Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 6/24/13
Chris Johnson turned on the waist high, hanging breaking ball from the Brewers' Alfredo Figaro and drove it the opposite way for a solo home run in the Braves' 7-4 win Sunday. It was his fifth of the season and the second in five games. From the offset, Johnson made it clear he knew the difficulty of what was being asked of him this season at third base. "I know the history over there," Johnson would tell the collected media when he first arrived at Turner Field this winter. "I've got some shoes to fill." The Naples, Fla., native would detail family trips to Atlanta to see the Braves and their future Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones, and he discussed his days at Stetson, where he played for Chipper's godfather, Pete Dunn. It was with those ties to the legend that Johnson, 28, eyed the job Jones vacated after last season. While he isn't going to make anyone forget Chipper, he, and the other players that have manned the position this season, have more than held their own in trying to replace him. Here's a look at how the Braves stack up at third base 77 games into their first season without Jones compared to Jones' numbers at this point in 2012. But to be fair to Jones, he played in just 43 of those games, and the Chipper of the last four seasons was no longer the player that produced an OPS of 1.000-plus five times or the guy who averaged 101 RBI from 1996-2007, he still had a solid WAR of 2.6 and was among the top seven players at the position in the National League in hitting .287. A better comparison of the current third base situation comes when stacking Jones' '12 against Johnson's starts at third base, where he's played the bulk of his time but has also played in 11 games at first base and has been used as a pinch hitter five times. Johnson, who is hitting .320.360.470 overall with five HRs and 22 RBI, compares favorably in run production and in power. His third base numbers show a slightly better average than Jones had at this point last season, but he trails Chipper in OPS .822 to .782 and is considerably behind in strikeout rate (25.3 percent to Jones' 11.9) and walk rate (7.1 to 13.2). While the Braves have been very Chipper-like with Jones at third at the plate, and performed at an All-Star level when considering every player that has manned the position, the defense has been another story. During the ninth inning Wednesday against the Mets Johnson committed two of his three errors in one play, misplaying Omar Quintanilla's weakly hit ball, then allowing the shortstop to reach second on a throwing error. In all, Johnson has committed six of the nine errors at the position. By comparison, Jones had four at this point last season and ended the year with 11 in all. But Johnson's defensive shortcomings should come as little surprise. His glove work was always the question mark with Johnson when he was brought over as seemingly a throw-in player in the January blockbuster deal that made Justin Upton a Brave. Johnson has never been on the positive end in defensive runs saved or UZR in his five-year major-league career, with those numbers this year sitting at minus-7 (DRS) and minus-5.2 (UZR). When you combine his DRS with that of Francisco (minus-2) and Pena, the lone plus-defender (3) at the position this year, the Braves are still below below Jones' '12 total of zero DRS, or the baseline for an average fielder. It is worth noting that in his last three seasons, Jones had dipped below the average designation with DRS of minus-6 ('09), zero ('10), minus-3 ('11) and zero ('12). His last positive year was '08, when he saved 10 runs. That was also the last time he had a plus UZR (3.2), yet Jones at 40 was still a measuring stick the Braves can't fully match up to this season in the field. But with Johnson on pace for career highs in nearly ever major statistical category, projections that become even more of a certainty with the trade of Juan Francisco -- the player he entered the season in a platoon situation with. Of course there's no escaping the shadow of Jones at third base any time soon. An NL MVP, eight All-Star appearances and two Silver Slugger Awards are a resume Johnson and whomever else the Braves put at third base won't be able to match any time soon. Jones' old stomping grounds will certainly be a position of interest this weekend. His No. 10 will be retired and he'll be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in a ceremony before Friday's game against the Diamondbacks. But a half season removed from the end of his storied career, the Braves have moved on from the Chipper era in impressive fashion.
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