Dotson: The Hall of Fame case for Andruw Jones

From SABR member Chad Dotson at The Hardball Times on November 8, 2013:

Before we explore this, we should probably acknowledge something: I fear there is almost no chance that Andruw Jones ever gets elected to the Hall of Fame. He has a reputation as a player who wasn’t committed (or was lazy, depending upon who you ask), based mostly on his struggles with weight. Voters will remember a 31-year-old Jones signing a big contract with the Dodgers, showing up to camp out of shape, and proceeding to play as poorly as anyone in the big leagues. Voters will also remember those last five injury-plagued seasons at the end of his career.

And that will be a shame. Jones did more than enough before his career fizzled out to be a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate.

Five-time All-Star. Ten Gold Gloves. For his career, Jones accumulated 67.8 wins above replacement (FanGraphs version). That’s a higher number than was posted by Barry Larkin, Paul Molitor, Ozzie Smith, Willie McCovey, Robin Yount, Tony Gwynn, and a number of other Hall of Famers. Jones’ WAR total ranks ninth all-time among center fielders; every player ahead of him on that list is already in the Hall of Fame.

Jones’ 434 homers is the fourth-best total for any player in history who played at least 50% of their games in center field, behind such luminaries as Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mickey Mantle. Let’s not kid ourselves, however; though he was good, if flawed, as a hitter, Andruw Jones’ Hall of Fame case relies on his brilliant defense.

Jones was the best defensive player of his generation, and there’s a good case to be made that he’s the best defensive center fielder of all time. If you watched him play, you remember him reaching balls that no other center fielder could get. Jones always brought to mind a compliment that had been directed at Joe DiMaggio a half-century earlier. DiMaggio purportedly never had to dive for a ball. He just glided over to it. That’s the way Jones was.

Okay, that’s enough anecdotal evidence. I already mentioned the ten Gold Gloves; that’s an imperfect measure to be sure, but Mays was the only center fielder to win more (though Griffey also won ten). Let’s dig deeper, and take a look at some defensive metrics.

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Originally published: November 8, 2013. Last Updated: November 8, 2013.