I like to imagine that if we just worked hard enough, we could discover a reason to remember everyone. Bill James wrote, in one of his Baseball Books, that every baseball player leaves footprints; it's our job to find them.
Generally speaking, though, we remember just those players who lasted for a long time or did something particularly memorable. Or both, actually, since a lot of players who have lasted a long time are generally forgotten, anyway. Thanks to FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com, though, we've now got a great reason to remember Alfredo Griffin ...
And so, today, we’re pleased to announce that Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs have adopted that unified replacement level, allowing our two models to now measure players on the same scale. As David noted a few minutes ago, this new unified replacement level is now set at 1,000 WAR per 2,430 Major League games, which is the number of wins available in a 162 game season played by 30 teams. Or, an easier way to put it is that our new replacement level is now equal to a .294 winning percentage, which works out to 47.7 wins over a full season.
If you use .294 as the replacement level, 627 of the 628 players with at least 6,000 Major League plate appearances — that is, the equivalent of 10 full seasons of regular playing time — have a career WAR north of 0.0. The only player who falls below replacement level with this baseline is Alfredo Griffin, coming in at -1.0 WAR in 7,331 plate appearances, which works out to -0.08 WAR per full season. For all intents and purposes, that’s zero.
There you have it, friends and countrymen: Alfredo Griffin is our ultimate Replacement Level Player. Rookie of the Year in 1979, Griffin did enjoy a couple of decent seasons (including '79) with the bat, but for many years he was a lousy hitter and just a decent shortstop. According to the numbers we've got, anyway. Someday we'll have better numbers, no doubt, at which point Griffin will go up or down and someone else will take his mantle. For now, though, Alfredo Griffin's the man. And I see his career not as a testament to the foolishness of his employers, but rather to his work habits and his ability to get along with his managers.
And yeah, I know I sorta buried the lede here, but I did mention a few weeks ago that FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference had come together on setting replacement-level winning percentage. The linked article above, by the estimable Dave Cameron, has all the details for those of you who care about such things.