Chipper Rises To The Occasion – Nothing New There
You really have to hand it to Chipper Jones, he knows how to put on a show. On his bobblehead giveaway night with 33,157 fans looking on he collected hits number 2699 and 2700. . . and both were home runs.
If Hollywood wrote this into a script everyone would roll their eyes but Chipper always seems to do something big on big occasions. If you don’t believe me ask the Mets or the Phillies or Nationals/Expos or the Marlins, all of who he’s touched off 40 or more homers against in his career. Last night it was Jason Marquis and the Padres who were victimized.
Marquis A Friendly Target
Victimizing Marquis isn’t a new thing, since leaving Atlanta Chipper and Marquis have chatted from time to time mostly about the way Chipper beats Marquis like a rented mule when he gets the chance. Jones entered Thursday’s game with a line of .429/.579/1.143 (yes that slugging % is 1.143), five walks and three homers in his 19 plate appearances. So it should not have surprised anyone – least of all Marquis – when that first inning slider landed deep in the right field seats (mammo) driving in Michael Bourn and effectively ending the Padres evening. Nor was it a surprise when he followed Jason Heyward’s fifth inning bomb (yickitty) to right with a mammoth drive to dead center that hit the wall below the batters eye 437 feet from home plate (watch the video by clicking the link..no seriously, watch the video it will bring goosebumps and was definitely mammo) for his 2700th career hit; Marquis didn’t bother to look, he just hung his head then asked for a new baseball. Chipper finished the night with a season line of .315/.391/.519, 12 homers and 53 RBI.
During the game the question arose about whether any 40 year old had ever had a season like it. The answer is yes, a few . . .well actually two.
Putting the following criteria: HR>=12, RBI>=50, BA >=.300 on base%>=.375 and slugging%>=.500 (all slightly below Chipper’s current numbers) into the grinder at Baseball-Reference.com returns the following two way players who achieved similar success in their aged 40 or older season.
The Braves broadcast said that Paul Molitor and Harold Baines made their list too. Baines was a DH in 1999, never put on a glove or played the field. DH is a non-position. While a DH still has to hit the ball he doesn’t require the same physical exertion and concentration as that required of a two way player. The DH doesn’t have to put his body out on there on defense everyday as Williams and Musial did and Chipper continues to do, so he doesn’t risk injuries like the one that ended Chipper’s 2010 season in Houston. Those simply don’t happen when seated in the dugout while others do the heavy lifting. Molitor was a DH but that’s not the reason he didn’t make this list. Even if he’d been an everyday player he wouldn’t qualify for this list as his OBP of .351 and slugging of .435 are well short of Chipper’s numbers.
“It started with Medlen. Complete-game shutout. I think he’s more than stated his case to be in the rotation from here on out. Guy just wins ballgames. . .”
Dominating Without Exploding the Radar Gun
Medlen started his fourth game last night; he also finished it. It was a masterful example of keeping hitters off balance, pitching to contact and trusting your defense. I remember one or two references to pitch speed during the game but his domination arose from painting the corners, changing speeds, and messing with the hitters timing so that they were on their front foot. I’ve said since watching him pitch in 2010 that he reminded me of Greg Maddux and people scoffed at the idea. He continues however to do it the same way Doggy did, making batters hit his pitch and usually on the ground. He pitches quickly and keeps the defense he relies so heavily on on their toes throughout the game. This is not to say he’s in Maddux’ class yet but he has the chance to become that guy. His final line – 5 hits , 5 strikeouts and no walks, 100 pitches with 78 strikes – highlights the similarities.
In the 12 1/2 seasons beginning in 2000 there have been 1167 complete game wins. Prior to yesterday’s game Medlen’s winning line was only duplicated or bettered 70 times by 51 pitchers including Tim Hudson who did it twice for the Athletics and the newest Brave Paul Maholm who did it against the Mets on August 10th. The last Braves pitcher to do it before Maholm was Maddux who did it in back to back outings on September 7th, 2000 against the Diamondbacks and September 13th against the Marlins. Oddly Medlen’s adversary the much traveled and enigmatic Jason Marquis pitched to a similar line three times earlier in his career.
Medlen showed off his skills as a former shortstop as well, flashing some nifty glove work starting with a line drive back at him from the first batter of the game. He fielded several ground balls on the first base side of the mound throughout the game, including keeping his shutout in tact with a play worthy of being one of MLB Network’s Premier Plays of the day.
With Marquis on third following a double and an infield out, Medlen pounced on a slowly hit ground ball, turned and fired a strike to Brian McCann to retire a shocked Marquis. Even Chipper Jones thought that was special as he told David O’Brien after the game.
“…(Medlen’s) a tremendous athlete and the play he made to throw Marquis out at the plate I think impressed everybody. We were all yelling ‘first, first, first,’ just conceding the fact that the run was going to score and he made it look very, very easy. . . I haven’t seen that since Doggie (Maddux) was able to do it so well back in the day.”
This win brings the Braves record when Medlen starts to 22 –4 (the four losses were in 2009) and should make it extremely difficult to deny him a permanent spot in the rotation.
That’s A Wrap
The off day for the Nationals on Thursday means the Braves are now just four games back of them in the division. The Pirates won and moved back into the second wildcard spot when the Cardinals lost to the DBacks. The Giants are now tied with the Cardinals one game behind the Bucs. The Braves still have the division in their sites but they will have to continue to play .700+ baseball to grab that lead. Right now everyone has 44 games left; six of ours come against the Nationals whose players are openly unhappy that Stephen Strasburg is being given special treatment. Their clubhouse is grumbling and Davey Johnson will need all of his experience to smooth that out. Time will tell how that internal soap opera works out. In the interim we should help our friends in D.C. by lifting the heavy burden of division leadership from their shoulders. It’s the neighborly thing to do.