Adam Jones hit 32 homers and scored 103 runs for the Orioles during his finest regular season to date. Which is pretty hard to believe giving how badly he bombed during the ALDS.
Jones went 2-for-23 against the Yankees and led the world in ugly at-bats. To go along with his six strikeouts, he had three one-pitch at-bats and seven two-pitch at-bats (one of which resulted in a hit). Both of his hits were singles. He never worked a walk. In fact, he hasn’t walked since Sept. 21.
On defense, Jones also had a big miscue in Wednesday’s 12-inning loss, giving the Yankees their first run of the game in the third when he misjudged Derek Jeter’s fly to center. Jones took two steps in before beginning to drift back on a ball that went over his head.
Of course, Jones hardly deserves all of the blame for Baltimore’s troubles scoring. The lineup was full of guys with lousy averages: Manny Machado came in at .125, J.J. Hardy .136, Matt Wieters .150, Mark Reynolds .158 and Chris Davis .200. The fact that the team was without Nick Markakis, whose hand was broken by a CC Sabathia pitch, and Brian Roberts finally ended up doing some damage. Nolan Reimold and Wilson Betemit probably could have helped, too.
But Jones was one of the lineup’s two All-Stars. The guy who signed the six-year, $85.5 million contract back in May. He didn’t even need to carry the load for the team; the pitching did that while holding the Yankees to nine runs over the final four games. He just needed to play like he did in the regular season, and he couldn’t.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.