So far, Andruw Jones hasn’t had the start to his Dodger career that anyone would have hoped for. His .149/.259/.234 line would make him a decent hitting pitcher, but as an $18 million dollar per year slugging outfielder, it’s pretty miserable. Is there something we can see in the graphs here that might give us an idea of why he’s struggled out of the gates?
The batted ball distribution in 2008 shows two clear changes from his career norms; a nearly 20% uptick in ground ball rate, which corresponds to declines in flyball and line drive rates. Instead of lifting the ball and driving it, Jones is hitting the ball on the ground at a rate that would categorize him as a slash-and-dash hitter who uses his speed to try to leg out infield singles. Perhaps 10 years ago, he might have been able to make that work, but not anymore. He relies on his abilities in the box to get him on base, and he’s just not capable of creating offense while he’s pounding the ball into the dirt.
The sample is still small enough, so we shouldn’t jump to any conclusions about this being a definite change in skills. However, if you’re looking for a sign that Andruw is breaking out of his slump, look for him to get the ball in the air – when he starts getting lift in his swing again, the results will follow naturally.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.