40 thoughts on “Camp Leo!”

  1. I may be alone on this, and if I am, I’ll shut up. But, Chipper Jones seems to be real negative about this season. Yeah, I know, he hits his 35 HRs(27 last year) and gets his 110 RBIs(107 last year) and is always a threat to hit .320(305 last year)… but so is Carlos Delgado, Larry Walker, Brian Giles, Jason Giambi, Nomar Garciaparra, and Bobby Abreu, just to name a few. What I’m trying to get at is that he may be a fan-favorite and he may be a good hitter, but is he good enough to complain about his team’s budget and the economics of baseball? Hell, look at Bobby Abreu, he has VERY similar career stats. Yeah, he doesn’t hit 35 homers, but Chipper doesn’t hit 45 doubles. Chipper doesn’t steal 20-30 bases like Abreu does, and he doesn’t play nearly as good defense as Abreu. Same with Giles, doesn’t bitch, and plays a tougher position. Same with Garciaparra, ESPN had his name all over SportsCenter as the person to be traded in the A-Rod-Ramirez deal, and he still took it like a man. Also, he plays the second hardest position on the defensive spectrum. Chipper plays the easiest.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown up (still growing up) watching Chipper, loving Chipper, trying to hit like Chipper. I even have 3 posters in my room and a signed picture and ball of Chipper Jones, but is that really a fan-favorite? “Well we can’t win if we don’t have the first or second largest payroll in the league, even though we have one world championship to show for it in ten years of having that.”

    Of course, I might be wrong. I might be thinking of a different .300, 35 HR, 100 RBI player that doesn’t play defense…

  2. What’s your point Rob? Are you saying the Braves should get rid of Chipper because of his perceived negativity? Or that he needs to ”earn” his right to complain by performing better than the players who don’t? Or were you simply expressing your displeasure with Chipper’s comments?

  3. I am simple expressing my displeasure with Chipper’s comments. Also, nobody “earns” a right to complain about those things, even if they do perform better than the players who don’t. Whether you’re Chipper Jones or Ryan Langerhans, you don’t have the right to complain about financial issues. What’s next? “You know John, I think Julio’s getting a little too old to be playing first base in the big leagues. What do you say we go ahead and release him?”

  4. I just thought it was weird that you wrapped all this stuff about fan favorites and players you cited as being just as good as Chipper around your main point.

  5. I think Chipper and Smoltz share the fact that I would like them more if they never said anything publicly. When you hear them speak about “the good of the team” it’s usually pretty depressing to hear how clueless they are.

    As a player, Chipper seems content to let his raw talent carry him. He doesn’t seem to really push himself to improve where he is lacking. That’s also a bit of a downer because as good as he is, it would be scary how good he could be if he had a strong work ethic. His OPS+ numbers peaked at 27 and are know in a steady slide (175, 142, 162, 155, 141). And of course he’s horrible outfielder with no prospect of getting better. He’ll still be a real asset for a few more years, but the $15 million team option for 2007 will be an interesting decision.

    Unless he signs up with Javy’s trainer (or pharmacist if you prefer) which could change the equation considerably.

  6. I don’t see anything wrong with Chipper’s comments. First, as the player with the longest tenure with the Braves, he, along with Smoltz, have the right to say things like that. Second, any player would be frustrated with the loss players like Maddux, Glavine, Lopez and Sheffield. I’m not saying I agree with him, and J.S. had a good rebuttal, but I don’t see his comments as out-of-bounds.

    Also, I’m not aware of any reason to question Chipper’s work ethic (maybe there is reason, I just don’t know). And how is a 5-year stretch with OPS+ of 175, 142, 162, 155, 141 a “steady slide”? Not an MVP anymore, but still consistently great.

  7. And of course he’s horrible outfielder with no prospect of getting better.

    erm, what are you basing this one? Every defensive metric I’ve seen puts him at average to slightly above. Willie Mays, no, but hardly “horrible”. And I agree with Chipper – with the amount of money the Braves make, given their sweetheart deal with TBS, they could easily afford more payroll. The Millwood debacle last year showed up the current organization as penny wise, and I don’t see where that has changed.

