How Andruw Jones is like quantum physics
See, according to quantum physics (as I understand it, which is not really) individual particles can behave all sorts of ways, and there’s no way to predict them — or even know where they are. But in the aggregate, they combine to behave in certain, predictable ways.
Andruw is totally unpredictable, at-bat to at-bat, game to game, month to month. But at the end of the season, you’ll wind up with about the same, every year. His batting average will be from .260 to .275 (five of the last seven seasons), his on-base from .335 to .370 (five of the last six seasons). Slugging’s a little more spread out, but still in a range from .460 to .545 — every one of the last seven seasons. The frustrating part is that he does this by alternating hot streaks with terrible slumps. Last season, his batting averages were, by month, .291, .229, .239, .292, .283, .258, .111 — the last in nine October PAs, followed by a terrific Division Series in which he nearly matched Carlos Beltran. But it’s not like even that is predictable. May and June, his worst months in 2004, were his best in 2003, and he was awful in the playoffs. I don’t get it, I don’t think anyone else does, and if we could get him to hit his best all the time he’d probably win an MVP award or two.
But what we’ve got here is an all-star level player. He’s a 27-year-old centerfielder with Gold Glove defense (everyone says he’s slowed down, but he still makes a ton of plays that other centerfielders don’t, and the metrics all rank him very high) and 250 career homers at the age of 27. He’s an immensely valuable player, and actually not that overpaid now after some of the contracts that were handed out this offseason.
Andruw has slowed down in the basepaths, if not the field. He was caught stealing in half of his twelve SB attempts last season, though admittedly a number of those were blown hit-and-runs. He gets out of the box worse than anyone in the league — sometimes I wonder, “Did he fall down on his backswing?” after watching him get thrown out by ten steps on a grounder to deep short. After looking to blow away the NL GIDP record early in the season and even challenge the legendary Jim Rice’s ML marks, he grounded into many fewer in the second half and wound up with “only” 24.
Andruw’s most-similar batter through Age 27 is Ruben Sierra, no surprise since it’s been Sierra since he was 21. (Actually, Sierra’s listed age is probably wrong; I’d think they would have caught Andruw by now if he was lying about his age, considering the visa crackdowns, but you never know.) Sierra is no longer particularly similar, though, as his simscore has dropped to 894 (on a scale of 1000). Most of the players after Sierra on Andruw’s list are Hall of Famers or Hall of Fame candidates. In a hitting era, those numbers aren’t quite as special, but on the other hand none of those guys was a Gold Glove centerfielder either. I suppose if Andruw hits 500 homers (as he should) and wins fifteen Gold Gloves (as he might, considering the inertia of the GG voting) they could keep him out of the Hall anyway, but he’s still on track. Yes, it would be nice if he had turned out to be Willie Mays, but he’s not a guy the Braves need to dump to compete, and he is a guy they’d have a lot of trouble replacing.
Mac, it sounds like you’re girding for a spate of anti-Andruw comments!
Seriously, I’m a big Andruw fan, but it’s tempered somewhat by the belief that he still retains untapped potential. It’s too bad he’s not Mays, but I can’t help but think that he’d help himself if he arrived to camp in better shape. I’d hoped that Javy’s 2003 season would provide an object lesson for him (lost weight + increased flexibility = more consistent production), but it didn’t happen. Ah well, maybe this year.
FWIW, I recall reading a couple of years ago that birth records in Curacao are much more reliable than some other places….
Uncle. Given the resurgence of the market, you’re right, he’s not excessively overpaid.
Bobby always said the he doesnt mind when Andruw comes into camp overweight because he burns it off quickly and it keeps him healthy. I am not sure this is true and it is probably just spin to protect his player. There was an article on ESPN about PayRod which discussed his manic workout sessions during the winter. Arod never gets hurt either, so I am not sure what to think about the issue.
It seems like Andruw has tried the coming into camp fat route, maybe he should try the other option.
