This season can no longer be considered a hot start for Jake Adams. He continues to hit home runs and drive in runs at a historic rate, while setting himself up for an equally historic senior season in 2018.
Through 31 games, Adams has hit 13 home runs and driven in 43 runs, while continuing to also be one of Iowa's best contact hitters. He is third on the team with a .341 batting average, tied for second with 42 hits and has the best slugging percentage of .707.
Robert Neustrom is the only other Hawkeye with at least 20 RBIs this season, as he has 31, and Mason McCoy's .512 slugging percentage is the only other one above .500. To put in perspective how important Adams is to this offense, he has accounted for 46.4 percent of the team's home runs and 24.02 percent of the team's RBIs, plus his slugging percentage is almost 300 points higher than the team average of .433.
Iowa might not be one of the multiple teams the Big Ten sends to the NCAA Tournament this season, but Adams has arguably been the best hitter in the conference.
Maryland's Marty Costes is the only other player in the conference to rank in the top-10 in batting average, slugging percentage, hits, total bases, home runs and RBIs among players with at least 100 at-bats this season. Adams tops him in all but hits and batting average, including leading the conference in home runs, RBIs, total bases and slugging percentage.
|Jake Adams||.341 (9)||.707 (1)||42 (8)||87 (1)||13 (1)||43 (1)|
|Marty Costes||.369 (3)||.615 (5)||48 (1)||80 (2)||8 (T-4)||25 (10)|
Adams is equally impressive when comparing his stats to some of the best hitters in the nation. He is fourth in home runs, eighth in RBIs and 16th in both slugging percentage and total bases. Youngstown State's Andrew Kendrick is the only player in the nation to hit as many home runs as Adams in fewer games, though.
That makes it no surprise that Adams is one home run away from tying Randy Frakes and Chris Hatcher for 10th all-time in Iowa single-season history. If Adams continues to average .42 home runs per game and 1.39 RBIs per game, which ranks fourth and eighth in the nation, respectively, he would finish top-10 in each category.
He's currently on pace to hit 22.2 home runs and 73.5 RBIs. That's 0.2 more home runs than Iowa's all-time leader John Knapp hit in 1986 and would put him sixth in RBIs. He would be just the second Hawkeye since 2000 to hit at least 15 home runs or drive in at least 60 runs. In fact, there have only been three players besides Adams to drive in 40 or more RBIs since 2010.
With the way he's hit all season, it might seem like Adams is the only person who could slow himself down. Hitting .360 with 10 home runs on the road and .312 with three home runs at home is a good indication of his ability to hit in all ballparks.
Still, Adams potentially chasing the home run record down the stretch could lead to him over-swinging and falling off the home run record pace. Even though JUCO and D-I baseball are different, Adams does hold the single-season and career home run records at DMACC. It's a good sign that the extra pressure didn't get to him last season, and he maintained his mindset at the plate.
Another part of Adams' game that still needs work is his strikeout rate. He leads the team with 27 strikeouts and has the third highest strikeout percentage at 21.9 percent. Even though Adams has a hit in 10 of the past 11 games, cold streaks are not uncommon in baseball. His strikeouts could catch up to him and slow him down for a couple of games.
Rick Heller helped him, though, when he switched Adams and Neustrom in the lineup. Adams, who hit fourth in the lineup for most of the early season, recently started to hit third. It might mean fewer RBI chances, but it forces teams to pitch to Adams instead of intentionally walking him and then facing Neustrom, who is sixth in the Big Ten with a .351 batting average. Teams could take their chances with Neustrom instead, like Northwestern did last weekend, but it's less likely.
Adams will seemingly continue to get chances at the plate, which could mean history this season and next. Since he's projected to hit 22.2 home runs, let's pretend that Adams ties Knapp's home run record. That means he would be just 23 home runs away from tying Brad Carlson for the Iowa career record of 45 home runs.
Even if he doesn't reach 22 home runs this season, Adams has a legitimate chance of being the fifth Hawkeye ever to hit 40 career home runs in their career, assuming his production doesn't take a huge dip in 2018.
Out of the four Hawkeyes with 40 or more home runs in their career, none did it in fewer than three seasons and three of them did it in four seasons. Chris Hatcher, who ranks sixth with 37 career home runs, has the most home runs in a two-year career. With over 70 games remaining, Adams is just 24 home runs away from that mark. That's about one home run every three games, and Adams is hitting one in every 2.4 games right now.
Adams is also posting one of the best slugging percentage season in school history. Jeff Gurtcheff holds the career record with a .738 slugging percentage between 1983-86. If Adams gets hot to end the season, he could be chasing that record, too. Because of the crazy power Adams brought to Iowa, the Hawkeyes have hit 28 home runs as a team this season. That's already the most in the Heller era. They're also on pace to hit 47.8 home runs this season. It's not the 100 they hit in 1986, but still more than any year since 2004 (the farthest Iowa's online history books go back). It would also be the first season since 2009 that Iowa hits more than 40.
Since the Hawkeyes have a chance to obliterate every other recent Iowa team in home runs this season, here's how Jake Adams ranks against Iowa teams since 2010.
By himself with more than 20 games left in the season, Adams already ranks fifth. Barring an injury, Adams will likely finish fourth with a chance at third. It's crazy to think that one player could hit equal or more home runs than an entire team hit over a season, but that is what Adams is doing. He has already hit more home runs than Iowa as a team hit between the 2012-13 seasons combined (12) and has a chance to hit more than they hit between 2011-13 (20). While it's a testament to Adams' power, it also speaks volume to the job Heller has done since taking over in 2014.
To top it off, Adams has continued to grow as a defensive first baseman and owns a .986 fielding percentage. It's the same fielding percentage Tyler Peyton had as a senior in 2016. Defense is always a staple to a Heller-coached team, therefore it was extremely important for Adams to play well at first so he could stay out of the DH spot. He's done that by only recording one error in the past 20 games after recording three in his first 11 games. He's doing pretty well for someone who supposedly wouldn't be able to replace Peyton.