Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Lil Ginge
Andruw Jones belongs in the Hall of Fame. Why? Because he’s easily the best defensive centerfielder of all time and probably a top 10 all-time all-around centerfielder. Oh, and he was a pretty solid hitter, too.
The best defensive centerfielder ever should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, just like the best offensive centerfielder ever should be in Cooperstown. But the fact that there’s even more to Jones’s game than defense is really telling.
In this post, I’ll explain everything about why Andruw Jones belongs in Cooperstown. In my mind, his combination of astonishing defense, great power, good speed, and all-around dominance and fearsomeness combines to make him an all-time great player and a 100% no-brainer Hall of Famer.
Who Is Andruw Jones?
MLB centerfielder Andruw Jones, a native of Curacao, was a five-time All-Star, ten-time Gold Glove-winning star player for the mighty Atlanta Braves of the later ’90s and early 2000s. He rocketed from Single-A minor league ball to the major leagues when he was merely 19 years old during the 1996 season and made an immediate impression.
That year he became the youngest player ever to hit a home run in the World Series, homering in both his first two plate appearances at age 19. The Braves went on to win that game 12-1 over the Yankees.
Jones had both power at the plate and speed on the basepaths, but during his 17-year Major League career, it was most of all his spectacular defensive play that made him famous. Night after night, the fans could watch him take routes to catch seemingly impossible balls with ease or make an incredible diving catch nobody else would ever get.
The Atlanta Braves won the National League East in each of Jones’s first ten seasons. Unfortunately, after becoming a free agent and signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers, his numbers dramatically declined. The Dodgers bought him out of his contract and let him go after just one year filled with injuries. After that, he played for a few other teams, largely as part of a platoon, including a final year stretch as a New York Yankee that did not go well.
Nevertheless, in his career, he totaled an impressive 434 home runs with 1,933 hits, 1,289 RBIs. and a .254 batting average. And in the postseason he hit .273 / .363 / .433 (a .796 OPS) with 10 homers in 76 games.
Andruw Jones: A Decade of Dominance
Andruw Jones dominated the game of baseball for nearly a decade, between the years 1998 and 2006. When Jones came up from the minors in 1996, he only had 113 plate appearances during the regular season. He didn’t hit particularly well although he did flash some power. And it wasn’t a large enough sample size to show what he could do as a centerfielder.
However, Jones played two-thirds of a season the following year. During that campaign, he was a roughly average hitter slashing 231 / 329 / 416 for a wRC+ of 96, with 18 homers and 70 RBIs. He also had twenty stolen bases that season, showing off his speed. But what really stands out in 1997 is the introduction of Jones’s stellar defense. He posted a dWAR of 24.8 and an all-around fWAR of 3.7, already showing himself to be a good all-around player.
The next time Jones would have less than 5 WAR in a season would be a decade later, in 2007. This means between 1998 and 2006 he absolutely dominated MLB. Much of this value came from his defense, but he also had fantastic power with the bat, decent speed on the bases (very good for a few years), and a pretty solid if unexceptional ability to get on base.
In my view, any baseball player who dominates for roughly a decade is an MLB Hall of Famer, no matter which parts of their game get them there. Andruw Jones easily meets that criteria. In that span, nobody was better in Centerfield. In fact, between 1998 and 2007 there were two better players in the game by fWAR: Alex Rodriguez (78.2) and Barry Bonds (73.8). Andruw Jones is third with 60.6, and the other Jones (the Chipper one) is fourth with 55.3. Rounding out the top five is Albert Pujols with 53.5.
Usually, if you are on a baseball list with four other position players, and those position players are A-Rod, Bonds, Chipper Jones, and Pujols, you are on a Hall of Fame list and you are also a Hall of Fame level player. That is certainly true of Andruw Jones.
Andruw Jones As An Offensive Player
Andruw Jones is not as celebrated for his offense. Given the absolutely stunning level of his defense, that is understandable. But his offensive contribution to the game should NOT be overlooked. During his decade of dominance, Andruw Jones was both a good hitter and an excellent power hitter.
For his career, Andruw Jones slashed .254 / .337 / .486 for a wOBA of .352 and a wRC+ of 111. But remember, this includes *all* of his seasons, including the five bad ones at the end. And in two of those bad seasons, he actually hit well! Albeit as a part-time, platoon player.
In his 8,664 plate appearances, he hit 434 homers, 1,289 RBIs along with 152 stolen bases (which these days feels like a lot). He walked 10% of the time and struck out 20% of the time.
His career offensive WAR was 116.3. Focusing on his best years from 1998-2006, Jones hit .270 / .347 / .513 for an OPS+ of 119, while averaging 31 doubles, 35 homers, 104 RBI, 99 runs, and 12 stolen bases per season.
Let’s be honest: nobody cares about batting average anymore. Very few people still care about RBIs. But those power numbers are damn impressive. In his best power seasons, he hit 51 and 41 home runs, respectively, in 2005 and 2006.
