Saturday, September 8, 2012

David Wright May Be Great, But He's Not Chipper Jones

I am a David Wright fan.  I've been an ardent supporter of the Mets' third baseman since his first call-up to the big leagues in 2004.  I've seen him produce some of the greatest offensive seasons in franchise history and I've seen him make outstanding defensive plays.  I've also seen him represent the Mets at the All-Star Game more often that not.

I have never been a Chipper Jones fan.  I've disliked him since before anyone knew his name was Larry.  I've seen him win only two Silver Slugger Awards and I've never seen him win a Gold Glove.  I've also seen him very little at the All-Star Game, as he has missed the Midsummer Classic more than he has played in it.

I gladly cheer for David Wright.  I loudly boo Chipper Jones.  That being said, David Wright has a long way to go to be as great as Chipper Jones.

Chipper Jones and David Wright.  One is an all-time great.  The other is just a Mets great.

The soon-to-be-retired Jones has been killing the Mets for nearly two decades.  But then again, fans in Miami, Philadelphia and Washington (Montreal, too) can claim the same thing, as Jones has been an equal opportunity slugger against every team in the National League East.

Since making his debut for the Braves in 1993, Jones has torn the cover off the ball against every division rival.  Don't believe me?  Here are the numbers to prove it:

vs. Mets:            .312/.408/.550, 46 doubles, 49 HR, 158 RBI, 167 runs in 240 games.
vs. Marlins:       .299/.393/.505, 47 doubles, 40 HR, 165 RBI, 151 runs in 242 games.
vs. Phillies:        .332/.442/.599, 70 doubles, 49 HR, 151 RBI, 165 runs in 243 games.
vs. Expos/Nats: .299/.405/.505, 62 doubles, 41 HR, 160 RBI, 173 runs in 262 games.

Simply stated, Jones has been a dynamo against the teams in his own division.  His production has been one of the main reasons why the Braves have been competitive in the National League East for two decades, despite the constant player turnaround.

Jones has also been wonderful in the postseason.  In the playoffs, the Braves' third baseman has a .288 career batting average and .411 on-base percentage.  He also has 18 doubles, 13 HR, 47 RBI and has scored 58 runs.  But more incredibly, Jones has been a part of countless postseason rallies for the Braves, reaching base a whopping 169 times in only 92 games.  That's almost two times on base per playoff game over his entire career!

Meanwhile, David Wright has also been very good against teams from his own division, but has only gotten a small taste of the postseason, not doing particularly well in his one October experience with the Mets.

In nine seasons with the Mets (which is approximately half of the service time accumulated by his fellow hot corner handler in Atlanta), Wright has complied the following career numbers against the other teams in the National League East:

vs. Braves:         .268/.347/.489, 29 doubles, 28 HR, 76 RBI, 65 runs in 142 games.
vs. Marlins:        .328/.396/.537, 35 doubles, 22 HR, 94 RBI, 95 runs in 136 games.
vs. Phillies:        .282/.352/.508, 36 doubles, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 79 runs in 137 games.
vs. Expos/Nats: .303/.381/.502, 48 doubles, 19 HR, 84 RBI, 97 runs in 146 games.

Wright's splits are just slightly below what Jones has produced in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage over his career, but his extra-base hits and run production have been on par with Jones.  Just looking at those numbers would lead anyone to believe that Wright's career is taking a similar path as Jones.

But there is one glaring difference between Jones and Wright that keeps the Mets' third baseman a notch below his counterpart.  Jones has always come up big in key spots.  David Wright, on the other hand, isn't quite there yet.

In 1999, Chipper Jones willed the Braves over the Mets in the NL East.  In a three-game sweep over the Mets in late September, Jones sealed the deal on the National League MVP Award, hitting four home runs and driving in seven of the 13 runs the Braves scored in the series.  Jones continued to hurt the Mets in the NLCS that year, reaching base 15 times in 29 plate appearances.

Before Shea Jones was born, Chipper Jones came to life at Shea.

Meanwhile, David Wright didn't factor much in his sole postseason appearance in 2006.  In the Mets' seven-game loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS, Wright batted .160, collecting as many strikeouts (four) as hits.

For his career, Wright is a .301 hitter with a .382 on-base percentage.  But in the final month of the regular season, his numbers aren't nearly as good.  In September (and those few regular season games played in October), Wright's batting average dips to .291 with a .359 on-base percentage.  Meanwhile, Jones gets hotter as the season progresses.  The lifetime .304 hitter (with a sparkling .401 OBP) is batting .305 with a .408 on-base percentage after September 1st.  The dog days of summer don't affect Jones the way they do Wright.

Finally, as good as Wright has been for the Mets, Jones was better at a similar point in his career.  Here are Wright's numbers through games of September 7 (his ninth season with the Mets), followed by Jones' numbers with the Braves after his ninth season:

Wright: .301/.382/.507, 318 doubles, 19 triples, 200 HR, 804 RBI, 778 runs, 992 Ks
Jones:  .309/.404/.541, 305 doubles, 26 triples, 280 HR, 943 RBI, 966 runs, 781 Ks

Jones leads Wright in all offensive categories except doubles, but Wright has also struck out 211 more times than Jones had at the same point in their careers.  In fact, Wright has averaged approximately 120 strikeouts in every full season he's played in the majors.  Jones has NEVER struck out 100 times in a season.  His career high of 99 whiffs was achieved in his first full season with the Braves in 1995.

David Wright has five 100-RBI seasons to his credit.  Jones had eight consecutive 100-RBI campaigns from 1996-2003.  (He has nine 100-RBI seasons overall.)  From 1998-2008, Jones had a .400 on-base percentage in every year but one (2004).  In 2007, Wright enjoyed his only season with an on-base percentage over .400.

Wright has batted over .315 only once in his career (2007).  Jones has had six such seasons.  In fact, from 2006-2008, when he was in his mid-thirties and supposedly in the twilight of his career, Jones batted a combined .342, winning the National League batting title in 2008 with a .364 batting average.

So how valuable has David Wright been to the Mets in the eyes of the MVP voters?  Not very much, as Wright has finished in the top 20 in MVP voting only four times.  Meanwhile, Jones has finished in the top 20 eleven times, including each of his first nine full seasons in the majors, which coincidentally is the same number of years that David Wright has played in the big leagues for the Mets.

Chipper Jones has always stood tall next to David Wright.

David Wright has been one of the best players in the history of the Mets, ranking among the team leaders in almost every offensive category.  But Wright's competition on the Mets' all-time leaderboard includes Ed Kranepool, Darryl Strawberry and Howard Johnson.  Those players were great Mets, but they're not all-time greats in the sport.

Chipper Jones is also omnipresent on his team's all-time offensive leaderboard.  But take a look at the top three in most of those categories.  You won't find any Kranepools, Strawberrys or Johnsons there.  Instead, you'll find two names joining Jones in the majority of those categories - Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews, both of them Hall-of-Famers and among the all-time greats of the sport.

So the next time someone talks about how great David Wright has been, you can agree with them, but only in comparison with other Mets.  When someone brings up Chipper Jones, however, feel free to mention him in the company of the game's all-time greats.  As good as he's been for the Mets, David Wright has a long way to go to be an all-time great.  By the same token, Wright also has a long way to go to be like Chipper Jones.  Love him or hate him, Chipper Jones deserves the respect given to the best players in the game's history.  He's done everything on the field to earn it.

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