|Chipper Jones may be old in baseball years, but he can still produce at the plate. (Getty Images)|
Braves third baseman Chipper Jones is having such a strong season that he's been forced to beat back speculation that he won't actually retire. That's understandable: in a down year for offense, Jones is raking to the tune of .312/.389/.496. In fact, if he had a qualifying number of plate appearances, then he'd rank ninth in the NL in OPS+.
Those are impressive bestowals for any player, let alone one who's in his age-40 season, as Jones is. How impressive? Being paid to play baseball in your fourth decade on earth is accomplishment enough, but Jones is thriving even within that limited peer group.
Using the most excellent Baseball-Reference Play Index, let's have a look at the greatest seasons ever by a player 40 years of age or older. To sort, we'll limit the results to those players who logged at least 300 plate appearances for the season in question (entering play Wednesday, Jones is at 303 PAs for 2012). We'll also rank them according to the afore-linked OPS+, which will allow us to compare players across eras and parks. To the digits ...
As you can see, Jones ranks eighth all-time in OPS+ according to the criteria laid about above, and he has a realistic shot to climb to fifth by season's end. Not surprisingly, the players ahead of Jones include some of the best hitters ever (plus the chronically underrated Brian Downing).
We already knew Jones was one of the all-time greats, but we should also remember that he's one of the all-time greats having one of the all-time great seasons.
(Note: Chart above is corrected version)