In his best individual year, 2005, he led the majors with those 51 bombs, Led the National League with 128 RBIs, and finished 2nd in MVP voting behind Albert Pujols, no slouch with the baseball bat. If Andruw Jones were a DH, he probably wouldn’t be a Hall of Famer, only a very good baseball player. But he wasn’t a DH. In fact…
The Stunning Defense of Andruw Jones
With Andruw Jones, the great power numbers are almost an afterthought. Yes, he hit bombs. But this guy was virtually unlike anything we’ve ever seen when it comes to defense. He made it look SO EASY that it’s almost hard to tell how great he was just by the eye test. And yet, the man won a decade’s worth of Gold Glove Awards. So even before fancy defensive metrics went mainstream, everyone knew how good this guy was.
Here is your list of centerfielders to win 10 or more Gold Gloves: Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr, and Andruw Jones. See any Hall of Famers on that list? Yeah, I do too. Jones also led all major leaguers with a 26.7 defensive bWAR during his first 11 seasons. Ivan Rodriguez was a distant second with 16.5.
Jones isn’t just the best defensive centerfielder ever. He is also one of the best defensive players ever, period. In fact, he is 11th best by defensive fWAR with 278.8, just behind catcher Brian McCann with 288.3. Incidentally, the best ever is Yadier Molina with 381.3 defensive fWAR, just ahead of defense’s Gandalf Ozzie Smith.
It’s pretty evident that he is also the best defensive outfielder of all time. And it’s not close. Willie Mays is second with a defensive fWAR of 170.1. Jones has 278.8. As I said, that’s not close. Using another metric called Total Zone Runs, Andruw Jones comes in all-time at number two behind Brooks Robinson and ahead of Ozzie Smith, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Mays.
A good power hitter who is also the best defensive outfielder in history and one of the best defensive players ever period? Who dominated for a decade? This guy needs to be in the Hall of Fame.
More About Andruw Jones’s Hall of Fame Case
One of the major knocks against Andruw Jones’s Hall of Fame case was his dramatic decline in his last five years, once he left the Atlanta Braves. And it’s true, that dropoff was dramatic. But the thing is, how many Hall of Fame players dominated for more than a decade?
Andruw Jones came up into the majors when he was exceptionally young, only nineteen years old. And he became a superstar almost immediately. It basically took him one full season to become the player that he was during his prime.
Andruw Jones should not be penalized for becoming a superstar young, and that’s exactly what we would be doing if we kept him out of the Hall of Fame based on his last years. How many other stars died out in their final years? Look at Albert Pujols towards the end. Even Alex Rodriguez had some mediocre and flat-out bad seasons in the end.
In his prime, Jones also played a tremendous amount of baseball. He averaged 157.7 games per season during his ten-year peak for 1,577 total games, more than anyone else in that span. That’s quite healthy for a player today.
And no, Jones was never the most dominant player on his own team. That’s what happens when you play alongside Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Chipper Jones, all Hall of Famers. But he shouldn’t be penalized for who else happened to play on his team, either. In fact, it tends to underscore his own greatness when you think about how many runs he may have saved those pitchers.
Will Andruw Jones Get Into the Hall of Fame?
I hope I have established Andruw Jones’s 100% knock-down case for making the baseball Hall of Fame. But, will he get voted in? Or will he be unjustly left out of baseball’s sacred honorarium for all eternity?
One thing is for certain – he is not getting in this year. Not the way the votes have been trending. But, based on the growth in votes for him over the last few seasons, he does have a pretty good shot of making it before the end.
In his first year on the ballot, 2018, Andruw Jones only received 7.3% of the vote. That was barely enough to exceed the 5% or more threshold that keeps you on the ballot the next year. In 2019, he again only got 7.5%, hardly any growth. Things weren’t looking good.
But then in 2020, Jones jumped to 19.4% and it suddenly seemed like more of the baseball writers were starting to feel open to his true greatness. And this year, based on about 40 returned ballots so far tracked by Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Tracker, Jones is trending to 52.5% currently. Though that may drop substantially before the end, even if he received between 40 – 45% of the vote, it would be a substantial enough increase to indicate a bright future for his Hall chances.
I do think Andruw Jones is ultimately going to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame before the ten-year window is shut. With his numbers trending upward and an increased understanding of advanced – and especially defensive – metrics, plus the overall importance of defense to the game of baseball, these things will only continue to help his case with voters.
Andruw Jones Should Be In The Hall of Fame
The 2022 Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be on July 24, 2022, in Cooperstown, New York, site of the Baseball Hall of Fame. And when that happens, Andruw Jones should be there being inducted. In all likelihood, however, he won’t be. Not yet. Not in 2022.
This year’s Hall of Fame ballot was released on November 22 by the BBWAA and votes are due by New Year’s Eve. The results will be announced on the MLB Network live on Jan 25, 2022. And though Andruw Jones likely won’t be announced, I think he will have his day in the coming years.
To me, Andruw Jones’s Hall of Fame case is as open and shut as they come. He’s not the greatest who’s ever played, but he’s perhaps the greatest defender, a terrific power hitter, speedy on the bases, a feared player during a decade of dominance, and put up a career total of 67 fWAR. That’s good enough for me to put Andruw Jones squarely into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Check out my article on Mets GM Billy Eppler’s terrific start to the 2021 MLB offseason.