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May 7, 2010

Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and the leadoff dilemma

Orioles manager Dave Trembley has gotten plenty of criticism for keeping Adam Jones in the leadoff role, and it's understandable why. After all, Jones is hitting .218 with three homers, six RBIs, three walks, 29 strikeouts and 12 runs, while recording an on-base percentage of .242.

In 15 games as the Orioles leadoff man in place of the injured Brian Roberts this season, Jones is 12-for-64 (.188) with three walks and a .224 on-base percentage. In his career as a leadoff hitter, Jones is 22-for-94 (.234) with a .280 on-base percentage.

Jones said that he doesn't change his approach based on where he hits in the lineup and it doesn't matter. But the numbers clearly show that he is much better in the two spot.

Trembley has said that his reason for keeping Jones at leadoff is the young center fielder needs to learn to be a better all-around hitter, to show better plate discipline, work the count and use his speed more. He's an important player for the organization's future, and if he is going to realize his potential, Jones has to learn these things. And with Roberts out for an extended period, what better time for Jones to learn than now?

I understand the logic, but Jones is showing no signs of doing any of those things after several weeks in the leadoff spot, and he looks like a shell of himself. The frustration has clearly set in, and I think Trembley is going to have to make a decision and get him away from the top of the lineup if Jones doesn't start showing signs of breaking out. He is currently hitless in his last 13 at-bats.

The question is who do you use at the top of the lineup, and there is absolutely no clear answer right now. The club would like to use Nolan Reimold there, but he's hitting under .200 and is having enough problems without worrying about the pressure of leading off. Cesar Izturis can handle the bat and run a little, but he has a .221 average and a .259 on-base.

The Orioles have considered moving Nick Markakis to the leadoff spot. He is hitting .312 with 19 walks and a .411 on-base, and his current power numbers (2 homers and 9 RBIs) are more suited for the top of the order right now than the middle of it.

But I'm not sure I'd be comfortable with that either. Markakis has clearly settled comfortably in the No.2 spot, and he's 22-for-55 (.400) over his last 14 games. He has never hit leadoff in his career and Markakis is very much a creature of comfort. I worry that an elevation to the top of the lineup would completely mess with his head and take him out of his comfort zone. Plus, ask any opposing pitcher what Oriole they fear most, and they'd tell you Markakis. I really believe him hitting where he is, has helped both Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada.

It's quite a dilemma the Orioles have on their hands and Roberts isn't coming back any time soon. But for Jones' sake, something needs to change.

Posted by Jeff Zrebiec at 8:08 PM | | Comments (46)


It might be pretty painful to watch, but I would remind people of what it was like to watch Roberts get his shot taking over for a Hairston injury.

Roberts' glove kept him a legitimate starter, but the bat was painful to watch. It's easy to forget that because today we think of him as such a "Tough Out" who can hack off pitches, get on base, and cause problems with his speed. It took time for Brian to get to that point though. It took him 3-4 seasons or age 25 to do it. Adam is 23, the same age Roberts broke into the majors.

I'm not making any excuses for Adam. The bottomline is that he has a tendency to swing at pitches he shouldn't. Just thought I should mention Roberts' early years, to get some perspective. It's not entirely fair to compare "Peak Years Roberts" with "Early Years Jones."

Markakis should be hitting leadoff!

Lugo did a good job against the Yanks and I think he would be the best fit. The problem is he is a backup and wont get much playing time. I think they should give him more playing time at short and when he plays he should lead off.

The O's looking for a leadoff hitter is like somebody on the Titantic looking for a bucket!!!!

Trembley's decision to stick with Jones here is baffling; and his unwillingness to try another path is a clue that he is clueless.

Markakis would be a better choice. But Jones need to be dropped back to 6th or 7th so he can work out his issues. He is just a free (and sloppy) out as a leadoff man.

I'd say, bring up Corey Patterson, and bat him leadoff. Let's face it, he can't be any worse than Adam Jones there, and to make room for Patterson, it may be time to send Montanez down so he can work on getting his stroke back, because it clearly isn't happening here.

It became obvious Jones should not be hitting at the top of the order weeks ago. The fact that Trembley continues to hit him there is another failing on his part.

