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Chipper Jones and Home Run Baker

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  • Chipper Jones and Home Run Baker

    Couple of thoughts:

    I was trying to think of a modern day equivalent for Home Run Baker and Chipper Jones came to mind. Great power for their eras, good on base skills (edge for Chipper), good base stealers in their primes. Baker gets the edge with the glove, but fairly similar players.

    Then I started recalling that Baker is typically rated higher on the 3B lists here, and I'm wondering why. Yes, Chipper is still active (although his current seasons shows that he's not exactly done as a player), but he already has over 1600 more plate appearances than Baker, so it's not out of the question to compare them. Chipper's EqA of .319 edges Baker's .294. Chipper also has the edge in OPS+ (144 to 135). Given that Jones has already played longer than Baker, I don't see how Baker's defensive edge overcomes Chipper's superior bat.

    I can understand giving Baker a slight edge in peak value, but outside of his terrific peak from 1911-14, his career is not particularly noteworthy for a Hall of Famer. And while I also get very frustrated from modern "baseball fans" who look at Baker's home run totals and proclaim that he wasn't very good because "even Pedro Feliz hits more than Baker", I just don't see putting Baker ahead of Chipper.

    I'd be curious to get other opinions on a) whether they agree that Chipper is a decent modern comp for Baker, and b) who do you rank higher and why.

  • #2
    Baker is an odd case. He missed two seasons 1915 and 1920 because of a contract dispute and personal reasons.
    Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Honus Wagner Rules View Post
      Baker is an odd case. He missed two seasons 1915 and 1920 because of a contract dispute and personal reasons.
      I understand that, missing 1915 due to a salary dispute with Connie Mack and 1920 when his wife died, leaving him to raise three small children. While I can empathize with him having to deal with such a tragedy in 1920, contract disputes are part of the game. And the fact remains that both resulted in time missed from the field. And even when he returned in 1916 (playing for the Yankees), he clearly was not the same player he was from his peak years with the A's. So I don't give Baker any credit for time missed (while I do consider that when time is missed due to military service).

      And while Baker had his share of ups and downs to handle, he did have another thing going for him - he was as well-endowed as a horse ("Babe" by Robert Creamer, page 321)! While I don't know about Chipper's accomplishments in that arena, I am still perplexed why people rank Baker over Chipper as a 3B.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CTaka View Post
        I'd be curious to get other opinions on a) whether they agree that Chipper is a decent modern comp for Baker,
        Chipper is a decent modern comp for Baker, but I think Paul Molitor may be even closer.

        and b) who do you rank higher and why.
        I used to have Baker over Jones, but currently it's switched. Either way, they aren't far off from each other.
        Molitor>Jones>Baker

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        • #5
          Baker was regarded as a pretty good fielder. BBPro has him at 80 FRAA for his career AND 398 above replacement because third base was a more critical position-more like modern second base-in his time.

          Jones rates VERY poorly on defense: -149 versus average and just 22 above replacement level.

          Baker is basically about equal to a 135 OPS+ good running top fielding half third base half second base with a cut for LQ.

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          • #6
            Five years ago I still had Baker on top. Not these days. Not sure there's a better comp among recent third basemen. Maybe if Robin Ventura had shown just a little more power?
            "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
            "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
            "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
            "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

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            • #7
              Originally posted by brett View Post
              Baker is basically about equal to a 135 OPS+ good running top fielding half third base half second base with a cut for LQ.
              To the best of my knowledge, Baker played 1,548 games at 3B and 0 at 2B.

              I question if Baker really was a good runner. He had just 3 seasons with 30 or more stolen bases playing in an era when everyone ran heavily. In his only fulltime year for which we have caught stealing stats (1914), Baker stole 19 bases but was caught 20 times. I would consider a sub 50% success rate to be less than "good base running", even considering that stolen base percentages in his day were less than in the modern era.

              As for Molitor, he played about half the number of games at 3B that Baker played. The years in which Molitor registered his 3 best OPS+ numbers, he played more games at DH than any other "position". And his best OPS+ season (1987) was less than Baker's second best. Molitor clearly has a career edge over Baker but Baker has the edge in peak value. And it is unknown how Baker's career numbers would look if he had the option of being a DH.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by CTaka View Post
                To the best of my knowledge, Baker played 1,548 games at 3B and 0 at 2B.
                My point was that with bunts and other hit attempts down the line, third base before the 40s was probably the equivalent of second base today. Third base was probably STILL harder to man defensively than today up until the early 80s and there were a lot more defensive specialists there. There were a LOT more triples and also a lot of guys who tried to knock it right down the third base line in the deadball era, and in infield grounder to the third base side was a decent chace to get on base.

