I’ve purposely avoided this post for a long time. I always frown on making predictions for a 162-game season before June. Even then it seems to early. How am I supposed to know in May who will win the Cy Young?
That said, Chipper Jones is making me throw all that out the nearest window. I just want to think about it: Can he really do something nobody has done since Ted Williams?
There, I said it. Williams was the last to stay above .400 when he hit .406 in 1941 and, naturally, wasn’t even the Most Valuable Player. Stupid Joe DiMaggio. I think it’s safe to say Chipper will win the MVP if he does indeed hit .400. As to whether he can do it or not, that’s a totally different question.
Let’s start with a few things working in Chipper’s favor.
First, he is unquestionably talented enough to do it. It’s easy to make the argument that he’s already a Hall of Fame player. There haven’t been too many more consistent hitters in the last 10 to 15 years and he is a career .300 hitter.
Second, he is patient. This isn’t the type of player that’s going to start hacking at everything if and when pitchers start working around him. He’ll patiently take his walks and save his average. He has a career on-base percentage of .405. Enough said.
Third, he’s a switch hitter. His career batting average is nearly identical from both sides of the plate. He’s a .310 hitter from the left side and .308 from the right. This virtually eliminates any split specialization against him. It doesn’t matter if you bring in your lefty specialist, he’ll still smack him around.
OK, now the cons.
First, NOBODY hits .400 during a season. I mean, nobody. Obviously nobody has since 1941 and Tony Gwynn, one of the best average hitters ever, didn’t do it. (Though many would argue he could have given it a good run in the strike-shortened 1994 season, he didn’t. So that’s that.)
Second, he has a propensity to get hurt. If it weren’t for persistent nagging injuries who knows what Chipper’s numbers would look like right now. As great as he’s been, he hasn’t played more than 150 games since 2003. His high since then is 137 in 2004.
Third, it’s a long freakin’ season. I mean, sure he’s hitting .410 right now. And he’s been very, very good, showing no signs of slowing down. But baseball is a game of ebbs and flows, ups and downs. Just ask Alfonso Soriano (0-for-8 this week). He’s bound to slump at some point, one would think, and once at-bats get high batting averages only change by a point or two so you have to really get hot to make up for it.
So, that’s it. It’s by no means an analytical approach to whether he can actually do it. It’s mostly just random, ordered (oxymoron?) thoughts. For the record, I don’t think he can, but I’d love to see him make a run at it.