As it's said so often, baseball isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. That being said, in a season that saw some absolutely torrid offensive stretches from the likes of Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and especially Dan Uggla, when the dust settled on the 162-game marathon, it was still Chipper Jones's quiet consistency that leads him to being named Talking Chop's hitting MVP for the 2011 season.
Not bad for the old man, who will be turning the big four-oh shortly after the start of next season, huh?
Chipper Jones played in 126 games, and in 512 plate appearances, put up a line of .275/.344/.470 (.814 OPS), and hit 33 doubles, 18 home runs, and plated 70 RBI, while scoring 56 times himself. Did you know that in his 18 season career, Chipper Jones has never recorded an OPS of under .803? Even the great Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray can't make such a claim to their careers.
Despite Dan Uggla cranking out 36 home runs, it's Chipper Jones, whose .470 slugging percentage on the year led the team overall. His 0.64 BB/K ratio is tied for the best on the team, and his 80 strikeouts are second lowest on the squad for players with over 350 plate appearances. Chipper's 10% walk rate is second best on the team (51 total walks (3rd)), and he got on base the tune of a .345 wOBA (T-2nd). Jones' 3.1 offensive WAR was second on the team, and as for his team-leading accumulated WPA of +2.594, McCann, Uggla and Freeman, combined, barely surpasses that mark.
Obviously, there are probably a lot of you right now scratching your heads to how this conclusion was arrived to, since there were several other great MVP-caliber performers throughout the season; namely Brian McCann, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla. Basically, I took a handful of hitter-specific statistics,* and the hitting slash lines from every month, as well as the final slash lines, and compared all four candidates' numbers. By including the month-to-month numbers, it reveals and reward/punishes the stretches where guys were either blistering hot, or ice cold. Note: all defensive metrics are ignored for this; it's hitting MVP/LVP, we will be doing a fielding MVP/LVP later.
*oWAR, rRAR, BABIP, wOBA, BB%, K%, ISO, H, HR, RBI, BB, K, SF, GIDP
Using a point system that awarded four points for every first place finish (gold), three for second (silver), two for third (bronze), and one for fourth, I went down the lists, and marked accordingly who placed where. When all the marking was done, and the points tallied, Chipper Jones comes out on top with 97 total points. Brian McCann notched 92, Freddie Freeman 89, and Dan Uggla 81.
Brian McCann actually had more first place finishes than anyone else, but Chipper cleaned up on second and third place finishes, and most importantly, rarely finished fourth. On all slash lines, Chipper's batting average, OBP, or slugging, does not fall below third at any point of the season.
There was a lot of debate about this between the TC crew, about pure stats versus the obvious times where McCann, Freeman, and Uggla simply carried the offensive loads at various times of the season, as indicative of guys having triple crown months. But these were all still periodic bursts of excellence and not consistent through the whole years; McCann was hot at the start, Freeman in the middle, Uggla a little afterward. This is where the scoring system kind of helps, because it recognizes the stretches of brilliance by some guys, but also the periods where they cooled off or were ice cold outright, all while Chipper Jones amassed silvers and bronzes while avoiding fourths almost completely.
If you want sweet peripherals, Brian McCann is certainly the man (1st: OBP, oWAR, rRAR, wOBA, BB%). However, after the oblique injury, he wasn't quite the same, and it showed as he limped through the last two months of the season. Who could forget Dan Uggla's transformation from being a contractual regret, to the man who threatened Joe DiMaggio, slugging all the way (1st: HR, RBI, BB, ISO, R)? And if this is the start of Freddie Freeman's career, there's an extremely bright future for him, and all of us Braves fans.
These were all great stories from the 2011 season. But behind the scenes, it was none other than the old guy, Chipper Jones, quietly putting together another solid season, as indicative by the lack of blank, doing what he's been doing his whole career; getting on base, delivering timely hits, and proving that consistency always reigns supreme.
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For every success story, naturally there is one of failure. Using a similar approach to name an MVP, we took a look at three Braves who were considered disappointments throughout the year: Alex Gonzalez, Martin Prado, and Jason Heyward. After tabulating the scores, I suppose this doesn't come as much of a surprise to most of you guys:
It wasn't even close, either. As disappointed as a lot of us fans were in the production of Martin Prado and Jason Heyward, the scores weren't even close. Out of 35 categories, Alex Gonzalez placed last in 20 of them. If not for his hot September, it would have been worse. Overall, Alex Gonzalez finishes with 56 points, with Jason Heyward and Martin Prado both scoring 78.
In all fairness, the organization, and us fans were relying on Prado and Heyward to contribute significantly more than what they did, and there wasn't nearly as much expectation out of Alex Gonzalez. Still, from an offensive standpoint, Alex Gonzalez's offensive production could barely be considered replacement level, and his predictable at-bats with poor plate discipline and propensity to ground into double plays (19, 1st) when not striking out were many a new white hair or five for Braves fans. So again, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that A-Gon is our hitting LVP. Thank goodness we're going to be doing a fielding MVP/LVP later on this off-season!