Tuesday, February 21, 2006

MY NEW JONES

The Jacque Jones signing has been much maligned and, considering Hendry's apparent lack of interest in a superior option just down the I-5 from me, rightfully so. My feeling was that Burnitz would probably put up similar numbers with more power. But beyond this, as others have mentioned, a team like the Cubs should not have so many questions mark running around the outfield, especially on the derriere that will be firmly implanted in front of the commuter friendly/freeloader hating knot hole.

The biggest problem with Jones is his decline from 02-03 to 04-05. Which will more accurately reflect his level of performance for the next three years? The 330 hits in 02 and 03 or the 271 hits of the last two years? Considering that he will be slotted to "protect" Lee and Ramirez (who will both have OBPs of between .350 and .400), this could really help the offense. Or hurt it equally.

Jones (31 on April 25)
Year avg/obp / slg
2002 300/341/511 (577 ABs)
2003 304/333/464 (517 ABs)
2004 254/315/427 (555 ABs)
2005 249/319/438 (523 ABs)

His BB/K rates were .29, .20, .34, and .43 while he hit 27, 16, 24 and 23 homers.

Interestingly, Jones and Burnitz had pretty similar years in 05. As a matter of fact, even including Burnitz's 04 season in Colorado, Jones has been better the past four years.

Burnitz (37 on April 15)
Year avg/obp / slg
2002 215 /311/365 (479 ABs)
2003 239 /299/487 (464 ABs)
2004 283 /356/559 (540 ABs)
2005 258 /322/435 (605 ABs)

His BB/K rates were .43, .31, .47, and .52 while he hit 19, 31, 37, and 24 homers.

If these trends continue, the Cubs have at least become younger in right without losing anything offensively. The hopes are, of course, that Jones will move back towards his 02-03 seasons. Burnitz doesn't possess a potential like this any longer. With the possibility of a platoon in right involving Jones and Grissom (please, anyone), right should be more productive.

Last year, Burnitz was .267/.345/.430 against right-handed pitching in 423 ABs (15 HR, 50 BB, 70 SO). Jones was .268/.348/.466 against right-handed pitching in 369 ABs (17 HR, 42 BB, 84 SO) while only .201/.247/.370 against left-handed pitching in 154 ABs (6 HR, 9 BB, 36 SO). Again, Jones should produce as much as Burnitz while possibly giving a decent improvement if a platoon is factored in or he moves back towards his 02-03 lines.

Another factor is defense. Jones has a reputation for his defense--notably his range. But his arm might be just as valuable. John Walsh, in a recent article on The Hardball Times site, Canons and Popguns -- Rating Outfield Arms, has attempted to rank outfield arms. According to his calculations, the best right fielders at throwing out runners (Kill Rate) are: Francoeur, Hawpe, Gibbons, Jenkins, and Ordonenz. But, the fifth best at holding runners from getting extra bases is none other than Jacque Jones (Hold Rate of 114, minimum of 75 opportunities). He is behind Lane (HldR 124), but only slightly behind Rios (HldR 117), Diaz (HldR 117), Vlad Guerrero (HldR 115). As far as runs saved by right-fielders, Jones again ranks fifth at 2.4 runs, behind Francoeur (5.5) Jenkins (3.6), Rios (2.6) and Lane (2.5). The improvement is seen especially in light of Burnitz's rate of -4.3 runs saved, second worst.

So what is Jones to the Cubs over Burintz? Younger. Slight offensive improvement (despite his BB/SO). Big defensive improvement. French name.

Another factor that had to be considered was the impending arrival of the much-heralded Pie. But this has more to do with a log jam in center with Pierre, than with right field.

The final consideration is money. Is Jones making too much? And, couldn't we have signed Giles for not that much more? No and yes, all things considered. Jones signed a 3 year $16M contract. Burnitz's 06 option was for $7M. So, the Cubs seem to be getting more for less. Giles re-signed with San Diego for 3 years/$30M, with a club option for 2009. Here are his numbers the last four years:

Giles (turned 35 on January 20th)
Year avg /obp /slg
2002 298/450/622 (497 ABs)
2003 299/427/514 (492 ABs)
2004 284/374/475 (609 ABs)
2005 301/423/483 (545 ABs)
His BB/K rate was 1.82, 1.81, 1.11, and 1.86 while he hit 38, 20, 23, and 15 homers.

Assuming the Cubs could have gotten Giles for $5-6M more per year over the next three years, would it have been worth it? I think so, but Giles' decreasing power (slugging of .622, .514, .475, .483) might indicate his age is catching up with him. Or, it might reflect his move to the spacious Petco Park. But, barring a return to the numbers of 02-03 for Jones, there is no reason to think that Giles won't put up better numbers during this time. And that's the problem. Why are the Cubs taking a chance on Jones instead of making a play for someone of Giles caliber?

The one possible saving factor here is derrek Lee. If Hendry is saving some money on Jones and signs Lee to a new contract before the season starts, as Lee himself has suggested, the signing makes some more sense. You have an upgrade in right and re-sign one of the marquee players in baseball. On the other hand, is there really any reason why the Cubs couldn't have spent a little more for one of the better right fielders in baseball too?

Do I love my new Jones? No, definitely not. Do I like my new Jones? Yeah, I think so. He's better than what was there with some potential to return to better days. But he'd be much more bearable with a four year contract--for Lee that is.