Entering the 2012 season, Chipper Jones has a .304/.402/.533 career line. As noted earlier in this StoryStream, the only players in major league history with as many or more plate appearances as Chipper who also have a lifetime batting average over .300, on-base percentage over .400, and slugging percentage over .500 are Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Mel Ott, Stan Musial and Ty Cobb. (Frank Thomas, with 92 fewer career PA than Chipper, also qualifies).
What would Chipper have to do to maintain his .300/.400/.500? We’ll assume, for the purpose of this exercise, that he’ll have the same number of plate appearances this year (512) that he had in 2011 (or, for the purpose of batting average and slugging percentage, the 455 at-bats he had last season).
The .500 slugging percentage is safe. Even if Chipper collects zero total bases in 2012 with 512 PA, his career slugging will still be .506.
To maintain a .300 or better batting average, Chipper will have to hit .221 in 455 at-bats (the same number he had in 2011). He’s never hit lower than .248 and last year he hit .275 — that seems safe, too.
His on-base percentage, close to .400 at .402, might be the most difficult one to keep up. With 512 PA, he’ll need to reach base 36 percent of the time.
Chipper’s OBP last season, .344, was the lowest of his career. However, in the two years before that, he posted OBPs of .381 and .388, which suggests .360 (actually, he needs to reach .361) is in reach.
Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle faced a similar challenge. Before his final season in 1968 he sported a .302 batting average. But he hit .237 in 1968, lowering his lifetime BA to .298.
Chipper can do it, but he’ll need to play well this season to keep that .300/.400/.500 line. Unless he gets hurt and hardly plays at all.