Andruw Jones

My center fielder.

For two years we’ve heard the Andruw Jones comparisons. Writers and fans alike have compared Ronald Acuña to the greatest center fielder of all time – former Atlanta Brave, Andruw Jones.

The Andruw comparisons all started with Randy Ingle and Chipper Jones. Randy Ingle, up until recently, had been the manager for the Rome Braves since 2006. The man has over 30 years of experience in minor league ball (and… fun fact – Randy Ingle holds the record for highest career BA at Appalachian State University) so I think he’s qualified to make such a comparison. Chipper Jones is not only a Hall of Famer, but he played with Andruw Jones himself for a decade, so he is also qualified to make such a comparison.

Since Chipper and Randy made the comparison two years ago, so far (knock on wood) their comparisons look pretty darn good. Ronald Acuña is flying through the minor league system in the same fashion as Andruw Jones did, they have freakishly similar numbers, they have virtually the same swing, they both hit for power, and scouts say they have the same glove.

So, would you actually put “Andruw Jones 2.0” anywhere but center field? Please. I don’t think so.

Keep in mind, Andruw played right field when he was first called up to the Major Leagues. Unless something weird happens with Ender Inciarte, Ronald Acuña will do the same, making his baseball journey even more freakishly similar to the man he’s compared to.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Ender Inciarte is a 27-year-old Gold Glove center fielder who can rake. In my opinion (and I don’t care that he doesn’t hit for power) he’s top 3 best all-around center fielders in baseball. But here’s the crazy thing – If the scouting reports end up being correct, if Ronald Acuña really is the next Andruw Jones (as crazy as that may sound), then Ronald Acuña is going to be better than Ender Inciarte. It’s that simple.

Last winter the Atlanta Braves extended Ender Inciarte to a 5-year $30.5MM deal. In my opinion, this is the best thing John Coppolella did during his time in Atlanta. The Braves are sitting on a gold mine with Ender Inciarte.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “So, Josh… you’re saying the Braves should trade Ender Inciarte?” Not really. Plus, I don’t think the Braves have plans to. Here’s my two cents. I think the Atlanta Braves keep Ender Inciarte, eventually move him back to right field in 2019 and move Acuña to center. Ender has a cannon, and in 2015 he won a Fielding Bible Award playing primarily right field for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In short – The Braves call up Ronnie around April 13, put him in RF (RIP my favorite right fielder), they move him to CF late in games throughout the season (and the occasional Ender off-day) just to flirt with your hearts and move him there permanently in 2019. Put that in your pipeline and smoke it.

If I’m completely wrong and the Atlanta Braves stick Acuña in right field for years to come, it’s certainly not the end of the world. Braves fans will basically be watching two Gold Glove center fielders playing next to each other. I can imagine much worse things to watch.

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It’s Time for the Big Reveal; Dan’s 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

With the BBWAA and Hall of Fame announcement coming Wednesday, as well as the IBWAA’s, I thought it a good time to share my Hall of Fame ballot.

When I started writing my opinions and publishing them for the world to see, I never thought it would take me to where I am today. After about a year, though, I discovered the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). It didn’t take long for me to become a lifetime member. We aren’t affiliated with the BBWAA, the guys and gals who actually have a counting vote for the Hall of Fame itself, but we still cast votes for it and end-of-the-year individual awards. This will be my third time voting with the IBWAA, and I’m sharing my ballot here, with you 80-Grade Knuckleheads.

First, I need to give a little background. You won’t see Vlad Guerrero or Edgar Martinez on my list. These gentlemen were voted in on last year’s ballot for the IBWAA. Because we aren’t associated with the BBWAA and the Hall of Fame, our ballots differ. However, our votes and selections are very similar.

The IBWAA isn’t some second rate organization either. Many of the industry’s top writers are members of the IBWAA. Writers like Jim Bowden, Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Jon Heyman, Brian Kenny, Grant McAuley, Ken Rosenthal, and many others. So, even though the Hall of Fame doesn’t acknowledge the IBWAA, we still have some big names on the roster.

Oh, I almost forgot, last year, the IBWAA voted to expand selections from 10 to 15.

Now, on with the selections.

