06 June, 2008

Hall of Fame Debate: Chipper Jones

Chipper Jones is enjoying an incredible start to the 2008 regular season. Not only is Jones leading the majors with an astounding .423 average, but his 1.176 OPS is second only to Berkman in the majors; he is first in OBP at .502, second in SLG (Berkman) at .671, and second in RC (Berkman) at 64.2.
In addition to all of this, Chipper hit his 400th career home run yesterday. He currently ranks 43rd all-time in home runs, 79th in RBI (1338), 45th in OBP (.406), 27th in slugging (.550), and 22nd in OPS (.956). He was awarded the 1999 NL MVP award, has received 2 silver slugger awards and is a 5 time all-star.
He has met the standards of many to enter the Hall of Fame, but there are still some naysayers who argue that Jones has been too much of an injury risk during his career, particularly over the past several years. Also, Jones has never been considered a premiere defender; he has played at a time when many would argue that he was not the best third baseman in the game. Names like Rolen, Rodriguez and Wright surface as contemporaries or partial contemporaries whose achievements may ultimately dwarf Jones'.

Chipper has also had the unfortunate timing to have played in baseball's steroids era. While we note that Jones has never been under any kind of scrutiny regarding performance enhancing drugs, and has in fact been quite outspoken against PEDs, the era in general suffers from its perception. But even adjusting for era and ballparks Jones' OPS ranks 49th all-time. Only 8 hall-eligible players rank ahead of Jones in OPS+ while not making into the Hall of Fame.
Among players who played more games at 3rd than any other position, Jones ranks second only to Mike Schmidt in OPS+. Among all players who played significant time at third he is 5th, behind Dick Allen, Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and Schmidt. Jones is also third all-time in OPS+ among switch hitters (Mickey Mantle, Lance Berkman).
While the climb may be uphill for Jones to get into the Hall, because so many writers associate the Braves with pitching, it is clear that Jones has earned the right to enter into that hallowed shrine.


Chris Iafolla said...

Apologies for pasting in part of any entry from my blog, but it is exactly on topic so I will save myself some typing. But first, let me make two comments outside of the HOF debate. First, Scott Rolen should not be mentioned in the same breath as Chipper Jones. His numbers are nowhere near that of Chipper's.

Second, Chipper is a wildly-underrated 3rd basemen. In his early years, he had some struggles, but the fact that David Wright won the gold glove last year is a flat-out travesty. Chipper made 9 errors all of last year, David Wright made 21. In fact, the disparity was so great that Mizuno , one of Chipper's sponsors, paid him a bonus associated with winning the Gold Glove award despite not actually winning the award.

Now, on to the HOF debate.

Let me put it this way, if he retired right now, he is easily in the top 3 in terms of switch hitters of all time. That alone is enough to get him in. But, Chipper himself says he would like to play another 4 years at a minimum provided he remains healthy and the Braves would like him back. Let’s just assume for argument’s sake he sees a fairly sharp decline in his power numbers after this season and only hits 20 HRs a year (a huge stretch) for the next four years. Assuming he hits about 20 more this season, that would put him at 501 HRs for his career. Now, let’s look at hits. Let’s say he finished this season with 200 hits, which would be an additional 110 on top of where he currently stands. Then for the next four years, he sees a slight decline to 175 a year. That would put him above the 3,000 hit mark for his career. In terms of RBI, he will probably get another 60 this year followed by four seasons at a conservative 80 per year. That would give him 1700 RBI for his career. My point is this: he is already a HOFer, everything he tacks on from here on out is just gravy.

Les F. Kartchner & Julius Q. Vernon said...

I want to point out that the only reason that Rolen is mentioned is because of his gold gloves, not because of his hitting stats.
If you look purely at hitting, then you have to throw Miguel Cabrera in as a partial contemporary with terrific stats.

Noah said...

I think Chipper's a hall of famer, but come on Chris, those projections are outlandish. Drop to "only 175 hits a year"? Chipper hasn't had 175 hits in a year since 2002. It'll be hard for Chipper to reach 3000 hits - he'll have to stay healthy and effective past 40.

But I do agree that everything after this point is gravy. Being the primary offensive weapon on all those playoff teams and being remarkably consistent and efficient for all those years has to count for something.