As Chipper Jones' retirement tour winds down, there will be many opportunities to consider his rightful place among the greatest players in baseball history. What makes Chipper's accomplishments, including more than 460 home runs and a .300+ batting average, even more impressive is that he has done it from both sides of the plate as a switch-hitter. If hitting a baseball is the hardest thing in sports, turning around and hitting one with your opposite hand can only be that much harder.
In honor of Jones, here is a look at the 10 best switch-hitters in baseball history:
10. Reggie Smith (1966-1982): Possibly one of the lesser-known entries on this list, Smith played most of his 17 years in the majors with Boston and Los Angeles. In those 17 seasons, Smith was named to seven All-Star teams and retired with a .287 career batting average.
9. Bernie Williams (1991-2006): Williams is sure to invoke harsh feelings from either side of the Yankees' Universe. Yankees fans are sure to think he is underrated while Yankees-haters are sure to think the opposite. The fact remains, however, that Williams' 16-year career (all in pinstripes) was full of big hits and overall highly productive as evident by his final .297 career batting average. In addition, Williams added over 20 home runs each season between 1996 and 2001 when the Yankees again rose to be the most consistently powerful force in baseball. If nothing else, there should be little doubt that Williams is the finest switch-hitting musician on this list.
8. George Davis (1890-1909): It is always difficult to compare players from yesterday's era to those of today's. Along those lines, it is even more difficult to compare someone from the original era to a time over 120 years after he made his debut. However, Davis' career .296 batting average translates well to any era as do his amazing 135 RBIs in 1897 (despite just 10 home runs). Perhaps if Davis played in some of the smaller stadiums against the perceived worse pitching of the current era, his numbers would be even more impressive and he would find himself in an even better spot on this list.
7. Roberto Alomar (1988-2004): Although often remembered for his glove at second base (as evident by his 10 career Gold Glove Awards), the fact remains that Alomar is one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history. During his 17-year career, Alomar compiled a .300 lifetime batting average, 504 doubles, and 80 triples. Rightfully, Alomar was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
6. Tim Raines (1979-2002): With Alomar's Hall of Fame election in 2011, it seems even more difficult to believe that Raines still waits for the call to Cooperstown. "Rock" played 23 years in the major leagues (13 in Montreal) and posted a career batting average of .294, leading the league with a .334 batting average and .413 on-base percentage in 1986. Raines' combination of pure batting ability and speed made him a tough out every time he stepped to the plate, no matter which side of the box he stood.
5. Pete Rose (1963-1986): When it comes to pure hitting, it would be impossible to overlook MLB's all-time hit king Rose. The career record-holder of an absurd 4,256 hits over his 24-year career, Rose will always be considered one of the fiercest competitors, and best hitters, in baseball history. The only reason "Charlie Hustle" does not place better on this list is the fact that the four players ahead of him added more power to their game at the plate.
4. Lance Berkman (1999-present): It might seem odd at first glance to see Berkman so high on this list and above baseball's all-time hit king. However, Berkman's place among the greatest hitters in the history of the game is very underrated, due to the fact that he is still playing and has been slowed by injuries throughout much of the past few seasons. In Berkman's 14-year career, he has amassed 360 home runs, 1200 RBIs, and a lifetime .296 batting average. Even more eye-opening, Berkman's 162-game average is a more-than-impressive .296 average, 32 home runs, and 108 RBIs. This combination of power and average is what separates Berkman from the others ranked lower on this list.
3. Eddie Murray (1977-1997): As impressive as Berkman's average-power combination has been over 14 years, Murray was able to sustain similar numbers over a fantastic 21-year career, spent mostly in Baltimore. Although Murray never hit more than 33 home runs in a season, he retired with a career total of 504 to go along with a .287 batting average, leading to an obvious Hall of Fame induction.
2. Chipper Jones (1993-present): With this being Jones' last season before retirement, it is easier to view his career as a whole than it otherwise would have been. Jones has been the model of consistency throughout his 19 years in the major leagues, all with the Braves, with 468 home runs to go along with a lifetime .304 batting average and .931 OPS (including an astounding .364 average and 1.044 OPS in 1998). Perhaps more important, Jones has been the face of the Atlanta Braves franchise over these years and will always be synonymous with the hot corner at Turner Field.
1. Mickey Mantle (1951-1968): The Mick played for the Yankees during his entire 18-year career and remains one of the most elite hitters in baseball history. In 18 seasons, Mantle amassed 536 home runs, over 1,500 RBIs, and a batting average just under .300, even with a few sub-par seasons at the end of his career. And for anyone who cares to wonder whether Mantle's numbers would hold as much clout using the Sabremetrics of today, rest assured because calculations done by Fangraphs have shown that Mantle is the No. 1 switch-hitter by the advanced metrics -- by an even wider margin than might otherwise be contemplated here.
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Del Pearson is a huge baseball fan and follows intently throughout the season. His favorite time of year is the fall when playoff chases heat up although, unfortunately, his Toronto Blue Jays are not much of a contender in 2012. You can follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson2.
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