Chipper, the modern version: Still the same hitter he always was, only now it’s for about 110 games a year. Per plate appearance, 2006 was Chipper’s best year since 2001 and the third-best of his career, but he played just those 110 games, one more than in 2005. (Projected to 162 games, Chipper hit at a 38 HR, 127 RBI pace.) His .324 average is probably a little fluky, but he’s still a .300 hitter with power and lots of patience, and the Braves are a lot better when he’s in the lineup.
Chipper’s main problems last year were foot and ankle injuries, then an injury to the ever-popular oblique muscle. They may seem unrelated, but I think it’s what’s called an injury cascade, where one injury changes his style, leading to other injuries. Chipper, early in his career, played through a lot of injuries, and he’s still trying to do this now, but every time he does he hurts something else compensating. He’d be better off if he didn’t do that any more, but it’s hard to ask of him.
Despite the injuries, Chipper ran surprisingly well in 2006; he was 6 of 7 in stolen bases (13 of 15 over the last three seasons) and hit three triples, his most since 2001. He was pretty terrible at third base, making 18 errors with a range factor well below the league, which was more of a problem with Renteria at short than it was with Furcal, who compensated for that. But with the leg injuries the outfield really isn’t a possibility, sorry BP.
Last season, Chipper passed Murphy in a whole bunch of different categories to become the Atlanta career leader. He’s now first on the Atlanta list in runs, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, extra-base hits, times on base, runs created, and intentional walks; in a few of these he was already there. He is 14 behind Murph in homers and it will be a race with Andruw (who is 29 behind) to see who gets there first; either way, Chipper should wind up with that record as well for obvious reasons. He is 66 hits away from 2000, three RBI and 12 runs from 1200. Chipper will retire as, in my opinion, the second-best hitter in Braves history to Aaron, which is pretty impressive considering he would have to pass Eddie Mathews to get there. Mathews is still ahead on defense.