Every player is different. But the most durable player of the last generation was Ripken, of course, and he was a workout fanatic. Can go either way, of course. I’ve read about football and basketball players saying that they’ve come in too light and by the end of the season were too light to do their jobs.
Hello I’m Johnny and I was one of those trade Andruw guys. As the first part of my 12 step program I read Mac Thomason’s eloquent description of Andruw the very good player but not superstar.
The market this year does make Andruw’s salary more palatable. Of course all it will take is for one of the 50 or 60 mil per year contenders to cause another correction. I get to watch the guy only on TV. On TV of course every ball he catches he makes look easy. I remember reading that Bill James once said that Andruw was the best defensive player he had ever seen.
Lets keep him. But lets also stop fooling ourselves into thinking that he is going to be more than what he is.
Noticed on the Baseball Reference that they listed him at 170 lbs. Probably hasn’t weighed that since he was 19 or 20. Hell I weigh 170.
I meant to say one of the 50 or 60 million dollar teams to win the whole thing. Dang brain much faster than my fingers.
Jones was 28 in his 8th full season in the bigs. After his 8th full season he has amassed 245 homeruns (+5 in ’96).
Sammy Sosa was 29 in his 8th full season in the bigs. After his 8th full season he had amassed 203 homeruns.
Do I think Jones will go on a tear like Sosa did from season 9 on? No, I don’t. I think we may never see another stretch like that again. But I do think AJ is just about to “break out” and have that monster season we’ve all been waiting for. The Pujols and Vlad instant success stories are far and few between. I think he’s developed at a slower than expected pace, but I think when you factor in his defense, he’s been an excellent player for the Braves since coming up. Besides, while on my honeymoon in ’96, I saw his Fulton County debut and he threw me (ok, my wife) a ball while running into the dugout.
I wonder what led to the Sammy hot streak? A good pharmacist and a homerun friendly ballpark would be my cynical answer.
Andruw’s a workhorse as well, which goes under the radar. He rarely misses a game and reportedly played through numerous nagging injuries last year. I’m sure a lot of guys do this, but here’s to hoping a pain-free ’05 will bring Andruw a very productive year.
People say that Sammy finally figured out the strike zone in order to make the jump to greatness. It’s true that his walks went way up, but his strikouts were also very high (higher than Andruw’s levels). His last few years it seems like he’s lost a lot of plate discipline, swinging at a lot of bad balls.
I think this is prery similar to Andruw. If he sudenly got excellent command of the strike zone, he might make a similar jump. That’s a lot easier said than done, however, so I’m not going to plan on it.
Waiting on Andruw to develop plate discipline and have that elusive superstar season is futile. Kind of like waiting by the mailbox for your Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes check to arrive. I was one of those guys saying that we should trade him to get some salary flexibility and no doubt the Braves tried so that they would have a chance at Drew but the way the market developed this year halted that idea. In the end we are better off with him. At least we know that we’ll get 155 games very good if erratic offensive production and great defense from him.
One thing that really gets me about Andruw is the way he strolls around the basepaths. How can someone cover soo much ground and make these diving outfield plays but barely make it to first base…I remember one game about 2 years ago when Bobby benched A. Jones due to the slacky running.
I’ve always thought the weakness with a lot of statistical analysis is that it is based on the long run. That works when analyzing a lot of guys, because the trend is pretty much who they are. The trend just doesn’t work for Andruw. His season stats look alright, but when I watch him day-to-day, I just throw out any hopes for consistency at bat to at bat.
He could walk 100 times, but he’d still swing at 500 bad pitches in a season.
My other worry about him is that he may have lost a tick in his ability to hit the high cheese. I remember a few seasons back when he screwed up a sacrifice bunt and on the next pitch, hit a cap high 95 mile an hour offering from Trevor Hoffman out of the park on a line drive that seemingly never got more than 10 feet off the ground. It was out of the park at light speed. He seems to be late on that pitch now.