Ken Griffey Jr. just tied Mickey Mantle for 12th place on the all-time homerun list yesterday with his 536th career homerun. It was his 35th of the season that has essentially been his renaissance. Whenever a player ties someone on the homerun list, it makes me wonder about whether or not Player X is better than Player Y. In most cases it is an obvious answer, like when Sammy Sosa tied Ted Williams, I was not about to anoint Still At That Point Slammin' Sammy as the new herald of superior hitting. But Mickey Mantle versus Ken Griffey Jr.? Even if Griffey does not surpass Mantle, I have to see how close these two historic centerfielders can get. Thanks to the changes made to Net Runs Above Average, we can now see how players like Mantle, who played before 1972, fare in comparison to today's players in an adjusted for difficulty (or all-time, however you prefer to read it) format. On the the tables!
We can see from the table that Mantle had more superior seasons (two that cracked 65 on the per 100 game scale of NRAA) while Griffey's highest NRAA total was 47.94. To give you some idea of how good Mantle's two best seasons were, Derrek Lee only has an NRAA score of 58.77 this season, and he already has accumulated 11.6 WARP3. Griffey is by far the premier centerfielder of his time, but when stacked up against Mantle it is not as much of a competition as some might assume. Check out 1957: .394 EqA, almost 100 EQRAA, and an NRAA/162 score of 113.60. Makes me sad I was never able to see Mantle play. Let's now compare Griffey to Andruw Jones and Jim Edmonds, his counterparts in the 90's and 2000's as the dominant centerfielders.
Jim Edmonds has a better NRAA score for his career than Ken Griffey Jr., but the reason for that is that Edmonds did not suffer through injuries for 3 years straight that sapped his effectiveness and his usefulness. We could say Griffey has already experienced his decline years, and just hope that his fall from grace due to aging is not as harsh as his fall due to injury. Andruw Jones is interesting. His NRAA scores were held up almost entirely by defense through most of the first half of his career, only posting EqA's in the .280's and .290's in his best years, but now that his EqA has creeped over the .300 line, his Rate2 has dropped to average defensive levels. I would really enjoy seeing one season of offensive juggernaut Andruw Jones mingling with defensive wizard Andruw Jones.
Bernie Williams is the only other premier type centerfielder from the same era as these other players, but I don't think he has the defensive chops to muscle his way into this trifecta of sweet. Of course there is only one way to find out. His career EqA is only .305 (higher than Jones, but Jones career Rate2 is 111 as opposed to Bernie's 99) and that is not going to cut it when thrown up against Edmonds at .310/107 and Griffey at .317/100. Incase anyone missed that, I had EqA/Rate2. I think I'll starting listing them like that in the text portion of articles, like I just did, just so everyone knows. It'll be an interesting time when all of these players retire and are possibly enshrined in the Hall of Fame, because they are all players I grew up with. I'm only 19, so these are my people. Maybe I can sneak my way onto the BBWAA by then...it all starts with the newspaper internship next summer, then the BBWAA is mine.