UZR is catching up to Adam Jones, or maybe it‘s the other way around. Either way, the Orioles centerfielder is finally receiving some love from defensive metrics — his league-leading 5.9 UZR is by far the best of his career. He already had a Gold Glove, as well as both appreciation and skepticism for the numbers that assess his play. The 26-year-old Jones discussed his defensive game — and those numbers — during a recent visit to Fenway Park.
Jones on defense and data: “Defense adds to your overall value. Teams look at what you bring to the table both offensively and defensively. In this division, along with myself you have [Jacoby] Ellsbury — who is on the shelf right now and I wish him a speedy recovery — [Curtis] Granderson and [B.J.] Upton. You also have [Colby] Rasmus. I can’t forget my man Rasmus. I think we’re all plus defenders. We’re also plus offensive players, which is why most of us are hitting in the middle of the lineup for our teams. We bring both to the table.
“There are stats now like defensive UZR, and all that, but they don’t show the placement of the player. Everything nowadays is so statistical. Like wOBA. We have a wOBA this year –weighted on-base average. It’s pretty cool to look at that, even though we joke about it. There are so many statistical-analysis ways to look at the game now that it’s crazy.”
On Gold Glove voting: “Gold Glove winners usually deserve a Gold Glove. There are multiple guys each year who deserve a Gold Glove [at each position], it’s not just one guy. Last year, I’m sure a lot of people around the league felt other people deserved it. The guy who did win, deserved it; Ellsbury was very deserving. Austin Jackson, in my eyes, was very deserving. Granderson was very deserving. Who wins is the one who gets the most [votes], but there are some really good centerfielders. [Franklin] Gutierrez is another. It comes down to votes. Some people think it’s a statistical thing, but nowadays — how they do it with each position — they look at it like that.”
On the Fielding Bible saying that he doesn’t always take good routes to the ball: “They assess how they assess. But I don’t think they look at where we play the hitters, as opposed to just the charts. That’s the only thing. But maybe I need to clean it up and get better in my routes to the ball. That’s basically what they’re telling me.
“Data like that shows you what you need to improve on. If I showed up here and wasn’t willing to improve, then why am I showing up? It means I have something to work on, and I will. I think I’m still a work in progress and trying to get better. We have a really good outfield here. We have some really good guys and as a team we’re consistently trying to get better.”
On defensive positioning: “You have to understand the hitters. You have to understand the pitchers. You have to understand the pitcher’s velocity that day. He might usually be 92-94, but he’s 90-92. You have to recognize that, as well as how the hitter is swinging. How is the pitcher’s breaking ball? There are so many things that go into it.
“We have a chart on how we’re going to play hitters, based on previous [data], but this game is about constant adjustments. We were just in New York and in some at bats I played Granderson in, and in some at bats I played him deep. Some at bats I played [Mark] Teixeira closer. Some at bats I played A-Rod in. Sometimes I’d play [Robinson] Cano a little deeper. It depends on situations. A lot of things tie into how, and where, you position yourself on the field.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.