  8. Well his relatively down year at Age 28 (the 142 OPS+ year) makes it look less steady I guess, but looking at his slugging the last three years (.605, .536, .517) and you get the idea. He’s starting to leak about 10% of his offensive value per season. And of course he has no (positive) defensive value now that he’s been moved off third.

    I question his work ethic somewhat because there is no reason that someone with his athletic ability should be such an awful outfielder. (I mean even Ron Gant was never this bad and he could barely move he was so musclebound) It just takes a lot of practice, and apparently that’s not a priority. With some work he should be able to get to a Gary Sheffield level of competance.

    He’s entering his age 32 season so it’s not too late to stop the trend. But if he doesn’t change something in his approach to the game, he’s probably seen his last All-Star game.

  9. Every defensive metric I’ve seen puts him at average to slightly above.

    This suggests to me that you haven’t seen very many metrics.

    Average range factor for NL LFs in ’03: 1.91
    Chipper’s range factor: 1.48

    That 1.48 is the lowest of any NL leftfielder that played more than 400 innings. Don’t get me wrong, it don’t put much stock in range factor (I can already hear you screaming: Andruw’s steals all his putouts!) or any other outfield defensive metric. But if your telling me that all the metrics love him, I have to say you are mistaken.

  10. But in ’02 it was CJ at 1.85 and the league at 1.92 – was he just reallllly crappy last year, or does a wild swing in a metric like this cast doubt upon the methodology? I am not trying to recast the argument, but my point is that even RF says he ain’t that bad when his fielding is looked at in total.

  11. And regarding his offense, he was still 9th in EqR and 11th in EqA in the NL – I hardly think in a league with Bonds, Pujols, Guerrero, and withHelton getting to hit in Colorado that being a Top Ten offensive contributor isn’t an “all-star” performance.

  12. For what’s it worth, Mickey Lichtman’s Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, has Chipper averaging one run below average in left field these last couple of years.

  13. FWIW, I watch every game and personally I thought Chipper’s D last year was noticabley worse than in ’02. That doesn’t validate what the range factors say of course, but that’s why I draw the conclusions I do.

    And of course your right that he is still a potent offensive force, I hope I didn’t argue otherwise. I’m was just pointing out that both his offensive and defensive value are slipping these past three seasons, and I hope he does something about it before it’s too late. His salary the next three years are $14M, $15M, and $17M, so if he’s not going to play defense, he needs to be back up over 150 OPS+.

  14. Win Shares has him at 30 of 156 OF’s in the NL. And FWIW, there were only 6 qualifiers that hit better than 150+ OPS. Given his production over the life of his contract, I’d take his ’03 numbers for the next 3 years at that price. Money has been spent MUCH worse by this organization, and it’s not like there’s a passel of 150+ hitters that would be available to replace him. Two nickels are not worth as much as a dime.

  15. The Win Shares defensive evalutation system is a complete joke so I’m not going to get into that with you. I guess we’ll just have to disagree on the quality of his defense. I’ll just ask you to watch him sometime. You would be hard pressed to find a player that takes worse routes to balls.

    You are probably right that if Chipper could stop the erotion of his offense at about the 140+ OPS level he would still be worth the money. Unfortunately that’s not the direction his trend lines are pointing.

  16. It would have been better had Chipper not spoken to the press. We should remember that journalists can easily misquote a player or take his remarks out of context. Assuming that that is not the case, is it really surprising that Chipper (or Smoltz) is disappointed (like so many on this list) with some of the Braves offseason moves?

    I expect Chipper’s offensive numbers to actually improve in 2004. I suspect that Chipper will be a bit more comfortable with Sheffield gone. This is not to imply tension between them, but Chipper clearly likes to play the role of team leader. Sheffield was a clear threat to that. To put it differently, Chipper’s decline reminds me a bit of Will Clark’s drop-off when Barry Bonds was added to the Giants. Chipper is still in a position to `rebound'(not that his decline is all that great anyway). With a little luck, his defense should be nearly adequate for a leftfielder. Of course, this may all be wishful thinking…

  17. From BP’s Clay Davenport, writing about the Winter Leagues:

    Adam LaRoche hit for a .218 EqA in 2001-02, as a first baseman in the Braves farm system. Last year he hit .247 at Double-A, raised that to .256 after being promoted to Triple-A, and took that to .282 in Puerto Rico. The winter league numbers suggest that last year’s improvement was real, and that he could be a viable first baseman in the majors.

