Before Friday night’s game between the Colorado Rockies and the Atlanta Braves the Rockies honored Jones with some sort of gift and it was presented by Todd Helton (I couldn’t make out the gift and if my crappy cell picture tells you anything it’s that my zoom sucks). This got me thinking: are Denver fans being treated by watching two future Hall of Fame players this weekend in Helton and Jones?
(We’ll leave Jason Giambi for another day.)
Chipper’s case for Cooperstown
I think it is safe to say that Schmidt was the best third basemen ever and possibly by a wide margin. After him Brett, Robinson, Santo and Eddie Mathews would round out my initial top 5 (without really digging). How does Jones stack up against those five all-time greats?
Jones ranks seventh among all-time third basemen in games played at the position (Robinson is first).
Only Schmidt and Mathews have more career home runs by a player who played at least 75% of their games at third base. Schmidt has 548 career jacks, Mathews has 512 and Jones has 458.
Only Wade Boggs has a higher career on-base percentage than Jones among third basemen (you know what? This is comparing third basemen…so I’m not going to say “among third basemen” or some other variance again). Both Boggs and Jones are the only two with OBPs above .400.
For a big shocker Jones has a higher slugging percentage than Schmidt! Jones has the highest slugging percentage among thi…damnit. Jones clocks in with a slugging percentage of .532 and that is five points higher than Schmidt.
Chipper is second in career doubles and RBI. Jones is only 20 RBI behind Schmidt and assuming decent health the rest of this season he should finish as the all-time leader in RBI.
Jones is third in hits and racked up some of those numbers above with only the fourth most plate appearances.
Jones does have a career average above .300 and his career OPS is nearly 30 points higher than Schmidt and good for first.
All of that above screams Hall of Famer. Jones is first in career OPS (first in slugging and second in OBP), will finish #1 in career RBI, second in doubles and home runs and third in career hits. Throw in the eleventy straight post season appearances for the Braves and he is a lock.
Why did I include Santo in this discussion? Well, when looking at career WAR totals according to FanGraphs Santo is the best of the group. Jones comes in last. Coming in fifth in this groups is OK and I think the other numbers are more than enough to make Jones a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Source: FanGraphs — Chipper Jones, George Brett, Eddie Mathews
Helton’s case for Cooperstown
I don’t think Helton’s case is as clear cut as Jones. Helton has had a heckuva a career but when looking at all the great first basemen he doesn’t quite stack up. His pre-humidor power numbers are fantastic but that isn’t enough as it didn’t last long enough. Helton should have won the MVP in 2000 and even his road numbers were MVP worthy but over his career his home triple slash of .352/.449/.619 is far better than his road slash of .290/.390/.479. Don’t get me wrong, that road split is still very good but it just looks average compared to his home split.
The best first basemen in history read like a list of the best sluggers ever: Lou Gehrig, Albert Pujols, Jimmie Foxx, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Willie McCovey, Eddie Murray and Jeff Bagwell. When looking at pure power (homers) Helton ranks 17th all time behind guys like Norm Cash, Andres Galarraga and Paul Konerko. He does rank eighth in slugging percentage and that is ahead of Bagwell, McCovey and Palmeiro.
Helton isn’t going to make the Hall of Fame based on his home run totals and I think he best shot is to get as close to 3,000 hits as possible. But even when looking at base hits Helton ranks 11th in his career among first basemen. Guys like Mark Grace and Steve Garvey have a higher total than Helton.
Helton wore out the power alleys at Coors Field over his career and he is currently tied with Murray for second place in doubles and trails Palmeiro by 25 for first.
Another stat that Helton has always excelled at is drawing walks and he does rank fourth in career on-base percentage. If we take out Ferris Fain and his smallish 4,904 plate appearances (when comparing to Helton, Foxx and Gehrig who surround Fain in OBP all have about double the number of PA) then Helton ranks third.
Even if we look at team stats that may help Helton’s case because of all the runs scored at Coors Field he still ranks 15th in RBI and seventh in runs.
At first glance Helton ranks third in OBP, eighth in slugging (sixth in OPS), second in doubles but 17th in homers and his run and RBI totals aren’t too great either. Even with playing in the arena baseball that was played at Coors Field early in his career he doesn’t have the power numbers needed by a first basemen to get into the Hall of Fame.
Helton does have a fantastic glove but WAR for first basemen doesn’t really factor in the glove so much because they are penalized so severely for the position they play. Comparing Helton to Gehrig and Pujols isn’t fair, he won’t compare to them, but how about the “second tier” of first basemen in the Hall of Fame? What does Helton’s WAR total look like against guys like McCovey, Hank Greenberg and Orlando Cepeda? (We won’t compare to the 14th tier first basemen like Jake Beckley, Bill Terry and High Pockets Kelly…who??)
Source: FanGraphs — Todd Helton, Orlando Cepeda, Hank Greenberg
It’s going to be a tough sell.
Helton is a fan favorite in Colorado, for good reason, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame he falls short.
Even so, watching Jones and Helton on the same field fans are treated to two of the best players in baseball since 2000 (or in Jones case the mid-1990′s).
Follow Travis on Twitter (@TravisLay_BSB)