November 29, 2010
Jacque Dewayne Jones | LF/CF/RF | 1999-2005 | Career Stats
Jacque Jones starred at USC and was a member of the bronze medal-winning Olympic team in 1996 before the Twins picked him in the second round of the 1996 draft. He hit .297/.342/.464 with 15 homers, 24 steals, and a 110-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 131 games at Single-A in 1997 and nearly duplicated that by hitting .299/.350/.508 with 21 homers, 18 steals, and a 134-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 134 games at Double-A the next year.
Jones started 1999 at Triple-A and hit .298/.333/.444 in 52 games before the Twins called him up in June. He debuted with an 0-for-4 against the Reds on June 9, 1999 and the rest of the story has been told and re-told here many times. Many of Jones' totals--132 homers, 476 RBIs, 189 doubles, 974 hits, 1,589 total bases--rank among the top 15 in team history, which might make it seem as though I've been overly critical of him over the years.
And that may be true, but there are some other factors to consider. For instance, it's important to remember that Jones played for the Twins in a high-offense era and played a key position for offense. All of which makes his raw totals look better than they really are when compared to hitters from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s or guys from various eras who hit well and played premium defensive positions.
Another factor in my past criticisms of Jones is that because of the weaknesses in his game he would've been more valuable for the Twins if only he'd have been utilized differently in two key areas. Jones' strength was always his ability to hit right-handed pitching, but Ron Gardenhire wiped away much of that value by refusing to platoon him against lefties. The end result was a relatively mediocre line of .279/.327/.455 in seven Twins seasons that breaks down as follows:
AVG OBP SLG OPS vs RHP .294 .341 .488 .830 vs LHP .227 .277 .339 .616
Not only was Jones a totally different hitter against righties and lefties, he was unable to put together even one good year versus southpaws in seven years in Minnesota. Because of that it would've been easy to squeeze the maximum value out of Jones as a hitter, letting him tee off on righties while shielding him versus most lefties. Gardenhire instead got the good hitting against righties and then let Jones erase many of those gains with his horrible work off lefties.
Jones' time in Minnesota is a prime example of how not to get the most out of your players by not putting them in a position to succeed and maximize their talent. And while Gardenhire is at fault for refusing to platoon him, the other major circumstance that could have added to Jones' value for the Twins really can't be pinned on anyone. Well, maybe Torii Hunter and whichever scout recommended that the Twins draft him back in 1993.
In most organizations Jones would have spent seven seasons patrolling center field, where his defense would have been more important and his offense would have been more valuable. However, with Hunter around Jones shifted first to left field and then to right field. His defense in both places was excellent, but his offense was really nothing special for a corner outfielder. Interestingly, his hitting and Hunter's hitting were very similar while with the Twins:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS Hunter 4894 .271 .324 .469 .793 Jones 3783 .279 .327 .455 .776
Almost identical overall numbers--albeit in different amounts of playing time--yet Hunter was a more valuable offensive player because his hitting was above average for center fielders while Jones' hitting was slightly below average for corner outfielders. In fact, according to the Runs Created Above Position metric, Jones was 43 runs worse than an average corner outfielder on offense while with the Twins.
If he were drafted by a team that didn't have a elite center fielder and played for a manager who knew the value of platooning Jones would've been a superior player to the one the Twins got. Of course, in ranking his place in Twins history those points are little more than sidebars. Instead of being a platoon center fielder in a fantasy world, he was a strong defensive corner outfielder with a slugging percentage-heavy bat that made him about average for the position.
Multiple all that by nearly 1,000 games spread over seven seasons and what you get is a very solid player. In fact, I might go so far as to say that if Jones played in an earlier era I wasn't around to see I'd view his Twins career in a more positive light. In other words, if I didn't have such vivid memories of Jones' flaws and the ways in which the Twins failed to ideally utilize him what I'd be left with is a decent hitter and quality defender who was durable and productive.
Instead, I see is the wild swings and helplessness versus lefties, the throws from the outfield that were either air-mailed past the catcher or launched directly into the turf, the struggles in the postseason and short peak, and an overall lack of improvement that seemed to symbolize Twins hitters at the time. I still see what could've been with Jones, rather than what actually was. And what actually was ... well, it was pretty good for quite a while.
TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS Homers 132 10th Extra-Base Hits 336 11th RBIs 476 12th Doubles 189 13th Total Bases 1589 14th Isolated Power .176 14th Plate Appearances 3783 15th Hits 974 15th Runs Created 502 15th Games 976 16th Runs 492 16th Slugging Percentage .455 17th Times On Base 1233 17th Steals 67 18th Batting Average .279 24th OPS .782 25th