  18. I think when Smoltz is calling out the players on the team, he really means Chipper. I listened to Chipper on the radio last night and it sounded like someone who is already beaten, not like a leader others could rally around. The Braves have needed an everyday player to be the leader on this team and they haven’t had it since the Justice trade.As long as he is with the team, no one else can come in and take the role that Chipper refuses to assume. I would explore trades for Chipper now. Don’t the Yankees need a 3rd baseman?

  19. Chipper’s defense in LF is fine. Range Factor is not a good measure (nor is Win Shares) because it relies on chances. You want to know why Chipper’s RF fell in 2003?

    Chances per game
    2002 1.9
    2003 1.5

    Not as many balls were hit to Chipper, that’s all. The superior measure Zone Rating has Chipper right around average. I watch most games, and though he doesn’t always look pretty, he’s not that bad either. Primer’s defensive guru Chris Dial – a Mets fan who thought Chipper would be awful in LF – even admitted he was decent out there.

    As for his decline, it’s pretty typical age pattern. However, remember that Chipper’s wrist was injured last year. And wrist injuries can sap power. I’d look for a bit of a power rebound this year, coupled with his always stellar OBP. Yeah, he should have remained at 3rd, but unfortunately that’s not my decision to make.

    Though Chipper can have a big mouth, this time I agree with his comments about the payroll.

  20. As if a NY Mets fan has an accurate guage of good outfielding. Their recent outfielders have been Roger(“runs the bases till he’s out, chases the ball till it stops rolling”) Cedeno, an oft injured and physically deteriorating clifford floyd, Jeromy (stationary) Burnitz. With that cast of characters I’m sure Chipper does look like Willie Mays Hayes.

  21. A few not-necessarily-related comments:
    –I want Chipper to always shut up. He is the most self-serving quote factory around – always available to disparage somebody else, almost never when he’s the one who failed. I especially don’t want him complaining about payroll when he’s making $15m a year of it.
    –I don’t want to hear from Smoltz on payroll either, not when we’re paying 8 figures for him as an injury-prone reliever, and not after he was so vocal in his last negotiations about getting what he deserved after all the time he’d missed.
    –In fact, hearing any long-time Brave complaining about payroll is lame, given how high the Braves payroll has been for their tenure
    –There’s no way I trade Chipper. Why/ Because even in a small decline, and even at his price, there’s no way I trust JS to spend that oney any better.
    –Re: what Rob said – yes, Chipper plays the easiest position, but lest we forget, he didn’t actually _want_ to shift away from 3B. And as for conditioning, etc, it’s hard to criticize the conditioning of a guy who’s missed a grand total of only 43 games over the 9 years since he came back from his ACL injury. Even in this recent off year he only missed 9 games. Hell, keep Chipper around if for no other reason than so JD Drw can maybe learn from him.

    Colin

  22. To be simplistic about it, the chances numbers of Chipper might be a little skewed.

    We had a worse pitching staff last year than we did in 2002. The majority of the innings pitched in 2002 were by Glavine, Millwood, Maddux, Moss. We had 4 pitchers who pitched great, gave up very few hits relative to their innings pitched. So, not too many chances for a corner outfielder.

    Then, we lose Glavine, Millwood, and Moss. ERA suffers, almost an entire run per game, and the team WHIP rises. With everyone believing Andruw has lost range, somehow Chipper’s chances go down. More hits, less range by other outfielders, but chances go down. His chances should have gone up if he was as good of a defender in 2003 as he was in 2002. Obviously, he lost range.

  23. I hope Met fans don’t dismiss my work because I’m a Brave fan. Chris Dial has been studying defense for years (again, see his articles on Baseball Primer). He does his work with numbers, not by comparing what Chipper looks like out there to the obviously awful Burnitz.

