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Chipper Jones makes for an easy Hall of Famer

Mar 22, 2012, 11:59 AM EDT

Chipper Jones Reuters

Some players kind of sneak up on the Hall of Fame.

Chipper Jones, who announced his intention to retire at the end of the season, never led his league in anything until he was 35. He was never even really all that close:

- His one year that he hit 40 homers, a couple of guys named McGwire and Sosa topped 60. Outside of that year, when he tied for third, his high finish in homers was eighth.

- He ranked in the NL’s top 10 in RBI just once in his career, finishing ninth in 2003.

- His high finish in runs scored was fourth, doubles sixth, walks third, games played fifth, hits eighth.

- Until he was 35, his high finish in batting average was fifth, OBP third and slugging fourth.

It was in 2007 that Chipper finally added some black ink to the record, leading the NL in OPS. A year later, he won a batting crown and finished first in OBP, though one could say those were tainted given that he played in just 128 games and had 439 at-bats. Albert Pujols finished a close second in both categories while coming to the plate an extra 107 times that season.

So, no, Chipper was never truly the NL’s best player. But the two guys who stood above him during his career, Barry Bonds and Pujols, rank with the greatest performers of any era.

And if Chipper wasn’t the greatest, he spent 13 years only a notch or two below. From 1996-2008, he hit .314/.411/.555 and averaged 30 homers per year. He received MVP votes in 11 of the 13 seasons, winning the award in 1999.

One of the things that stands out about Chipper’s career is that he’s always been an above average player. In 17 seasons, his worst OPS+ was the 108 he put up as a rookie in 1995 (and he still finished second in the ROY balloting that year). He’s had big problems staying in the lineup as he’s gotten older, but he’s always been an asset when able to play.

Chipper’s defense is more controversial. Most metrics say he’s been essentially average in his career, though some would suggest he was considerably worse. Oddly, there’s been no real arc to his career defensively. Most peak young with the glove, but Chipper has simply been steady throughout. The numbers say he was just about as valuable defensively in the seasons following his two-year left field hiatus as he was in the years leading up to it.

Because of his injuries, Jones will finish his career with fewer than 500 homers. Still, he ranks 33rd on the all-time list with 454 and should move up to 30th or 31st. He currently has exactly 1,561 runs and RBI, which rank 53rd and 40th all-time, respectively. His average stands at .304, having crept downwards these last three years, but there’s almost no chance of it falling below .300.

Those numbers would make Jones a pretty easy call as a Hall of Famer even if he spent his entire career at first base or in left field. At third base, he ranks third all-time in homers behind Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews. He’s third in RBI behind George Brett and Schmidt and he’ll pass both with just 36 this year. He’ll also pass Brett for first in runs scored with 23 more.

From an OPS standpoint, he’s first and easily so. His .935 mark trumps Schmidt’s .908 and Mathews’ .885. That’s largely a product of era, but even switching to OPS+ puts him in the same ballpark with those two. Schmidt’s tops at 147, followed by Mathews at 143 and Jones at 141. Next are Al Rosen at 136 and Brett and Home Run Baker, both at 135.

By pretty much any measure, Jones ranks among the greatest of all-time at a position underrepresented in the Hall of Fame. Some stooges might decline to vote for him because he didn’t have enough big years or because he got hurt a lot or just because they don’t want to vote for anyone who played the last 20 years. It’s not going to stop him from going in, though. It might not have been quite so obvious when he was 32 or 33, but Jones ranks as one of the clear Hall of Famers of this era.

  1. firstandonlywarning - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Adulterer
    Arrogant
    Selfish
    Juicer (ok maybe not)

    Truth is when Larry came up he was considered a spoiled child and a bad teammate who’s only peers were Bonds and Sheffield

    But ya, the goof is a HoF’er

    • Baseball Beer Burritos In That Order - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      Adulterer
      Arrogant
      Selfish
      Juicer (ok maybe not)

      Who is almost every professional baseball player from the 90s and early 00s, Alex?

      • michiganhockey11 - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:40 PM

        “All our founding fathers, astronauts and world series heroes were either drunk or high on cocaine”.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM

      Adulterer – Irrelevant to playing ability
      Arrogant – Irrelevant to playing ability
      Selfish – Irrelevant to playing ability

      There, fixed that for you

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:52 PM

        Likability and perception – Irrelevant to playing ability

        I suppose you go about defending Bonds as well

        See there is this thing called…. the real world, where fantasy and #’s are not the end all be all

        Trying getting out once in awhile

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 5:35 PM

        Nice to see that your reading comprehension is as good as your ability to make analogies. Being an adulterer, being arrogant and/or being selfish have no bearing on how a person played the game.

