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Hot Chipper could earn Aaron Award

Hot Chipper could earn Aaron Award

ATLANTA -- Thoughts of Chipper Jones compiling a .400 batting average proved premature. So, too, did the belief that his recent injury history foreshadowed a decline in his offensive production.

While no longer producing the impressive home run totals that were present during the early years of his career, Jones has established himself as a more versatile offensive threat and proven that he's one of the best switch-hitters the game has seen.

Jones has positioned himself to win his first career batting title, and by the time this season concludes, it appears he'll rank among the top three National League players in batting average, on-base percentage and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage).

"Earlier in my career, every time I walked up to the plate, I tried to take everybody deep," Jones said earlier this season. "Now I realize that there are certain guys that I can't take deep. I just take what they give me."

Jones' success this season has made him a strong candidate to win the 2008 Major League Baseball Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp. Fans will have the opportunity to vote for a winner in both the National and American Leagues.

This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote from Monday until Sunday, Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday, Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

When Jones was still hitting .420 on June 10, there was reason to wonder if he'd become the first player since Ted Williams to end the season with a .400 batting average. While that elusive mark was never realized, the veteran Braves third baseman still maintained a consistency that will allow him to easily surpass the career-best .337 batting average he produced last year.

If Jones holds on to win the NL batting title, he may do so in a record-setting manner that would allow him to best his father's childhood idol, Mickey Mantle. The .365 batting average that Mantle produced in 1957 stands as the best single-season batting average produced by a switch-hitter, and the Braves third baseman has a legitimate chance to at least match that mark.

Earlier this year, Jones joined Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews as the only players to begin their Major League careers with 14 consecutive 20-homer seasons. This will mark the fourth straight season that Jones hasn't reached the 30-homer mark. But proving he still has some power, the 36-year-old veteran still ranks among the top five NL players in slugging percentage.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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