    As for chances, there’s no way Chipper’s chances go from 1.9 a game to 1.5 a game without changes in the pitching staff:

    2002 (GB/FB ratio)
    Maddux 2.24
    Millwood 1.22
    Marquis 1.10
    Glavine 1.06
    Moss 1.02

    2003
    Hampton 1.95
    Maddux 1.84
    Ramirez 1.54
    Reynolds 1.44
    Ortiz 1.07

    As we see, the starting staff went from four fly ball pitchers in 2002 to one in 2003. If I had to wager, I’d bet that’s a big part of the reason Chipper’s chances were down. He might have been worse defensively in 2003, but it wasn’t near the drop RFactor suggests.

  24. The problem with Chipper goes beyond his statistics. Or perhaps the problem is with his statistics. This is, and has been Chipper’s team to lead. He chooses to defer that leadership to anyone but himself. He is never going to put team goals ahead of his personal goals. The drive every year for 100 RBI’s/his obvious displeasure at hitting 4th/his pouting over the move to left hurting his HOF chances. He needs to take hold of this team or get the heck out. It is time for a change.

  25. “I am concerned about one thing and one thing only. I want this team to win. If we are a better team with me in LF and Vinny Castilla at 3B, and that is what Bobby thinks will give us the best shot to get back to the World Series, then lets do it. People think that the numbers, the money and personal achievements are the things that are important to athletes, and specifically baseball players. These things don’t motivate me. These things don’t move me. The only thing that most players care about is winning. The success of my team is the ONLY thing that matters to me. It is why I play this game. Athletes are proud and competitive, and most can’t stand one thing – losing. Winning is what drives athletes, not money or numbers. I want everyone to understand that the move to LF was what we, as a team, decided was best for the one and only thing that matters – our team. I am thoroughly excited about this year, and playing LF. People ask me “well, what about your legacy at 3B? You can be the only 3B in history to hit certain numbers.” Yes, I can. But, I can also be part of team that has won 11 division titles in a row, and can win 2 or more World Series. If I can do that, that is legacy enough for me.” -Chipper Jones

  26. Mike A
    I wasn’t intentionally trying to question Chris Dial’s analysis or credibility on the grounds of his being a mets fan. I know it appeared that I was being an ignorant braves fan. I saw a chance to take a cheap shot at the Mets woeful outfield of recent seasons (which has been among the worst in baseball history) and capitalized on it.

  27. Thank you for the quote from two years ago.It meant little then and means less now. It is 2 years later, 2 more playoff disasters and 2 years of speculation of the declining HOF chances, 2 years of pouting over having to hit 4th. Stand up, Chipper. Tell us this team will win the division. Tell us it will win the Series. Tell us it will happen because you are here to make it happen.
    This is where I get off the bus with statheads. Chipper’s stats are meaningless. He is the governer on this team’s engine. It is past time for him to lead this team.

  28. “Statheads” eh? Nice – nothing like an ad hominem attack from a surly “fanboy” who somehow thinks that he’s owed something besides entertainment from a professional athlete. I guess it’s somehow Jones’ fault that Schuerholz never bothered to build a decent bench during those playoff disasters, or that Cox’ pitcher usage in a lot of those close games was pretty suspect. Yep, if only Jones had shown a little more leadership, Ortiz doesn’t give up a four spot in Game One last year, and Glavine doesn’t get shelled in Games 1 and 4 two years ago. I can’t believe Chipper has the nerve show his face around town.

  29. Spike, with all due respect, ‘stathead’ was, IMHO, a term of endearment. If it was not politically correct and somehow offended you, you have my humble apology. The difficulty I have with those of your ilk, is the complete elimination of the human element and behavioral science involved in baseball and any other endeavor. When the highest paid, highest profile member of any organization starts a quest with comments like Chipper has made this early spring, I believe it casts a pall over the entire operation. For that kind of investment, I want a warrior, not just someone with a 150+ OPS. The obvious contrast is Jeter. Statistics show he doesn’t field or hit with the best at his position (you can tell me better about that,) but on the field and in the clubhouse you get more than stats will ever show. BTW, I get more entertainment bang for my buck from Furcal, Giles and Andruw, than I ever get from Chipper.

