Mike Trout over Ken Griffey in center field? Not yet

Ken Griffey Jr. in action with the Seattle Mariners. Otto Greule Jr. /Allsport

The experts say Angels star Mike Trout has surpassed Ken Griffey Jr. as the best centerfielder of the divisional era. Not yet

Has Mike Trout already done enough to surpass Ken Griffey Jr. as the best center fielder of the divisional era?

MLB Network personalities Brian Kenny and Bob Costas say he has. Both selected Trout ahead of Griffey when the third installment of the network’s ‘Top 10 Right Now’ focused on post-1969 center fielders  Wednesday night.

Keep in mind that in Griffey, we’re talking about a first-ballot Hall of Famer who was named on 99.3 percent of the ballots. We’re talking about a player who to date has more than twice as many home runs as Trout, more than twice as many RBIs, and who has played more than twice as many games.

Granted Trout still has half his career to be played. But even using an age 28 equivalency, Griffey appears to be the better candidate. Using that as a benchmark, Griffey still leads Trout in home runs (350 to 302), RBIs (1,018 to 798), and base hits (1,569 to 1,380). Trout does lead Griffey in career batting average through age 28 (.304 to .300) and walks (838 to 656).

For the record, here are the respective top 10s of Kenny and Costas:

               Kenny                   Costas

1              M Trout                M Trout

2              K Griffey Jr.          K Griffey Jr.

3              C Beltran              J Edmonds

4              B Williams            K Puckett

5              J Edmonds           D Murphy

6              D Murphy             F Lynn

7              K Puckett             An Jones

8              An Jones               K Lofton

9              K Lofton               C Beltran

10           F Lynn                   B Williams

The interesting aspect of the Kenny and Costas lists is that they settled on the identical 10 players, albeit in some different order. But their decision to place Trout ahead of Griffey is, as the data below shows, at best problematic. In fact, it’s not at all clear that Trout has already done enough to even nail down the No. 2 slot on a post-1969 list.

He probably will eventually…but not yet.

To actually assess who deserves to be on this list, in what order, and how good a job either Kenny or Costas did, we need some criteria. Probably due to time constraints, neither Kenny nor Costas specified their criteria, although in the case of Kenny and probably Costas as well you can assume they had some.

We’re going to apply four criteria designed to reflect the broad spectrum of demands placed on center fielders. We’ve assessed 30 well-known men who played more games at center field than any other position and given them an ordinal score equal to their rank in each of the criteria.

Alphabetically, the 30 nominees are:  Brady Anderson, Carlos Beltran, Brett Butler, Lorenzo Cain, Cesar Cedeno, Johnny Damon, Eric Davis, Jim Edmonds, Jacoby Ellsbury, Steve Finley, Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, Adam Jones, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp, Chet Lemon, Kenny Lofton, Fred Lynn, Garry Maddox, Andrew McCutchen, Willie McGee, Rick Monday, Dale Murphy, Amos Otis, Kirby Puckett, Mike Trout, Andy Van Slyke, Vernon Wells, Bernie Williams, and Willie Wilson.

When all four categories are assessed, the player with the average ordinal score closest to a perfect rating of 1.0 is the winner.

The criteria are: 1. five-year peak performance with OPS+ as the yardstick; 2. accumulated career OPS+; 3. All Star game appearances, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards; 4. Career Defensive Wins Above Average.

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