As the Reds enter the off season I wonder where they stand on the issue of retaining a new centerfielder.

Now is the time to ponder it, and I think it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed.

While Griffey is an icon and was once a fleet fly-catching marvel he is no longer that player and in 4 weeks he’s going to be 36 years old, Yep, that’s not a stutter…the “Kid” is turning 36 on November 11th, old enough now to run for President of the United States.

But is he too old to play centerfield for the Reds?

Or any other MLB team for that matter?

In the long history of the franchise the Reds can’t claim a plethora of aging outfielders who caught alot of balls. They have had exactly eight outfielders over the age of 35 that had over 150 outfield putouts in a season, only one center fielder who had over 300 putouts. The list is a who’s who of discarded stars who made most of their name elsewhere, all of them played on losing teams, except a wartime year with Gee Walker in CF and the large framed corner guys, Bichette and Parker on some less than stellar second place teams.

PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO        G     AGE    
1    Kiki Cuyler              1936      322      140   37  5th     74   80  .481   18    	 
2    Gee Walker               1944      293      117   36  3rd     89   65  .578   16    
3    Dave Parker              1987      278      142   36  2nd     84   78  .519    6   
4    Dante Bichette           2000      236      121   36  2nd     85   77  .525   10    
5    Charley Jones            1886      217      127   36  5th     65   73  .471   27 
6    Tommy Leach              1915      200       96   37  7th     71   83  .461   20    
7    Edd Roush                1931      197       88   38  8th     58   96  .377   43     
8    Kiki Cuyler              1937      174      106   38  8th     56   98  .364   40    

Prior to the run of injuries Griffey was without a doubt a world class fielder his run from 1996-2000 was something to behold, lots of putouts

YEAR TEAM         AGE  G     PO    A    E   DP  PCT   RANGE
1996 Mariners     26  137   375   10    4    1  .990   2.81 
1997 Mariners     27  153   388    9    6    3  .985   2.59 
1998 Mariners     28  158   408   11    5    2  .988   2.65 
1999 Mariners     29  158   386   10    9    2  .978   2.51 
2000 Reds         30  141   374   10    5    3  .987   2.72 

Griffey’s 2000 putout numbers as a Red were good for 19th all time for the franchise and was the highest total since Eric Davis had 380 in 1987.

It also was the last year the Reds had a winning season, it also was the last time the Reds had an ERA below league average.

Just for kicks here are the best putouts by a CF in the history of the game.

PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO        G       PO       AGE    
1    Taylor Douthit           1928      547      154      547       27   
2    Richie Ashburn           1951      538      154      538       24   
3    Richie Ashburn           1949      514      154      514       22   
4    Chet Lemon               1977      512      149      512       22   
5    Dwayne Murphy            1980      507      158      507       25   
T6   Richie Ashburn           1956      503      154      503       29   
T6   Dom DiMaggio             1948      503      155      503       31   
8    Richie Ashburn           1957      502      156      502       30   
9    Richie Ashburn           1953      496      156      496       26   
10   Richie Ashburn           1958      495      152      495       31   
11   Andruw Jones             1999      493      162      493       22   
12   Jim Busby                1954      491      155      491       27   
13   Omar Moreno              1979      490      162      490       26   
T14  Baby Doll Jacobson       1924      488      152      488       33   
T14  Al Bumbry                1980      488      160      488       33   
T14  Bobby Thomson            1949      488      156      488       25   
17   Mike Cameron             2003      485      147      485       30   
18   Lloyd Waner              1931      484      153      484       25   
19   Richie Ashburn           1954      483      153      483       27   
T20  Willie Wilson            1980      482      159      482       24   
T20  Jim Busby                1953      482      150      482       26   
22   Omar Moreno              1980      479      162      479       27   
23   Tom Oliver               1930      477      154      477       27   
24   Dwayne Murphy            1984      474      153      474       29   
25   Lloyd Moseby             1984      473      156      473       24    

Note that Richie Ashburn is the Ozzie Smith of Center Fielders and that the vast majority of top flycatchers are on the soft side of the ripe old age of 30.

