Chipper Jones. A no doubt hall of famer. One of the top three switch hitters of all time an arguably top two. One of the few players left to stick with a team his entire career, not because of money, but because of loyalty. In short Chipper Jones is the definition of being a Brave. But I will leave the dramatic pieces to the pros, I am just here to give you a rough projection.
Despite playing as a 39 year old Chipper still had an extremely good season putting up a slash of .275/.344/.470 and hitting 18 homeruns. It’s not a typical Chipper year but how long can you really expect .300/.400/.530 type numbers? Those are gone, and the days of playing 140-150 games are gone as well (I guess with Chipper they have been gone for a few years but still).
That doesn’t mean that Chipper can’t still be one of the better hitters on the team. When he is in the lineup he can carry the team like he showed us last year. With Martin Prado still with the club he will be able to get consistent rest and the team will have a long term back up if he has to go on the DL for an extended period of time.
At first I thought I would go with Bill James projection (noticing a trend?) but then I realized the only thing I agree with on Bill James is the on base percentage. I have to go with Roto Champ on all of the other numbers except for maybe batting average. Chipper Jones will be playing this season at age 40. Shouldn’t his power go down? Shouldn’t Chipper start batting somewhere other than third? Shouldn’t he hit less home runs than he ever has?
For a normal player all of these questions would be fine but this is Larry Wayne Jones, Jr. we are talking about right? He is an elite player and I don’t think anyone would be surprised if he hit something like .290/.380/.470 with 17 home runs. Should we expect that? No, the sensible thing to do is assume Chipper is human like the rest of us, and project him to decline while at the same time, hoping that he proves everyone wrong again.
The only thing that was a bit surprising last year from Chip was the OBP and BB%. Surprisingly the Larry Parrish disease hit Chipper the hardest and he posted the worst BB% of his ENTIRE career at 10%. It says something about the player he is, when you know that a 10% walk rate is bad for him. His career BB rate is 14.3% and in 08, 09, and 10 he had a 16% rate or better. This caused his OBP to create a new floor for his career at .344.
This likely is due to both age and Larry Parrish, but we won’t know until next year if one weighed down on him more than the other.
Chipper’s defense was brought up earlier in on of Lee’s posts when he said Jones was poor defensively. I have to agree with that statement. If you look at his errors from last year you will see that he made the second fewest but he also had around 100 fewer chances. In 2010 he didn’t qualify, in 2009 he ranked last among qualified third basemen with 22 errors and a .930 fielding percentage. In 2008 he ranked 12th with 13 errors and a .958 fielding percentage and in 2007 he was 6th with 9 errors and a .971 fielding percentage. So it is safe to say that Chipper once was a good third baseman but his knees and age have brought him down to the bottom portion of hot corner defenders.
If Chipper is given steady rest (I’m sure he will) and avoids any major injuries he should have yet another productive season with the Braves. I don’t think he should hit third for the team anymore and I am not sure whether it would be good for him to come back in 2013 but neither of those decisions will be made by me so we will just have to wait and see. On thing is certain though, Chipper will be going his hardest to get a second ring and end his fantastic career on a high note.