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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Despite The Braves' Failure, Chipper Has Success

No one expected this, not even the most diehard of Braves fans. Chipper Jones, a cornerstone of the Atlanta Braves for 15 seasons (including his cup of coffee in 1993), put together a season that hasn't been seen since the days of The Mick.

The base of his impressive 2008 run started in the 2007 season, which saw Jones post a career high batting average (.337) and his first .600+ slugging average in six years (.605 in 2001). He also had a career high in doubles (42).

Chipper's focus on batting average helped him start the 2008 season on a hot streak. Jones remained hot; he hit over .400 for a couple of months. He got as high as a .421 average on June 6th. After that, he was only able to maintain the .400 pace up to June 18th. Even though his doubles and home runs were down because he was battling injuries all year, Jones was able to maintain a high average. Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday, the reigning NL batting average champion, hung around at the top of the average leaderboard, but only Pujols was able to mount a serious challenge. Pujols took the lead on August 30th with a .362 average, but lost the lead again on September 10th.

Chipper didn't start games in the final week of the season due to a shoulder injury he suffered against the Mets. By the last series of the season for both players, with the Braves playing the Astros and the Cardinals playing the Reds, Chipper had a .365-.353 edge on Pujols. Jones didn't start the first game of the series and pinch-hit, drawing a walk. His average stayed at .365. Pujols went 3-3 with a homer and two walks, putting his average at .357. Jones didn't start the next game, either. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning, flying out to the scoreboard in left field at Minute Maid Park. Pujols went 1-4 with a home run in his next game, dropping his average to .356. It was still possible for Pujols to come back and win the title, but he would have to go 5-5 and Jones would have to go 0-3 for him to do that. But when Chipper didn't start against the Astros in the last game of the season, he virtually clinched the title. He pinch-hit in the Braves' final game of the year, a 3-1 loss to the Astros, and drew a walk, ending the year with a major-league best .364 average and the best average by a switch hitter in 51 years. Pujols went 1-2 with double and a walk in his last game, finishing with a .357 average.

Jones also finished the year with the highest on-base percentage in baseball (.470), making the batting average and OBP crowns for the National League the first two categories in which he has lead the Senior Circuit in anything.

The two stats also earned a top ten placement in the single seasons in franchise history:


1. Hugh Duffy, 1894 - .440
2. Rogers Hornsby, 1928 - .387
3. Dan Brouthers, 1889 - .373
4. Billy Hamilton, 1898 - .369
5. Rico Carty, 1970 - .366
6. Billy Hamilton, 1896 - .365
7. Chipper Jones, 2008 - .364
8. Hugh Duffy, 1893 - .363
9. Hank Aaron, 1959 - .355
10. Chick Stahl, 1897 - .354


1. Hugh Duffy, 1894 - .502
2. Rogers Hornsby, 1928 - .498
3. Billy Hamilton, 1898 - .480
4. Billy Hamilton, 1896 - .477
5. Chipper Jones, 2008 - .470
6. Dan Brouthers, 1889 - .462
7. Billy Hamilton, 1897 - .461
8. Rico Carty, 1970 - .454
9. Billy Hamilton, 1900 - .449
10. Chipper Jones, 1999 - .441

So, despite the Braves finishing with their worst season since 1990, Chipper finished with one of his best seasons since his MVP year.