In 2008 when Andruw Jones hit .158 through the first couple of months of the year, I was certain he was done.
After all, he had been steadily declining for seasons, and he was coming off a year where he hit .222 with the Braves.
It’s only now, 4 years later, that I feel comfortable admitting something that I don’t very often–that I was dead wrong.
From Phenom to Valuable Specialist
Andruw Jones has completely reinvented himself as a valuable specialist, or perhaps I should say, assassin, of left-handed pitching.
In an age where managers play matchups and splits in a way they never have before, Jones has proven incredibly valuable against southpaws. Just how valuable has he been? Consider the following:
Since the second half of 2010, Jones has 29 HRs in his last 400 ABs. And that’s against righties and lefties. Against left-handed pitching however, he has been hitting at an All-Star caliber level.
2) Over the same 400 AB period, Andruw Jones has over a .900 OPS against left-handed pitching.
You can fill an all-star caliber roster with right handed hitters who’s OPS v. lefties was lower than Jones’. Among the most notable: Evan Longoria, Justin Upton, Carlos Beltran, Billy Butler, Paul Konerko.
3) While Jones’ offensive value in the aggregate might be greater against left handed pitching over the past 2 years, his power has been equally impressive against righties.
Over the past 2 years (2011, 2012), Jones has his 8 home runs in 98 ABs against righties. That’s 1 HR every 12.25 ABs. How good is that you ask? Only 1 “regular” starter had a better ratio last year–Jose Bautista.
So Jones crushes lefties and he’s a poor man’s Jose Batista against righties. What exactly is keeping him from more playing time? Probably his fielding, right?
Fielding Better Than You Think
According to a nifty stat called “range factor,” which many expert junkies consider to be the most definitive measure of a defensive player’s value, Andruw Jones is a league average outfielder.
Yankees Were Right
So when you look at Andruw Jones, what do you see?
Most baseball fans would probably answer that he’s a washed up shell of his former self. The numbers however, tell a different story.
They show a player who has become the premier right handed platoon player–a guy who can put up a .900+ OPS against lefties and who’s showing no signs of slowing down. Oh, and he also happens to arguably be the best 4th outfielder in the league as well.
One of your guys gets hurt? No problem. Throw Andruw Jones in there and he’ll play defense as well as most major league regulars, hit a .900+ OPS against lefties, and hit a bomb every 12 ABs against righties.
Two years ago, the Yankees were mildly criticized for paying more than the league minimum for a guy widely believed to be on the downslide of his illustrious career.
Today, 31 GMs should be kicking themselves for not offering him more.