  30. Although I hate to steer away from cold, hard facts, such as Chipper being in the top 10 in OPS every year, I would have to agree with Mark about the human element and intangibles a player brings to a team. I think that Furcal making a tough play in the hole to throw someone out at first, or Andruw taking a double away from somebody in right-center, or Giles turning a sure single in a hustle double does more to boost a team than someone shooting out a 150 OPS+ and not really being the spark the team needs. Some people have the ability to motivate other players to do better than they normally would, and Chipper isn’t one of those. That’s why you can’t really call him a leader.

  31. So, um, where has this “chemistry” gone from the Yankees these last three years? How come the Angels went from A WS to 77 wins? Did Garrett Anderson drop his lucky leadership totem? Did Jeter lose his mojo? It’s funny to me because chemistry is one of those things that’s always (and ONLY) noticed in hindsight. How would your perception of Chipper change if Wohlers doesn’t hang that curve to Leyritz? Would it change your perception of Jeter? I stole this info from Aaron’s Baseball Blog, but consider this –

    “The situations one would want to look at in trying to determine the Clutchness of a player would seem to me to be the following:

    – Runners in scoring position
    – Runners in scoring position with two outs
    – Close and late

    The first two are self-explanatory. “Close and late” is defined as “results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck.”

    In other words, how does someone do when the game is on the line? When the going gets tough and the tough get going. When the s— hits the fan. When the men are separated from the boys. When (insert your own cliche here).

    Here are Derek Jeter’s post-season numbers in those situations from 2000-2003, combined…

    Runners in scoring position: .214/.421/.357

    Runners in scoring position with two outs: .188/.381/.375

    Close and late: .176/.263/.323″

    http://www.aarongleeman.com/2003_10_26_baseballblog_archive.html#106741033513372636

    So do you think Jeter’s a leader because he plays for a winning team and Tim McCarver publicly fellates him each October, or do you have some “chemistry quantifier” to explain why you think this way?

  32. To begin with, I never uttered the word “chemistry” in my posts, neither did anyone else, that I can see. Chemistry is a made-up baseball term invented by Peter Gammons, announcers, and other homo-sexuals. What I’m talking about is being a leader. One person, being a leader. Not how well your back-up shortstop deals with your power-hitting left fielder and his music tastes in the clubhouse.

    Also, I didn’t say anything about being “clutch” either, and neither did anyone else. Although, as I stated earlier, I don’t like to blatantly disagree with convincinng stats, I think there is such a thing as being clutch. Now, I’m not saying that Derek Jeter is clutch, McCarver’s just an idiot, but pressure does get to people. In pressure situations, there are people that crack and run home crying. I’m not saying that people that aren’t clutch run home crying, but I’m just referring to the non-stat intangible that there are people that really thrive on those situations, and Close and Late, RISP, and RISP with two outs may or may not tell you that.

  33. Well fine, then Rob – how do you know Player x can “motivate other players to do better than they normally would”? What player can you say with some certainty does this, and what are you basing your conclusion on? Listen – fwiw, Jones comes across as an inarticulate Florida panhandle boy who knocked up a Hooters girl ’cause he could – and that’s the nicest way I can put it.

    The clutch thing just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Was CJ not clutch in his MVP season? How come the “pressure” didn’t get to him during those games at Shea? Are you only clutch if you win the WS? When exactly did he “crack and run home crying”? If these “non stat” qualities are in fact intangibles, how can you possibly know who posseses them and who doesn’t, and to what degree?

  34. Spike, it would be a wonderful world if every human endeavor could be predicted and analyzed by statistics. Stats only show part of the picture. That you fail to understand that is regretable. As soon as Billy Beane, the King of all Stats, wins a few championships in a row with his cast of characters, let me know. The fact that he has not won much of anything at all should be proof enough. Two years ago, I was chastized in a similar thread over the Padres picking some rookie with great MLE’s over Deivi Cruz. Ramon Vasquez now has no position with the Padres and those MLE’s went up in smoke. The point is not that Cruz was a great player, the point was that Vasquez was not a sure thing based solely on his stats. Unless statistical analysis is blended with human behavior, the sabremetric revolution is doomed to failure. Will Chipper’s OPS this year be 142 or 122? You have no idea. Is Chipper now and forever not a leader? We have every idea.
    We have seen and heard him in action and can accurately predict his behavior. You can do nothing but guess. The ultimate irony of statistical analysis is its ultimate failure to predict anything.