Great points about Nick - I was thinking of him leadoff with Izturis 2nd, just to have someone to move Nick along for those 40% of the time he's on base, and getting him into scoring position for Tejada, Weiters and Wiggington in that order with Jones dropped to 6th or 7th. However, you make good points about the risk of messing Nick up - I've been saying for 2 years he should be in the two spot because he's more relaxed without feeling like he needs to hit home-runs (he'll probably hit more that way), so no doubt he should stay there if/when Roberts comes back -

Jeff Z's reply: I'm torn about it because I think it will help Jones to bat him second or fifth or sixth, but I don't know what it would do to Nick. I know when they had him hitting cleanup last year, he was not comfortable at all and tried to hit too many homers, and his entire game suffered. I'd just have a hard time moving him right now since he's really been swinging the bat well.

Corey Patterson is 30 years old and has a career obp of .290. He is the original Adam Jones. I do not think he is the answer at lead off. Interesting point your commenter made about the young Brian Roberts. Maybe there is hope for Jones. I'm dubious, though. The organization does not seem to value plate patience. Hard to believe that other than Markakis there is no one in the organziation available who knows how to get on base.

Don't mess up Kakis by moving him up. It's a whole different ball game. Let Izzy hit lead off. That might not be much of an upgrade but it would probably help Jones to move down and therefore still be a net plus. Also would like to see Lugo get a bit of time at 2nd, the D would save several runs per week and Wiggy could be at 1st or DH.

Did it make anyone else angry to see Jones say he does not change his approach no matter where he hits in the lineup? He has to know that a lead off hitter's job is to take pitches and work the count to get on base!
This is a really bad sign to me as far as Jones how coachable he is and how willing he is to learn.

ok, this is what we do. we send down reimold. we call up patterson to play left and bat lead off. we send down scott. and we trade for hank blalock or sign jermain dye. our offense sucks. something needs to be done.
1. patterson lf
2. markakis rf
3. tejeda 3b
4. wiggington 2b
5. blalock or dye dh
6. jones cf
7. weiters c
8. attkins 1b
9. izturis ss

Well, the Orioles certainly don't want to do anything that you wouldn't be "comfortable" with, Mr.Z.

Cuz as we readers know, it's all about the sportswriters.

I know the numbers seem so suggest Adam performs better in the #2 hole, but I am wondering how much of that is skewed by the torrid start last season? He was having a Robinson Cano-esque pace for the first 3 months, then tailed off, followed by injury. Much of that time was out of the #2 hole. It seemed like once we hit the All-Star break pitchers got a book on him, Adam was lengthening his swing, and he cooled off. Maybe this season is just an extension of that more than a matter of what hole he hits in?

For one thing, I can't verify this with facts, but by the eye, it seems like Adam was just getting a lot more fastballs at the first half of '09 than he's getting since the '09 All-Star break to today.

The "point" about Brian Roberts was based on revisionist history.

Robets NEVER had a period where he struggled with the bat.
If there was a period of adjustment at all, it was so short-lived that it isn't even worth mentioning.

Roberts outplayed Hairston from the first day he showed up here... but Hairston was first in the pecking order, so the Orioles stuck with him, even trying him in the outfield in order to satisfy his whiny little personality.

I have a feeling that's what's going on with Jones right now.
I mean they wouldn't DARE send Jones to Norfolk (which is where he belongs right now) because he'd whine his widdle ass off.

I've been saying since last January that they should trade Jones because I think he's another Jeffery Hammonds physically and right now, other teams actually still believe he has a future.

They should let Nick play CF, Reimold LF, and groom Bell as a RF.
Miguel Abreu, Jeff Salazar, and Matt Angle are eventual call-ups, but not yet.

For now, Gathright and Patterson are better options.

It's kind of odd actually...Jones has regressed much the same way BJ Upton has. Upton had one very solid year and the makings of a superstar but has never been able to repeat it. Still a very solid defensive center fielder with decent offensive numbers but certainly not the dominant player everyone expected at this point in his career.

