Chipper Jones Announces 2012 Will Be His Last Season: Is Mariano Rivera Next to Retire?

Thursday March 22nd, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Reports Intern): At a press conference before a Grapefruit League Game today, Atlanta Braves third baseman Larry Wayne Jones (a.k.a. Chipper Jones) announced that 2012 would be his last season before retirement from baseball. At age 39, Jones has spent all of his 18 year career with the Braves, earning him the distinction of being the active player with the most time played for just one team. During this span, Jones has played in seven All-Star games, won an MVP and picked up a pair of Gold Glove Awards. His offensive WAR is a combined 84.9, good enough for 25th on the all-time list. Interestingly enough, the player with the second longest-one-team-tenure may also retire after this season. Closer Mariano Rivera, who has 16 years and 106 days of MLB service, all for the New York Yankees. Over the years Rivera has been one of the most consistently dominant closers in the league, and his record 603 career saves is the most in history. 

As with any retiring player, the discussion can immediately turn to Hall of Fame chances. Mariano Rivera is a guaranteed first ballot, but I’ll get to that later. Chipper may not be so lucky, though, as his numbers can easily be seen as inflated by so many years of playing time. Assuming he sticks to his word and 2012 is his last season, Jones will have played as much time as Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, who played his entire career with the Philadelphia Phillies. 


As shown by the stats Jones has posted fairly similar numbers to the first-ballot-entrant Schmidt, and even leads in batting average and slugging percentage. Chipper is close to both 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (at 2,615 and 454 respectively), but said the following at his press conference today:

“People may ask me about being close to 500 homers and 3,000 hits and if I stuck around a couple more years I could get those numbers. … I always said I’m not going to stick around for the numbers.”

Both milestones are considered golden tickets that allow for automatic induction into the Hall of Fame (this has changed to exclude players linked to performance enhancing drugs). Not having reached either milestone may hurt Chipper’s chances for Cooperstown. He’s a lock to make it, just maybe not on the first ballot like Schmidt.

Rivera, on the other hand, is undoubtedly getting in on his first try. In fact, Mo might have a few years left in the tank despite growing long in the tooth at age 42. His 1.91 ERA in 2011 was actually lower than his career 2.21, and his performances last year were for the most part as dominant as always. His cutter, well-known as one of the best in the league, hasn’t lost much velocity since 2007. In 2011, his cutter (according to fangraphs.com) was thrown with an average velocity of 91.5 MPH, compared to his 92.7 MPH cutter back in 2007. In 17 years, Rivera has only blown 72 saves, giving him a career save percentage of 89 percent. His 603 saves are the most of any player since the save stat was recorded, and looking at his regression trends (or lack there of), it seems as though he has a legitimate shot at 700 saves. If he stuck to his average of 39 saves per year, it would take about two and a half more seasons, when Mariano will be 44.

Jones’ announcement was not a huge shocker. Though he never missed significant time because of injury (besides in 1994), the wear and tear of 18 seasons has taken its toll. When he officially retires- he’ll be inducted into the Hall, but it’s a toss-up whether it will be on the first run. On the other hand, there is more question about Mariano Rivera’s expiration date than his chances at Cooperstown enshrinement. At age 42 he’s defying age and producing at the top-level, something old Larry just couldn’t do.


Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Bryan Sheehan.  You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com. Tweet him about this article and give him a follow and he will follow you back!

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Posted on March 22, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Chipper Jones Announces 2012 Will Be His Last Season: Is Mariano Rivera Next to Retire?.

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