At only 19 years of age, Jones was contributing to a 96 win team that lost in the World Series. At 20, he started in Centerfield for 153 games for a Braves team that won 101 games. At 21, Jones hit 31 home runs and was playing Gold Glove level defense for a 106 win team.
Sure the average was never there for Jones, and sure he fell off quicker than most Hall of Famers, but, he was also contributing much quicker than other Hall of Famers, for teams that were World Series contenders.
The big knock against Jones was his play after hitting his prime, but his prime included some of the best centerfield play these eyes have ever seen.
So for Jones, stop knocking his post-age 30 play, because before taking a downswing, he was arguably the best centerfielder in the MLB.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Why many will say Griffey is the superior here is simple, he is a Hall of Famer that hit .284 on his career with 630 home runs. He has the MVP award, something Jones never received, ten gold gloves, same as Jones, and seven silver slugger awards, six more than Jones.
Griffey’s prime lasted longer than Jones’s, but the start of his career was not nearly as productive. Griffey got his start at 19, same as Jones, but did not see a .500 season with the Mariners until he was 23. Sure, the Braves were successful before then, and it is tough to hold that against Griffey, but that is a card in Jones’s favor, in my opinion.
Yes, Griffey has the awards and length of prime playing time on Jones, but the rest of the statistics are too close to make a decision. The discussion is about two of the greatest centerfielders of all time, so a deep dive into some of the statistics is needed.
I keep mentioning the longevity of both Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones, and it certainly leans in Griffey’s favor. However, peak for peak is a closer comparison. From 1998 to about 2006, Jones’s typical season was about 155+ games played, 35+ home runs, 100+ RBIs, a slash line of .260/.345/.500 with a WAR around six (total). Griffey saw his peak start earlier and was from around 1993 to 2000. His typical season was 150+ games played, 40+ dingers, 110+ RBIs, a slash line of .300/.380/.560 with a WAR around eight (total).
Certainly, Griffey’s peak statistics are on par with some of the greats, but the gap between him and Jones is much closer than you think. On top of that, injury-wise, Griffey saw two seasons in that 1993-2000 span shortened by injury. Jones never dipped below 150 games until 2008.
As mentioned “peak” Griffey is one of the greatest, if not the greatest centerfielders of all time. But Jones is underrated, shown year-in-year-out with the Hall of Fame voting.
In Jones’ five seasons after leaving Atlanta, he played with the Dodgers, Yankees, White Sox, and Rangers. He hit .210 with a .740 OPS in those five seasons. Jones only averaged just about 13 home runs a year in his 31-35 seasons, far from the 35+ he averaged during his peak.
After his age 35 season, Griffey did not see a total WAR over 1.0. In his ten seasons after turning 30, Griffey actually only saw a total WAR over 1.0 four times, which is better than Jones’s post-age 30 seasons, but still, far from the prime Griffey, whom we saw averaging around a total WAR over 8.0.
It is clear that Griffey is the better player here, but the decision was much closer than you think. The argument for Jones here is the peak, and the statistic that can be looked at is WAR7, which is when you look at a player’s seven best years by WAR and add them up to look at the peak of a player’s career. Andruw Jones’s WAR7 is eleventh all-time at 46.4, ahead of three Hall of Fame centerfielders. Griffey’s WAR7 is 54.0, ranked sixth all-time.
As I said, the clear decision here is Griffey. The statistics at both their primes and longevity both lean in favor of Ken Griffey Jr. However, if there was anything that today’s versus battle showed us, it is that the gap is closer than you think, and Andruw Jones absolutely deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame.
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