Last night Chipper Jones went 3 for 6 with 5 RBI and 1 run to help Atlanta pull out another football-like game against the Colorado Rockies. We all know that the lineup is much better with Chipper Jones in it but do we ever underestimate how good Chipper really is? I have to admit, I think I do that a lot more than I should. I know it has to be partly because of my history as a Chipper fan and partly because 40 year old men aren’t supposed to be this good.
The more I watch Chipper play (I am able to watch a whole lot more baseball this year than I ever have) the more amazed and impressed I am with him. I am a little late getting to the party but better late than never right?
Chipper has played in a total of 18 games so far, accruing 73 total at bats. His triple slash is at .318/.370/.576. His average and on-base percentage are the second highest on the team, behind Michael Bourn, and his slugging percentage is easily good for first on the team—.081 points away from the closest other player. His OPS is at .946 which is .125 points away from runner-up Jason Heyward.
Just based on these things it is clear that Chipper is still a fantastic hitter and the best bat in the Braves lineup. Another way he helps the team out is simply his switch hitting abilities. Switch-hitting is often extremely overrated by old school guys, and underrated by the SABR clan (in my humble opinion).
As you should know the Braves have an extremely lefty-heavy lineup. Chipper being able to hit from both sides of the plate means that we don’t have to run the risk of putting three lefties in a row, and becoming susceptible to a LOOGY out of the pen.
Last night is a perfect example. Martin Prado (who normally holds down the 2 hole) was on the bench sick. Chipper fit into the spot seamlessly to keep the lineup effective:
- Bourn (L)
- Jones (S)
- Freeman (L)
- McCann (L)
- Uggla (R)
- Diaz (R)
- Heyward (L)
- Pastornicky (R)
- Minor (R)
Chipper being able to hit anywhere in the lineup is a tremendous asset in the chess game between managers. Even if the man at the helm isn’t great at chess, at least he has some good pieces to work with. Without Chipper being a switch-hitter we would be in a situation where we have 3 or maybe even 4 lefties in a row (depending on what Fredi’s gut told him that day).
Chipper creates a balanced, deep lineup with his presence and with our rough pitching of late, that is essential. Just imagine a lineup without Chipper. Some people may debate on the importance of lineup construction but there really isn’t a debate for lineup depth. If you have a lot more quality hitters, you will probably score more runs. The important thing now is to just keep Chipper healthy, and that could easily be the most difficult thing.