cabrera will again contend for the worst player in the Majors award. Alex Gordon will hit 25+ homers and post an OBP above .350. No starting pitcher will be worth 2.5 fWAR or higher. Tim Collins will have 75+ strikeouts out of the pen with a sub-3 ERA.

Minnesota Twins – Nick Blackburn will again post a +5 ERA but still start 25+ games. Alexi Casilla will struggle to post a positive fWAR. Delmon Young will break the 3.0 fWAR barrier, improving on last year’s performance. Jim Thome will again hit 25 homers and we will wonder why, again, he did not get 400+ plate appearances.

New York Yankees – Derek Jeter will have a bounce back season and hit at least .295/.365/.435 with 15 homers. Freddy Garcia will post a +5 ERA and not make it to 25 starts. Andruw Jones will hit 20+ homers and be worth 2.5 fWAR or higher. Jorge Posada will hit 15 or less homers and be worth 2.0 fWAR or less.

Seattle Mariners – I’m tired of seeing everyone predict Ichiro to bottom out this year. Ichiro will reach 200 hits, hit ovr .320 with 10+ homers and 40+ stolen bases. Miguel Olivo will fail to reach double-digit homers for the first time since 2005. Michael Pineda will be the 2nd most valuable starting pitcher. Brandon League will save 20+ games.

Tampa Bay Rays – Ben Zobrist will bounce backSean Rodriguez will gain shortstop eligibility and be a top 10 shortstop with at least 15 homers and 15 steals. Manny Ramirez hits .300/.400/.500 with 20+ homers. Dan Johnson will struggle to reach 400 PAs and the Rays will wish they signed Russell Branyan (his bold prediction tomorrow). Jeremy Hellickson will win 15 games with a sub-3.50 ERA and a K/BB of 4.0 or better. No pitcher will have 20 saves. It will be a true committee. For more of my Rays predictions click here.

Texas Rangers – Mike Napoli will retain catcher eligibility for next year and hit 30+ homers this year. Nelson Cruz will finish 3rd in MVP voting and hit at least .300/.370/.570 with 35+ homers with 25+ stolen bases and 10+ UZR. Elvis Andrus will hit 1 homer and fall outside the top-10 among fantasy shortstops. Derek Holland will win 12+ games and strike out 150+ with an ERA sub-4.00.

Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays 4th and 5th rotation spots will combine for an ERA over 5.00. Travis Snider will hit 25+ homers and post a +3.0 fWAR. Brett Cecil will be the best pitcher on the team. Aaron Hill will hit 30 homers.

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at his other site Figure Filbert and on twitter at @FigureFilbert

NL/AL Most Improved Lineups

After off-season moves this past season, two teams come to the forefront, in my mind, on who became the most improved in the two different leagues.

(July 19, 2009 – Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America)

In the American League, the Baltimore Orioles made a meandering of changes in their lineup this off-season to try to support their young and talented pitching staff. The major off-season acquisitions included Derrek Lee, Mark Reynolds, J.J. Hardy, and Vladimir Guerrero. All four of those players have the power to hit 20 home runs, maybe with the exception of Hardy. He did however hit over 20 in the ’07 and ’08 seasons. The only problem in going this route, you’re not planning for the future. None of these four players will be with the team for more than a couple of years at most.

The interesting aspect what these players bring is the protection that Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Luke Scott gain in the line up. Lee doesn’t have the same power he once had after his wrist injury, but is still a dangerous hitter. Reynolds will probably continue to strike out at an alarming rate, but will probably still hit 35+ home runs in hitter friendly Camden Yards. He also has to deal with the better pitching in the AL East compared to the much weaker NL West, which could be a problem. Junk ball hitting specialist, Guerrero should be a dangerous hitter in this line up as well. He’s thrived in the DH role with Texas last season, and I expect him to keep the same momentum going. If you figure in a healthy Brian Roberts at the top of the lineup, and a young Matt Wieters behind the plate, it could rival any team in the AL as one of the best lineups.

With the young pitching staff, the team is going to have to put up a lot of runs in order to help these young guys “take their lumps” while they gain more experience. Brian Matusz is poised to have a break out year, and Jeremy Guthrie could have a winning record with his normal ERA in the low fours or high threes. Between young pitchers Chris Tillman, Jake Arrieta and to an extent Brad Bergesen, with veteran Justin Duchscherer could make for an adaquete rotation with a very high ceiling. I’m not expecting a Cy Young winner to emerge from the group, but they could win a number of games with amount of runs the line up could mash in.

