Early this year, I threw caution to the wind. I lifted my strict no-Braves policy in favor of a fantasy baseball win-at-all-costs measure and drafted none other than Mets-Killer Chipper Jones. It was a move that made me feel a little dirty for a while after, but I kept turning back to the reason I drafted him - he's an on-base machine, and that would pay off with our new category this year being on-base percentage.
I haven't regretted the move one bit. In fact, I find myself rooting for Jones not just to get on base, but to get hits. And I bet I'm not the only one.
Chipper is batting .421 as of this moment (through Friday night's game), and his on-base percentage is .504 (!!). But let's focus on that first number.
Major League Baseball has to be thrilled with a .400 chase. The deeper we get into the season, and the more exposure this gets, provided Jones keeps his current pace, is all good news for MLB.
No one has hit .400 in a season since Ted Williams' .406 in 1941. There have been chases, flirtations - most notably George Brett in 1980 (.390) and Tony Gwynn in the strike-shortened 1994 season (.394) (but also the likes of Paul Molitor, John Olerud, Larry Walker, and Nomar Garciaparra - most of which faded very quickly) - but lately it's been the power categories that get the hot pursuit...and, we now know for sure, much of that was artificial.
There's nothing artificial about a batting average. There's even less artificial about it when it's a guy like Jones, who isn't legging out bunt singles. He's just a pure hitter, and because he's a switch-hitter, he's out there most everyday, no matter who's on the mound.
This has the potential to be a feel-good summer for Major League Baseball. It's like Cal Ripken pursuing Lou Gehrig, pulling baseball out of the shadow of the strike. For baseball to talk about the likes of Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Ted Williams, and George Sisler rather than Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and the now-defunct records of Roger Maris/Babe Ruth, and to have a die-hard Mets fan singing the praises of an Atlanta Brave - looks like baseball has turned the page on the Mitchell Report.
A LOOK AT CHIPPER'S NUMBERS
.421 AVG., .504 OBP, 14 HR, 39 RBI (played in 57 of team's 62 games)
vs. LHP: .450 AVG., .516 OBP, 1 HR, 8 RBI (36 games)
vs. RHP: .404 AVG., .497 OBP, 13 HR, 31 RBI
Home: .462 AVG., .538 OBP, 8 HR, 26 RBI (32 games)
Away: .371 AVG., .460 OBP, 6 HR, 13 RBI (25 games)
There are some holes in his statistics, which should be noted. First of all, that's a pretty low RBI total. Secondly, though .371 is an awesome average, it pales in comparison to how he's hitting at Turner Field. The Braves as a team really struggle on the road - 7-21 versus 25-9 at home. So I guess there's evidence to suggest Jones won't keep this up all year (not to mention whether or not he can stay healthy), but I'll be rooting for him. (I can't believe I just said that.)
For a look at Chipper Jones' career (he hit his 400th career homer this week) and place in history, check out Justin from NYC's article on sportscracklepop.com.