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