This year was pretty easy for the first 9 or 10 choices. The last 4 or 5, however, were a little bit more difficult for me, personally. Of course, with the option of voting for 15 players, I displayed a little bias. The first three names checked on my list were Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, and Fred McGriff. As Braves fans, we all know the reasons why these three should be allowed admission in the Hall.

The next four off the list were Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, and Larry Walker. Thome and Walker don’t really need a disclaimer either. Vizquel was one of the most dominate defenders in his time, and for a middle infielder, he could hit a little bit. Vizquel’s overall WAR for his career is 45.3 in 24 seasons. His dWAR (28.4) nearly matches his oWAR (32.2). Vizquel also had (still has) probably the fastest hands I’ve ever seen.

Next, I have Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, and Gary Sheffield. Sheffield and Rolen are probably the stretches in this group of four. Sheffield’s offensive output is not the problem, though. His 79.9 oWAR is proof of that; what is an issue, is his defense. A dWAR of a -28.6 kind of hurts him. But, if the writers can elect guys like Ozzie Smith, who’s defense practically got him in, then why not the heavy hitters who’s claim to stardom was their offense?

Now, for the final four names. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Trevor Hoffman, and Jeff Kent. Again, I shouldn’t have to really go into the first three names. However, Kent probably warrants some explanation.

Kent, aside from having an MVP, 4 Silver Sluggers, and 5 All-Star appearances, was a pretty good second basemen. He falls at number 20 on the JAWS scale. In overall WAR, Kent has a 55.2 and good for 19th among second basemen. Above him, in the HOF, are Joe Gordon (18), Jackie Robinson (17), and Craig Biggio (16). Robinson Cano and Chase Utley are still active, but rank 13 and 15, respectively. Above those guys, are Roberto Alomar and Ryne Sandberg, both Hall of Famers.

Kent is in the top 20 best second basemen ever, and even guy big time players below like Bobby Doerr, Nellie Fox, and Bill Mazeroski fall well below that magical JAWS line.

So, his WAR is pretty good, at least good enough to be the 20th best in baseball history for second basemen. Lets look at some other numbers though that might help Kent’s case.

Kent is 13th among ALL second basemen in runs scored, 12th in hits, 4th in doubles, 3rd in RBI, 5th in OPS, and 1st – among any second basemen to play the game, including Rogers Hornsby – in home runs; he had 377. Hornsby had 301. Kent also sustained a .290 career batting average. His biggest knock offensively, second (only to Biggio) in career strikeouts with 1522.

So, there you have it. My 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.

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Bill James has lost his damn mind.

This past week it was brought to my attention, by my replacement-level podcast co-host Ken Hendrix, that Bill James said Johnny Damon was more Hall of Fame worthy than Andruw Jones. Upon hearing this, I laughed and thought that my redneck co-host was just being silly.

I was terrified to learn, after doing some quick searching on James’ Twitter timeline, that what Ken was telling me was the God’s honest truth.

I’ve never been completely blown away by Bill James, but I have always respected the man for his sabermetric research. James is very much the modern predecessor to websites like FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, and he’s done so much for the game that we all know and love. Bill James’ mantra is simple: Gather as much data as possible and then analyze it in a clear and accurate way to make the best possible decision.

How then can a man who preaches this way of thinking honestly believe that Johnny Damon is more Hall of Fame worthy than Andruw Jones? How can such a respected man be so obtuse?

Listen, I know I’m a homer. As much as I’d like to think that I can look at Andruw Jones’ career completely objectively, I cannot, but what in the actual hell is Bill James talking about?

Then, there’s more…

Willie Mays has the second-best DEF grade by a center fielder with 170.1. Andruw Jones has the best with a 281.3. You didn’t read that wrong, Andruw grades 111.2 points higher than Willie Mays. It’s not rocket science – Andruw Jones was the best defensive center fielder of all time and it’s not even close.

How in the hell can having the best DEF grade of any center fielder in baseball history (by over 100 points) not garner any Hall of Fame support for Andruw Jones? Either Bill James isn’t as intelligent as we thought he was, or someone has hacked Bill James’ Twitter account. If you’ll notice, his account isn’t verified, so the later is a possibility.

