Different player/Different era: Ken Griffey Jr.

What he did: Griffey retired last week as one of the greatest ballplayers of his generation, so I won’t regurgitate all the statistics and stories of his greatness that have since shot around the Internet besides to say his 630 home runs, astonishing first half of his career and spotless reputation throughout make him a definite Hall of Famer. But that’s not why I’m writing these words.

This post was inspired by a Joe Posnanski article in the June 14 issue of Sports Illustrated that included a quote from baseball legend Buck O’Neil about Griffey, “He could play in any era.” It seemed like an interesting idea worth exploring more and the article subhead teased it. But the piece was mostly about Griffey’s greatness early in his career and how much more he might have achieved in his own era had injuries not taken their toll over the past decade. It’s a story many have written in the past several years. Posnanski told his story gracefully, as he often does, but I think he missed an opportunity.

Perhaps Posnanski was apprehensive about painting a broader picture of how Griffey might have fared in a particular different era, which isn’t always easy to do. I’ve heard a retired baseball scout I know named Ronnie King say more than once that the game should be judged in 10 year intervals since it changes so much. Still, this new Thursday segment is built around the idea that such comparisons can be made. I’m going to delve deeper into what O’Neil said about Griffey.

Era he might have thrived in: For our purposes, let’s forget the color barrier that barred blacks from playing prior to 1947 and look at how ridiculously well a young Griffey might have done in the 1930s.

Why: This was the Golden Age for hitters, and if Griffey played then, he might have hit .400 or won a Triple Crown or both. The 1930 Philadelphia Phillies for instance hit .315 as a team even with a center fielder named Denny Sothern hitting .280. If Griffey replaces Sothern he joins an outfield of Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doul who hit .386 and .383 that year, respectively. Imagine that 3-4-5 in the batting order.

Griffey also gets to play his home games at the Baker Bowl, one of the few stadiums in baseball history that was more of a hitter’s park than where he spent his best years, the Kingdome. As a left-handed pull hitter, Griffey would destroy the 280.5-foot Baker Bowl right field short porch, even with its 60-foot fence. Either Griffey gets adept at hooking flies over it or he sets the record for doubles. No matter what, the man who hit .327 in 1991 soars to greater heights than ever before.

I invite anyone to take a stab at what Griffey’s numbers might have been in 1930 (I’m guessing 55 home runs, 180 runs batted in and a .395 batting average.) Better, I encourage anyone to offer their perfect era for Griffey.

Different player/Different era is a Thursday feature here that examines how a baseball player might have fared in an era besides his own.

0 thoughts on “Different player/Different era: Ken Griffey Jr.”

  1. This is what baseball reference conversion says he’d have done if all his seasons were played on the 1930 Phillies.

    All seasons are converted to 154-game seasons &
    average team scoring of 937 total runs (6.08 R/G) How this works
    Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO HBP SF BA OBP SLG OPS RC Gact
    1989 19 121 525 465 85 147 28 0 20 85 20 54 79 2 4 .316 .387 .505 .892 90 127
    1990 20 147 694 613 129 216 34 8 27 114 20 75 77 2 4 .352 .422 .566 .988 146 155
    1991 21 146 664 568 105 217 51 1 27 138 22 86 78 1 9 .382 .458 .618 1.076 163 154
    1992 22 135 642 580 119 208 46 5 32 147 12 53 64 6 3 .359 .416 .621 1.037 149 142
    1993 23 148 718 592 147 210 44 4 52 141 20 112 87 7 7 .355 .458 .706 1.164 191 156
    1994 24 150 700 608 154 213 37 6 61 148 16 86 99 3 3 .350 .431 .732 1.163 191 111
    1995 25 77 360 292 70 86 9 0 22 57 5 66 57 0 2 .295 .422 .551 .973 68 72
    1996 26 133 646 544 143 183 29 2 54 161 17 87 99 8 7 .336 .430 .695 1.125 163 140
    1997 27 149 723 615 160 213 39 3 65 187 17 88 115 9 11 .346 .429 .737 1.166 194 157
    1998 28 153 733 635 149 204 37 3 64 182 23 86 115 8 4 .321 .407 .691 1.098 177 161
    1999 29 152 716 605 144 193 29 3 53 156 27 101 103 8 2 .319 .422 .640 1.062 163 160
    2000 30 138 636 515 114 155 24 3 44 133 7 103 111 10 8 .301 .421 .616 1.037 133 145
    2001 31 106 416 360 67 113 22 2 24 76 2 47 68 5 4 .314 .397 .586 .983 84 111
    2002 32 67 235 197 21 59 9 0 9 29 1 31 37 3 4 .299 .396 .482 .878 38 70
    2003 33 50 212 170 46 51 15 1 16 34 1 34 42 7 1 .300 .434 .682 1.116 48 53
    2004 34 79 354 300 63 87 21 0 23 76 1 50 64 2 2 .290 .393 .590 .983 69 83
    2005 35 122 569 497 110 171 35 0 40 119 0 62 88 3 7 .344 .415 .656 1.071 137 128
    2006 36 104 464 418 72 114 20 0 28 84 0 41 74 2 3 .273 .338 .522 .860 73 109
    2007 37 137 626 523 93 160 26 1 33 110 7 93 94 1 9 .306 .406 .549 .955 119 144
    2008 38 136 584 488 84 138 34 1 21 88 0 89 85 3 4 .283 .394 .486 .880 93 143
    2009 39 111 469 389 59 100 23 0 23 76 0 76 76 1 3 .257 .377 .494 .871 73 117
    2010 40 109 401 356 29 80 10 0 0 34 0 41 61 0 4 .225 .302 .253 .555 28 27
    Career 2670 12087 10330 2163 3318 622 43 738 2375 218 1561 1773 91 105 .321 .411 .604 1.015 2590 2665
    162g Avg 162 733 627 131 201 38 3 45 144 13 95 108 6 6 .321 .411 .604 1.015 157 162

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *