If Chipper Jones is not healthy and productive for most of the 2012 season, it's tough to see the Atlanta Braves making the playoffs. With old No. 10 in the lineup, everything just seems to operate better and the team simply plays better. This upcoming year could very well be Jones' last in Major League Baseball and it would be fitting that the club would send him out with a deep playoff run.
What should Braves Country expect out of their Hall Of Famer in 2012? What are the backup options when he inevitably goes down with injury at some point? We take a look at that and more after the jump...
Bill James: 110 games, .278/.378/.461, .361 wOBA, 14 HR, 56 RBI
ZiPS: 102 games, .276/.365/.430, .345 wOBA, 14 HR, 74 RBI
When he is healthy and on the field -- Jones has averaged a little more than 121 games per-season since 2009 --Chipper can still play. While some say the third baseman has fallen off after winning the batting title in 2008, Jones has come back to OPS .810 in that time and continues to get on base at a very strong rate.
I'd personally love to see him slotted No. 2 in the lineup to be driven in by guys like Brian McCann and Dan Uggla, but that is something we can only hope Fredi Gonzalez tries out. I'm not holding my breath.
As far as his defense goes, Jones has been serviceable throughout his career, even if he has lost a step (or six) since being an All-Star representative every season. There is no chance he changes positions at this stage of his career, no matter what nonsense you read on various message boards.
At the end of the day, Braves fans are well-aware of what Chipper Jones can do, even as he turns 40 in April. It's just a matter of how many games his body can handle before shutting him down.
Martin Prado would be the likely backup candidate for third base whenever Jones is held out of the lineup. That likely means either Matt Diaz or Jose Constanza play left field, neither of which are viable options for a continued period of time should Chipper go down for an extended period. Jack Wilson could also play third, although his duties will be much more centered around second base and shortstop. There are no serviceable options available in the Minor Leagues.
Basically, don't get hurt, Chipper. We need you to win big.