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2010-player-preview-chipper-jones | April | 2010 Articles

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2010 Player Preview: Chipper Jones

Written by Joe Lucia on .

The ageless wonder! Star of the team! Longest tenured single team player in baseball! Chipper Jones won the 2008 NL batting title, and then fell from grace in 2009, and his average dropped from his award winning .364 down to a pedestrian .264. His OPS also fell an unworldly 226 points, down to .818 from 1.044. Lets take a look at WHY exactly these dramatic stat drops happened, without looking at the common excuses (those being that Chipper is old, and that Chipper is always hurt. His 143 games in 2009 were the highest total in his career since 2003, when he got into 153). Anyway, some short and quick analysis. -Chipper's BABIP dropped nearly 100 points, from an unsustainable .383 to a more standard .287 (which is still a little low) -Despite his walk rate being an identical 16.9%, his strikeout rate jumped from 13.9% to 18.2% -Chipper's ISO dropped to a career low .166. -His line drive rate went dropped by 4 percent, down to an even 20% -More of his fly balls stayed in the yard, as his HR/flyball ratio dropped to 12.8% The main factor to blame for Chipper's startling lack of performance in 2009 is obviously his BABIP. All intelligent fans knew he wouldn't post the .364 average again, but something like .290 or .300 seemed a lock. Instead, his BABIP fell way below his career norm (which is .317) and Chipper's performance completely tanked. With even a slight BABIP increase up to the MLB average of .300, Chipper would have gotten that .290 average, and the OPS would have increased with it, and less people would be freaking out. Luck wasn't on his side when it came to batted balls, and as a result, performance suffered. But luck wasn't the only factor involved, right? Thats right, where Chipper hit the ball also had an effect. When his line drive rate declined to 20%, which is still a good rate, the extra hits had to go somewhere...and they turned into weak fly balls and grounders, as both of those rates increased (ironically, at the same rate to give him the same GB:FB ratio as in 2008). With what would be screamers in the gap staying in the air a few extra seconds and turning into a routine fly, Chipper's fly balls increased, and his HR:FB ratio declined as a result. The change in these ratios could be a result of Chipper facing better pitching: the average mph Chipper faced on fastballs, changeups, and curveballs all increased in 2009, likely leading to him getting jammed more and not getting the best swings on the ball. Finally, there is the strikeout rate. Chipper has never been a player that strikes out a lot. In fact, the 18.2% rate is the third highest in his career, behind only his rookie season of 1995, and the lost 2004 season where Chipper's BABIP was hanging out at the bottom of the ocean somewhere. This change is probably also related to the change in velocity he faced. The balls he'd normally get good wood on, he'd be getting jammed on. And the balls he'd normally get jammed on...well, he'd just flat out miss them and strike out more. The alarming thing about my conclusions is that there isn't a whole lot Chipper can do about them. Luck is something that cannot be controlled, and while it will progress to the norm, its a process that just happens...there isn't a switch you can flip to turn luck around. Opposing pitchers in the league are staying the same age, while Chipper is getting older. The older he gets, the harder the fastballs will seem, and the more the curveballs will seem to drop. The only thing Chipper can really do about that is take more BP, and hopefully get his hands sped up to the point where its not that much of an issue anymore. Fantasy-wise, I still believe Chipper is a top ten third baseman. I assume all of you have done your drafts already, and you may have noticed Chipper going shockingly low in them. Personally, I think he's a great buy low candidate. Even if he doesn't rebound to his All-Star form, he's still an above average third baseman, which people are overlooking. He may not be the fantasy ACE anymore, but he's not a bad option. And hey, if you started him today, he got you a stolen base. What more can you ask for?

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