Wouldn't be a dilemma for me,I'd send Jones down and bring Avery up.The reason Jones isn't working on things he needs to is because he knows he has them over a barrel.Jones believes he can get a hit out of any kind of pitch.I also believe he has a problem picking the ball up out of the pitcher's hand,that problem is no solvable and it's probably why the Mariners gave up on him.Jones has all around poor baseball IQ.Pitch recognition is probably the worst. They should have traded him in the off season while the value was high on him after being an all star and gold glove winner. The other problem is he's going to be looking for a big contract after this season and they'd be nuts to give him one.


I thought the Orioles acquired Juilio Lugo just in case Roberts was re-injuried? Lugo has the second most number of steals on the club. I think Lugo should play second and leadoff. Wigginton could start at 1st or DH since Scott is still slumping.

The point re Roberts comparison is interesting, but not relevant. If Roberts was going to be a player, he had to be a leadoff hitter, and he was thrown in to learn it (consistent with his long term potential). Jones is potentially a good middle of order bat, so putting him at leadoff is inconsistent with that projection. Yes, he needs to develop some skills to in order to achieve that, but he should not do it as DT's experiment and cause damage to Jones and the rest of the team. Jones should be working on those skills in the cage with Crow. Not by goIng 0-4 with 2k's every night and leaving the O's in a hole.

And don't mess with Markakis!

I'd bring up Patterson. Period.
A fresh, decent bat can help

Need a fresh bat. Corey can fit SOMEWHERE! Leadoff, schmedoff.

I second the Corety Patterson idea. He is definitely not the answer long-term, and wouldn't be the answer now if we had any other good options, but we don't have any other good options.

The fact is the Orioles have absolutely NO bona fide leadoff hitter Period. It really makes little difference who is there. Jones is simply not hitting. If he was, he still wouldn't make a good choice for a leadoff hitter. There is simply no one better. Very rarely can you "teach" plate discipline. Hitters don't suddenly begin to walk just because you tell them they need to take more pitches. It starts much earlier than the M.L. In some instances a player's discipline may improve but not to a very significant degree.

.Lugo and Patterson leadoff (right/left). more Wiggy at first. this isn't spring training. you get better on defense and offense including more speed.

If you want the most run production from the front of the lineup then the lineup should be:


Who knows when or if the others will begin to hit?

nick markakis should not be lead off batter. what i think should be done to get adam jones straightened out can't be put in print. not having any discipline at the plate is a pure mental approach

Bring up Joey Gaithright. He batted .320+ and got on base 380+ last year at AAA. Plus stole some bases. He was once a top prospect ment for leading off. He also has had some success in the past (KC) leading off. I know he isnt hitting a ton right now but he is getting on base (in AAA). We have him, lets see if he has value. Give him a couple weeks and send Reimold down for a few weeks to find himself. He will be back for good.

Plate patience is something that comes with time in the league. Younger hitters learn it with time. The core nucleus is young.

An example of this: Compare the patient hitters of the (and dreaded) Yankees: They are prime age players with lots of experience, such as Swisher, Jeter and Rodriquez. The Orioles core is Jones, Markakis, Weiters, Reimold who are all young hitters in relation to the Yanks. Watch them in 5-7 years and then judge the skill level.

It hurts right now though.

This team has no lead off hitter, and has no one in the organization suited for the job. That leaves only one option. TRADE for the right player. TRADE....Maybe they can get something for Matt Hobgood, before other teams realize that he's a bust like 95% of the Os draft picks.

Over rated prospects. Lots of hype. McPhail's plan to build a better org. from the bottom up. Now fans are finally able to see through some of the smoke and mirrors. There are no true prospects. This team has to look outside of the organization to find some answers. Roberts may have very possibly lost his full health, and may never be the same player again.

I understand the reluctance to move Nick and maybe screw up his head, but sometimes you have to take chances. The fact is Nick is the only guy in the lineup who is performing anything like a leadoff hitter and that's where they need to try him. He won't be under the pressure to hit homers that he was at cleanup, so I'm not as worried. This is not an instructional league, wins are supposed to count this year, so keeping Jones in the #1 spot so he can develop his skills at the expense of the team is just nuts, especially since all it seems to be doing to Jones is making him worse. Try Nick at leadoff for a few weeks, if he starts having problems, then try something else, but this current situation cannot go on. The O's desperately need to find a way to score more, and having Markakis bat #1 is the most sensible thing to try. Who knows, maybe he'll thrive there.

