The Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones Hall of Fame argument: There is none

Every year, as the Hall of Fame inductions roll around, the Chipper Jones debate begins. Perhaps it is heightened living in the Atlanta area as I do, but each and every year as Larry Wayne Jones inches closer to possible enshrinement, the debate arises.

Is Chipper Jones a Hall of Famer?

I don’t understand how this is an argument. Some people will straight out tell you that he isn’t a Hall of Famer. Others will tell you that he is a Hall of Famer, but not a first ballot kind of guy. Then there are guys like me, who think you must have not watched baseball throughout the entire 1990s and 2000s if you truly think Chipper Jones is not a Hall of Fame caliber player.

I get the argument that some choose to debate. Baseball is and forever will be a numbers game. A career’s greatness in the NFL and NBA can change with the amount of rings you have on your fingers, but in baseball, all that matters is the stats. If that weren’t the case David Justice and Eric Hinske would be first ballot guys with all the consecutive playoffs and World Series they appeared in.

Chipper doesn’t have the numbers typically associated with a first ballot Hall of Famer, I will agree with that. The bench mark for “automatic” induction is 3,000 hits, Chipper had 2,726. The mark for home runs is 500, Chipper had 468. But when it comes to Chipper Jones, you have to look at the whole picture, and then you realize that his numbers are good enough for consideration.

Chipper is one of the greatest switch hitters of all-time and his numbers rank at the top of a list that includes the following names: Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, and Mickey Mantle. When it comes to the greatest switch hitters of all time, the conversation is Chipper Jones and those three. How are you going to keep a guy in that conversation out of the Hall on the first ballot? Are you kidding me?

Jones is 33rd all-time in home runs, 29th all-time in doubles (549) and 33rd all-time in RBI with 1,623. When you put him on an exclusive list of switch hitters, he is in the top five in nearly every category, including his impressive .401 career on base percentage, which was better than both Murray (.359) and Rose (.375) by a landslide.

As many of you know that follow this site, I am not entirely keen on WAR. I will bring it into the conversation because I know it is a necessary evil in today’s stat driven world, but I will again point to my biggest beef with trusting WAR as an end-all stat. Baseball Reference and FanGraphs — arguably the two most trusted sites for baseball metrics — have different equations and thus different values for a player’s WAR (Chipper is 85 on Baseball Reference, while 84.6 on FanGraphs, whereas someone like Beltre is 90.2 on B/R and 81.3 on FG, so it isn’t merely a round up, round down situation).

I like to look to wRC+ which — in easiest terms — is a metric to see how well you were at creating runs with the numbers adjusted accordingly to ball parks and the sorts. The average for a MLB player is 100. Chipper ended his career with a 141 wRC+. His contemporary in the third base department, Adrian Beltre who many feel is a sure fire Hall of Famer, sits at 115. The legendary third baseman before Chipper, Mike Schmidt, sits at 147. A defensive wizard at the hot corner like Brooks Robinson registered a 104 WRC+. You can see that Chipper hangs with elite Hall of Fame company and even bests most of them.

That being said, since WAR is the big todo, Chipper’s overall WAR according to FanGraphs is 84.6. That is better than Beltre’s 81.3 and Brooks’ 80.2, but worse than Schmidt’s astounding 106.5 WAR (that number is mind boggling). If you look at Baseball Reference, their formula rates Chipper an 87.4 oWAR (offensive WAR). That’s good for 25th all time. But, as some like to argue, Chipper doesn’t have the magical numbers.

Come on.

The place where Chipper gets burned is defense. I mean it’s not even close. This is where I take the most heat in my soap box campaign for Chipper every time. It wasn’t simply that Chipper couldn’t hang defensively with some of the bigger Hall of Fame third baseman, it’s that he wasn’t even on the page. Baseball Reference has Chipper at a -1.6 dWAR (Defensive WAR). Take the same third baseman I compared him to earlier. Robinson, who’s Hall of Fame bid was mainly because of his defense, was the best at 38.8. Schmidt, who’s Hall of Fame bid came behind one of the biggest bats in the history of the game, was a 17.6. Beltre, who is the most well-rounded of the the four, is currently at 27.3.  So, yes, Chipper Jones’ defense was atrocious.

