On September 25, the Atlanta Braves ensured that Jones' career would extend a little longer and give him one more chance at making his mark in MLB history in the postseason. But as the season, and Chipper's career, comes to a close, it is only natural to evaluate Jones' place in baseball history among switch-hitters.
Since today's discussion revolves around Jones' place among the greatest switch-hitters of all time, defense will not be involved in this discussion. Part of Jones' value as a player is his ability to play a difficult defensive position for the majority of his career. But his defensive abilities have had no impact on his actual performance as a switch-hitter. So again, this discussion will be based entirely on the offensive production of these switch-hitters throughout history.
Now, in honor of Chipper Jones' impending retirement, here are the top 10 switch-hitters in MLB history:
10) George Davis - 1890-1909
A 20-year veteran for three different MLB franchises, Davis was a very productive hitter, compiling a career oWAR of 65.8, an OPS+ of 121, and 297 runs above average with his hitting and base running. Though he only had 73 career home runs, he was a prolific base stealer, with 619 bags in his career. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1998. Some people would rank Davis higher on this list, but I lowered him due to the fact that he played in a segregated (and therefore less-competitive) time period, which I believe may have inflated his numbers.
9) Roberto Alomar - 1988-2004
A 17-year veteran at the typically light-hitting position of second base, Alomar rose from his rookie-year .266 batting average to end his career with a .300 average, 210 home runs, and 474 stolen bases. He produced a career oWAR of 66.7, and his hitting and base-running created 296 runs above average during his MLB tenure. Though his career OPS+ is only 116, it is low due to the fact that he played during the steroid era, which artificially inflated the average OPS of a major-league player. Alomar was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2011 by the BBWAA.
8) Reggie Smith - 1966-1982
Also a 17-year veteran, Smith provided more power than either of the two names that appear above, clubbing 317 home runs during his career. Though his career oWAR number of 52.4 is lower than Alomar's or Davis', Smith actually produced more runs above average with his hitting and base-running by totaling 322 during his time in the majors. Additionally, his career OPS+ of 137 easily outpaces both Alomar's and Davis'.
7) Carlos Beltran - 1998-Present
One of the more under-appreciated players in modern MLB, Carlos Beltran has had an astounding career in which he has mixed power and speed in a manner few players in MLB history have. As of September 27, 2012, Beltran has hit 332 home runs and has stolen 306 bases, the only switch-hitter in MLB history to have 300 of both. He has also accrued 2,058 career hits, a career OPS+ of 122, an oWAR of 55.0, and 290 runs above average due to hitting and base-running. With an .829 OPS, 30 HRs, and 91 RBIs so far in 2012, it's safe to say Beltran isn't quite washed-up yet, and he will one day merit consideration for Cooperstown.
6) Lance Berkman - 1999-Present
A classic debate between longevity of a career vs. absolute peak performance, Berkman has been an excellent player for the last decade when healthy. Unfortunately, injuries have taken a toll in recent years and have forced Berkman to seriously consider retirement at the end of this season after only 13 full seasons in MLB. But when he has been healthy, Berkman has been one of the best. A career OPS+ of 146, 360 home runs, 51.3 oWAR, and 403 runs above the average player due to hitting and base-running begin to tell the story, but what is really impressive is what Berkman did in his prime. In three separate seasons (2001, '04 and '06), Berkman produced 50 or more batting runs above average. None of the players listed 7-10 have a single season at that level. Berkman produced a single-season OPS+ of 160 or better in four different seasons during his career; of the players in spots 7-10, only Reggie Smith accomplished that feat, doing it once. Berkman may end up retiring without the duration of a career required to post outstanding total numbers, but in his prime, he was hands-down one of the best hitters in MLB.
5) Eddie Murray - 1977-1997
For 21 years, "Steady Eddie" put up strong numbers at first base, compiling a career OPS+ of 123, 56.7 oWAR, and 383 runs above average due to hitting and running. He hit many of the milestones that casual baseball fans love to discuss: 500 home runs (504); 1,500 RBIs (1,917); 1,500 runs (1,627); and 3,000 hits (3,255). He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2003 by the BBWAA, and he will always be remembered as an Orioles legend. But to figure out why he ranks so highly on this list, you actually have to cross out the end of his career. Eddie Murray stayed in the game for 21 years but if he had retired after 17 seasons (at age 37), he actually would have put up more impressive advanced statistical numbers. Ignoring the serious falloff he experienced over his last four seasons, Murray produced a career oWAR of 56.9 and created 402 runs above average. Once the twilight of his career is removed (and I don't think a player should be punished in the overall picture for playing too long), Murray emerges as the clear fifth-best switch-hitter in baseball history.
