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Andruw Jones – More Hall Worthy Than You Think

2010/04/24

Yesterday Andruw Jones celebrated his 33rd birthday in style, hitting two homeruns, including a walk-off solo shot. I’m sort of shocked that he’s only 33, because it seems like Jones has been around forever. Well, he has been. This is Jones’ fifteenth season in the majors.

I think most of us know Andruw’s history; he was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year twice (’95-’96). He broke into the league at just 19 years old, making the jump from A ball to the big leagues. He was a hero in the World Series that year, and went on to hit a lot of dingers and win a lot of Gold Gloves for Atlanta. He then signed a fat contact with the Dodgers, got fat himself, and his production took a nosedive of epic proportions.

He’s been on the comeback trail since, last season with Texas, and now with the Sox. So far, it’s been so good for Jones on the South Side. At the time of this writing, Jones’ is sporting a nifty .499 wOBA despite a .273 BABIP. Meaningless numbers? Yep, probably. But his ZiPS updated projection calls for a .357 wOBA, which is in line with his career numbers. Maybe the Jones can still resurrect his career into respectability and pad some of his totals, garnering some Hall of Fame support.  Jones isn’t a legendary center fielder like the likes of Cobb, Mays and Mantle, but he’s got an argument.

First, there’s the aspect of his defensive wizardry. Check out his total zone numbers:

Year Tm Lg Age Pos G Inn Rtot Rtot/yr Rtz Rof
1996 ATL NL 19 OF 29 224.2 0.3 1.6 0.3 0
1997 ATL NL 20 OF 147 973.0 27.6 34.0 21.6 6
1998 ATL NL 21 CF 159 1372.2 35.3 30.9 26.3 9
1999 ATL NL 22 CF 162 1447.1 35.7 29.6 23.7 12
2000 ATL NL 23 CF 161 1430.1 25.0 21.0 22.0 3
2001 ATL NL 24 CF 161 1435.1 26.6 22.2 21.6 5
2002 ATL NL 25 CF 154 1358.0 19.2 17.0 18.2 1
2003 ATL NL 26 CF 155 1329.0 18.6 16.8 14.6 4
2004 ATL NL 27 CF 154 1347.0 17.3 15.4 13.3 4
2005 ATL NL 28 CF 159 1366.1 17.4 15.3 9.4 8
2006 ATL NL 29 CF 153 1317.1 19.5 17.8 21.5 -2
2007 ATL NL 30 CF 154 1346.0 6.4 5.7 -2.6 9
2008 LAD NL 31 CF 66 496.1 -9.7 -23.5 -8.7 -1
2009 TEX AL 32 OF 17 148.2 2.7 21.8 2.7 0
15 Seasons OF 1839 15665.0 241.9 18.5 183.9 58
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2010.

The only outfielders that have as many or more Gold Gloves are Clemente (12), Mays (12), Griffey (10) and Kaline (10). Adding their Total Zone numbers plus their defensive adjustment numbers to capture who was the best defensive outfielder overall. Position adjustments are based on how players do at multiple positions, with separate position calculations by decade. (#’s from Rally’s Historical WAR database) We get -

TZ+Pos. Adj.
Jones 257
Mays 170
Clemente 80
Kaline 22
Griffey Jr. -15

Um, wow. Jones comes out way ahead. He is truly in a class by himself as far as defensive outfielders go. Dare I say it? Jones was the Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith of the outfield. OK, well maybe that is a stretch. Robinson’s Total Zone + Defensive Adjustment is 363. Smith’s is 383. But still, compared to other outfielders, Jones was truly amazing. There are plenty of infielders in the Hall on the merit of their gloves, but no outfielders, even though center field is a pretty demanding position.

But it’s not as if Jones has been a shabby hitter. He has 394 career homers, and six seasons where he’s had a wRC+ of 120 or higher.

Here’s Jones compared to a couple of Hall of Famers (and one guy I will forever stump for). These are players in the non-elite class, but are well above the class of borderliners. Think Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby.

Right now Jones has 58.4 career WAR, 10th best among center fielders. He’ll be hard pressed to catch Edmonds, who is now padding his totals with Milwaukee, but Jones is young enough to hope for a few more seasons of average-ish play in him.  He’s had eight seasons where he’s had 4 WAR or higher, and six seasons with 6 WAR or more, so he’s demonstrated greatness, too.

Andruw Jones is not a no-brainer for the Hall, but he has a more compelling case than I initially thought he would.

(WAR graph via JustinInAz)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Hjort permalink
    2010/04/25 12:05 AM

    A few more league average seasons and I think he’s there.

  2. 2010/04/26 2:54 PM

    I count 18 eligible non-HOFers with 60 WAR. Many get a lot of their value on defense. I think Jones will have to win back skeptics who assumed he was through by coming closer to 70 WAR. Even that is not a sure induction, though. Ask Bill Dahlen, Lou Whitaker, or Barry Larkin.

    Great post, as usual!

    • 2010/04/27 8:51 PM

      Lou Whitaker not getting any respect really steams my broccoli.

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