Potential Lineup:

Brian Roberts – 2B
Adam Jones – CF
Luke Scott – LF
Vladimir Gurrero – DH
Nick Markakis – RF
Derrek Lee – 1B
Mark Reynolds – 3B
Matt Wieters – C
J.J. Hardy – SS

It’s pretty hard to place all those power hitters in the lineup while trying to make the most sense. This will give coach Buck Showalter the flexibility to have a lot different lineup configurations depending on the pitching match up.  The only hitter on the team that hit over 20 home runs last season was Luke Scott. He should be poised to do the same, and drive in plenty of runs himself. This lineup might be one of the most balanced lineups I’ve ever seen as well. You have two switch hitters, five right handed hitters, and two left handed hitters. Fact of the matter is, they’re also in one of the best divisions in all of baseball. Between the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and even the Blue Jays, I just don’t foresee them making the playoffs, but they’re going to surprise a lot of people this season. Will they make it out of the cellar? There’s a really good possibility that occurs.

On the NL side of things, the Washington Nationals added some players that give slugger Ryan Zimmerman some extra protection that could even take him up to a next level (if there is one for him). The additions of Jayson Werth and Adam Laroche will add 40-50 home runs from those two batters alone. Werth of  course was the super-star contract acquisition this season, but it’s going to be hard for him to live up to those expectations. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic player, and knew he was good with the Dodogers; he just needed that change to get regular playing time. He got that with the Phillies and got him a World Series ring in the process.

(August 5, 2009 – Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Outfielder Michael Morse appears to have gotten a shot to be the everyday left fielder for the team to start the season. In only 266 ABs, he hit 15 home runs and batted in 41. Assuming enough at-bats for an everyday player through out the season, 30 home runs and 90 RBIs aren’t out of the question for him.

None of the options the team has for center field are all that attractive. I think Nyjer Morgan makes the most sense to me, since he can lead off, so I want to assume they’ll go that route. Last I read; however, Rick Ankiel has the inside track to securing the position, which I’m not sure that is the best option for the team. Without Morgan, they have no true lead off hitter. Roger Bernadina is also in the mix for OF time. Ian Desmond is more suited to be the second batter in the lineup behind Morgan.

Youngster Danny Espinosa, who has 15 home run power is slated to take over duties at 2nd base. Desmond should able to build on a pretty decent rookie campaign from last season. Hot shot catching prospect, Wilson Ramos, who was acquired in the Matt Capps trade with the Twins could start to figure in the lineup too with aging Pudge Rodriquez. It’s also possible that Jesus Flores could factor into the catching spot too, but there has been some interest with him going to Houston when Jason Castro was lost for the season.

Potential Lineup  (How I would construct it):

Nyjer Morgan – CF
Ian Desmond – SS
Ryan Zimmerman – 3B
Jayson Werth – RF
Michael Morse – LF
Adam LaRoche – 1B
Pudge Rodriguez / Wilson Ramos – C
Danny Espinosa – 2B
Pitchers Spot

The pitcher’s spot brings up a really good point: The Washington Nationals rotation and bullpen are a giant mess. Livan Hernandez is _NOT_who you want pitching for you opening day. With Steven Strasburg on the shelf all season, and Jordan Zimmerman having his own injuries last season, the team doesn’t have much to work with. The other three pitchers poised to make the rotation are Jason Marquis, John Lannan and Tom Gorzelanny. They will not be able to compete at all with the Phillies, but could give the Braves and Marlins a kind of “run for their money”. They’re a much better hitting team this season, by spending a lot of money, but with out pitching they don’t stand a chance.

Young closer Drew Storen has seemed to lost his spot at closer as well with a horrid spring with an ERA over 11. I saw last that the team has no official closer announced as of yet. We’ll see what happens there. Tyler Clippard could get some time shutting down games of Storen officially loses it.

The Man Behind the #10 Jersey – Adam Jones

Adam Jones

MLB reports:  It is not every day that I have the opportunity to correspond with a Gold Glove winning major league all-star, but over the last couple of weeks I got to do just that with Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles.  Getting to know Adam and hearing his thoughts on the game, his career, and team was fascinating to say the least.  The story begins as follows. 

