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Jones’ Ranger Resurgence

Andruw Jones bashed three home runs last evening, taking his total up to 14 long balls for the season. Jones’ triple-slash line rests at .250/.348/.581, with a wOBA of .392. On a per-at-bat basis, Andruw has by far been Texas’ most productive hitter. Can you believe this is the same fellow who had to settle for a one-year, $500K deal this past winter?

One year ago, Jones was public enemy number one in Los Angeles. The ink was barely dry on the Curacao native’s two-year, $36.2M pact before the questions started rolling in. Jones looked to be following the David Wells training regimen, and a balky knee bothered him throughout the season. Jones produced one of the most execrable lines that you’ll ever see while in L.A. In 238 trips to the dish, Andruw “hit” .158/.256/.249, which translates to a wOBA of .234. For reference, Tony Pena Jr.’s career wOBA is .238.

Jones’ plummet was difficult to foresee. He entered the 2008 campaign at a listed age of 31. Subjectively, a player with a broad-based skill set such as Andruw’s would seem to be a good candidate to age well. During a “down” 2007 season, he was worth 3.6 Wins Above Replacement, a near-All-Star level of performance. Yet, he just couldn’t hit anything. It scarcely mattered what the opposition decided to toss, Jones would be headed back to the dugout accompanied by a smattering of boo’s:

Jones’ runs/100 pitches, 2008:

Fastball: -1.01
Slider: -1.38
Cutter: -7.67
Curveball: -3.49
Changeup: -2.86
Splitter: -7.51

Despite his macabre work on the West Coast, the Rangers decided to give Jones an opportunity to make the club. Texas’ no-risk acquisition has rewarded them, big time. Jones had severe issues making contact last season (36.4 K%), but he has reduced his K rate to a more reasonable 25% this season. After grounding out 47.8% of the time with the Dodgers (well above his 41.4% average dating back to 2002), Andruw has rolled over the ball 36.9% in 2009. There’s a big rebound in his number of flyballs hit (38.8% in ’08 to 46.7% in ’09).

Jones has jumped on fastballs this year, with a run value of +2.14/100 pitches. He’s also in the black against sliders (+0.84) and changeups (+0.90), while posting negative values against cutters (-0.52) and curves (-2.36).

In less than 200 trips to the plate, with limited time in the field, Andruw has already managed to accumulate 1.4 WAR. Jones has some relatively minor performance bonuses based on PA’s, but he has delivered a massive return on investment for the Rangers. It’s probably too late to snatch Jones off the waiver wire, but he looks locked in right now. Expecting this level of offense is likely unreasonable. But if he continues to hit anywhere near this well, the Rangers are simply going to have to find more AB’s for the former Braves star. Jones stumbled badly last year, but he’s back to being an asset.