Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 25, 2004
BASEBALL: Can The Crime Dog Still Bite?

So, Fred McGriff has been cut by the aimless Devil Rays, who decided to go with that young up-and-comer, 36-year-old Tino Martinez. Honestly, I'm baffled by the idea that McGriff can't get any kind of major league job. He's always kept himself in good shape, he seems to be well-liked, and he's apparently healthy again after last season's knee injury. And his days as a serious masher are hardly ancient history; compare his average season from 1999-2002 to that of Tino or of last year's Tampa 1B, the man the Yankees picked up to back up Jason Giambi, Travis Lee:

PLAYERABH2B3BHRRRBIBBAVGSLGOBPOPSHPBGIDP
McGriff533155251307310477.291.512.379891214
Martinez56515028225799655.266.456.334790414
Lee46811725713606662.251.394.338732212

The point here isn't that this is a particularly relevant comparison, but it was not long ago at all that McGriff was churning out 30-HR, 100-RBI seasons and an OPS close to .900 like clockwork - not impressive for Fred McGriff, but numbers that most mere mortals would be more than happy to see from their first baseman. McGriff had a bad year last season, due to a combination of age, his first-ever serious injury, and Dodger Stadium; even so, he batted .249/.428/.322 (park-adjusted OPS+ of 99), compared to .273/.429/.352 (OPS+ of 106) for Tino and .275/.459/.348 (OPS+ of 111) for Lee. That's not that much of a difference, particularly compared to Tino. And yes, McGriff is 40 and it's hard to bounce back at that age. But given how productive he was and how recently he was doing it, don't you think somebody would give him a chance, at least as a part-timer or a bat off the bench?

David Pinto also speculated a while back that McGriff wouldn't belong in the Hall of Fame. That, too, is a subject that merits more extensive analysis another day, when you look at how today's offensive standards have changed. Just on the quick-and-dirty OPS+ metric, McGriff's career OPS+ of 134 is pretty healthy for a guy who had just over 10,000 plate appearances; that puts him just off the top 100 of all time, and I wonder how many guys with an OPS+ of 130 or higher and 10,000 plate appearances aren't in the Hall.

But at least on the raw numbers, it's worth remembering how unprecedented it is for a guy with McGriff's numbers to be on the outside looking in. There are 24 players who have played 2000 or more career games with a career OBP of .370 or higher and a career slugging average of .500 or higher - 21 Hall of Famers, plus Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Fred McGriff. If you drop the bar to .475 career slugging, you get 5 more, 4 Hall of Famers and Norm Cash. That's pretty good company.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Iíve always liked McGriff and heís been staggeringly consistent throughout his career, but I just donít see him as a Hall of Famer. Playing in such a hitterís era Ė although he was putting up big numbers before everything got out of hand Ė I never really thought of him as one of the very best players in the game.

I think if the Hall of Fame is to avoid being overcrowded with hitters from recent years, it will have to start holding the line somewhere. Much as I admire him, McGriff may be a good place to start.

Posted by: The Mad Hibernian at March 25, 2004 9:37 AM

While I'm a big fan of the Crime Dog, and I'd like him to reach 500 homers, it's hard to fault any team for cutting him. Every ML team should have 1b / DH types who hit better than what he should be able to do these days. On the other hand, he is better than Tino, so for that, the Rays shold be faulted.

Posted by: robert housley at March 26, 2004 5:33 PM
Site Meter 250wde_2004WeblogAwards_BestSports.jpg