Monday, March 1, 2010
Atlanta Braves X-Factors: Chipper Jones
This past season was rough, to say the least, for Chipper Jones.
The venerable Braves third baseman posted the lowest batting average (.264) and slugging percentage (.430) that his 16-year (including the eight games in '93) has ever seen.
The now-37-year-old Jones also saw his first sub-20 homer season as a full-time player.
In fact, '09 was so bad for the face (at least until J-Word starts tearing it up) of the franchise, that retirement talks were being floated by Hoss himself this offseason as he enters the first year of a three-year extension.
Even with these pint-sized numbers, the Braves as a whole really did not suffer the fate many would have expected with those abysmal numbers from No. 10.
They still won 86 games and were well within striking distance during the season's final weeks.
But, imagine what this past season could have been with the Chipper we've come to know and love over the past few years in Atlanta's three hole.
You know, that .320, 20 homer guy that slices up defenses with teardrop bloopers, screaming gappers, and the occasional 400-foot blast.
The guy that can carry the team when it occasionally finds itself sans-B-Mac, -Escobar, or -clean-up hitter.
Had you plugged that into the line-up the Braves featured in the second half of 2009, and we may be talking about the deep playoff run the Braves and their exceptional pitching staff had in the 2009 postseason...but I digress.
We all know what C. Jones means to the Braves.
He's the guy that leads all of the young guys with his actions and is always accountable for his actions...a true professional.
But, he is getting up there in age and is now looking down the barrel of Bobby Cox's final season...you know, his second father who has served as his only MLB manager.
You have to wonder if he can handle the pressure that's going to stem from 2009, Cox, and his birth certificate.
Because, if he can't, you're likely looking at another postseasonless season in Hotlanta.
This really is the dude that can push the Braves over the line of mediocrity if he can come in and post something close to the afore mentioned "norm" that Braves fans have come to expect from their aging star.
Personally, I think he's got enough in the tank to do something this season.
We certainly can't expect anything close to his '99 MVP season as a 27-year-old, and I don't think any of us really are.
But, when you consider the pressure a legitimate bat like Troy Glaus take off of Jones' shoulders (who has admitted to attempting to boost his power numbers with a "bigger," if you will, swing) and the work he put in this offseason to fix some flaws in his swing, you have to think that .290-.310 and 20-25 homers is well within the realm of possibilities.
If I had to put money down on it, I think .307 (that is his career BA) with 21 homers and an OBP in the neighborhood of .420 would be completely reasonable.
That average falls short of his '06-'08 and those homers would match his 2005 (when he batted .296).
He won't (and I think you can mark that down) set the world on fire...but he also shouldn't be the, let's say, anti-Chipper that we saw in 2009...at least I hope.
And...well...I can't think of any good way to slip this video in here other than to say that I really like the song...
Anyway, I think we'll be looking at Billy Wagner in our next edition of Atlanta Braves X-Factors...be sure to check back.