After Derek Jeter reached 3,000 hits, I wanted to know where he placed amongst current and all-time players in terms of WAR, currently the best statistic to measure overall on-field contribution. Jeter ranks sixth amongst active ballplayers and 69th overall. That’s about what I expected. However, this exercise led to one surprise: that Chipper Jones is currently ranked second amongst active players and 35th overall. My surprise really stems from the fact that I knew that Chipper Jones was a very good ballplayer, I just didn’t know he was that he was a great ballplayer. And I don’t think I’m alone.
Here’s one example of just how underappreciated Chipper has been during his career. In the five-year span from 2003 to 2008, he wasn’t selected as a starter or reserve in any of the All-Star Games, but posted the 7th best OPS, 6th best wOBA, and most importantly, the 7th best WAR in MLB during that time. Basically, one of the top 10 hitters in all of baseball during those five years couldn’t make a single All-Star Game. Think that happens to someone like Derek Jeter?
When Chipper finally did get back to the All-Star Game in 2008, it marked his sixth selection to the game in 14 years. Alfonso Soriano was already playing in his seventh game in eight years.
So how can someone who’s a former NL MVP and one of the best hitters of our current era be so overlooked, at least in comparison to other star players? Well, Chipper played much of his early career during the Braves run of 14 consecutive division titles that featured other stars like Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Sheffield, and Andruw Jones, just to name a few. He’s also a team-first, non-contorversial player who did nothing extraordinary to draw attention. He’s a great player who presents himself a very good player.
Barring an unexpected resurgence in the next couple seasons, Chipper will never get to 3,000 hits (he’s currently at 2,565). And until he retires and people really start to take a look at what he’s done, he’ll probably never receive the level of attention that’s due to a player of his accomplishments. Which is a shame, because we’ve truly been watching one of the best.