        Chipper Jones is a career .304/.402/.533 hitter. If he were an asshole, do we have/get to dock him 10 pts on each? If he were a choir boy, does he gain 15 pts on each?

        And I can’t get out. The wife is 8 mos pregnant and I work from home which means I don’t have any pants on. People get arrested for that stuff…

    • sasquash20 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM

      Almost every baseball player is like that. It is like a code they have to be douche bags. They are maybe the most mean spirited of all pro athletes. So what? Hockey players are by far the coolest pro athletes to hang out with and its not even close. But Chipper is a lock for the HOF in my opinion.

  2. deathmonkey41 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    Will his Hall of Fame bust read “Larry”?

  3. l0yalr0yal - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    There are not many players that can say they were featured in Bases Loaded on regular nintendo, as well as MLB2k12.

    • drunkenhooliganism - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      Jamie Moyer was on both of those and his pitching style was the inspiration for Pong

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        He’s also the only person in Old Hoss Radbourn’s MLB 1K884(tm)

      • deathmonkey41 - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        To be fair, Jamie Moyer also appeared in the Book of Genesis.

    • El Bravo - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM

      This one right here.

    • vivabear - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      You must have confused Bases Loaded with another game. Bases Loaded featured fictional players and was released in the late 80’s.

      • nategearhart - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:52 PM

        It had 3 sequels though….

      • vivabear - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:02 PM

        Oh…were they all called simply Bases Loaded as well?

      • sportsdrenched.com - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        I think I had Bases Loaded I & II on the original NES, and Super Bases Loaded for the Super NES. All of the players and franchises were fictional.

      • l0yalr0yal - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:02 PM

        Okay, hater. Trying to seal my thunder. You’re just an adulterer, arrogant, and selfish.

        But seriously, I know for a fact he was in the original “Backyard Baseball” on PC. Frank Thomas was on there, as well.

      • vivabear - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:30 PM

        I never got into into PC games, but obsessively playing Bases Loaded in the early 90s I couldn’t help but correct you.

        I think I’m only guilty of one of those three…

  4. El Bravo - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    No mention of being one of the best switch hitters ever?

  5. lardin - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    I said it the other post but bares repeating. Hes the second best switch hitter of all time.

    • scatterbrian - Mar 22, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      Lance Berkman could sneak into that conversation

      .296/.409/.545, 146 OPS+, .403 wOBA

  6. thetruth702 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:48 PM

    You guys are complete idiots. Possibly greatest switch hitter to ever play the game. Juicer? You kiddin. Most hr ever had was 40. Be serious. Quit hatin. 14 straight division titles. Lol. You crack me up.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      Pitchers and guys like Alex Sanchez, all 5’10 180lbs of him, have been busted for roids. Can we stop with the “must be a herculean esc player” to be a user?

    • thefalcon123 - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:13 PM

      I don’t know. I mean, 162 OPS+ between the ages of 33 and 37…which his career high at 37. He topped 162 ONCE in what should have been his prime. His career was clearly in decline, with an OPS plus going from 160 to 153 to 137 to 116…then to rebound after his prime years should have passed. Like many steroid users, this coincided with an inability to stay healthy. He started having constant small injuries that kept him off the field.

      I think it’s fairly clear that his career was going downhill and he took steroids to get back to where he was. And by fairly clear, I mean I don’t believe any of this for a second. It’s just fun to point out that you can use those bullshit steroid arguments on absolutely anyone.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        Just had to edit the entire response because I skipped the second paragraph, well done.

        But honestly, lots of circumstances could explain it. For one, maybe he was finally healthy again? He missed a bunch of playing time in ’05 and ’06. Also, he actually only got slightly better, but because league offense was getting worse and worse, he looks even better.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:28 PM

        Cap Anson’s 3rd best slugging percentage happened when he was 42.

        http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/ansonca01.shtml
        He was obviously on steroids.

    • paperlions - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:27 PM

      Mickey Mantle was a switch hitter, so…no….Chipper is nothing like the greatest switch hitter ever. But yeah, he should be a slam dunk HOFer.

  7. florida76 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Jones is definitely HOF material, but not at the level of a Mike Schmidt, in terms of the greatest of all-time.

    That being said, in the future, Jones will join Glavine in a very important category. They will be the first Atlanta Braves in the Hall of Fame who started, and spent the majority of their careers in that organization. Unusual to say the very least, but players like Aaron and Niekro didn’t even begin their careers in Atlanta.

  8. thetruth702 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Firstandonlywarning. Possibly the dumbest quote ever typed.

  9. thefalcon123 - Mar 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    I hated, *hated* Chipper Jones ever since the 1996 NLCS and the 32-1 comeback vs the Cardinals (fuck you Braves fans, I don’t feel even a little bad for you for 2011 after that bullshit). And every year since, he would still be awesome and give a few more excellent interviews my hatred would wain just a little bit more. 16 years later, I actually liked the guy.

    If he has a solid 2012, he’ll join a very exclusive club: players who never once had a bad season.

  10. carolinakid - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    HOF ?

    Like Sunday mornin !

    • 18thstreet - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      The voters are idiots.

      Of course he deserves to go in. So does Tim Raines. Meanwhile, Jim Rice and Andre Dawson get in instead.

      If you want to know his chances — not his merits — just see how he ranks on RBIs or something. To repeat: the voters are idiots.

      • vivabear - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        Not to mention the voters who refuse to vote anyone first ballot, for no reason other than that.

  11. The Baseball Idiot - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    “A year later, he won a batting crown and finished first in OBP, though one could say those were tainted given that he played in just 128 games and had 439 at-bats. Albert Pujols finished a close second in both categories while coming to the plate an extra 107 times that season.”

    Is this another example of the Keith Law Rule? You only get to win hardware if you lead the league in plate appearences or innings pitched?

    I love the hypocrisy of it all. Counting numbers don’t matter in determining how good a player is. It’s all about rate states. Unless my favorite player didn’t win something, then I get to use counting stats to disqualify the guy who did.

    Because even when counting stats don’t count, they do if I want them to.

    • thefalcon123 - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:21 PM

      I personally would rather have .357/.462 in 641 PAs than .364/.470 in 534 PAs. Rates and playing time both matter. It’s not either/or.

      That being said, I think “tainted” in an odd choice of phrasing. He had enough qualifying PAs, he is fairly recognized as the league leader.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      Is this another example of the Keith Law Rule? You only get to win hardware if you lead the league in plate appearences or innings pitched?

      Yeah that’s not what happened at all. But keep believing it if it makes you feel better.

      • vivabear - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:43 PM

        Well…it should be expected when you consider his screen name.

        “The Baseball Idiot”

      • The Baseball Idiot - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:57 PM

        Yeah, we get it. Your all sabermetrics, all the time, and nothing else counts. God forbid someone say something negative about your patron saint.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 5:52 PM

        Ah the last bastion of the respondent without a point, the ad hominem attack.

        No, it was the fact that Carpenter had significantly fewer innings than all other candidates. That has value. And that’s why Law left him off his ballot. Which he explained numerous times.

        But don’t let that get in the way of your narrative…

  12. begoodharry - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Stop it. Chipper Jones is not a hall of famer.

    • braddavery - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      You should retire from posting about baseball, because you clearly know nothing about it.

    • nategearhart - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Why not?

    • thefalcon123 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:51 PM

      Technically true. He hasn’t even retired yet and still has five years to wait after that. That surely must be what you meant, because saying his career performance doesn’t warrant his HOF induction would be so astoundingly stupid that the only person who could hold such an opinion would also be too stupid to know how to post a comment on a website.

  13. michiganhockey11 - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    How is he first ballot when those of us in Michigan have been begging for years for Jack Morris to get voted in? Most people would agree Jack Morris deserves to be in the hall. Morris>Jones

    • bravojawja - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM

      Please show your work.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Please be sarcasm, please be sarcasm, please be sarcasm

    • jasonc2300 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      Definitely. Can’t be disputed.

      I mean, you are talking about the Facial Hair Hall of Fame, right?

      • michiganhockey11 - Mar 22, 2012 at 3:36 PM

        Morris was the winningest pitcher in the 80’s decade with 162. Most wins for any pitcher during his career as well (254). The next closest to him for career wins during his career was 214. 5 All-Star selections, 3 World Championship teams Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays). Most starts and most innings pitched of the 80’s.

        If you were a skipper in the 80’s and you had to pick a pitcher for game 7, Jack Morris would be on your list. If you were a fan, you would want him on the mound. That is the definition of HOF.

        And for the record, there is a huge bias when it comes to the selection. If Morris, and for that matter Trammell, and Lou would have been wearing pinstripes or red socks, they would already be in the HOF.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 22, 2012 at 8:37 PM

        Morris was the winningest pitcher in the 80′s decade with 162. Most wins for any pitcher during his career as well (254). The next closest to him for career wins during his career was 214. 5 All-Star selections, 3 World Championship teams Tigers, Twins, and Blue Jays). Most starts and most innings pitched of the 80′s.