  35. I don’t believe anyone here has the slightest clue whether Chipper is a leader or not. How many of you have played on his team? How many of you spend time in the Braves locker room? There is a heckuva lot more guessing as to whether Chipper is a leader or not than there is what his stats will be next year.

    I’m just stunned that Chipper, a borderline HoF as we speak, is being made out to be the playoff scapegoat because of some perceived lack of leadership. At least go after the players that don’t hit in the playoffs. You know, the ones that we hear are great leaders like Brian Jordan and Andres Galarraga…it don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that swing.

    And the Yankees’ stathead mentality served them pretty well.

  36. Borderline HoFer? How many HoFers had a .946 OPS at the peak of their careers and played the easiest defensive position below average?

    Also, Chipper is not clutch either in postseason play. He has a .898 postseason OPS, which is respectable, but 8 of his 12 career postseason home runs have come during the Division Series, and only one has come in the World Series, where supposedly he is at his highest clutchness.

    And dude, don’t even start on Andres Galarraga. His playoff time came when he was 37 years old, and half of it was after he recovered from cancer. And at 37, he hit more home runs after missing a year from cancer than Chipper did last year. You wanna talk about a leader? Next time Chipper comes back from cancer, though I never wish this on him, and hits 28 home runs, you let me know.

  37. And another thing, Chipper isn’t from the panhandle. He’s from DeLand, Florida, which is about an hour from my house. Before you say he’s a leader, read some of the quotes you find in the newspapers around here, which appear about once a month, or whenever he feels like having his Hitting Camps and Golf Tournaments. Every time, he complains about something. He complains about the Yankees’ payroll, he complains about the Cardinals, and until recently he was complaining about Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. I’ve never read that he’s excited about having JD Drew here. I’ve never read that he was excited about Adam LaRoche and Johnny Estrada getting starting jobs. A leader would say something positive every once in a while about the upcoming season. Doesn’t happen with him…

  38. Chipper played 3rd base for most of his major league career. He created 422 runs at that position, which is underrepresented in the HoF. The average 3rd sacker in the Hall created 500 runs. Bill James had him in the top 20 3rd sackers of all-time after 1999. Couple that with his last two excellent seasons in LF, and you’ve certainly got a borderline Hall of Famer.

    As for positive quotes about the youngsters:

    “…we have added one of the best young players in the game in J.D. Drew, we have a rookie that is going to make some waves in Adam LaRoche, we have one heck of a pitching staff with Hamp, Russ, John and Horacio…DeRo is ready to step up and deserves the chance to play everyday. Estrada is a good catcher from what I’ve seen. He can handle a staff and has a chance to be a good, offensive big league catcher. I guess in sum, I just want everyone to know that we feel good about this year, and our goals of winning the division and getting back to the Series have not changed.”

    I know about DeLand as I have several friends who played for Stetson under Chipper’s dad. But, that’s neither here nor there. I guess I just don’t know what people want out of a guy that has been unbelievably consistent from year to year and near the top in most offensive categories.

    And I wasn’t trying to disparage Galarraga, just pointing out that several of the ‘leader’ types didn’t hit worth a lick during the playoffs. Chipper for the most part has performed well in the playoffs against the best pitchers baseball has to offer – much better than most of the other ‘firey’ Braves’ stars, from Justice to Pendleton to Jordan.

    I’m not sure what else I can say, just surprised at the anti-Chipper movement that seems to be growing.

  39. As much as I hate to say it, Chipper gets in the HOF because he switch hits. That being said, I think all Rob and I are saying is that for the investment, we want more. He should be the straw that stirs the drink, not the lime at the bottom of the glass. I don’t think he has, or ever will,understand what his role could, and should for the money, be. Does he put up numbers? Yes. Is he what we want him to be? No.

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