Where does Ken Griffey Jr. rank among the great center fielders of all time?

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Ken Griffey Jr. called it quits yesterday following a 22-season career in which he batted .284 with a .370 on-base percentage, .538 slugging percentage, 630 homers, 524 doubles, 2,781 hits, 184 steals, 1,312 walks, 1,662 runs, 1,836 RBIs, 13 trips to the All-Star game, 10 Gold Gloves, and one MVP.
Those numbers and accomplishments speak for themselves and make it clear that Griffey is an obvious Hall of Famer, but determining exactly where he ranks among the greatest center fielders in baseball history is a little more difficult.
Thankfully there are some good career-assessment methods to put his greatness in context, one of which is “Wins Above Replacement” or “WAR.” Available at Baseball-Reference.com, WAR represents “the number of wins the player added to the team above what a replacement-level player would add.” In other words, if instead of having Griffey for 22 seasons his teams were forced to use run-of-the-mill Triple-A players in his place, how many wins would it have cost?
Here’s how Griffey ranks in WAR among everyone who played center field at least two-thirds of the time:

                     WAR
Ty Cobb            159.4
Willie Mays        154.7
Tris Speaker       133.0
Mickey Mantle      120.2
Joe DiMaggio        83.6
KEN GRIFFEY JR.     78.4
Duke Snider         67.5
Jim Edmonds         67.1
Kenny Lofton        65.3
Andruw Jones        59.2



If you look only at what all the center fielders did through the age of 30, Griffey moves up from sixth to fourth, with Mickey Mantle in the top spot followed by Tris Speaker and Willie Mays. However, just 3.9 of his 78.4 WAR came after age 30, as Griffey ceased being a capable center fielder, struggled with injuries, and saw his OPS drop more than 100 points.
Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus has developed a metric called “JAWS” that takes into account not only a player’s career-long performance like WAR, but also factors in how strong his peak seasons were. In other words, how good was someone in total and how good was someone at their best. Here’s how Griffey stacks up against other center fielders in JAWS:

                    JAWS
Willie Mays        118.2
Ty Cobb            104.7
Tris Speaker        91.8
Mickey Mantle       89.4
Joe DiMaggio        73.6
KEN GRIFFEY JR.     65.8
Jim Edmonds         61.7
Billy Hamilton      56.4
Andruw Jones        54.4
Richie Ashburn      54.3



WAR and JAWS both produce the same top six, in the same order. Also, it’s worth noting that the average Hall of Fame center fielder accumulated a JAWS of 56.1, so not surprisingly Griffey clears that hurdle with ease. Jaffe’s column on Griffey also gets into plenty of other interesting aspects of his standing among center fielders, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
At the end of the day it’s pretty clear that Griffey is among the top six center fielders in baseball history, along with Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, and Tris Speaker. Exactly how those six should be ordered makes for a pretty good debate, but that’s some amazing company however you slice it. Hopefully once the Jim Joyce-related stuff dies down a bit, it’ll be easier for people to focus on how great Griffey was.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.

Rob Manfred talks about playing regular season games in Mexico

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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement commits the players and the league to regular season games on foreign soil. Most of the focus of this has been on games in London, for which there has been a lot of activity and discussion.

Yesterday before the Astros-Tigers game in Houston, however, Commissioner Rob Manfred talked about playing games in Mexico. And not as just a one-off, but as a foot-in-the-water towards possible expansion:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that the time had come to play regular-season games in Mexico City as Major League Baseball weighs international expansion.

“We think it’s time to move past exhibition games and play real live ‘they-count’ games in Mexico,” Manfred said. “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in better position to make a judgement as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team.”

A team in Mexico could make some geographic sense and some marketing sense, though it’s not clear if there is a city that would be appropriate for that right now. Mexico City is huge but it has plenty of its own sports teams and is far away from the parts of the country where baseball is popular (mostly the border states and areas along the Pacific coast). At 7,382 feet, its elevation would make games at Coors Field look like the Deadball Era.

Monterrey has been talked about — games have been played there and it’s certainly closer — but it’s somewhat unknown territory demographically speaking. It’s not as big as Mexico City, obviously. Income stratification is greater there and most of the rest of Mexico than it is in the United States too, making projections of how much discretionary income people may spend on an expensive entertainment product like Major League Baseball uncertain. Especially when they have other sports they’ve been following for decades.

Interesting, though. It’s something Manfred has talked about many times over the years, so unlike so many other things he says he’s “considering” or “hasn’t ruled out,” Major League Baseball in Mexico is something worth keeping our eyes on.