The Case for Griffey

If you look at Ken Griffey’s numbers this year, they sure don’t stay a lot:

wOBA: .321
OBP: .324
SLG: .402
WAR: 0.1

For a DH, these numbers are not exactly “pretty.” Junior was signed in the off-season to $2 million dollar deal that could reach up to $4.5 million if Griffey reached certain incentives. He’s played in 113 games and has 438 plate appearances, so he may have earned himself some extra cash in the process. Looking at it on a purely statistical level, the deal has been a bad one for the M’s. However, maybe there is something to the fact that Griffey has provided a calm, veteran presence in the clubhouse.

Either way, I want to make the case for Griffey on a purely statistical level. Let’s look at Griffey’s peripherals:

BB %: 14.1%
BABIP: .224
LD %: 14.7%
GB %: 38.1%
FB %: 47.2%
HR/FB %: 12.1%

Some interesting stuff here. Safeco Field does favor left-handed hitters over righties (thank you, readers), so that could be why Griffey is getting some production out of his fly balls . A HR/FB rate of 12.1% is pretty good for a guy with a below-average wOBA. Let’s check out his road/home splits:

Road: .174/.278/.306 (154 at-bats)
Home: .273/.388/.539 (219 at-bats)

Wow. Maybe Junior really does love being back in Seattle after all? Or it could be just some random variance thanks to a relatively small sample size. Still, it’s encouraging to see Griffey being able to put up a .539 slugging percentage in any amount of time.

But back to the other peripherals for a moment. Griffey’s walk rate of 14.1% is his highest since 2000 and the fourth best of his career. He has clearly kept his phenomenal eye, and considering that his lowest BB% each year from 2007-09 has been better than each year from 2004-06, age doesn’t seem to be affecting his ability to walk to first base. Just to drive home the point a little more, Griffey’s F-Strike % (rate of first-pitch strikes) and Swing % (rate of pitches swung at) are his lowest since the stats began being recorded in 2002.

Griffey also seems to be suffering from a lower than expected BABIP. Yes, Junior is pretty slow and lethargic right now and only has a LD% of 14.7%. However, according to Dutton and Bendix’s Simple xBABIP calculator, Griffey should be in line for a .297 BABIP on the year. Even if you want to regress that to something around .260-.270, that’s still much better than his miserable .224 rate for this year. In 2007 he was at .291 and last year he was at .272. That’s a pretty big drop-off.

Finally, we have Griffey’s batted ball data. This isn’t as encouraging, as Junior has clearly begun to hit the ball with less authority. However, Griffey is a talented enough hitter than even if he can’t improve much from these numbers, we shouldn’t expect a significant drop.

Griffey can’t play the field anymore. His UZR has been consistently terrible, and he should only be a rare spot-starter in left or rightfield. He’s a DH, which certainly hurts his value. However, if given a cheaper, incentive-laden deal, Griffey can certainly earn his keep with a line of something like .240/.345/.430. Give him a 1-year deal worth about $1.5 million and add some incentives to boost it up just a bit. His clear choice has to be Seattle, as it seems like they want him back. Hopefully he decides to lace his straps once again, as it’d be sad to think we’ve seen the last of Mr. Junior.

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  1. Aaron Robertson said...

    Safeco actually has a short porch in right and is incredibility deep in left-center and left, suppressing right handed power hitting (see Beltre, Adrian) not left handed.

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