Is Garrett Jones for real?

Garrett Jones, ztil301,
Garrett Jones - ztil301,
Garrett Jones arrived in Pittsburgh with a bang last summer, blasting ten home runs in his first 19 games. Many people, such as me, said it would never last. But Jones just kept hitting, finishing the season with a .293/.372/.567 line in 358 plate appearances. What will happen in 2010? Is Garrett Jones for real?

Obviously, Jones’ major league performance did not match the rest of his career. Let’s dive a bit deeper. First, the basic numbers from his last four seasons. I excluded his 84 plate appearances with the 2007 Twins, due to the small sample.

2006 Twins (AAA) 582 0.238 0.302 0.430 0.322
2007 Twins (AAA) 446 0.280 0.334 0.473 0.352
2008 Twins (AAA) 587 0.279 0.337 0.484 0.357
2009 Pirates (AAA) 299 0.307 0.348 0.502 0.371
2009 Pirates 358 0.293 0.372 0.567 0.396
PA=Plate Appearances, AVG=Batting Average, OBP=On-Base Percentage, SLG=Slugging Percentage, wOBA=Weighted On-Base Average

Clearly, Garrett’s time with the Pirates looks like an outlier, although he has seen gradual Triple-A improvement across the board. Time to dig deeper.

2006 Twins (AAA) 8.40% 23.00% .192
2007 Twins (AAA) 7.20% 20.80% .193
2008 Twins (AAA) 8.50% 18.60% .205
2009 Pirates (AAA) 6.00% 17.00% .195
2009 Pirates 11.20% 24.20% .274 .323 .326
BB%=Walk Percentage, K%=Strikeout Percentage, ISO=Isolated Power

Upon first glance, the major league walk rate seems out of whack. But it was probably just some regression to the mean after a low walk total the first half of the season in Triple-A. Overall, he walked in 8.83% of his plate appearances in 2009, which is consistent with his minor league numbers. The K% looks reasonable, as Jones gradually improved while gaining Triple-A experience. As expected, that strikeout rate rose when he reached the major league level. Jones’ 2009 BABIP and xBABIP are very close, so there are no issues there. However, he saw a huge jump in his Isolated Power upon reaching the show. After seeing some of the bombs Jones hit last year, I wouldn’t question his power. It appears to be elite to the naked eye. But that spike is still suspicious. Deeper we go.

Season Team PA HR HR/PA HR/FB
2006 Twins (AAA) 582 21 3.61% 13.55%
2007 Twins (AAA) 446 13 2.91% 10.08%
2008 Twins (AAA) 587 23 3.92% 14.29%
2009 Pirates (AAA) 299 12 4.01% 15.00%
2009 Pirates 358 21 5.87% 21.21%
PA=Plate Appearances, HR=Home Runs, HR/PA=Home Runs per Plate Appearance, HR/FB=Home Runs per Fly Ball

It is clear that Garrett’s home run rates in Pittsburgh were much higher than his career norms. Strictly looking at his numbers, it appears that his major league power was a fluke. It is not unusual for a player to add strength at Jones’ age, but only a marginal amount. Garrett’s jump is far too dramatic. As I mentioned earlier, Jones hit 10 home runs in his first 19 games. Looking at the following splits, we see that his home run rates became more realistic as the season progressed and his blazing start drifted further away in the rearview mirror.

July 108 10 9.26% 28.6%
August 120 6 5.00% 21.4%
Sep/Oct 130 5 3.85% 13.9%

So what should we expect from Jones in 2010? To find the answer, let’s see what he would have done in 2009 if his walk and home run rates were consistent with his minor league days. Here are his adjusted numbers. The adjusted BB%, HR/PA and HR/FB are Garrett’s Triple-A averages in 2006-2009.

2009 Actual 11.20% 40 5.87% 21 21.21% 21
2009 Adjusted 7.78% 28 3.61% 13 13.14% 13

After the adjustments, we come up with 28 walks and 13 home runs. That leaves him with the following 2009 stats.

Season Team PA H 1B 2B 3B HR BB AVG OBP SLG
2009 Pirates (adjusted) 358 92 49 21 1 13 28 .293 .338 .465

A .293/.338/.465 line is above average, and it is pretty much in line with his CHONE projection (.270/.324/476). ZiPS, on the other hand, is a bit more optimistic (.285/.339/.494).

Garrett Jones had a dream season for the Pirates in 2009. For three months, he was one of the best hitters in baseball. Expecting him to repeat that performance is unrealistic. But he will still be a valuable hitter, providing a huge boost to a lineup full of question marks. Not bad for a minor league free agent signing.

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Tim Salinetro

Spectacular analysis, Matthew! Although I would argue with your assertion that, realistically, he should not be expected to perform as well as he did in 2009. You didn’t look at all of the data…

First of all, I really like Garrett Jones, so if I think he’s going to do well, he will. This should not be overlooked.

Also, he is a very goodlooking ballplayer. Enough said.

If you throw out all of the stats and look at the things I’ve just said, I think you will agree that he’s going to be really good for a long time. Just like Chet Lemon, Will Clark and Kevin Young (minus the goodlooking part) before him.

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