I get it. Defensive metrics can be opaque. I preach this all the time on our replacement-level podcast, but if you honestly think that Johnny Damon was a better baseball player (just because he had more extra base hits), then I just cannot take you seriously anymore. Nothing you say matters anymore.

When it comes to defensive metrics, it’s difficult to say that old school metrics aren’t as accurate as newer ones, because other than errors, there aren’t any old school defensive metrics.  This is Bill James’ biggest argument against Andruw Jones being the greatest defensive center fielder of all time, but it’s also why his argument is so flawed. If “old school” players can’t be measured as being worse than Andruw due to a lack of numbers, then they certainly can’t be measured as being better either.

At the end of the day, if Bill James wants to imply that the defensive numbers lie about Andruw Jones then everything is a farce and nothing matters. Statistically, Andruw Jones is the greatest modern center fielder and according to those same statistics, that James’ so adamantly champions, the greatest center fielder of all time.

Knowing that a guy like Bill James has such a convoluted view of Andruw Jones certainly infuriates me. But, in a weird way, it’s not completely unsurprising. Unless you watched Atlanta Braves games from 1996-2005, you truly might not be aware of Andruw’s greatness, despite his insane Hall of Fame worthy defensive metrics.

Numbers don’t tell you that Andruw Jones started running (in the correct direction) before the batter even hit the ball and numbers don’t tell you that guys never tried to stretch a single into a double because Andruw Jones had a cannon of an arm.

With Andruw Jones, you’re talking about a guy with more career home runs than Mike Piazza who was the best defensive center fielder of all time. Everyone’s got bad takes. But if you completely dismiss Andruw’s defensive metrics (WHEN YOU ARE THE GUY WHO PREACHES SUCH THINGS) then please put down the paint chips.

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If you haven’t voted yet, consider keeping Andruw Jones on the ballot

At the time of writing this, Andruw Jones has 7.1% of the vote with 416 ballots cast. He must receive at least 5% to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot for next year. Therefore, he needs to appear on only 13 of the remaining ballots to maintain 5%.

Here’s the thing, writers who haven’t cast your ballots yet: It’s obviously impossible for Andruw to get in this year, but it’s not impossible for him to stay on the ballot next year. The power is in your hands.

First of all, while many of my favorite players throughout the years have been given the Cooperstown shaft, I actually enjoy the voting process. Baseball is a slow methodical game that leaves room for debate, conversation, and heated arguments. The voting process should mirror that, and I think it does. I enjoy watching a guy take a while to get inducted, like Jack Morris. To me, it’s fun and it’s part of baseball, no matter how painful it sometimes is.

So, I had no crazy ideas of Andruw Jones being a first ballot Hall of Famer, but I do believe he is a Hall of Famer.

First of all – Defensive metrics matter. How good was Andruw Jones defensively? Willie Mays has the second-best DEF grade by a center fielder with 170.1. Andruw Jones has the best with a 281.3. You didn’t read that wrong, Andruw grades 111.2 points higher than Willie Mays. Defensively, its safe to say, that Andruw Jones was the best defensive center fielder of all time. Not only does the good ole fashioned “eye test” back this up – the stats back it up, too.

Allow me to quote my friend Tommy Poe from Walk-off Walk: “Consider this: Willie MaysTy CobbTris SpeakerMickey MantleJoe DiMaggioKen Griffey Jr., Billy HamiltonAl SimmonsCarlos Beltran, and Andruw Jones. That’s the Top 10 in fWAR by a CF. Eight are in the Hall of Fame.” Of the other two, Beltran just retired (and therefore isn’t yet eligibile), and Andruw you can put there.

But here’s the crazy thing. Andruw Jones had a bat, too. We all know how great Andruw Jones was defensively. And we’ve all heard analysts wax philosophic about his glove and his epic 10 straight Gold Gloves. Hell, just last week I was on the radio saying, “If Andruw Jones doesn’t have a Hall of Fame glove, there never was a Hall of Fame glove.”

But Andruw Jones was even more than just the best defensive glove. Andruw Jones was one of the best power hitters of his era. And when you really look at those who cheated around him, you could argue that Andruw Jones really had the fourth-most home runs from 1997-2007. I’m just sayin’.

