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Chipper Jones had his worst season in 2004 since his rookie campaign. His 2004 age 32 line was .248/.362/.485. A touchy hammy probably contributed mightily to his sub-par results. It did however continue a 4 year pattern of decline for Chipper, which he must reverse, if he intends to get the plaque in Cooperstown that seemed to be already inscribed for him in 2000.

Jones was the 1st overall pick of the 1990 draft by the Braves. After a miserable month in rookie league in 1990, he posted typical Jones numbers in low A Macon in 1991, .323/.405/.516. As a 19 year old shortstop, he was the hottest of prospects. That didn't change when he spent half a season in high A, and then went .346/.367/.594 in the second-half in double A Greeneville in 1992. On another club, he might have made the leap right to the majors, but the Braves had just begun their remarkable run of division championships and had Blauser and Pendleton occupying short and third. So, in 1993, Jones simply carried on his usual performance level at triple A Richmond at age 21. He missed all of 1994 with a knee injury, but by then both Blauser and Pendleton had had off-seasons and the door was open for Chipper. He stepped right in as the Braves third baseman in 1995, hitting .265/.353/.450, as the Braves won the World Series. From 1996-2003, Jones consistently hit .300 with power and plate discipline.

He was a third baseman until 2002, when he was moved to the outfield for 2 years. He returned to third base in 2004. He is an average defender, by reputation and according to the statistical metrics. Being a Brave, he has ample post-season experience, and has hit .294/.415/.459 in October. He was a fine perecentage base-stealer until age 28.

For Jones' chart, we have 2 comparables, who share some hitting attributes, as well as positions:

Player    G      AB     H     HR    W     BA     OBP    SLUG    OPS+     
Jones     1542   5616   1705  310   937   .304   .401   .537    141      
Sheffield 1592   5661   1608  315   952   .295   .399   .521    146
Allen     1491   5447   1630  319   775   .299   .385   .544    165

Gary Sheffield is an excellent comp. Like Jones, Sheffield started out as a shortstop (he made it to the majors very young at age 19; the Brewers of Sheffield's youth were not pennant-winners, as Jones' Braves were). Sheffield spent his prime at third base, and has been in the outfield for most of his 30s. Dick Allen was a third baseman, who played some outfield and was then converted to a 1B/DH for good at age 30. Sheffield has kept on truckin' through age 35, but Allen's last good year was his age 32 season.

Is Jones headed for the Hall? Of course. A normal career path from here would have him end up as a decent 3B/OF with a .295 average and 450-470 homers on a perennial division champion. But, if he slips a bit, who knows? He's been an All-Star only 5 times (although he wasn't one in his 1999 MVP campaign). His major accomplishment of last year was probably a nice gesture towards his low A teammates in Macon, while on a rehab stint in the minors. His image is softening, and that probably will not hurt. It might seem cynical, but if one looks carefully the accomplishments of Jones, Sheffield and Dick Allen, it is easy to see how something so patently irrelevant might affect the voters' decision-making.

The numbers do lend themselves to a fuller appreciation of Dick Allen. Allen put up essentially the same raw numbers as Jones, but in the low run scoring environment of the 1960s instead of the current hitter's playground. Adjusted for context, through age 32, the difference between Chipper Jones and Dick Allen is roughly equal to the difference between Dick Allen and Ted Williams (OPS+ through age 32 of 190, and with a similar number of plate appearances thanks to Williams' military tours of duty).

Next up: Robin Ventura
Hall Watch 2004-The Third Basemen- Larry "Chipper" Jones | 13 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Magpie - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 01:36 AM EST (#103034) #
One of the things Chipper has going for him (compared with Allen and Sheffield) is that he really has been a career third baseman. Dick Allen played just 652 of his 1722 career games at 3B; he played more 1B than anything else. Sheffield so far has played 1972 games, but just 468 were at third. He's played 1410 games in the outfield.

Chipper has already played 1104 games at 3B, and he's back in the infield this year.

I do expect Andy Marte to force Jones off the position soon, probably next year. In view of Chipper's history of injuring himself when he plays the outfield (his hamstring injury last year, and the knee injury that cost him all of 1994) it's easy to imagine him moving to first base.
Craig B - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 02:07 AM EST (#103039) #
I think Jones's longer career at third would help him if he'd been anything other than a terrible third baseman. But he's been pretty awful. Even if you ignore the 2002-04 seasons, Chipper had the worst defensive record of any third baseman in history with 8000 or more innings played except two - Paul Schaal and Dean Palmer. Every other 3B (98 of a total of 101) had more defensive win shares per 1000 innings than Jones, and most had at least twice as much. Jones's defensive contributions (expressed as win shares) were typical of your average first baseman, and I wouldn't hesitate at all to say he's more comparable to an OK first baseman than he is to anything but the very worst third sackers.

James rates Jones a "D" in the Win Shares book for his defense, but his numbers are basically the same as Dean Palmer who gets an "F". Dick Allen rates a "C" at third and also at first, so I think that puts him slightly ahead of Jones on the defensive ledger.

I don't think defensive win shares are the be-all and end-all of defensive stats, but they're useful for Hall discussions in particular because of the built-in era adjustments. Jones has clearly never been a good defender and I wouldn't give him much credit for playing third base.
jsoh - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 03:31 AM EST (#103044) #
Jones has clearly never been a good defender and I wouldn't give him much credit for playing third base.

When Larry's defense comes up over on BTF, most of the ATL fans start pointing out that Larry just doesnt get an awful lot of balls hit in his direction. Something about Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/etc inducing a lot of ground balls up the middle.

Does that sort of thing get factored into defensive WS? or UZR for that matter?

