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.