In 2004 Griffey got to 2.3 balls per game played, if he was to stay on that rate he would have to play 153 games to get

350 putouts. Which leads to the questions, can he play 153 games? Can he keep his legs healthy? And can the Reds win with a centerfielder only getting 350 put outs a season with the flyball pitchers on this staff?

Better yet does anyone know how few teams have had 36 year old CF’s with over 300 putouts in a year?

It’s not a long list, though it does have its luminaries its also one that is fraught with guys on losing teams.

Breaking it up by eras it goes like this:

1876-1920 
PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
2    Dummy Hoy                1898      348      348      148       36   
T3   Tommy Leach              1914      321      321      136       36   
T3   Dummy Hoy                1899      321      321      154       37   
5    Dode Paskert             1920      306      306      137       38   

Every guy above played on a sub .500 team and was out of the game almost a year or 2 after the achievement, of note is that Hoy played on the Louisville Colonels, a team contracted after 1899… his backup was a young Tommy Leach who when the team was contracted was moved over to the Pirates where he made his name with another couple of transfers named Clarke and Wagner.

1921-1945
PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
1    Ty Cobb                  1924      417      417      155       37   
2    Tris Speaker             1926      394      394      149       38   
3    Cy Williams              1924      368      368      145       36   
4    Ty Cobb                  1923      362      362      141       36   
5    Doc Cramer               1942      352      352      150       36   
6    Doc Cramer               1943      346      346      138       37   
7    Sam Rice                 1926      342      342      152       36   
8    Doc Cramer               1944      337      337      141       38   
T9   Max Carey                1927      331      331      141       37  
T9   Earl Averill             1938      331      331      131       36   
10   Mike Kreevich            1945      328      328      121       37   
11   Tris Speaker             1924      323      323      128       36   
12   Kiki Cuyler              1936      322      322      140       37     
13   Doc Cramer               1945      314      314      140       39   
14   Tris Speaker             1925      311      311      109       37   
15   Eddie Brown              1928      309      309      129       36

Of note: Cobb and Speaker were both managers of teams and played themselves in CF, both experienced losing seasons doing it as well as winning. Cramer and Kreevich are most likely a result of wartime shortages. Three of the above players comprise 40% of the total players who were trotted out there post 35.

 1946-1960 

PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
None
Expansion Era version 1 & 2 
1961-1976
PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
1    Bill Bruton              1962      394      394      145       36   
2    Willie Davis             1976      349      349      128       36   
3    Bill Bruton              1963      339      339      138       37   
4    Willie Mays              1968      301      301      142       37   

Bruton was a small, skinny guy on a 5th and 6th place Braves team, Davis never played full time again and was out of the game in 77 and 78, Mays is in the same vein as Ty and Tris, a one of the kind guy who had no major injuries as he gained on father time.

Expansion Era Version 3 
1977-1992
PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
1    Robin Yount              1992      371      371      139       36   
2    Willie Wilson            1992      355      355      120       36   

A HOF player and a prototype 80’s CF in his last year as a starter. Yount retired 2 years later.

Expansion ERA Version 4.0 
1993-2005
PUTOUTS                       YEAR     PO       PO        G       AGE    
1    Brett Butler             1993      369      369      155       36   
2    Steve Finley             2004      359      359      158       39   
3    Otis Nixon               1995      357      357      138       36   
4    Otis Nixon               1997      351      351      144       38   
5    Marquis Grissom          2003      343      343      148       36   
6    Otis Nixon               1996      342      342      125       37   
7    Marquis Grissom          2004      341      341      142       37     
8    Craig Biggio             2003      326      326      150       37   
9    Steve Finley             2002      319      319      144       37   
10   Kenny Lofton             2003      314      314      136       36    
11   Brady Anderson           2000      307      307      132       36   
12   Steve Finley             2001      300      300      131       36 

This aside for the 21-45 era is the one most rich with the achievements of the post 35 year old CF, but like the aforementioned 21-45 era the numbers are dominated by 3 players who hold 66% of the places above. This however is the list that can boast a player who played on World Series team that won, with Finley hoisting the trophy with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

So out of the 27 centerfielders over the age of 35 who had 300 putouts only two played on teams that went to the world series and only one played on a team that one it all.

