Sunday, May 04, 2008

Time for the Jacque Jones Era to End

I really did not like the Jacque Jones acquisition at the time it was made. Sure, Omar Infante wasn't that big of a loss, and the Cubs were covering the salary difference, so it was worth a shot. After a while, I bought into the fact that Jones played a really good outfield last year. My main beef at the time wasn't with the trade or Jones' defense, he really isn't any better than the internal alternatives: Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames, and the now displaced Brandon Inge. The misplay on the line-drive double in the 7th inning was the final straw to me. While I'm not one to tolerate a poor offensive performance, it can be justified with a great defensive performance. Jones has been inferior in the field to every one of his positional competitors this year, even Marcus Thames.

It was an open debate as to whether Jacque Jones' bat was in decline last season or if it was merely a one year slump. At age 32, either could have been true. The biggest decline from 2006 to 2007 was his power. He fell from 27 home runs to a meager five in 2007. His isolated power dropped from an acceptable .214 to a ghastly .115. It was worth seeing if his bad could rebound (it hasn't), especially if he can play better defense than his alternatives (he hasn't). When you have a career OBP of just .327 and you are playing a power spot, you need either your power or your defense to keep you in the lineup. The fact that a superior hitter in Ryan Raburn is coming in as a defensive replacement is a paradox to say the least.

The Tigers are on the hook for $3-million dollars. It's getting to the point where they have to decide if that money is best spent giving Jacque Jones and his .522 OPS time to straighten out an offensive game that may not exist, or if they should cut bait and go to a time share between superior options in Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, and especially Ryan Raburn. If the concern is to have a left-handed bat in the lineup, here are the batting lines for all of the candidates against right-handed pitchers the past two seasons:

Raburn 84 PA, .338/.349/.563
Jones 375 PA, .283/.332/.397
Thames 193 PA, .209/.249/.456
Inge 447 PA, .209/.281/.340

Raburn 22 PA, .278/.409/.556
Jones 82 PA, .183/.268/.282
Thames 27 PA, .240/.296/.240
Inge 85 PA, .265/.381/.471

Ryan Raburn's numbers stand out, while Inge and Thames have had problems hitting right-handed pitchers in their careers. While the sample size issues apply, it's not like Raburn was struggling against right-handed pitchers in the minors. It's pretty clear that Jacque Jones is in the lineup because he bats from the left side, but his raises a question over the point of having a left-handed bat in the lineup. If the reason is to have somebody who hits from the left side, Jones is your guy. If the motive is to have somebody who can do damage against right-handed pitchers, it's probably best to finally give the every day job to the guy who is long overdue for the opportunity. Raburn has done everything in his power to have earned the starting left field job over the past year. It's high time he gets what he deserves.

Free Ryan Raburn!

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