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


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:

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:

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.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
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ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.