Not very good odds if you ask me.

So as the Reds ponder the off season do they take note that for Griffey to obtain 350 putouts next season (using the same rate of balls he saw per game as this season) he’d have to play 153 games. To get 300 putouts he’d have to appear in 131 games.

Most of us would love his bat in the lineup for 153 games, but some of us have to ponder where his glove should be there in centerfield.

After all outs are the responsibilty of the nine not just the pitcher.

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.

Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.

After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.

A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Brian–nice writeup.

    “So out of the 27 centerfielders over the age of 35 who had 300 putouts only two played on teams that went to the world series and only one played on a team that one it all.”

    Comment regarding expectations:
    If one came up with any collection of ~30 ballplayers and asked how many of them made it to the world series, and how many won it all, what would be your null expectation? If there are 30 teams, the expectation is that from a random sampling of 30 ballplayers, ~2 would have made it to the world series and ~1 would have won the world series, no? If we accept that as our null expectation, we’d predict that a group of players that helps a team would win more often than this null while a group of players that hurt a team would win less often than the null. Therefore, the conclusion would be that while 35+ year old outfielder that makes at least 300 putouts in a season doesn’t really help you, he also doesn’t hurt you.

    Granted, there haven’t always been 30 teams, but to get closer to your n=27, we could go back to the number of teams before the diamondbacks/devil rays (n=28) or before the rockies/marlins (n=26)…and that’s already 12 years ago (though maybe that’s not so long…seems like yesterday!). Maybe a better idea would be to get an average number of teams over the time period from which you sampled the players? My point in all this is that it’s important to have a reference like this when making this sort of comparison.

    But I’m all for trading Griffey. I love the guy, but it doesn’t make sense to have a 36+ year old player with high salary on a team you’re trying to rebuild with the farm system. They key, I think, is to get a reasonably competitive team of young (cheap) players and cheap veterans, and then add a key, high-priced veteran or three. Astros are a nice example of that approach. Just hope we can a) find a taker for Griff that he’s amenable to and b) get Uncle Carl to sign off on it.
    -JinAZ

  2. Good Points, I’m not a math guy by any means so I often don’t see it from that deep of a math point of view… but in retrospect I’m removing Carey off the list he was flipped to the Dodgers in 1926.

    So that leaves Finley as the sole WS apperance out of the 27.

  3. Cool — it’s interesting stuff. I wanted to say that always enjoy reading your posts, as they offer a nice historical perspective that you can’t find elsewhere. -JinAZ

  4. Sure. Now put him back out there for another three years.

  5. i guess we’ll never know what the whitesox offered DanO, but i think the reds last/best opportunity to trade griffey probably went by the boards at the deadline.

    that being said, what this analysis doesn’t look at is teams that had cf’s of any age that didn’t get 300 PO (if that is the standard, it seems like an odd stat to me). I would imagine that plenty of teams have been successful with centerfielders who have been injured leading to shortened seasons.

    Griffey wasn’t that much slower in the field, he was just hurt this year, and i think the reds have adequate backups that if he goes down again, we’ll deal with it.

    Grif has also said that he would be amenable to playing a corner if he is noticably slower in the field, so i don’t think his glove is any reason to think of trading him.

    His contract maybe.

    The other thing, is who would be better in CF right now? I assume we wouldn’t be getting a young hotshot cf in trade for him, so we’d be plunking in kearns/pena/freel i suppose? I’d rather get as many games from griffey as i can than rely on that trio, as long as we aren’t considering money.

  6. I would imagine that plenty of teams have been successful with centerfielders who have been injured leading to shortened seasons.

