Garrett Jones is having a month of August. The slugger ranks fourth in all of baseball in slugging during the dog days. I can still remember the first time I saw Jones. Big country strong looking guy standing on McKechnie field. We came walking back from the beer stand, walked up the ramp looked past Ian Snell who was talking church softball and saw this huge man signing some autographs. We had no idea who he was, it sort of looked like he was in the wrong camp as we joked that he should have been a tight end in Latrobe.
Four years later, we’re glad he’s on our side.
We get on Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly quite a bit for some reason or another, but grabbing Garrett Freaking Jones from the Twins was a total steal. When you look at his value based on his production on one of our favorite sites—FanGraphs, it adds up to a nearly $24 million dollar player for what he has done in his four years as a Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman and outfielder.
But his production since the All-Star break is Andrew McCutchen-like. He’s used a huge slugging number to pump up his OPS to nearly 1.000, it now sits at .982. He is hitting .368/.408/.706 for a stupid good 1.114 OPS.
So where is it coming from? Jones has been used a bit better this year by manager Clint Hurdle. A combination of Pirates players have underperformed including the disappointing Casey McGehee who was shipped to the Yankees, and the outfielder Alex Presley and Jose Tabata disappearing act allowed Jones to grab the opportunity. But the biggest thing might be what Jones has done at the plate–it seems Hurdle has had his hands all over his swing and approach. The one thing that Hurdle said that makes a lot of sense when you watch Jones hit is the fact that he is ‘standing taller in the batter’s box.’
Against the Padres he has got his arms extended connecting on two crushing bombs. His swing was a thing of beauty on each being matched with a follow through that would make Tiger Woods proud. Jones just abused those two baseballs sending them screaming into the thick San Diego night. The ball he destroyed off Dale Thayer to tie the game in the ninth was 70 feet off the ground at it’s apex, just a total piss rocket. [video of it is here]
The 6’4″ Jones has done most of his damage against right handed pitchers. He hits one hundred points higher off righties and checks in with a .300/.334/.579 and .914OPS with 19 of his 21 bombs. Against lefties, which thankfully he hasn’t faced a great deal, GI Jones hits .200/.208/.356 and a light .564OPS.
The struggles seem to come when he swings outside the zone which he does roughly ten percent more than the MLB average, but the streaky Jones is also connecting with more of those balls outside the zone than the average major leaguer.
The difference remains that Jones is the same beast we saw four years ago, he just hits balls out of the park with more regularity than he ever has. He has hit five no doubt homers this season. He has tied his career high for homers with 21.
In fact, he hits his average bomb over 400 feet. Since July 2, he has connected on bombs that have went 403, 406, 380, 428, 404, 455, 400, 384, 434, 424, and 400 feet. That’s pretty far, like almost a mile.
Maybe we can call it a country mile.