How can an out-of-nowhere minor leaguer who didn’t make a real impression on the league until he was 28 years old be considered a post-hype player? When you’re Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Garret Jones, I suppose.
From being an unlikely rookie sensation who went bonkers on the baseball world in 2009 with 21 homers in just 358 PA (including his memorable 10 HR month of July), to being so bad at one point in the following year that the dreaded ‘DFA’ was being thrown around, all the way back to him being a somewhat useful 1.4 fWAR, 27-homer player that earned him a $4.5 million contact in arbitration ahead of 2013 …
Well, let’s just say that Jones has been there and back again — and then some.
So of course, it’s only fitting that Jones finds himself finally settling as the Bucs’ middle-of-the-order bat in 2013 these days, at the ripe age of 31.
Yessir, we may even be looking at the start of a legitimate post-breakout … breakout here, even if it’s a relatively minor one, and one taking place with him in a lefty-righty platoon. Through 112 PA this season, Jones is posting a clean .301/.348/.534 triple-slash with five homers in that span. That included Friday’s performance against the New York Mets, in which the cleanup hitter was the catalyst in Pittsburgh’s 7-3 victory.
Going 3-for-5 with all three hits being of the extra bases variety, Jones collected his three RBIs on a thee-run bomb off Shaun Marcum to give the Pirates a lead that they would not relinquish, and then went ahead and added a pair of doubles to boot.
His power display prolonged a modest four-game hitting streak, as he’s now the proud owner of an elite 1.030 OPS over the past seven days.
Though he’s perhaps being helped just a bit by the baseball gods in this case (.342 BABIP), the 31-year-old is doing plenty to help himself too.
In this case, it’s about being selective enough with the right pitches. Although it’s a little bit disconcerting that Jones is whiffing more than ever at a 13.8 percent swinging strike rate and making contact with pitches at a dangerously-low 70.9 percent, the majority of that is because he’s missing pitches outside the zone much more these days (51.3 percent, career-low).
On the other hand, Jones has actually improved his contact with pitches inside the zone from last year (82.7 percent in 2013 vs. 81.8 in 2012) and is driving the ball when he can, with an excellent 30.9 percent line drive rate right now.
Basically, ‘less is more’ is the name of his game right now, and not hitting balls that he’d probably make weak contact with anyway may actually be helping his numbers overall. Will the BABIP inflated numbers come down? Probably. The line drive rate isn’t particularly sustainable, and he is getting away with a 13.3 percent infield fly rate right now.
Then again, that he might actually manage to put up the best post-2009 numbers of his career, after all the ups and downs, is a victory in itself for both Jones and the Pirates at this point, no?