Why would you bat a guy leadoff who has averaged almost 100 RBI's a year, and why would you bat a guy leadoff who is hitting .218 with three homers, six RBIs, three walks, 29 strikeouts and 12 runs, while recording an on-base percentage of .242 and who has zero plate discipline? Also, why even consider Corey Pattterson, who when he was here usually hit 7th or 8th because he swung at bad pitches and has a career OBP of .290? Just face it, we don't have what we need on the team or in the minors.

the reason corey patterson is not in the majors is that he doesn't hit. he plays great defense.

I said it before and again. Jones is at least currently over-rated. He needs to keep his eye on the ball and swing thru it. Not up and puylling away as he does now. Where is Crowley, if these guys cannot hit, he needs to go/. Why waster money on his salary if they cannot hit, it means he cannot teach them how. OUT and sernd Jones down first.

I would send dowm Montenez and Reimold (or DL him). They are both in need of offense rehab. Bring up Patterson and Salazar. They can't possibly be worse than what we're getting out of the former.

I never liked the way Jones played defense, despite his now tarnished Gold Glove. The blowing bubbles and one handed catches and he refuses to play deeper. It drives me nuts.

Somehow, the O's have to get him Jones back on track. Maybe DH him full time for a while? Maybe move him to left? Maybe play him against lefties?


re: "Maybe they can get something for Matt Hobgood, before other teams realize that he's a bust"


The guy is 19.
He has a 4.13 ERA over 6 starts.
On only one of those starts did he give up more than 3 earned runs (4/25 - 6 ERs).
If you take that game out of the equation his ERA is 2.93.

Markakis has struggled as a run producer. He has thrived in the 2 spot. From a mindset, leadoff is most similar to 2. i see no reason why Markakis can't hit leadoff. And he's the only projected "regular" right now who fits.
Why not bat your top three obp guys 1, 2, 3?

Sorry Bear, the numbers don't support your claim.
It took BRo 2 seasons to put up major league numbers & 2 more to become a premier leadoff hitter.

Bumblebee's point is more accurate - Jones was never projected to be a leadoff hitter.

markakis makes sense. patient hitter. hits to all fields. decent speed. bat jones second. that's where he has had some success. let reimold play everyday in the field or at dh. he didn't have a full spring training to get his timing right, and he'd be better off playing everyday than playing a game here and a game there. forget about scott.

Where has the GREAT TERRY CROWLEY been. Fire him or show me one hitter he has made better over the years....Name one Orioles player who has gotten better year after year under his watch.....No has. His message is stale and he must go. He has been here for the entire 12 years of this debacle. Fire HIM!!!!!

Adam Jones is: OVER

Why mess up Markakis whos been hitting great in the 2 spot. Just put Lugo or Izturis there until Roberts gets back and move Jones to the 5 or 6 spot.

It might to much more realistic and meaningful if the Baltimore Sun sports staffr find truey intelligent and artistic WRITERS that have a concept of game/participation and action reguirements than currently displayed in their poor WRITTEN sorties. Dumb is as Dumb plays.

The two seasons you speak of were not full seasons..... 2001 and 2002.
They were still leaning towards Hairston.

Roberts never even got 400+ at-bats until 2003... and when he did, he immediately began to respond, putting up solid numbers.

It is amazing the # of GMs out there. Lugo is the logical pick for lead off and 2B. Move Wiggs to 1B of DH and leave him there, unless Tejada needs a day off. Lugo is a .280 lifetime hitter, he is off to a slow start, but he Avg is rising. If he gets the playing time he will hit.

Drop Montanez to AAA and get him alot of work. He has proven he can hit, we just need to get his confidence up. Stop monkeying with the line up. Set it an give it time to work. ALL averages are rising, save Jones, Scott and Reimold.

We are now getting to an easier part of the schedule, lets attack that and see how we do. Many teams are droppping to near our record, Astros, Royals, etc. We are getting better, lets enjoy it.

Although I'm ambivalent about Terry Crowley, in fairness, it must be pointed out Melvin Mora (who was a punchless slap hitter when he arrived) became a much better hitter when he was traded to the Orioles.

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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