Adam, one of the most fan friendly MLB stars on twitter, started to converse with me on my usual favorite topic, baseball.  I was instantly drawn to his easy going personality and zest for life and the game.  After some messages back and forth, I brought up my blog and the interview articles I prepare on MLB reports. Being the cool cat that he is, Adam suggested he would love to help out a young writer and agreed to be interviewed for this profile piece.  After some research, back and forth emails, and analysis, here we are today. 

We covered a range of topics on the career of #10, which I am about to jump into further.  Discussing topics ranging from the baseball influences on his career, his greatest accomplishments, goals, and areas of improvement, Adam did not hold back in his answers.  Considering Adam was both an All-Star and Gold Glove recipient in 2009, it was astounding to find that he did not have an ounce of attitude in his answers.  This is a player that is still humble at the age of 25 and works towards improving every facet of his game.  The combination of baseball skills, work ethic and positive outlook, I believe will translate into a limitless future for one of baseball’s young bright stars.

One of the first questions that I asked Adam was to name the baseball player he most idolized growing up and patterned his game after.  Born and raised in San Diego, California, to no surprise Adam named Tony Gwynn.  However, the reasons behind his response did perk my curiosity.  Baseball was not a sport that Adam “followed too strongly until approximately the age of 12” and only then, Gwynn was more a player that Jones had heard of than followed.  When asked to expand, Adam explained that “I’ve hit with TG [Gwynn] for a few off-seasons now since I’ve been drafted.  We have a tight group that hits together at San Diego State University.”  As far as the influence Gwynn had on his game, Adam indicated that “what I’ve learned is myself.  I’m not the hitter that he [Gwynn] was and that’s not my mentality.  We’ve just had discussions of thought processes and having the ability to take a step back and let the ball come to you.”  When breaking down the comparisons between Jones and Gwynn as players, his response becomes even clearer.

Tony Gwynn, a 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, played in 15 All-Star games, was the recipient of 5 Gold Gloves and 7 Silver Slugger Awards.  Gwynn also ended his career with a .338 lifetime average.  Jones, at the age of 25, brings a different game to the table.  Gwynn is a difficult, if not impossible, player to emulate and Jones is realistic in this regard.  The Gold Glove and All-Star appearance are already there with the promise of more to come.  Adam’s batting average has slowly risen every year of his career to a high of .284 in 2010.  With the right approach and discipline, .300 + is well within his reach.  Like Gwynn, Jones does a bit of everything, including hitting for power and stealing the occasional base.  Similar to Gwynn, Jones’ on-base percentage is dependent more on base hits than walks.    The more I compare the players, the standard that Gwynn set for his career is one that I feel that Adam can strive towards.  The bottom line on Gwynn is that the man could just plain hit.  Jones, working his way up the major league ladder, could follow in the Gwynn’s footsteps, even if Adam does not implicitly try to do so.

My follow-up question asked Adam to name the current MLB star that he most admired.  Based on Adam’s statistics and game style, I would have bet the answer was going to be Torii Hunter.  Guess what?  I was right.  But again, the reasons behind his answer threw me.  According to Adam, “there aren’t enough good things to say about him [Hunter].  But my favorite attribute about him has nothing to do with baseball.  That what he does for a living.  It’s his character.  He [Hunter] is a true leader on and off the field and is highly respected.”  My correlation between Adam and Hunter centered on their similar statistics and abilities on the field, in contrast to Adams’ vision of Hunter as a person and leader.  Hunter, a 4-time All-Star, 9-time Gold Glove winner and a Silver Slugger recipient, as a youngster in many ways mirrored the player that we see in Jones today.  In his breakout year in 2001, Hunter had a batting line of 27 home runs, .261 average, 82 runs, 92 rbis, .306 obp and .479 slg.  Jones, in his 2009 campaign had a line of 19 home runs, .277 average, 83 runs, 70 rbis, .335 obp and .442 slg.  Although not entirely the same, as hitters Jones and Hunter showcased several similarities in those respective years.  The following is Hunter’s average season in the major leagues: .275 batting average, 25 home runs, 89 runs, 95 rbis and 17 stolen bases.  Considering what Adam has accomplished to-date, these numbers are surely attainable and possible for him to exceed.

