Monday, July 9, 2012

Andruw Jones: A Boy in the Hall?

Unless he pulls a Sandusky, Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame once his career is over. 

Based on his offensive numbers alone, Jones is only a borderline case.  His career slashline of .256/.339/.489 is nothing to gasp at, but these numbers are quite comparable to HOFer Andre Dawson's career slashline .279/.323/.482.

Jones has also shown very solid power his entire career, accumulating 431 homers, including a 50+ homerun season (which only 25 other players have ever done), and a stretch where he hit 30 or more homeruns 7 out of 8 years. He became the youngest player ever (at 19) to hit a homerun in the World Series. In his next plate appearance, he became the youngest player ever to 2 homeruns in the World Series and only the second player ever to do it in his first two plate appearances there.

As a centerfielder, a position that is traditionally characterized by defense,  he ranks among the very top in terms of power production. Only two centerfielders, Mickey Mantle (536) and Willie Mays (660) rank ahead of Jones in home runs. His homerun total has recently surpassed another legendary centerfielder, Duke Snider (407), of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Even then, if offense was the only factor, Jones probably doesn't deserve to make it to the Hall. But it was on defense where Jones really stood out.

Jones was by far the best defensive player that I have ever watched. From 1998 till 2007, he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves, which is tied for second-most behind Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays, who both have 12. Now, Gold Gloves can be as much a popularity contest as a recognition of defensive achievement, but in Andruw's case each was deserved. No one read the ball off the bat better, taking off to where the ball would be seemingly before contact was even made. He had spectacular range - he could get to almost every bloop hit by playing fairly shallow, and seemingly teleport himself to deep center to shut down extra base hits. He had a terrific arm, repeatedly gunning down runners at 3rd and Home until opponents wisened up and stopped challenging him.

The stats back up the observations too. Granted each defensive metric has problems, over time they provide a pretty decent measurement of defensive value. According to Fangraphs, Andruw Jones's fielding value ranks second of ANY position player in the history of baseball, just behind Brooks Robinson. According  to Baseball-Reference, Jones's defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR), was also 2nd of all-time as of February 2012.

His defensive value is compounded by the fact that he played centerfield, which, along with shortstop, is considered the among the two most important defensive positions. Ozzie Smith made it to the Hall for being the best defensive shortstop of all time. Brooks Robinson made it for being the "Human Vacuum Cleaner" at 3rd. Both players were offensively mediocre at best. In the same vein, being the best defensive centerfielder of all-time should be enough to get Andruw into the Hall, with his offensive numbers being the icing on the cake.

Just for fun, lets take a look at Jones's overall productivity compared to other clear HOFers.

It won't surprise me if Jones doesn't make it though. His offensive numbers paled in comparison to the offensive explosion that swept baseball during the years of Jones's prime. And his precipitous fall off since his 2006 campaign when he was only 29 may cause many voters to write him off. Nevertheless, he is still somewhat productive at 35, and with a few more decent years, could garner enough support to be elected in to the Hall. Only time will tell.

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