Andruw Jones has more career home runs (434) than the best power-hitting catcher of all time Mike Piazza. So, not only was Andruw Jones the best defensive center fielder of all time, he was an elite power hitter.

Listen, I know Andruw Jones had a weird ending to his career, which is a damn shame. But just imagine if he started out slow and his best 10 years were on the tail-end of his career. The perception of Andruw Jones and his career would be drastically different.

We tend to only remember the end of a player’s career. Look at Sandy Koufax. Most writers don’t realize that Sandy Koufax was not very good during his first 5 seasons. We only remember his final 5 dominate seasons, because that’s what we do – we remember how a guy went out.

I understand being limited to voting for 10 players on a ballot that is already packed full of greatness (many of which have the subsequent stain of steroids) is difficult.  While I’m a strong anti-steroids advocate, I can actually understand someone who wants to wrestle with those guys going into the Hall.  But at this point, I think you have to consider making your vote count the most. Even if you’re not sure you want him enshrined, voting for Andruw Jones to stay on the ballot is without a doubt the most meaningful way you can cast your vote.

BTW – Here’s a recording of me on Iowa’s KMA 99.1 last week giving my HOF cases for Andruw and Fred McGriff.

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Is Andruw Jones a Hall of Famer? The answer MATTERS.

Andruw Jones might not get in his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, but I believe he’ll get in eventually. The Andruw Jones naysayers hone in on his career .254 batting average, but as we all know by now (hopefully) – baseball, and offense in particular, is a little more than batting average (batting average doesn’t matter).

My Hall of Fame case for Andruw Jones is quite simple. Andruw Jones has more career home runs than the greatest power-hitting catcher of all time (Mike Piazza) (Homeruns don’t matter) and is the best defensive center fielder of all time. Ozzie Smith had a career wRC+ of 92, but his elite glove got him into the Hall of Fame in no time. Andruw threw up a career 111 wRC+ and did just as much or more defensively for his respective position. (wRC+ doesn’t matter)

Andruw Jones threw up a career WAR of 62.8. Here’s the list of players who are already enshrined in Cooperstown with a lower WAR than Andruw JonesHarmon KillebrewYogi BerraMike PiazzaHank GreenbergWillie StargellBill DickeyLuis AparicioJoe GordonGeorge SislerWillie KeelerTony PerezMickey CochraneKirby PuckettOrlando CepedaRalph KinerJim RiceErnie LombardiNellie Fox, and Lou Brock. (WAR doesn’t matter)

What hurts Andruw Jones, among the uneducated writers, is three things:

  1. Andruw Jones had an awkward ending to his career. In 2007 it was like Andruw Jones hit a wall. And please don’t come at me with the whole PED speculation. MLB began testing for PEDs in 2003 and in 2005 Andruw Jones hit 51 homers. Besides, what roided up steroid using ballplayer was slightly chubby like Andruw Jones? (Jason Giambi doesn’t matter)
  2. Andruw Jones played for the Atlanta Braves during his 10 consecutive Gold Glove winning years. If you watched the Braves back then, and then tuned in nightly to ESPN, you might remember something. On any given night, Andruw Jones would make insane Spider Man-like catches but would very seldom be featured on SportsCenter’s “Web Gems.” So if you’re a national writer, or a guy covering the Royals locally, Andruw Jones wasn’t really on your radar. Why? Because ESPN is a terrible company and hates Atlanta. (ESPN doesn’t matter)
  3. Andruw Jones wasn’t flashy. Much of the Hall of Fame voting (unfortunately) is all about perception and not numbers. Case and point – Mike Mussina. When you watched Andruw Jones play, at times he almost looked lazy. Baseball came easy to him. Andruw Jones taught us that being the greatest center fielder of all time wasn’t really about speed, it was about quickness and the ability to read the ball off the bat. No one did this better than Andruw Jones, and unless you had the privilege of watching this occur in person, it’s hard to understand. (Side note – Andruw Jones’ arm doesn’t get written about enough. In fact, I might be the first person to ever write about how amazing Andruw Jones’ arm was. And that’s sad.) (Center Fielders’ arms don’t matter)

If Andruw Jones isn’t a Hall of Famer, NOTHING MATTERS.

Here’s a video:

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