Monday, September 05, 2005

The Jones Question
By Ben Valentine

About a week ago, Sportszilla asked me a question regarding Braves centerfielder Andruw Jones; “Is he for real?” It’s the question everyone’s been asking for the last two months. Well today as I watched him bomb a Steve Trachsel pitch well into the stands in left center field, the question again popped into my head.

This season the 28 year old Jones is hitting .271/.355/.590 with 45 homeruns and 112 RBI. In my opinion, he’s the unquestioned MVP in the NL when you combine those numbers with his outstanding defense. It has been the year the Braves have been waiting for from Jones seemingly since he came up way back in 1996. Always a player with worlds of talent and a questionable head, the natural question is whether he has finally turned it around. Or is he just a 2005 version of Adrian Beltre who will revert back to his old form next year?

I was going back on forth on this but after looking at the numbers I have no doubt Andruw Jones the MVP caliber superstar is here to stay.

The first reason I believe this is because he’s now entered his most productive age range. Jones is hitting the prime years of his career. Like Beltre, he seems like a guy who should have hit his prime years ago, but Jones came up when he was just 19 years old. Yes he’s a nine year veteran, but he’s still just 28.

Secondly, while this year is a definite improvement for Jones, but it did not come out of nowhere. Last year Jones was .261/.345/.488 with 29 home runs. That in fact, was a down year for him. The year before he was .277/.338/.513 with 36 hrs and .266/.366/.513 with 35 hrs the year before that. In fact if you look at Jones’ career to this point, one has to realize that when you combine the position he plays and the offensive numbers he’s put up, he’s been one of baseball’s most valuable players over the last five years. I mean his career stats are .268/.343/.503. For a centerfielder, you’re not getting much better than that.

The biggest change this year is the spike in power. Is it unreasonable to expect him to hit this many homeruns again? I don’t think so. Unlike a Beltre, he has a track record. Secondly, this isn’t a contract year, so it isn’t as if he’s “extra motivated” this season. It looks like Jones has just taken that aspect of his game to the next level, which isn’t too surprising. After all usually power increases with age, and speed decreases. Jones has shown to be true to that, since he no longer is a SB threat. (He has just two this season and hasn’t stolen double digit bases since 2001)

The truth is Andruw Jones hasn’t become a great player this year. He already was one. Last year was far more of an aberration than this season. So, it should be no surprise next year when Jones continues on as one of the game’s elite players. And with A-Rod inexplicably playing third base instead of shortstop, Jones might just be the most valuable position player in all of baseball.

-Break Out the Steel Drums

While Bone is the soccer expert around here, I felt it necessary to give recognition to Trinidad and Tobago for their inspired come from behind win against Guatemala Saturday night. Down 2-1 in the 86th minute and needing a win to draw even with Guatemala in the standings, Stern John scored twice in the next two minutes to give the Soka Warriors the 3-2 victory. Both teams now sit in 4th place with 3 games to go. Trinidad cannot tie Guatemala in the standings; their terrible goal differential will kill them in the tie breaker. (Ironically because of a 5-1 embarrassment at Guatemala’s hands earlier this year) Wednesday the Soka Warriors take on Costa Rica on the road needing a point here. A win would put them in a tie with Costa Rica for third, but that’s probably asking too much. Right now they need to hope the US second team plays a great game Wednesday against Guatemala. But the boys from Trinidad are still kicking, so my dream of their first cup appearance lives on.

-Jabber Jock favorite John Patterson finally has received props outside of this blog. Check out the Roto Authority to see why the Nats new ace is the real deal.

-All hail yet another favorite of mine, Jae Seo, for yet another stellar performance, allowing just one run, five hits and two walks in seven innings while striking out six in a 5-1 Mets win over the Marlins Sunday. He’s now 7-1 this year with a 1.79 ERA, posting 43 Ks and just 9 BB in 60.1 innings. As I’ve said before, Seo won’t pitch this well forever, but there’s reason to believe he’s more than just a AAAA pitcher having a hot streak. Obviously he’s had one good year in the bigs already, and has improved in his weakest area, strikeouts. This year in the minors he struck out 111 in 121.2 innings while walking 30. His era was high, 4.20, but Seo is a temper mental pitcher who has been known to have concentration issues. Frustration over his misuse could explain the high ERA. Bottom line, Seo is a major league pitcher. I’m glad the Mets finally have given him a chance to show that once again.

-Finally, Kaz Matsui actually looked respectable at the plate and in the field the last few days. Maybe it's because a light has come on, or maybe it's just beacuse he's not Miguel Cairo. I don't like Matsui much but he should be playing every day the rest of way (especially of Anderson Hernandez isn't called up). Plus there's absolutely no pressure on the guy, so maybe in this last three weeks he can be a fraction of the player the Mets thought they were getting two years ago.

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