Adam indicated that he knew Torii very well and some of his favorite characteristics of Hunter was that “he plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played”, “not a guy that makes any excuses.” Adam mentioned Hunters’ upbeat attitude, and that his’ “favorite thing is that he smiles all the time.  He shows he is happy doing what he loves to do.”  Hunter’s personality has definitely rubbed off on Adam in a positive manner and reflects in his attitude and demeanor on and off the field.  If I had to include a caveat, however, it is the holes that Hunter has in his game that Adam would be well served to avoid in his own play.  Although Hunter is a strong home run hitter and has the ability to score and drive in runs, he has traditionally not hit for a high average or been able to get on-base at a consistent clip.  By working with Tony Gwynn, Jones should focus on raising his own level of base hits and batting average to compensate for a lack of walks.  At this stage of his career, it will be interesting to see if Adam becomes a high average and/or home run hitter as he progresses. 

With the above comparisons in mind, I asked Adam what he considered to be his greatest baseball skill(s) and aspects of his game he most wished to improve.  Rather than name a specific on-field capacity, Adam named his “lack of fear” as his greatest trait.  Adam believes that, “others should be a better evaluator of my skills.  I just play.”  This answer fit well within his stated areas of improvement, whereby Adam indicates, “I really want to improve on everything.  I need to steal more bases or be more aggressive.  I need to play better defense.  To get better judgment at the plate.  The best part about baseball is that there is always something to improve on.”  A star player that believes he can improve in every area of the game.  How refreshing.  When I pinpointed particular areas in his game, Adam responds by mentioning that he’s, “never been a high home run guy or walks or stolen bases.  I’ve always played my game and that’s got me to where I’m at now.  Adjustments are needed to be made in order to stay at this level so I am constantly trying to improve on something.”  Whereas Gwynn, known as “Mr. Padre” and “Captain Video” for dedicating enormous amounts of time  to studying video and his approach at the plate, Adam indicates the danger in thinking too much. While he does video, it can often lead into over-thinking and therefore Adam tries to avoid “thinking about hitting when in the batter’s box.” Let the instincts take over. An interesting and old-school mentality as a player, rather than trying to work on specific components, Adam works hard at improving all aspects of his game. 

I was curious as to what Jones considers his greatest accomplishment to-date in baseball and what goals he had for the 2011 season.  His 2009 Gold Glove ranks as the top accomplishment, because as Adam says, “it was decided by my peers.”  For the upcoming season, Adam is focusing on, “playing harder than I have.  For me in sports, I feel that if I play every day, the numbers take care of themselves.”  I didn’t get the sense that Adam is the type that checks the box score every day to break down and categorize his own statistics.  This is a player that is driven to play as hard as he can every day and simply focuses on helping his team win.  Plain and simple. 

Playing under Buck Showalter should only serve to further Adam’s approach to the game and lead to big things for him and the Orioles as the year approaches.  Showalter, a 2-time MLB Manager of the Year, has a career 916-856 record in 12 seasons.  Dissecting the numbers even further, in his 2nd year as a manager at each of his three stops, Showalter attained 88 wins with the Yankees, 100 wins with the Diamondbacks and 89 wins with the Rangers.  Going into year two with the Orioles, Showalter will work to bring the same strong attitude and success to Baltimore as he has achieved in each of his previous stops.

As far as what Showalter brings as a manager, Adam indicated that, “accountability was number one.  We held ourselves responsible for how we played.  I believe what he (Showalter) wants is for you to give your best effort and play the game.”  By having a similar mentality with his manager, I envision Jones growing into a leader on this young Orioles team.  In his humble response, Adam considers that, “when it comes to the young guys, I’m still a young guy myself.  But I always try and associate myself with my teammates in the clubhouse or the field.  I want them to know that I got their backs.”  That being said, Adam throws in a caution. “I want to be a leader, of course.  But I’m not going to force the issue with that.  You never want to cross the veterans on the teams and I try and show it (my leadership) with my play.  This season we have added veterans that have won and been leaders of their respective squads.  I think we have the possibility to have multiple leaders.”  A very healthy attitude for a budding superstar growing as both a player and leader on his team.  The Orioles bolstered their lineup for the 2011 season with the additions of Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds, in addition to Justin Duchscherer and Kevin Gregg joining the pitching staff.  A veteran team almost overnight, Jones will have many experienced players to learn from in Baltimore as he continues his rise to the top of the MLB ladder.