Craig B - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 12:54 PM EST (#103091) #
Pitcher handedness and groundball/flyball tendencies of the staff are figured in WS. If ATL pitchers had an unusual tendency to get groundballs up the middle rather than to either side, it would not show up. I myself have serious doubts that this is so.

Maddux and Glavine yielded, on average, an unusually high number of softly-hit groundballs, which would normally help a third baseman. Smoltz did not show such a tendency.
Craig B - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 01:03 PM EST (#103092) #
Incidentally, my remarks shouldn't be taken as rubbishing Jones for the Hall. He has certainly hit well enough to be a Hall of Famer (provided he continues to be productive) even if he'd been a first baseman all along. Chipper does *everything* well on offense, with the lone exception of hitting into a fairly high number of double plays. Beyond that, he's very good or better at hitting for average, controlling the strike zone, hitting for power, running the bases... the whole shebang.

He has a legitimate MVP award to his credit and has a terrific record of durability. I think he does need to have a couple more seasons like his six terrific seasons from 1998-2003 but if he does, he'll probably be a strong candidate five years from now, and closing in on 500 homers. Once he gets a chance to DH in a few years, he should be able to play for a while.
Mike Green - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 11:23 PM EST (#103153) #
The zone rating information that I have does support the view that Jones was an average defender at third, and that he had many fewer opportunities than average in his prime, likely because of characteristics of the Atlanta pitching staff. For instance in 1997, he played 1300 innings at third base and had 326 balls in his zone. There were 4 other third basemen who played similar nos. of innings (Cirillo- 1294; Fryman-1331; Rolen-1337; M. Williams-1284); all had more than 400 balls in zone. (statistics courtesy of the 1998 Stats Scoreboard. Jones' zone rating was above average for that season, and indeed for the 1995-97 period. Interestingly, with the changed Atlanta rotation in 2004, Jones seemed to have many more opportunities and had the 2nd best zone rating of any third baseman in the NL with 800 innings plus, just behind Beltre, and ahead of Rolen. (see here). As well, his fielding win shares/inning last year were comparable to those of Rolen and Lowell. I am not really sure whether Jones is a C or a B- defender, but I truly doubt that he's a D.
Craig B - Saturday, February 19 2005 @ 11:32 PM EST (#103155) #
I have to disagree. You've seen him play as much as I have, Mike. He's not quick to the ball, he doesn't have a good arm for a third baseman, and he's slow to get the ball away to boot, which means his double plays totals are very low. He also makes a fair number of errors for a starter at third.

As you know, the historical STATS ZR information is subject to an awful lot of home-field bias (326 as compared to 400+ is a big gap, though, even so) before 1999 (?) when STATS started trying to get all their operators on the same page. Honestly, it would surprise me if more than half of that difference were due to the pitching staff
Magpie - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 06:05 AM EST (#103157) #
For instance in 1997...there were 4 other third basemen who played similar nos. of innings

And maybe those four teams all had many more IP from LH pitchers? Let's check:

Atl 561.3
Mil 352.2
Cle 221.2
Pha 240.0
Det 341.2

Hmmm! Not so much. In 1997, Atlanta had LOTS of lefty pitching - that was Glavine and Neagle, for the most part. You would expect more balls hit in Chipper's neighbourhood, not less.

Mike Green - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 01:34 PM EST (#103175) #
Even if you add in an extra 40 opportunities per season to reflect home team bias in the scoring, Jones comes out as an average third basemen. It's really hard in the scoring to subtract that many balls from a third baseman's opportunities in a season, because all the balls at him and toward the line are "no-doubters", so the only judgment calls are in the hole. There's less than one ball in the 5-6 hole per game, so that means the Atlanta scorers would have to be subtracting over 1/2 of them, and marking them as balls directly at the shortstop, as compared to the average scorer. I really doubt the problems were that severe. For one thing, you'd expect that Blauser at short would have more opportunities than average if that were the case, and in fact, he has many fewer.

As for the subjective judgment, I don't know. I sure felt Jones was a lot quicker than Eric Hinske, say. He did come up as a shortstop, whereas Hinske came up as a first baseman.
Craig B - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 01:59 PM EST (#103177) #
Mike, Chipper might be faster than Hinske (Hinske has good speed though), but he's not quicker. Chipper is the antithesis of quick. He just doesn't seem to me to have quick feet.

I know we can agree on one thing... no matter how good or bad he was as a third baseman, Chipper-in-left makes Chipper-at-third look like Ozzie Smith. I can't imagine they'd ever go back to that little experiment.
Magpie - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 04:35 PM EST (#103198) #
I can't imagine they'd ever go back to that little experiment.

Chipper has said he does not want to play the outfield ever again, and it's hard to blame him.

The Braves have a great prospect coming to take over at 3B; meanwhile their 1B platoon includes a guy who was born during the Eisenhower administration. I don't think Chipper has to worry about the outfield anymore, and he probably won't have to play third much longer either.

So what will they do with Adam Laroche...

Mick Doherty - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 04:41 PM EST (#103200) #
So what will they do with Adam Laroche...

Trade him to TO for Gustavo Chacin and Eric Crozier?

Mike Green - Sunday, February 20 2005 @ 08:25 PM EST (#103220) #
It's funny. Craig's comment led me to the same question. Adam LaRoche isn't that great a prospect. He's a 25 year old first baseman with medium range power and a pretty poor K/W ratio. Mark me down as unenthralled. I'd rather have him out there than Shea Hillenbrand, but his main virtue is that he's in his pre-arb years.
Hall Watch 2004-The Third Basemen- Larry "Chipper" Jones | 13 comments | Create New Account
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