Doug Jones Slowly Became Kinda Good

Here’s another card recently added to my ’93 Finest set. Doug Jones appears in his second season as the closer for the Houston Astros. He was already 35 years old in the card’s picture and had only gotten the chance to regularly close out games five years earlier. Somehow this had culminated his 1992 debut season with the Astros, a season that was his best. Jones had slowly come into this position, with the operative word being “slow.”

First thought: The floating ball always looks odd on Finest cards. Second thought: Doesn’t it look like the old west gunslinger Doc Holliday is pitching for Houston?

Doug Jones was slow. His fastball rarely left the bottom half of the 80s, which is great in school but dangerous outside of the minor leagues. He took forever to reach the majors, not securing a regular spot with the Cleveland Indians until age 29. None of this was promising and pointed towards a career that any normal person would expect to end shortly. Instead, Jones embraced his lack of speed and used it to his advantage against opposing batters. He developed a changeup, a pitch that becomes more effective the slower it is thrown. Batters can adjust to a pitcher’s timing after seeing them multiple times in a game. To solve this, Jones found a home in the bullpen where he would likely see a batter only once. Jones was also a master of control, striking out batters at four times the rate of walks and hitting only 39 batters over 16 seasons.

After switching to the bullpen Jones started to help some bad teams win. He remarkably led the 1992 Astros in wins despite being a reliever. Like his changeup, Jones had taken his time in settling into the role of closer. 302 of his 303 career saves came after his 30th birthday, yet that was enough time to put him on the cusp of the all-time top 10 saves leaderboard at the time of his retirement.

Although Jones didn’t seem overpowering, the red dot showing his performance in the scatterplot above ranks him very close to that of Hall of Fame closer Lee Smith.

After Baseball

Jones retired in 2000, ending his career with the “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics. He has since held minor league coaching assignments with several teams as well as San Diego Christian College.

Score somehow thought in 1991 that Doug Jones was best portrayed by a flaming baseball.