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On The Topic of Jr.

So the great Seattle Baseball debate has been going on violently for the past few months and with under a week to go until pitchers and catchers report in Peoria, AZ, time is running out for the decision to be made.

Should we bring back Jr.? Most of the Seattle area columnists seem to think so. The sabermetric thinking blogosphere disagrees whole heartily. They argue that statistically Griffey has fallen off the planet much like Edgar and Olerud did in 2004. It wouldn’t be right to sign him and watch the shell of a “kid” struggle and be released come June.

But I say, “I don’t give a shit.” Reports came out that he was suffering from a knee injury all year and that it has been surgically repaired and now he is healthy having lost 20 pounds. I’m willing to bank that Jr. will return to his 2007 form slugging 30 home runs. Hell, I would pay him 5 million to hit just one more dinger in a M’s uniform. These are obvious reasons why I am not a general manager.

But I was thinking of all the scouting reports saying things like “Jr. can’t catch up to a fastball any more,” and “He should only hit against right handed pitching”. I decided to spend my lazy Sunday looking up every at-bat in which Jr. hit a home run using’s Pitch f/x data.

Here’s the spread sheet I made.

That took me the better half of my day and I was kind of disappointed with how many different sources I had to use to find all that information.

Some immediate things that jump out at me was that 14 of his 18 home runs were off right-handed pitching. So it would be a safe bet to only allow Griffey to hit off of right handers, who encompass the majority of Major League pitching.

The pitch selection looked like this: 9 Fastballs, 5 Sliders, 2 Curve Balls, and 2 Change Ups. So the myth that he can only hit 70 MPH Curve Balls for home runs just isn’t true. The other thing you could say is that the only reason he hits Fastballs further than Curve Balls is because Fastballs jump off the bat faster, thus going further.

But only 5 of his home runs were off pitches that were 90 MPH or faster, 4 of them being Fastballs. The one that I remember very vividly is the one off Kyle Farnsworth in Yankee Stadium when I made the pilgrimage to New York. He started Jr. off with a 98 MPH Fastball, then a 99, and then he stroked the 97 MPH into the right field seats. If he knows that Fastballs coming he can for sure catch up with it.

The last thing I wanted to look at was the distance and how it compared to Safeco. The Safe’s right field was taylor made for Jr.’s swing but is not as friendly as the Great American Ballpark in Cincinatti. These are very rough estimates and should be taken with a grain of salt but I feel pretty confident in them.

Overall there are plenty of flaws in this analysis because I only looked at his home runs and it does not include all of his other batted ball data. But this is a window into what Ken Griffey Jr. can still do what he does best. And coming into the season healthy I think Griffey can be an impactful player for the Seattle Mariners in 2009.


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