FanPost

Why Chipper Jones is Regarded as a "Met-Killer"

Let me start this off by saying that I'm not all that cool with the Larry-loving that's been going around recently. I respect the guy, and agree with James Kann's assessment when compared to shitheels like Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins, but I haven't read any of the Chipper-related pieces on here or elsewhere. Yeah, let's relive all those times the guy ripped our hearts out! Let's rename our bar after him! That sounds fun!

What I'm more interested in here is the narrative that has been built around Chipper Jones (he might have helped a bit by naming his kid Shea), and whether it matches up with reality. And by reality, I mean my favorite narrative stat, Win Probability Added (WPA), with some help from its "Clutch" off-shoot. Let's go to the numbers.

Note: This table is supposed to be sortable but it's not because this is a lowly FanPost.

Team Games tOPS+ WPA WPA/G Clutch Clutch/G
MON/WSN 262 96 6.75 0.026 1.96 0.007
PHI 243 123 8.95 0.037 0.85 0.003
FLA/MIA 242 93 8.44 0.035 2.94 0.012
NYM 239 105 8.73 0.037 2.68 0.011
SDP 130 108 3.93 0.030 0.89 0.007
HOU 129 108 3.73 0.029 -0.58 -0.004
LAD 124 92 2.00 0.016 1.11 0.009
COL 123 120 2.81 0.023 1.05 0.009
CIN 123 95 1.60 0.013 1.05 0.009
PIT 123 89 2.33 0.019 0.94 0.008
SFG 117 89 3.83 0.033 2.49 0.021
STL 114 90 1.86 0.016 0.64 0.006
CHC 113 89 1.27 0.011 0.21 0.002
ARI 100 102 2.25 0.023 0.25 0.003
MIL 79 120 2.07 0.026 -0.58 -0.007

I stuck to just National League teams because who cares about the six games he's played against #6org. Unsurprisingly, Chipper has amassed the largest total WPA numbers against NL East teams. Yet, perhaps surprisingly, he doesn't have the largest WPA total nor the largest "Clutch" total against the Mets. But both of those totals are second-highest against the Mets. This says that he's gotten plenty of chances to do damage and he's come through a depressing percentage of the time. I think we all already knew that.

I decided to break down the numbers per game, too, to show Mets fans don't feel this way just because he's played against us this often. I would posit that part of what makes a player a [team]-killer is facing them 18 times a year, but I wanted to see if the "he's just awesome!" argument could be refuted. Much of that argument rest on the fact that Chipper's career numbers aren't all that much better against the Mets than other teams. As shown in the above table, his career tOPS+ against the Mets is 105, which means his OPS is only 5% higher versus the Mets when compared to his overall OPS. There are five teams that he has hit better against (although I'm 99.9% sure tOPS+ doesn't adjust for park factors, so the Rockies number is inflated). I'd argue WPA is closer to how we naturally interpret and remember games, e.g., Mike Piazza's HR on 9/21/01 was worth approximately +200 WPA while Carlos Beltran's backwards-K was worth negative five billion WPA (ok, +.581 and -.175).

When you look at both WPA and Clutch per game, it becomes obvious that Chipper Met-killer label is 100% warranted. Sure, his overall numbers against the Phillies are better (123 tOPS+), but he hasn't ripped their hearts out too much considering that low clutch number. And his clutch numbers might be better against the Marlins, but no one in Florida cares and his overall numbers against them are below his career average. Any way you look at it, Chipper has done much of his best work against the Mets. When you combine that with the fact that he's a Hall of Fame player regardless, it's going to take a lot for a player to torment Mets fans more than he did.

My last point to add is related to something I first read about in the 2010 Hardball Times Annual: Championship WPA. It is an attempt to quantify how much a player contributes to a team's playoff chances over the course of the year, building upon game-by-game WPA by multiplying it by the importance of each game. For example, Evan Longoria's home run last year in game 162 is about as big a boost to someone's Championship WPA (ok, Dan Johnson's would be bigger, but Longoria is actually good). It's a statistical model for all the writers who give a lot of weight to a player's performance down the stretch. How has Chipper fared down the stretch against the Mets? Three of his top five and five of his top eleven WPA performances against the Mets have come in September. What an asshole.

Technical notes: I used Fangraphs' game logs to calculate these numbers because it was possible to download all 2477 games in one file. I wasn't going to put together the B-Ref yearly game logs, even though those were to the thousandth place unlike Fangraphs' hundredths place. I guess what I'm saying here is that I hope there aren't WPA splits by team anywhere that I missed.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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