But he made up for it on the offensive side of the plate. PLUS, the second that David Ortiz announced his retirement, the world over forgot his name on the alleged 2003 list of PED users and wanted him to be anointed into the Hall of Fame seemingly before he swung his last bat. Ortiz was an absolutely horrendous fielder and even playing first base in the limited time that he had to, he still posted a -21.6 dWAR.

Another fascinating aspect to Chipper’s game was that for all the teasing he received for being fragile and injury-prone, he came alive in his latter years. He posted an OPS above 1.000 in each of his age-34, 35 and 36 seasons, winning a batting title at the age of 36, leading all of MLB with a .364 average and a .470 on base percentage. His final season at the age of 40, he slashed .287/.377/.455 with 14 home runs and 23 doubles. If Chipper wanted the numbers, he probably had a year left to try and get them.

The thing is, Chipper could have signed a contract in the American League at any point in his career, especially the later years, and hit all the numbers that wouldn’t even make this an debate. He would have stayed healthier as a DH, not only giving him more at bats, but would keep him off third base, possibly improving that terrible dWAR.

He didn’t though. He stayed in Atlanta for the duration of his 19-year career. He would give the retirement speech for Bobby Cox, the man that drafted him first overall in the 1990 draft and would later manage him to an MVP Award, a World Series ring and make him the centerpiece of the team that completely dominated the NL East for a decade and a half. We will never see anything like that ever again. Even Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, whom many feel may be the last of the breed who sticks with their same team for the duration of their career, were drafted or signed by Gene Michaels, sent back to the minors by Buck Showalter, managed to greatness by Joe Torre, and then retired under the helms of their own former teammate Joe Girardi when it was all over. Chipper and Bobby spent day one to day none together. It was a beautiful thing to see, and Chipper was probably my least favorite Brave during those years.

We will never see another run like the 1991 to 2005 run of the Atlanta Braves. And the one consistent of that offense — no matter how known they were for their rotation — is a no-brainer, sure fire first ballot Hall of Famer. Especially when he is one of the best three switch hitters to ever rip a baseball.

21 thoughts on “The Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones Hall of Fame argument: There is none”

  1. You are actually understating his case. He is a far better player than Jeter, who is considered a lock. Few can match his career 300/.400/.500. Especially in this era, where OPS is finally appreciated.

    1. You need to go back and check Jeter’s stats. His .310 lifetime BA is higher than Jones’, while the On Base percentage and OPS are close. While Jones did hit 200 more HRs and Chipper drove in 300 plus more runs, you neglected to mention Jeter had 700 MORE hits as well as 200 more stolen bases. And let’s not forget DJ won a couple of Gold Gloves along the way, at shortstop.
      To say Chipper Jones is a “far better player” identifies you as little more than a fanboy with a platform to spew your idolatry. Next time, try comparing Jones–a certain HOFer in my book–to other third basemen, especially his contemporaries, rather than make an inane statement concerning the all-time greatness of Derek Jeter. You didn’t make Jones look any better, all you did accomplish was to make YPURSELF look like a star-struck kid.
      And a clueless one, at that, by deriding the accomplishments of one future HOFer at the expense of another another.

      1. Lol, you’re projecting.

        First: Gold glove awards are subjective and meaningless. Actual fielding metrics don’t like Jeter at all. He has -9.7 dWAR.

        “Baseball Prospectus’s Fielding Runs Above Average and Baseball-Reference’s Total Zone, Jeter has cost his team more in the field than any other player in history, with both methods assessing the damage at 230 to 260 runs.”

        Second: You’re using BA to make your case???

        Here are the modern metrics that everyone has used for the last 20 years:

        OPS+
        Chipper – 141
        Captain overrated – 115

        WAR
        Chipper – 85
        The greatest baseball player ever – 71.8 (he gets a bump for playing SS, and is still way behind)

        Lifetime OPS
        Chipper – .930
        your hero – .817

        Do a little research before starting infantile arguments about your object of affection. Thank you for playing.

