Highs and Lows of UZR 2007-9: Griffey Jr.

As explained in the overview post, here, this is part of a series looking at the best and worst defensive performers over the past three combined seasons. Rankings are done by adding a player’s UZR with his aggregate positional adjustment so as to level the playing field with regards to difficulty. Essentially, it’s removing the grading curve.

Previously covered:
The Best
5th, Ryan Zimmerman 43.7 runs above average.
4th, Omar Vizquel 45.8 runs above average.
3rd, J.J. Hardy 48.7 runs above average.
2nd, Franklin Gutierrez 51.4 runs above average.
1st, Chase Utley 54.8 runs above average.

The Worst
5th, Jason Bay -64.9 runs to average.

Tonight, the fourth worst player from 2007-9: OF Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey managed to get himself on this list despite spending nearly all of 2009 riding the bench or in the DH role; that is how bad he was in 2007 and 2008. His 37.1 runs below average in 2007 was, by far, the worst total in baseball that year — a whopping seven runs worst than the next competitor. 2008 was not as bad, though a small part of that was thanks to a reduction in defensive playing time, from 133 games in the field in 2007 to 123 in 2008. The Mariners in 2009 finally got it right by using him just 11 times in the field; though, of course, he still suffered from the DH penalty as far as positional adjustment goes.

On top of all the horrible fielding, Griffey’s bat hasn’t been up to the task of justifying his playing time since 2005. Since that season, he has accumulated 2,124 plate appearances with which he has brought back 0.3 wins above replacement in value. Unfortunately, his best offensive season, 2007, was paired with his worst defensive season, making him still barely above replacement level.

Having had his swan song return to Seattle this past season, and still dealing with numerous knee issues despite being a platooned DH, the overarching probability has to be that Griffey retires this off season. With time, the memories of how he ended his career defensively will fade and his reputation from the 1990s will be what lives on, warranted or not.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

10 Responses to “Highs and Lows of UZR 2007-9: Griffey Jr.”

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  1. M W says:

    Junior has become an uncommonly bad outfielder, but is there really any doubt that his reputation as one of the great players of the 90s is justified? We don’t have UZR or other solid metrics, but I think that most people who regularly watched him play during those years would say that he was brilliant. Such is my recollection.

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  2. Jason461 says:

    I could be wrong, but my guess is that by the time this bottom five list is finished, Reds pitchers from 2007-08 are going to look a lot better.

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  3. Mitch says:

    Why is Griffey still penalized by the DH positional adjustment? I understand the argument in terms of calculating his win value, but why should that affect his standing in terms of worst defenders? Shouldn’t we be interested in who are the worst defenders that actually play defense?

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    • Toffer Peak says:

      Players are DHs because they are too bad to play anywhere on the field. This series is attempting to evaluate players’ overall defensive value. Griffey’s defense was so bad that they had to stick him at DH and he still ended up on this list. If he wanted to avoid the indignity of this award he should have stayed off the field entirely.

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  4. Sean says:

    “Warranted or not”? That’s not really necessary. It’s warranted the same way remembering Frank Thomas as an offensive force is warranted, or remembering Willie Mays as a great all-around player is warranted. It’s fair to say that nearly no great (PED-free) player is, in the twilight of his career, the player we should remember him to be.

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    • Mitch says:

      I think Matthew meant that perhaps Griffey’s defensive reputation exceeds his actual defensive abilities.

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  5. The Hit Dog says:

    Matthew: would you post the actual UZR numbers for the player you are talking about (for yesterday, Griffey)? I don’t see the actual cumulative number for the play until the post for the next player on the list comes out. Thanks.

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  6. Nik says:

    So much for that being his swan song.

    Ugh…I don’t want another year of Griffey.

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