                Conversely the role of a second baseman probably not as critical until maybe the mid 20s when double plays increased.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by brett View Post
                  My point was that with bunts and other hit attempts down the line, third base before the 40s was probably the equivalent of second base today. Third base was probably STILL harder to man defensively than today up until the early 80s and there were a lot more defensive specialists there. There were a LOT more triples and also a lot of guys who tried to knock it right down the third base line in the deadball era, and in infield grounder to the third base side was a decent chace to get on base.

                  Conversely the role of a second baseman probably not as critical until maybe the mid 20s when double plays increased.
                  Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I absolutely agree that 3B was a more valuable defensive position during the deadball era than in the modern game. This is a key factor as to why I consider Jimmy Collins the best defensive 3B of all time. I agree that the time period adds to Baker's defensive advantage over Chipper, but he'd have to be fielder on a level with Collins (and he clearly wasn't) to offset the offensive advantage that Chipper enjoys.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CTaka View Post
                    I would consider a sub 50% success rate to be less than "good base running", even considering that stolen base percentages in his day were less than in the modern era.
                    "Less" is an understatement, though. The league SB percentages were drastically lower. Check out the SB% rates (league averages) for the years we do have data available.

                    AL SB Percentages
                    1914- 55%
                    1915-57%

                    NL
                    1921- 51%
                    1922- 55%

                    In addition, one year just isn't enough data to rely on. We can't make any determinations about Baker's base running prowess from his CS%, or about his base stealing looking only at a tiny fraction of his career.

                    Also- and most importantly- we have to remember that the whole ethos of base running was completely different than in comparison to today, in large part because of the incredibly high amount of errors and unearned runs. In general, esp. with the very low scoring conditions from 1900-1918- with a game entirely devoid of HR's and automatic runs- guys took far more chances. Most of the best basestealers and baserunners of that era had (what we view today) as atrocious success rates.

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                    • #11
                      Interesting comparison. I think it is a good comparison. I'll look more into their stats and form a better opinion. They are both pretty equal so I don't know who I would rank higher.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by CTaka View Post
                        Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I absolutely agree that 3B was a more valuable defensive position during the deadball era than in the modern game. This is a key factor as to why I consider Jimmy Collins the best defensive 3B of all time. I agree that the time period adds to Baker's defensive advantage over Chipper, but he'd have to be fielder on a level with Collins (and he clearly wasn't) to offset the offensive advantage that Chipper enjoys.
                        I was looking at Chipper's hitting stats last night and I realized how good he has been-real close to what A-Rod has done. Baker was a good fielder and Jones a VERY poor fielder. Jones is closing in on 2000 games and with longevity and LQ, I will probably have him ahead of Baker on my all time list. Both of them get forgotten easily. Still, I'd have Baker higher through the same length of career.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by csh19792001 View Post
                          "Less" is an understatement, though. The league SB percentages were drastically lower. Check out the SB% rates (league averages) for the years we do have data available.

                          AL SB Percentages
                          1914- 55%
                          1915-57%

                          NL
                          1921- 51%
                          1922- 55%

                          In addition, one year just isn't enough data to rely on. We can't make any determinations about Baker's base running prowess from his CS%, or about his base stealing looking only at a tiny fraction of his career.

                          Also- and most importantly- we have to remember that the whole ethos of base running was completely different than in comparison to today, in large part because of the incredibly high amount of errors and unearned runs. In general, esp. with the very low scoring conditions from 1900-1918- with a game entirely devoid of HR's and automatic runs- guys took far more chances. Most of the best basestealers and baserunners of that era had (what we view today) as atrocious success rates.
                          I agree that it isn't fair to Baker to extrapolate how he performed throughout his career based on one year's stats. Unfortunately, it's all we have. It did occur in one of his "prime" years, but for all we know it could have been a poor running year for him. Still, I should say that I would consider performing below league average (at least for that year) is a level that I would not consider to be "good baserunning". If he were above league average, then I could consider that to be "good baserunning".

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