      2. Both are sure 1st ballot bHOFers. Very hard to compare since they played different positions and place in the batting order. Both have over a .300 lifetime average. Jeter edges Jones in total bases (4921 to 4755). Jeter edges Jones in runs (1923 to 1619). Jones edges Jeter in rbi’s (1623 to 1311). Jeter might have stolen more bases (358 to 150). But Jones walked more (1512 to 1082). You couldn’t go wrong with either of these guys on your team. If I had to pick just one, I would go with Jeter. He batted .320 over his seven World Series to Jones’s .272 over his three. There are also intangibles. Jeter seemed to get a hit or make a spectacular defensive play at the right time. I was in Oakland when Jeter did his “flip play.” That play saved the series and eventual WS win for NY. This is just one of many Jeter moments in high pressure situations. But nothing comes to mind for Jones.

      3. I am both a Yankees fan and Jeter fan, as well as someone who has worked at Turner Field and with the Braves minor league system, so I wanted to stay out of this war. BUT… The Flip Play was in 2001. The Yankees did not win a World Series that year.

    2. Wayne – after proof reading wanted to go back and change the 2000 comment. As a previous A’s season ticket holder, losing in the playoffs start to run together. But there was no way to do that. In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks won. Either way, still would pick Jeter,

  2. I appreciate your passion for his candidacy and with what it’s written, but I feel like it was somewhat of a wasted article, as anyone with even 1/2 a baseball brain would agree with his place in the HOF. As a matter of fact, I dont think I can recall anybody I have ever spoken to having an argument against. So to me, this is similar to why “Stan Musial should be a HOF’er”. (And for anybody without a sarcasm sensor, “Yes I know Stan is in”)

  3. He deserve a first ballot He should get in due to the fact that he stayed with the Braves since being drafted by them I mean the only three players can say that are Ripken Jeter and Gywnn. I mean in the day of free agency He was loyal

    1. I do not think staying with a team that drafts you is reason for a first ballot. Chipper’s numbers do. I also disagree with you that those are the only 3 players who stayed with a team that drafted them. I double checked and Biggio was drafted by and played his whole career with the Astros. Bagwell never went to free agency but only played for a different team than the one that drafted him because that team traded him, and that should not count against him.

  4. Chipper is a no-brainer 1st ballot bHOFer (should get around 92% of the vote). I wouldn’t take any advice from those who tell you otherwise. Only knocks on Chipper – (1) most of his career and HR’s happened during the steroid and/or long ball era (94-2004), (2) total career defensive liability (-1.6 dWAR), and (3) from 2004 on had a hard time staying healthy (9 years out of a 19 year career). Chipper is definitely in the top 7 3rb baseman all time, but in 8-12 years a much better 3rd baseman will get elected into the bHOF – Adrian Beltre. Beltre could possibly be the second player in baseball history (only other is Hank Aaron) to get 3000 hits, 600 2b, and 500 HR’s. Not to mention he is one of the top 13 defensive players all-time. In two years he could play the most defensive games at third base and the most games at any one position ever. Right now he is 22nd all-time in Total Bases, Chipper finished as the 32nd.

  5. Pointless to compare Jones and Jeter. Different kinds of players playing different positions. Both are first ballot in my opinion, and I can’t see a legitimate argument against either–yes, each has particular flaws to varying degrees, but those flaws in no way bring them down below HoF caliber. What’s more perplexing about the current Hall vote is people making arguments against Guerrero. The guy was a defensive liability, especially in his post-Montreal years when his knees were destroyed, but the guy is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time. He was absolutely feared by pitchers, and couldn’t be pitched anywhere inside or outside of the zone. The only thing that kept him from 550+ home runs, ~1600 runs, 1800+ RBIs, and 3000+ hits was Montreal’s turf that basically blew up his legs. I swear the guy looked like he could barely walk in his mid-30s.

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