Friday, August 13, 2010

Chipper Jones: A Career Snaphot

The idea for this post came to mind a couple weeks ago as I noticed Chipper was creeping up on (or had just passed) some notable round statistical numbers. With the tear/partial tear/stretch of the ACL in his left knee, Chipper’s out for the season. Based on his age, previous injuries, recent retirement talk, etc., the injury may end up threatening his career. This post was going to take a look at Jones’ current career numbers and his potential numbers if he was to retire at the end of the season…but that time may (repeat, MAY) be now.

Larry ‘Chipper’ Jones is no longer the MVP-caliber player he was in 1999, or even 2007-08. But in early August at Turner Field he proved he still holds one important title… Met Killer. Despite hitting just 7 home runs in his 87 prior games this season, Chipper went deep twice in the three-game series victory. He hit .400 with a .571 OBP while adding 3 RBI, 4 BB and 4 R in the match-up against his NL East rivals. In 215 career games against the Metropolitans, Chipper has a .319/.417/.556 line with 40 HR and 138 RBI. Met Killer, indeed.

On June 17th, Chipper held a locker room press-conference to tell reporters…that he wasn’t going to tell them anything…about his possible retirement at the end of the current season. Prior to then, Chipper’s season numbers (besides his high walk rate) were suffering and looked even worse than his uncharacteristic 2009 effort. But that ‘announcement’ seemed to represent a turn around in his performance. Since July 1st, Chipper has been hitting .288 with 5 HR and 14 RBI compared to an April-June .254 average. He was on fire in August before going down with his knee injury, hitting at a .400/.471/.833 clip in the month’s 9 games.

Chipper Jones’ Notable Career Numbers:

Hits – 2490 (8th active, T-94th all time)
Home Runs – 436 (4th active [5th if Carlos Delgado plays in BOS], 37th all time)
Doubles – 493 (6th active, 57th all time)
RBI – 1491 (4th active, 52nd all time)
Walks – 1404 (2nd active, 25th all time)
Runs – 1505 (6th active, 69th all time)

Combined with a .306/.405/.536 (.941 OPS) line, that’s quite the impressive career. The good people over at use a Bill James-created formula (called the ‘Similarity Score’) to compare players’ statistical career performance. IF Chipper’s career were to end today, he compares most similarly to the players listed below, in descending order (1000 represents an exact match). The figures following the players’ names indicate their current Hall of Fame status. A ‘*’ means the player is in the HoF - followed by the percentage they received in the year (ex. 11th) they were elected - followed by the percentage they received in their first (1st) year of eligibility. A player must receive at least 5% of the vote to remain on the ballot the following year (note: Dwight Evans).
  1. Jeff Bagwell (884) NOT YET ELIGIBLE
  2. Larry Walker (846) NOT YET ELIGIBLE
  3. Duke Snider (844)* 86% 11th,17% 1st
  4. Billy Williams (825)* 86% 6th, 23% 1st
  5. Eddie Mathews (823)* 79% 5th, 32% 1st
  6. Jim Rice (816)* 76% 15th (last), 30% 1st
  7. Vladimir Guerrero (815) ACTIVE
  8. Dwight Evans (814) NOT IN – 6% 1st, 10% 2nd, 4% 3rd - OUT
  9. Bernie Williams (809) NOT YET ELIGIBLE
  10. Mickey Mantle (807)* 88% 1st 

Not that we needed to see anything more than his play during his 17 seasons to know he is a sure Hall of Famer, but these figures help solidify the case. Add in 1 MVP award, 6 All-Star selections, 2 Silver Slugger awards, 1 Batting Title and 1 World Series Championship and the discussion becomes not if, but when.

With how Chipper had been swinging the bat recently, he’s proved that he still has production left in the tank. He’s only a handful of games away from some significant numbers – 7 doubles away from 500, 10 hits away from 2500 and 9 RBI away from 1500. The estimated recovery time for this type of injury is about 6 months, which would, theoretically, give him plenty of time to heal for a possible 2011 season. This Upstate, NY Braves fan sure hopes he has the ability, and desire, to play another day.

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