    Very true Al, but that’s the point in a way, the young, fleet CF will make those 300 Putouts because he’s out there every day and he’s young and fleet.

    Can we depend on Junior for that?

    BTW the reason it doesn’t look at numbers under 300 is beacause the average MLB CF catches more than 300 balls a year if they play enough,

    Look at the top 10 from last year all CF save Ichiro and Crawford to swift guys.

    PUTOUTS                         PO        G     
    1    Randy Winn                  410      151   
    2    Brady Clark                 399      145   
    3    Johnny Damon                394      147   
    4    Aaron Rowand                388      157   
    5    Jeremy Reed                 383      137   
    6    Ichiro Suzuki               381      158   
    7    Carlos Beltran              378      150   
    8    Grady Sizemore              373      155   
    9    Andruw Jones                365      159   
    10   Carl Crawford               361      154   
  7. The Hardball Times opined that Griffey was the worst fielding CF in MLB last year. They base this on putouts as compared with balls put into play. In other words, they base their ratings on the player’s range. See http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/2005-gold-gloves/

    This doesn’t look at arm strength and accuracy, which is defnitely a plus for Griffey. That aside, this is a disturbing analysis.

  8. The problem is there is no cut and dry answer. Getting a CF with more range may help turn a higher pct of balls in play into outs a little; it doesn’t do anything to solve the 1.49 HR/9 that our 6 main starters allowed last year and that jumps up to a whopping 1.68 when you take out Harang’s numbers.

  9. I’d really like to have someone out there to catch those flyballs. That could drop the team ERA by a quarter run, at least.

  10. What would help drop the team ERA the most is to get some starters that can keep the ball on the ground and in the park.

  11. Or get some starters that don’t stink… (Milton, Wilson, Ortiz come immediately to mind…)

  12. Incidentally, we just saw a team with mostly no-name pitching and excellent fielding sweep the World Series.

    The Hardball Times analysis looked suspect in a couple spots, like how poorly Alex Rodriguez rated, how extraordinary Juan Castro appeared to be (he’s very good, but he’s not twice as good as anyone who ever played the game), or the turnaround for CF Vernon Wells from 2004 to 2005.

    Most of it seemed on the money, though, which causes me to worry about Felipe López’s rating as the second-worst SS in the majors. I’d hoped his range would compensate for the errors.

  13. Also, the Hardball Times just published a good article on Pete Rose, in praise of his largely forgotten career as a player.

    http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/pete-rose-the-ballplayer/

  14. News flash – Reds aren’t going to WS, with or without Grif. Moot point. O’Brien probably blew it in not trading him to White Sox when opportunity presented itself. Maybe ‘STROS are still interested? They suffer from anemia.

  15. Most of it seemed on the money, though, which causes me to worry about Felipe López’s rating as the second-worst SS in the majors. I’d hoped his range would compensate for the errors

    My belief is he gets moved to 2nd base eventually and a glove man is picked up at SS. I’m fairly certain that the Reds like Felipe over there, where his range would enhance his game there, as of now he’s passable at SS, he has some problems(IMO)going to his right.

    News flash – Reds aren’t going to WS, with or without Grif. Moot point.

    True, but improved defense could get the Team ERA under 5.00, that would be a nice start…. maybe they’ll get there before I’m too old to remember the last one.

  16. I used to be skeptical about Lopez’s defense, but I was swayed this season. He made three absolutely outstanding plays vs the Marlins in a game we caught @ GABP, seats a couple rows behind the visitors dugout. If he can replicate 2005 I’ll take it. Gladly.

    Felipe, I must admit, stongly outperformed my expectations for him this season. Plus, he is only 25. He is one of the few Reds that I want at the plate in a crucial situation. The ball explodes off his bat. Tremendous pop, and he’s still improving.

Comments are closed.

About Brian Erts

Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the "American League".... but I digress. Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be. After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A's fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey. A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia

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Reds - General