Archive for May 11th, 2010

I’ve watched a few Mariners’ games this season, so I can sympathize with Ken Griffey about how difficult it is to stay awake during them. Unfortunately for  Griffey, it’s his sleeping bat that presents the real problem. A year after posting a line of .214/.324/.411 (OPS+ 95) in 454 plate appearances, Griffey’s 2010 campaign checks in at a much more dismal .208/.265/.234 (OPS+ 40) in 83 appearances.

During his afternoon chat at ESPN.com, Rob Neyer wondered where Griffey’s 2010 would rank among the final seasons of the game’s best players, assuming, of course, Griffey’s career is about to come to an end. To answer that question, I took a look at the last season of every Hall of Famer (excluding pitchers as well as the likes of Dick Williams, Sparkey Anderson, Jocko Conlan, etc., all of whom were elected as non-players) and then sorted the list by OPS+. To narrow down the list, I also used 75 plate appearances as a cutoff, a parameter just below Griffey’s current season total. As a result, about 40 Hall of Famers (aside from those elected as managers, umpires or executives) were eliminated from the study, including Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and Yogi Berra.

So, based on these criteria, where would Griffey’s 2010 season rank if it ended today? How about three places from dead last! Of the 97 Hall of Famers who meet the criteria listed above, Griffey’s 2010 adjusted OPS of 40 would rank only above George Davis (OPS+ of 29 in 84 plate appearances) and Bobby Wallace (OPS+ of 13 in 108 plate appearances). Maybe it really is time for Griffey to walk away?

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, it seems as if the last seasons of great players are normally distributed, as represented by the bell curve below. So, for every Ted Williams there is a Ken Griffey Jr., but for the most part, even great players end up reverting to the mean.

Hall of Fame Players’ Final Season OPS+ (Minimum 75 Plate Appearances)

Final Seasons of Some More Notable Hall of Famers

Player OPS+ PA Year Age
Ted Williams 190 390 1960 41
Mickey Mantle 142 547 1968 36
Roberto Clemente 137 413 1972 37
Babe Ruth 118 92 1935 40
Joe DiMaggio 116 482 1951 36
Ty Cobb 112 393 1928 41
Jackie Robinson 107 431 1956 37
Frank Robinson 104 79 1976 40
Joe Morgan 103 438 1984 40
Hank Aaron 102 308 1976 42
Stan Musial 101 379 1963 42
Honus Wagner 95 264 1917 43
Tris Speaker 95 212 1928 40
Mike Schmidt 91 172 1989 39
Willie Mays 81 239 1973 42

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To help celebrate the launch of Bill Madden’s new biography on George Steinbrenner, here are a few looks back at the Boss in all his glory:

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For the first time since suffering a recent spate of injuries, the Yankees lack of depth finally came back to bite them. With Andy Pettitte watching from the bench, the Yankees were forced to send Sergio Mitre and his career ERA of 5.49 to the mound in his place. While Mitre was not awful, he wasn’t very good, as Girardi and others suggested in the post game. For some reason, Mitre has often been described as unlucky, usually by people who point to his FIP, but each time he winds up pitching to an ERA around six. Last night was no different, so at some point you have to shoot the messenger.

Joel Zumaya's heat warms up the cold Detroit night. Zumaya threw 19 pitches clocked at 100mph or faster in his outing against the Yankees (Photo: AP).

In the first inning, a throwing error by Arod could have bailed Mitre out of trouble, but then again, it did take a fine play to glove the hard hit ground ball by Miguel Cabrera. Mitre then proceeded to give up a two run hit to Brennan Boesch, which put the Yankees in an early hole. Mitre wound up giving up three runs over 4 1/3 innings, including a HR to old friend Johnny Damon, before giving way to David Robertson.

To be sure, all the blame shouldn’t be placed on Mitre. In three innings against Tigers’ starter Brad Thomas, the Yankees had every opportunity to open up a big lead. Thomas threw more than half of his 68 pitches for balls, yet somehow escaped with only three walks and two runs yielded. The Yankees only runs off Thomas came thanks to another May HR by Mark Teixeira.

With both starting pitchers gone before the end of the fifth, the game turned into a battle of bullpens (and the managers using them). For the Yankees, David Robertson was able to stabilize things with 1 2/3 innings of impressive shutout relief, while Eddie Bonine kept the Yankees off the board for 2 1/3 innings. Bonine owes his unblemished line to Jim Leyland, however, because the Tigers manager intelligently diagnosed that the sixth inning was the right time to bring in his “8th inning” guy. Unencumbered by the same formulaic thinking that has cost the Yankees a game or two this season, Leyland brought Joel Zumaya and his 100mph fastball into the game to face Marcus Thames, who was batting with one out and runners on first and third. Normally, the situation would have cried out for a lefty pinch hitter, but the Yankees had none forthcoming. Instead, Zumaya simply overpowered Thames, inducing a pop-up that stranded the runner on third. After walking Gardner, Zumaya then easily retired Randy Winn. The aborted rally not only kept the Yankees off the board, but exposed their frightening lack of depth, something that would come to the forefront again later in the game. (more…)

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