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Ken Griffey Jr. & BABIP: A Quick Statistical Glance

One of the rallying cries of both the pro-Griffey camp and the non-anti-Griffey camp so far has been that, if you take into consideration his poor luck on balls in play, he hasn't been that bad. And on the surface, it's true - through 156 plate appearances, Griffey has a decent number of line drives but a .220 BABIP, ninth-lowest in baseball among 274 hitters with 100 PAs. If you regress that BABIP up towards something more reasonable, then Griffey's batting line very quickly begins to resemble that of a contributing player.

There's a problem with this approach, though. Let's take a look at Griffey's breakdown by hit trajectory:

Career BA 2009 BA Career BABIP 2009 BABIP
Groundballs 0.221 0.103 0.221 0.103
Flyballs 0.232 0.191 0.093 0.130
Line Drives 0.750 0.778 0.732 0.750

Griffey's been unlucky on groundballs, with a BABIP less than half of what it is for his career. On fly balls, he's hit for a worse average but a better BABIP, this being due to his low number of home runs. On line drives, it's pretty much a wash.

So we want to hone in on those grounders, because those are what seem to be holding him back. A .103 BABIP is significantly lower than a .221 BABIP, but is it fair to hold him to that standard? Back in the day, Griffey used to be rather fleet of foot. If you just look at his performance since getting traded from Seattle - around the point when his body started to complain - his BABIP on grounders drops to .190.

.190 is still quite a ways away from .103, but if you regress him up to the former level of performance, then Griffey gains all of three or four hits. Each of them presumably singles. Adding four singles to Griffey's season line puts him at .238/.353/.392, which is pretty much what he did a year ago only with a drop in power output. That's not very good.

I'd like to give Griffey the benefit of the doubt. I'd like to believe that he's better than he's looked. But through nearly a third of the season, he's sitting on ten extra-base hits, with only one homer longer than 375 feet. I'll stop short of making any declarative statements, but the evidence is beginning to mount that Ken Griffey Jr. is finished.