Reflecting on the 2010 season, Jones felt that the Orioles as a team, “all tried to do everything possible and we couldn’t do it.  We have to play as a team and have the faith in the guy behind you to get the job done.”  With all the additions to the team and a new season ahead, Jones states, “I want to play baseball with them all.  I am excited to get in the locker room and see my (new) team.”  Considering the Orioles teams of the past that Jones has played for, it has been quite the journey for the 37th overall pick in the 2003 draft.  Originally drafted as a shortstop by the Seattle Mariners, Adam was traded on February 8, 2008 to Baltimore as part of a package for then top of the rotation starting pitcher Erik Bedard.  “My first reaction when I found out I was traded to Baltimore was ‘dang,’ I’m going east.”  But then I thought to myself that I was going to have the opportunity to go and show that I can play this game at a high level.”  For a team and player on the rise, the marriage between the Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones couldn’t be a better fit.

With many bright years ahead of him, Adam took the time to reflect on what he would most want to be remembered for when it was time to hang up his spikes.  “When its over and done, I want people to know that I played my behind off and loved the game that has treated myself and so many people well.”  When you think of Adam Jones, do not look for the next “Tony Gwynn” or “Torii Hunter”.  Consider Adam Jones as himself, the player that he his and the player that he is striving to become.  Adam works hard and has a strong understanding of his strengths and areas he needs to improve.  Behind the #10 jersey there is no hype, attitude or ego – just the baseball player we will always know as “Adam Jones”.  

Adam Jones

***A special thank you to Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles for his time and effort as part of being interviewed for this article.  A thank you as well to Peter Stein, my editor in helping to prepare this piece.***

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My 2011 MLB Predicitons

Troy Tulowitzki

I decided to dig a little deeper and lay out my predicitons from our inaugural post with the Win-Loss records and award winners that go up to five deep.

While I do not use fancy projection systems like PECOTA or Marcels, I do run my own numbers to try and garner a win total for a team based on my 2011 projections for that team’s players. By doing that, most teams end up with an extra win or two because I cannot predict injuries that ruin a player’s entire season and I have to trim those extra wins in order to make sure the total wins match the total losses (I usually end up with about 30 more wins than losses with my initial numbers). That is where some of the “human element” comes in to play.

With that, here are my projected standings and awards:

AL East
1. Red Sox (94-68)
2. Rays (90-72) (Wild Card)
3. Yankees (89-73)
4. Blue Jays (82-80)
5. Orioles (77-85)

AL Central
1. White Sox (87-75)
2. Twins (86-76)
3. Tigers (84-78)
4. Indians (70-92)
5. Royals (61-101)

AL West
1. Rangers (90-72)
2. Athletics (86-76)
3. Angels (78-84)
4. Mariners (65-97)

NL East
1. Phillies (94-68)
2. Braves (89-73) (Wild Card)
3. Marlins (79-83)
4. Mets (77-85)
5. Nationals (73-89)

NL Central
1. Cardinals (90-72)
2. Brewers (87-75)
3. Reds (87-75)
4. Cubs (80-82)
5. Astros (66-96)
6. Pirates (63-99)

NL West
1. Rockies (88-74)
2. Giants (86-76)
3. Dodgers (81-81)
4. Padres (81-81)
5. Diamondbacks (70-92)

World Series

Rockies over Red Sox in 7.

World Series MVP

Dexter Fowler

AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Evan Longoria, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Miguel Cabrera

NL: Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Albert Pujols, Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman

Cy Young
AL: Jon Lester, Felix Hernandez, Brett Anderson, David Price, Dan Haren

NL: Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, Mat Latos

Rookie of the Year
AL: Jeremy Hellickson, J.P. Arencibia, Hank Conger, Kyle Drabek, Jesus Montero

NL: Domonic Brown, Freddie Freeman, Aroldis Chapman, Brandon Belt, Kenley Jansen

Comback Player of the Year
AL: Grady Sizemore, Conor Jackson

NL: Carlos Beltran, Pablo Sandoval

-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at his other site Figure Filbert and on twitter at @FigureFilbert