Is Chipper Jones’ Left-Handed Swing Deteriorating?

Written by Ben on April 19, 2010 – 12:15 pm

Chipper Jones is naturally right-handed. A switch-hitter, he learned to bat from the left side because he loved to emulate the Dodgers lineup as a child, and learned to take swings from the other side of the plate.

Jones has stated in the past that his left-handed swing takes a lot more work to keep steady than his right-handed swing. He has many more moving parts from the left side, and despite having better career numbers as a lefty, his swing is starting to slow and deteriorate.

In 2009, Jones had one of his least productive seasons to date. He had a line of .264/.388/.430, with just 18 home runs and 71 runs batted in, both career lows.

However, his problems persisted mostly from the left side.

As a left-handed batter, Jones made 413 plate appearances to go .252/.395/.377, .772 OPS, 9 HR, and 38 RBI last season. From the right side, he made 183 plate appearances to bat .289/.372/.541, .912 OPS, 9 HR, and 33 RBI.

Those are pretty drastic splits. Jones did have a lower on-base percentage as a righty, but that was due to him being able to draw more walks.

Even late in his career and with diminishing power, Jones, a 17-year MLB veteran, is able to get walks from the left side at an incredible rate.

With his left-handed swing, however, his average went down .097 points, and his slugging dropped an astonishing .204 points. He also hit eight fewer home runs in 2009 from the left side, despite having 63 more plate appearances than the previous season.

Jones has been more effective from the right side again this season, while his struggles have continued from the left, where he is currently 3-for-21 with no extra base hits. Granted, it’s only two weeks into the season, but his left-handed swing is very worrisome, especially considering he is the team’s third hitter.

Meanwhile, from the right side of the plate Jones is batting .444 with three extra base hits, including two homers.

If the Braves’ offense is going to be successful, Jones needs to produce from the left side. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, as it’s clear that he is more consistent from his natural right-handed side.


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10 Responses to “Is Chipper Jones’ Left-Handed Swing Deteriorating?”

  1. By KentCovington on Apr 19, 2010 | Reply

    Ben, that's a very good point. I didn't notice his splits last year. That certainly lends more credence to his early struggles from the left side this year. If he can't get it going from the left side, I wonder if he'd give any thought to going exclusively right-handed. I think he might, but not for a good while. If this persists, it will take him a good long while to come to terms with idea that he needs to just abandon the lefty swing, if in fact he can't get it going from the left side. Let's hope he can.

    I'll only disagree with one thing you said: "If the Braves’ offense is going to be successful, Jones needs to produce from the left side."

    As I've pointed out many times… from June 28 'til the last week of the season (82 game stretch), the Braves led the NL in runs scored. And they did it while getting next to nothing from Chipper.

    The only difference between that lineup and this one is that LaRoche & G.Anderson have given way to Heyward & Glaus.

    The jury is still out on Glaus, but if Heyward continues what he's been doing, he replaces LaRoche's production, so we just have to get enough out of 1B to replace G.Anderson's offense. Shouldn't be hard.

    In short, I think this offense has shown it CAN be successful without big production from chipper. But certainly, the offense will never be as good as COULD be without Chipper contributing in a significant way. I won't disagree with that.

  2. By Ben Duronio on Apr 19, 2010 | Reply

    I think the overall production should be better than last season regardless if Chipper picks it up from the left side.

    My point, in regards Chipper producing, is that he is in the primary position in the line-up. It if you want your lineup to produce as well as it can in this current format, you need your three hitter to be hitting well.

    With the rotation set as it is, the lineup should score enough for the Braves to win, but they could be much better if Chipper produces.

    The problem with that is that the offense is deep enough that they should not have to rely on great pitching performances each and every night. They have the potential to hit their way to victories if Chipper is able to get regain his left-handed power in the three spot.

    I also think that the argument about winning without Chipper only enhances the importance of him hitting while in the lineup. The Braves can win with another player hitting third, they have shown that since last year. So, when Chipper is healthy and playing, his performance needs to get better from the left side since he is still in such an important spot.

  3. By KentCovington on Apr 19, 2010 | Reply

    Matt Diaz is nothing short of an all-star level performer vs lefties, though marginal against righties. It appears the same is true of Chipper right now.

    Heyward's figuring out quickly how to handle big league lefties (taking them hard to the opposite field when appropriate), and lefties don't bother McCann. So really, when we face a lefty starter, it's like adding 2 all-star hitters to the linuep.

    Of course, on the flip side, McLouth, when he's going right, is a very good hitter vs righties… but not as good vs. lefties.

    Still, on balance, I think this offense is set up to fare better against lefties. That makes me feel pretty good about head-2-head action with the Phillies and the 3 lefties in their rotation.

  4. By KentCovington on Apr 19, 2010 | Reply

    Oh, the 3 spot is definitely important. And there's no doubt whatsoever that this is a better team when Chipper produces. So let's hope he does!

  5. By Castrologist on Apr 20, 2010 | Reply

    Regardless of Chipper's struggles left-handed, his left-handed swing is one of the sweetest swings to watch in all of baseball. It's truly a thing of beauty. I agree with one of the commenters that we can still win without a super productive Chipper, but he could make the Braves really dangerous if he has a ton of homers, doubles, and RBIs.

  6. By Ryno on Apr 22, 2010 | Reply

    Some dummy dropped McClouth in our fantasy league. I was wondering if someone could give me the scoop on him. What's with his struggles this year? Going to hit out of it soon?

  7. By David Gross on Apr 22, 2010 | Reply

    No doubt about it, the guy is getting old. It's incredible he's maintained his hitting skills till his late 30s after all the wear and tear. A 1st ballot Hall of Famer, for sure.

  8. By Kent C. on Apr 22, 2010 | Reply

    Chipper's looked pretty good from the left side lately. That's a good sign!!

  9. By Ben Duronio on Apr 25, 2010 | Reply

    Of all the Braves struggling right now, I am probably most confident that Nate will rebound and still have a solid season. Escobar will hit also, but Nate has been cursed with bad luck thus far.

    His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is at a low .208, where as his career average is .283. Right now, he is posting the highest walk rate of his career, so I definitely expect him to rebound.

  10. By Sam on Apr 25, 2010 | Reply

    Chipper’s looked pretty good from the left side lately. That’s a good sign!!

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