Chipper and A-Rod: Saying Goodbye

We’re having more fun with third basemen here as we continue to roll through Zach Sander’s Third Base End of Season Rankings. For today, I thought I’d take this opportunity to actually say goodbye to a couple of former stalwarts who have been an integral part of a number of fantasy championships over the last two decades. Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, it was, without a doubt, our pleasure to have you on our rosters.

Since Chipper has already announced his formal retirement, let’s start with him. I’m sure there is someone in the FanGraphs family that will do some glorious tribute to him and his amazing 18 year career, so I’ll just do a quick look in relation to the fantasy game. Probably too quick a look, but a look nonetheless.

When it came to drafting Chipper as your starting third baseman, you can probably break the career down into three stages –

  1. Nine Years of Bliss: Fantastic power, strong .300-plus average, great RBI totals and just killer on-base percentages. He was always well worth  the price you paid for him.
  2. Four Years of Trepidation:  Injuries begin to rear their ugly head, drop-off in power production, and those who drafted him were in definitely in need of a solid contingency plan as he was always expected to miss some time.
  3. Five Years of Decline: More injuries and expected time missed, declining numbers overall, more of a corner infield option than someone you wanted as your everyday third basemen.

Though there were times when you wanted to kill yourself for having to endure so many trips to the DL with such an array of injuries, when he was playing, he was producing. His time spent on the DL would re-charge his batteries and he would always seem to come back strong; at least strong enough to carry him through to the next DL stint. I’m obviously over-simplifying a phenomenal career, but it’s the only way to prevent this from turning into a total fluff piece. The bottom line is that he was a phenomenal player, is destined for a trip to the Hall of Fame, and though some would feel that he took too long to call it quits, still found a way to be productive right and earn a positive value until the very end.

The career of Alex Rodriguez has taken a very similar path. However, we’re probably looking at just two stages instead of three with an extended blissful period and no period of trepidation; just a more abrupt decline. We’re looking at 13 years of being the best player in fantasy and a no-brainer, top three overall pick. But in 2009, the body began to break down a little more often and suddenly his numbers began to plummet as fast as the number of games he was able to play in a full season. He’s actually now missed almost a third of the games over the last two seasons and is now more of a cautionary tale rather than a guy you just gotta have.

But the career continues in 2013. While he’s declined in everything from strikeout and walk rates to ISO to batting average to wOBA, there is still something left in the tank. Where he actually gets to spend that last bit of energy though, remains a slight mystery and wonderful ball of speculation. He’s got five years left on his current contract and another $124 million owed to him which makes him a very tough trade candidate unless the Yankees feel like eating a ton of money (and that’s putting it nicely). He was benched during the playoffs and the Yankee faithful have been trying to run him out of town for some time now. Manager Joe Girardi said that A-Rod would be his starting third basemen entering 2013 spring training but there have also been rumors of a potential deal to Miami. Wherever he ends up, his value will be similar to Chipper’s during his final days and probably finish lower than the $7 value he accrued in 2012.

Two men, two fantasy studs, two cowboys riding off into the sunset. It’s been a great run, boys. Thanks for the championships.

 




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Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over 10 years on a variety of websites. In addition to his work here, you can also find him at his site, RotobuzzGuy.com, Fantasy Alarm, RotoWire and Mock Draft Central. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or for more direct questions or comments, email him at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com

8 Responses to “Chipper and A-Rod: Saying Goodbye”

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  1. jon says:

    The Yankees only wish A-Rod was saying goodbye.

    He will also have 3-stages it looks like:

    13 years of being aweseom
    4 years of decline
    and 5 years of the torturous, lucrative grind to the end.

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  2. Tom B says:

    A-Rod may be declining, but he is hardly going to be useless. He was hitting before he broke his wrist. He had… 3 xbh afterwards? Howmuch more obvious could it be that he was not healthy at any point after that injury? Something so obvious couldn’t have been missed by those who play “expert statistician” on the weekends.

    He was even hitting over .300 as the DH, a role which he will be playing more and more going forward.

    Sure there will be a power decline, but a complete power “outage” like this past month and a half? Nope.

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    • waynetolleson says:

      I don’t think A-Rod will age as well as Chipper. A-Rod is playing on a bum hip. That’s what has accelerated his decline more than anything.

      Additionally, Chipper Jones always gave you quality AB’s. He has a much stronger mental game than A-Rod. Let’s face the freakin’ facts: A-Rod is a mental/emotional disaster. Even before the physical decline, there would be times when A-Rod got flustered where he obviously lost focus, and AB’s were over before they began.

      A-Rod hasn’t had a 12.7% BB rate since 2009. Last year, his walk rate was 9.6%. It was 11% in 2009. The last time Chipper Jones posted a walk rate as low as 11.2% was 1997. Since 1997, Jones has walked more than he struck out every year but three. A-Rod never had such a year. In 2012, A-Rod struck-out 2.3 times more often than he walked.

      Hitting is mental as much as physical. Chipper Jones obviously has better skills when it comes to selecting quality pitches to hit. He also seems like a much more emotionally stable individual.

      A-Rod is more likely to chase bad pitches. He has the surgically-repaired hip. I don’t think that he is going to age as well as Chipper, who probably could hang on a few more years as a part-time DH if wanted to.

      A-Rod has more baggage. He’s “A-Rod.” He’s getting paid as though he’s the best player in the game, and he’s a shell of his former self. The premise for the mega-contracts was all the records he would be breaking, and everyone knows that those records are fraudulent.

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      • Tom B says:

        I agree that they are not similar hitters in any fashion.

        Keep in mind that A-Rod get’s cheaper going forward.
        13:$28M, 14:$25M, 15:$21M, 16:$20M, 17:$20M

        If he can hit .270/.370/.470 with 20-25hr for the remainder of his deal, he’ll be productive enough. Any years he does better than that (which can and does happen with older players the longer they are removed from taking the drugs) will be gravy at this point.

        What they need to do is get a 3B so he can move into more of a DH role to keep him healthy. Not having his hand broken by one of the best pitchers in the league can only help.

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      • waynetolleson says:

        I see your analysis here. However, the hip issue is what worries me. A hip injury ended Bo Jackson’s career. He played some baseball after that, but was never the same.

        A-Rod’s going to be 38-years-old next season. He’s already four or five years past an age where you’d expect a normal decline and A-Rod has been playing every day since he was twenty-years-old. He has always played shortstop or third base, and up until the hip issue, A-Rod was also good for 20-30 SB’s a year.

        We’ve seen Ortiz have a couple terrible post-steroids years, and the past couple years, he’s actually been quite good. But Ortiz has hardly played the field, and he isn’t playing on a surgically-repaired hip.

        And he’s a free agent! No team has to sign him if they don’t want. The Yankees have to pay A-Rod.

        Hey, Brian Cashman told them so. The Tampa “Brain Trust” have no one to blame but themselves here.

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  3. AtlantaCrackers says:

    Frankly, I think your fantasy analysis of Chipper sells him a good bit short, especially for OPS leagues. Chipper kicked off the first year of his “Five Years of Decline” with a glorious .364/.470/.574 slash line, and even though his last four years featured spotty playing time, Chipper topped an .800 OPS every season, including 2012. I’ve got no clue what sort of people would look at Chipper’s 2012 season and “feel that he took too long to call it quits” – he put up a 3.0 WAR in only 112 games and his OPS was better than all other NL 3B aside from ARam, Wright, Headley and Freese. In summary, Chipper was amazing.

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