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When a player proves he belongs in the big leagues at age 19, as Griffey Jr. did, the odds are pretty good of a Cooperstown ending to the story. Can one be a disappointing Hall of Famer, I wonder?

Ken Griffey Jr. was the first overall pick of the 1987 draft at age 17. The Mariners sent him to the Northwest League that summer, where he hit 14 homers in 182 at-bats, stole 13 bases, and walked more than he struck out. The M's moved him up to the California League the next year, where he continued to dominate and by the end of the season he was in double A Vermont. And that was the extent of his minor league career.

He opened the 1989 season as the Mariner centerfielder, and put up a very respectable .264/.329/.420 line with acceptable walk and strikeout rates. The consensus among analysts was that there was no reasonable limit to his future. He took a step forward in 1990 and another one in 1991, hitting .327/.399/.527. At age 21, he had established himself already as one of the best players in baseball. In 1993, he added even more power and improved his strike zone judgment even further. The best four position players in baseball at that time were Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey and Roberto Alomar. Griffey was a consistent hitter in his 20s, putting up good numbers every year and great ones in four seasons. As of age 30, he was on pace to pass Hank Aaron's career home run mark, but his early 30s were mostly a story of injury. He put up a big comeback year in 2005, and then slipped to .252/.316/.486 at age 36 last year. 

Griffey had average speed, or perhaps a little better, in his 20s.  He lost his speed around age 30 due to injury. He was a fair defender, who won Gold Gloves throughout the 1990s based largely on his reputation.  He is a very poor defensive centerfielder now by objective measures, and has been for several years.

Ken Griffey is an obvious Hall of Famer.  Was his career a disappointment?  Absolutely not.  His BBRef comparables at age 30 included on the positive side- Frank Robinson, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott and Hank Aaron, and on  the negative side in terms of post-age 30 performance-   Eddie Mathews, Juan Gonzalez, Duke Snider, and Jimmie Foxx.  In short, he performed in his 20s as well as anyone could have hoped for, and in his 30s about as well as your average superstar. Griffey is likely to end up his career as a slightly better and longer-lasting version of Duke Snider. 

Next up: The Closers
Hall Watch 2006- The Outfielders- Ken Griffey Jr. | 9 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
CaramonLS - Monday, January 15 2007 @ 06:31 PM EST (#161998) #
Well, if you wont say it, I will. 

His career was a disappointment, if only for the expectations that have been placed upon him.  He wasn't just supposed to be a HOFer, he was supposed to be a LEGEND.  Smash records and become one of the games greatest players. 

Now, he is just limping into the Hall (pun intended).
Mike Green - Monday, January 15 2007 @ 09:46 PM EST (#162004) #
Juan Gonzalez, Cesar Cedeno.  Those are examples of disappointments for me. 
Hodgie - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 11:31 AM EST (#162013) #
His career is only a disappointment in that injuries robbed fans of the opportunity to witness what was shaping up to be one of the greatest career performances in the history of baseball. It was not that long ago that conversations of the greatest baseball players of all-time always included the names Ruth, Mays, Mantle.......and Griffey.
Mick Doherty - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 01:59 PM EST (#162020) #
Mantle is a terrific comp for Griffey in that respect -- MM's physical issues were primarily self-inflicted, of course, but imagine his stats (you'd only be the nine millionth person to do so) if he's stayed healthy (and sober) his whole career. It's not unreasonable to project him beating Aaron to Ruth's mark. His last legitimate pantheon season was at the age of 32; Aaron hit 40 dingers at tje age of 40!
Mike Green - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 02:25 PM EST (#162022) #
It is interesting to note that Mantle moved to first base due to his injuries at age 35.  It would probably have been better if he had made the move 3 or 4 years earlier.  This goes double for Griffey Jr.

A quick look at Mantle's career is interesting in terms of the relationship between speed and stolen base effectiveness.  Mantle was probably at his fastest at age 20-21 in 1952-53, but looking at his offensive statistics, you never could tell. Over those two years, he was 12-5 SB/CS in total and hit 10 triples and 60 doubles.  For all the world, he looks to have average speed.  There are objective indicators of an improvement in speed for years afterward in triple rate, triple/double rate, stolen base frequency and stolen base efficiency.  The defensive statistics tell another story of gradual decline consistent with his injuries and aging. 

I haven't yet seen a speed score analysis that took into account defensive range for outfielders, but probably by the time that is developed, we won't need a speed score at all because the measurements of historical baserunning ability will be available directly.

daryn - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 02:55 PM EST (#162027) #

Is Ken Griffey Jr. baseball's Bobby Orr?

AWeb - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 03:04 PM EST (#162029) #
Nah, Griffey Jr. kept playing. I'd say Sandy Koufax is baseball's Bobby Orr. Maybe Griffey is baseball's Mario Lemieux.
Mick Doherty - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 04:01 PM EST (#162035) #
I don't know enough about the NHL (I follow the US college game more closely) to comment on the worth of the comparison, but "Baseball's  Bobby Orr" would be a great headline over something about ... someone, anyway.
Glevin - Tuesday, January 16 2007 @ 05:37 PM EST (#162038) #

I wouldn't call Griffey dissapointing even with the bar set as high as it was with him. It would be an interesting discussion as to who the most dissapointing players (I wouldn't count guys with career ruining injuries, especially pitchers ala Fidrych) have been. (Ruben Sierra? Fred Lynn? Ben Grieve? Alvin Davis?)

Hall Watch 2006- The Outfielders- Ken Griffey Jr. | 9 comments | Create New Account
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