        Who would you prefer?

        Pitcher A – .562 Win %, 3.32 ERA, 127 ERA+, 27 SHO, 7.8 H/9, 0.71 HR/9, 3.19 BB/9, 5.33 K/9

        Pitcher B – .578 Win %, 3.66 ERA, 109 ERA+, 20 SHO, 8.15 H/9, 0.97 HR/9, 3.16 BB/9, 6.0 K/9

        Kind of a toss up for peripherals; however, Pitcher A did a far better job preventing runs which is the job of the pitcher. Who would you pick?

        If you were a skipper in the 80′s and you had to pick a pitcher for game 7, Jack Morris would be on your list. If you were a fan, you would want him on the mound. That is the definition of HOF.

        For the ’91 WS, maybe. But what happened in ’92 when he had a 8.44 ERA in 10.2 IP, giving up 10 ER? Or what about in ’87 when he gave up 6 ER in his one start during the ALCS?

  14. Francisco (FC) - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:39 PM

    Chipper Jones is the 3rd Baseman Phillies fans wanted Scott Rolen to be.

    • thefalcon123 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      Instead, poor Phillies fans had to just settle for an elite defensive third baseman who hit .290 with 25-30 homers and 90-100 RBIs each year and ranked as the 2nd greatest third baseman in franchise history.

      So…boo fucking hoo!

      • Francisco (FC) - Mar 23, 2012 at 9:36 AM

        My comment was not meant as an indictment on Scott Rolen’s performance, it’s an expression that at least a good portion of the fan base had hoped he would have stayed a life-long Phillie in the same fashion as Chipper has stayed a life long Brave.

        Don’t get your panties in a huff and stop *assuming*…

  15. nategearhart - Mar 22, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    I think that if you play your entire (long!) career at 3B, CF or catcher, then that gives you MAJOR bonus points towards being counted among the best players of your generation thing. It’s why Chipper gets to line up among Barry, Pujols and Manny as some of the best of his generation, while a guy like Palmeiro falls short.

  16. Walk - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:18 PM

    I can’t believe you compared him to jack morris. Chipper is the third best switch hitter of all time. I only rate mantle and murray as better and that is debateable. Chipper career average .304 is the same against both right and left handed pitchers. That is not combined and averaged, thats .304 against each. On top of that name a better third baseman that played roughly within the same time frame as chipper. I can name plenty who were better than morris who is marginal at best as a hall of fame case. Chipper’s career splits are .304 avg .392 obp .502 slg .894 ops versus lefties
    .304 avg .406 obp .544 slg .950 ops versus rightie
    Most switch hitters fall off drastically one side or other and if chipper would have done so he probably would not be a hall guy in my book. But he has continued his steady production despite injuries against left and right handed pitching throughout his career. You are looking at the third best switch hitter ever at the very least and the best third baseman of his generation, either of those should get him in the hall. Combine that with third being the least represented position in the hall and chipper walks in.

    • natstowngreg - Mar 22, 2012 at 6:00 PM

      Finally, someone remembered that Eddie Murray was a switch-hitter.

      Mantle: .298/.421/.557 (.977 OPS)
      Murray: .287/.359/.476 (.836 OPS)
      Larry Chipper: .304/.402/.533 (.935 OPS)

      Actually, I was a little surprised to see that Chipper has 454 homers (Mantle 536, Murray 504). One thinks of him as a hitter whose SLG was supported by lots and lots of doubles (526 career).

  17. bravojawja - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    I admit I don’t understand defensive metrics, but I always thought Chipper was a pretty good third baseman with the glove. Gold Glove? No. But as I said in the other post, he can pick those short hops and fire across the diamond like nobody’s business.

    Then again, maybe that’s his go-to-his-right-leap-in-the-air-and-throw-across-your-body thing that Jeter does.

    • hasbeen5 - Mar 22, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      He makes the plays he can get to, but his range is limited. To be expected though with the knee trouble he’s had.

      I was looking at BR this morning, his defensive WAR is -2.2, so roughly average over his career (and that includes 2 years in left).

  18. fulanekiffin - Mar 22, 2012 at 9:09 PM

    Obvious HOFer. Possibly the best switch hitter to play the game. Been my favorite baseball player ever since I started watching baseball. I was 5.

  19. rtratlsports - Mar 22, 2012 at 10:29 PM

    Leave chipper alone, no matter what anyone says he was loyal to the braves and one hell of a player

  20. foreverchipper10 - Mar 23, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Thank you Matthew for a great write up on my all-time favorite.

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