4) Tim Raines - 1979-2002
Though his career is listed as 23 years, it is more accurate to say 21 as Raines did not break into the big leagues for good until 1981. But once he did, he made a serious impact. His first four seasons in MLB, Raines stole 71, 78, 90, and 75 bases en route to accruing 808 steals as a professional against only 146 times caught. Though never a power hitter, Raines did hit 170 home runs in his career and retired with an OPS+ of 123. His career oWAR of 65.7 is very good, but it is in runs above average that Raines really distances himself. Forgetting his final season with Florida, Raines produced 411 runs above average, with 115 of those runs coming on the basepaths. Though he did not reach any of the "milestones" that Hall of Fame voters like to reference, there is little question that Raines was an incredibly valuable player throughout his career and deserves both his #4 spot in this list as well as HOF enshrinement.
3) Pete Rose - 1963-1986
What really jumps out looking at Pete Rose's career is just the length of time he played. For 24 seasons, Rose took the field for at least 70 games and for 23, he was out there for at least 90. He managed to hit .300 at age 40 and compiled an OBP of .395 at age 44. Despite playing until he was 45, Rose still hit for a career average of .303 with an OPS+ of 118. Had his career been cut off at the more reasonable age of 38, he still would have had 3,372 hits and his OPS+ would have risen to 126 -- not bad for a guy who never topped 16 home runs. For his career, Rose produced 381 runs above average, a number that rises to 392 if his final season is thrown out. He also produced a career oWAR of 80.2, a number that ranks 27th in MLB history. Rose ranks first in MLB history in games played, at-bats, plate appearances, and, most famously, hits, where he ranks more than 70 hits ahead of second-place Ty Cobb, and nearly 1,000 hits ahead of the highest active total by Derek Jeter. Rose did not have outstanding power or speed, but "Charlie Hustle" played the game hard every time he took the field and deserves the #3 spot on this list.
2) Chipper Jones - 1995-2012
The man of the hour, Chipper Jones, a lifelong Atlanta Brave, is putting the finishing touches on a career that will place him in Cooperstown. He will be remembered as one of the best players of his generation. As of September 27, 2012, Jones has hit 468 career home runs, compiled an OPS+ of 141, and topped 1,600 in both runs and RBIs. He was a National League MVP in 1999, and has finished in the top 10 of the voting on five other occasions. He has a career oWAR of 84.3, and has produced an astounding 564 runs above average while batting and running the bases. And in his peak, no one could produce like Jones, who, in his 1999 MVP season, produced 60 batting runs above average. Lance Berkman is the only other person on this list so far who has topped 50. Jones has had an amazing career, and he will get a chance to create a memorable postseason exit this October. He would be an easy No. 1 on this list if it wasn't for…
1) Mickey Mantle - 1951-1968
A three-time American League MVP, three-time runner-up, and three additional times as a top-five finisher, not only is Mickey Mantle the greatest switch hitter of all time, but he may also be the greatest player to ever step on to a baseball diamond. His career OPS+ of 172 dwarfs all of the other switch-hitters on this list by a wide margin; his 536 home runs are the most for any switch-hitter; and despite only playing 14 healthy seasons, Mantle still managed to score and drive in 1,500 runs apiece.
Mantle also produced a career oWAR of 111.9, a number made even more impressive once one realizes that he surpassed Chipper Jones' 17-year career total during an 11-year stretch from 1952-1962. But the icing on the cake is Mantle's career batting and base-running runs above average, a number that comes out to 852, nearly 300 runs more than the second-place Jones. Mantle was such an amazing baseball player, he produced 80 or more batting runs, and twice produced 90 batting + base-running runs above average in a season. As mentioned in Jones' section, no one else on this list topped 60. Mickey Mantle was easily, and, for the foreseeable future, will remain, the single greatest switch-hitter in history.
So there you have it: one person's opinion of the 10 best switch-hitters of all time along with the soon-to-be-retired Chipper Jones' place among them. Chipper was never going to catch Mantle; it will be a long time before a switch-hitter manages that feat. But coming in second on this list of record-holders, MVPs, and Hall of Famers is not a slouch effort. In five years, we'll see Chipper Jones immortalized in Cooperstown as a reward for his efforts. Now the only question is whether Chipper can ride off into the sunset with another World Series ring.
Peter Souders is a former Division 1 Athlete at Boston College where he fenced for four years, making four trips to the NCAA Championships. He has been published on Yahoo! Sports for a variety of topics, but baseball is his forte. He is an avid baseball fan who has cheered for the St. Louis Cardinals his entire life. You can follow him on Twitter @PeterSouders.