Keeping on with old guys, we now turn our gaze to Fred McGriff. Crime Dog was always the strong, silent type, and that might eventually be what keeps him out of the Hall. It certainly won’t be the merits of his cause.
McGriff was drafted by the Yankees in 1981. He spent 2 years in rookie league. In December, 1982, Pat Gillick pulled off a heist, obtaining McGriff as a throw-in in the Dale Murray for Dave Collins trade. McGriff would spend 4 more years in the Jay minor league system before getting his first serious shot at a major league job in 1987, when he had 350 plate appearances before winning the first base job in 1988 from Willie Upshaw. He immediately hit for average and power with fine plate discipline, and continued doing so consistently until 1997. With a couple of off years (for him) in 1998 and 2000, he continued at essentially the same level through his age 38 season in 2002. He has not done much the last 2 years, with a .181/.272/.306 in 2004 in 72 at-bats, probably signalling the end of his career.
Putting his career in perspective is a challenge. He was clearly the best first baseman in the majors from 1988-90 before Frank Thomas came along. This period was not a hitter’s era- league on-base percentages were in the .325-.330 range and slugging percentages were in the .380-.390 range. Despite his clear superiority at the position from 1988-1990, he was not named an All-Star until 1992. He has been a consistent and durable player, although not quite at the level of Palmeiro and Murray. Interestingly, he’s actually been a somewhat better than either per at bat (OPS+ failing to account adequately for the differing incremental values in OBP and slugging percentage).
With that in mind, the chart follows. It does not include McGriff’s 2004 year, but his stats are essentially unchanged.
Player G AB H HR W BA OBP SLUG OPS+
Palmeiro 2721 10103 2922 551 1310 .289 .372 .517 132
Murray 2819 10603 3071 479 1257 .290 .362 .482 133
McGriff 2433 8685 2477 491 1296 .285 .378 .511 134
Terry 1721 6428 2193 154 537 .341 .393 .506 137
Bottomley 1991 7471 2313 219 664 .310 .369 .500 125