Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Chipper Jones in the Hall of Fame?

So on MOnday night I got the privelege of sitting in the front row third base line for the Natties/Braves game. The Nats and their collection of AAA pitchers got shelled by the Braves. Most notably, Chipper Jones had three homers in the game which I thought was pretty God damn impressive. And after he hit the third bomb, my Dad, who was sitting next to me, asked if I thought Chipper was a Hall of Famer or not. And it got me thinking. I wasn't sure. So I looked up Chipper's career stats and it kind of surprised me. He's got a .305 lifetime average, 350 homers, almost 1200 RBIs, 1900 hits and has one World Series ring from the 1995 Braves. That isn't a bad little stat line right there, but is it Hall of Fame worthy?

I looked up the three of the most recent Hall of Fame third basemen to see if Chipper has got a shot at going to Cooperstown. The three being Wade Boggs, Mike Schmidt, and George Brett. In the batting average department, Chipper compares rather well with the three. Boggs was notorious for being a great hitter for average, so its understandable that Chipper falls a bit short to ol' Wade. Boggs was a lifetime .328 hitter. Brett had the same lifetime average as Chipper and Scmidty was just a .267 hitter over his career. So far, so good for Chipper. But, we must not forget an imporatant point here. Chipper is now entering the twilight of his career at age 34 and that .305 average will almost certainly go down a bit in the next few years.

Chipper's power numbers also seem to boost his Hall worthiness. 350 homers is clearly not even comparable to the nearly 550 that Schmidt hit, but it is way more than Boggs and Brett could muster over their careers. Not to mention that at 34 Chipper definitely has enough time to get over the 400 homer plateau atleast. His RBI total of nearly 1200 is lower than both Brett and Schmidt who each had 1,595 RBIs during their careers. But let's assume Chipper has atleast another three seasons left in his career. He may not equal those RBI numbers, but he will not be far off. So, again, Chipper comes through.

Hit totals is where it gets tricky. Both Boggs and Brett each had over 3,000 of them. With just 1900 hits so far in his career, 3000 is probably an unattainable number for Chipper. But, he has far better power numbers than Boggs or Brett. Schmidt, who was a power hitter, had just over 2200 hits in his career. With a few more seasons, Chipper can, and I think probably will pass Schmidt's hit total. So where does that leave us in this Hall of Fame discussion?

Well, obviously, if he were to retire after this season Chipper would not be in the Hall of Fame. Currently he does not have any particular statistic that sticks out as fantastic. Brett and Boggs had 3,000 hits, while Schmidt had 500 homers. If you look at Chipper's stats over the past three seasons, 2003-2005, he averaged 130 hits, 26 homers, and 91 RBIs. And this came during a period of time where he had some trouble staying healthy, as in '04 and '05 he played in just 137 and 109 games respectively. This season, he has also had some injury troubles, playing in just 83 games so far. But his batting average is way up at .339, and therefore his hits are a little above average. Meanwhile, his power numbers are right on pace with 18 bombs and 65 RBIs so far.

To decide this debate we have to do a projection. Let's say Chipper plays four more seasons in the Big Leagues. That would make him 38 years old. And let's say he averages 130 hits, 25 homers, and 90 RBIs a year. That would put him at 450 homers, 2420 hits, and 1560 RBIs. That would mean Chipper wouldn't be putting up huge numbers the rest of the way, but by no means can he be offset by injury or have a terrible year. It will be tough, considering he is on the downside of his career, but I don't think it is impossible to conceive. But would those numbers be enough to get to Cooperstown? His power numbers would be a little lower than Schmidt's, but his average will almost certainly be higher. And his hits are only slightly better than Schmidt and way down compared with Boggs and Brett.

And after typing all of this, I don't think he should make it. Unlike the three Hall of Famers I mentioned, Chipper is just not going to have one of those "numbers". He won't have 3,000 hits. He won't have a inordinate amount of RBIs, and he won't have 500 homers. The 500 home run plateau seems to be the only reachable number for Chipper, but that would mean increasing his home run output dramatically during the twilight of his career. I just don't see it happening (without artificial enhancement). Sorry Chip. Good player, but the greats are the ones in Cooperstown.

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