Chipper Jones is no longer the superstar he once was, but he proved that he can still be an impact player in 2010. Just as he had done for the last few years, Chipper battled nagging injuries throughout the first few months of the year and his stats reflected it; he posted a decent .783OPS in both April and May, but then fell of in June and July as he put up an OPS of .741 and .707 in those two months. Surprisingly enough, Jones' defense actually improved in 2010. After experiencing the one of his worst defensive years of his career in 2009, Chipper posted a decent UZR of 0.1 and UZR/150 of 0.2 this past season, which was average.
August was a completely different story though. As a matter of fact, Chipper basically carried the team on his own for a few weeks. He posted a ridiculous OPS of 1.304 in the first ten days of August, and six of his twelve hits went for extra-bases. Unfortunately for the Braves, Chipper's stellar play would be cut short. While attempting an acrobatic jump-through from third base, Jones landed awkwardly on his right knee and immediately collapsed. With his parents in attendance in Houston, Chipper had to be helped off the field and wouldn't return. Hope was held for just a sprain or strain, but it would be concluded he had a torn ACL and would require immediate surgery. The Braves were without their leader, both on and off the field.*
Well, technically he was still "off the field", but I think you get the point.
Stat of the Year - Chipper Makes the Braves Better:
The Braves were 65-48 (.575%) before the injury. They went 26-23 (.530%) without him.
Stat of the Year #2 - Home Sweet Home:
At Turner Field, Chipper Jones posted an OPS of .954. On the road, it was just .649. That was one of the more drastic splits of any player in baseball.
2011 and Beyond:
As hard as it is to say, 2011 is (probably) Chipper's last year. Technically he's under contract past next season, but if we've learned anything from Chipper over the years, it's that he won't embarrass himself or the organization. Jones has struggled with injuries for the last five years, and it's getting to the point where his body can't handle it anymore. His production is only going to decline and I don't think anyone wants to see Brett Favre 2.0 in Atlanta. Let's send Larry Wayne out in style, shall we? A World Series championship should work just fine.
A bit of an editor's note after the jump.
Alright, so this is a bit of a confession on my part: I wrote this a few days ago, and after re-reading it, I felt like I've been completely and totally unfair to Chipper Jones. As a matter of fact, I'm almost ashamed of myself. For goodness sakes, he is Chipper Jones. He's been my favorite player since I started watching baseball. He's a 1st ballot Hall of Famer. He's been the face of the franchise since the late 1990's, and he will be until the day he retires. Jason Heyward will have his day; this is still Chipper Jones' team.
I did a little research and couldn't believe what I found. While his production has fallen off, he still managed to post a cumulative WAR of 13.2 from 2008-2010. Only five 3rd baseman in baseball have recorded a higher WAR in that time span. Five. Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Alex Rodriguez, and Adrian Beltre. If you go by WAR, only five third baseman have been better than Chipper Jones since 2008. Four of those five guys are in their prime, and the other is one of the best players of all time. Yet, by some way or another, Chipper is still hanging around with them.
Besides WAR, when you think of Chipper Jones, what is the one aspect of his game you think of? For me, it's his on-base percentage and phenomenal eye at the plate. Chipper, who is 47th on the all-time OBP list (.405), posted an OBP of .381 in 2010, which was good for 11th in the National League. And then you remember that he did it as a banged up 38-year old....that's insane.
Finally, is it me, or has Chipper been hitting a ridiculous amount of line drives right at guys? If you look at his BABIP from the past two years, it's .284, which is below the league average of .305 or so. What does this mean? When things balance out next season (as they almost always do), Jones will have an even better year. For a team that has the potential to be stacked on offense, it's easy to get really excited. With his great on-base percentage right in the middle of Prado, Heyward, Uggla, and McCann, it's safe to say the Braves will score their fair share of runs in 2011.
So there it is. Chipper Jones will be back next season for his seventeenth season, and we can only hope for a healthy and productive year. He may not be the superstar he once was, but he's still a very good player. And as we've all seen, it's never a safe bet to bet against the man known as Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones. Let's prove 'em wrong, Chip.