In a few days, Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Many flowery adjectives have been used to describe Griffey’s career since he retired in 2010, so I won’t waste time elaborating on his career in this space. If you are reading this, then hopefully you are familiar with who Griffey is and what he did in the batter’s box and while playing centerfield.
It is his time in the batter’s box against Mike Mussina that this piece is concerned with. Being in the batter’s box against Mike Mussina was not a pleasant time for Mr. Griffey. Here are Griffey’s year-by-year stats against Moose:
The bulk of Mussina vs. Griffey occurred in the 1990s when Griffey was winning home run titles and MVPs while being the face of baseball. With the exception of 1996, Mussina dominated Griffey.
Griffey’s .508 OPS against Mussina is the lowest among the 15 pitchers who faced Griffey in 50 or more plate appearances. It’s also the lowest among pitchers who Griffey faced 40 or more times. To find a pitcher who dominated Griffey more than Mike Mussina, you have to turn to Mike Boddicker (.362 OPS in 32 PA). Many other elite pitchers of Griffey’s era struggled against him. Griffey had a .981 OPS against Roger Clemens in 102 PA, a 1.155 OPS against Mussina’s Oriole teammate Scott Erickson in 77 PA, and a .963 OPS against lefty Andy Pettitte in 70 PA.
The most impressive stat for me is that when Mussina’s team needed him the most, he kept the best hitter in baseball in check during the 1997 ALDS. That year Griffey slugged 56 home runs, slashed .304/.382/.646, led the league in runs, RBI, HR, total bases, and slugging percentage. He won the AL MVP unanimously in the off-season. None of that mattered in Game 1 and 4 of the ALDS. Mussina dominated Griffey (and the Mariners) across 14 innings of brilliant work that helped the Orioles to wins in both games (Randy Johnson was the opposing pitcher in those Mussina starts). Mussina was even better in the ALCS (he did not allow a run in two starts and struck out 25 Indians), but the Orioles’ offense did not score a single run while he was on the mound.
Patrick’s Note: Mussina’s 1997 postseason just looks better and better every time we look at it. How about that Game 4 performance? Up 2-1 in the clinching game of the series, Mussina fans A-Rod and Griffey back-to-back in the third inning, and in the six, with the score 3-1, he retires A-Rod, Griffey, and Edgar Martinez—three of the greatest hitters of all time, in order. Unbelievable. And people say Mussina never came through in big postseason moments.
Ryan’s Note: I feel bad that a post about Ken Griffey Jr. has delved into Mussina’s 1997 postseason, but while we are down the rabbit hole let me mention those 1997 Indians who Mussina dominated. Those Indians had Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Matt Williams, and David Justice at the peak of their careers. The entire team had a .358 OBP. and a .825 OPS. Baseball in the late 1990s was a different kind of game.