John-Ford Griffin's greatness in college and the major leagues

Updated: Jun 28, 2021


John-Ford Griffin's career was short, but it was great. Photo Credit: Toronto Blue Jays

John-Ford Griffin's name probably doesn't ring a bell in your head unless you're a hardcore Blue Jays fan or were a fan of Florida State Baseball during his time in college. Even if you fit those criteria, you may or may not remember the video-game numbers he put up at Florida State, and then the success he had in his brief but solid major league career.


Griffin went from batting over .420 during his time as a Seminole to more than holding his own at the plate as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays from 2005-2007. If you have read one of my articles before, you know where this is going. If you're new here, which I hope you are, Griffin's career deserves a closer look at how crazy it was.


GO 'NOLES (COLLEGE)


Before I even get the chance to dive into his career, I have to mention just how absurd his stats were at Florida State. While he doesn't appear in the #1 spot for any statistic, he is in the top ten of several.


He started his career 3-3 before going 1-for-7, and then was a hitting machine for the rest of his freshman season, never going more than three games without a hit. He finished his rookie season batting .436 (58-133) with 14 doubles, three home runs and 35 RBI.


His sophomore season featured the lowest batting average of his career as he had an increased role, but I think a .403 batting average sufficed for being the lowest of his college days. His sophomore season sported 17 three and four-hit games, including four with four hits. Starting March 4 against Pittsburgh and ending April 14 against Miami, he had a 23-game hitting streak where he had 48 hits in 99 at-bats, a .484 clip over a 23-game span. He continued to hit well for the remainder of the season, finishing with 121 hits, 33 doubles, 3 triples, 9 home runs and 58 RBI, batting .404.


Griffin's junior season was incredible. He never went more than two games without a hit and tapped into his power stroke to boot. Despite not having a long hitting streak like the year prior, he still contributed 113 hits, batted a ridiculous .450 (third all-time), swatted 19 home runs, drove in 75 and had a clean 30 doubles. His slash line was stuff of legends, slashing .450/.542/.797.


He won ACC Player of the Year in 2001 alongside being named a Consensus All-American by the NCAA among several other honors. He was the third FSU player in five years to win it, joining J.D. Drew and Marshall McDougall, who were the first three Seminoles to do so.


In his collegiate career, he batted .427/.506/.686 with 78 doubles, 31 home runs and 168 RBI. It was this stat line that put him on major-league radars, getting selected 23rd overall by the Yankees in 2001.


TRADE WINDS (MINORS)


While Griffin made the majors fairly quickly, it wasn't for the team that drafted him. He was sent to the Oakland Athletics in a three-team trade in 2002 and promptly was traded to Toronto seven months later. He played just two games in the Oakland system, but to that point in his career, he batted .291 with 13 home runs and 84 RBI. Simply put, he hit at almost every level. Despite this, he was ranked the 76th-best prospect in baseball before the 2002 season.


In two AA seasons with Toronto, he hit .261, 35 home runs and drove in 156 runs. Griffin was an extremely reliable hitter his whole career and that did not change in the minors. He also walked a considerable amount as his OBP was regularly over .330 each season.


He went off in his first season in AAA, swatting 30 home runs, 103 RBI, batting .254/.335/.475 and earning himself his first call-up to the major leagues.


THE SIX (MAJORS)


Griffin was a September call-up alongside Shawn Marcum and Ken Huckaby. He was summoned as a pinch hitter for catcher Gregg Zaun against Baltimore that day and promptly roped a double off Aaron Rakers in his first at-bat but was left stranded on the basepaths as the Orioles won 5-0 after Daniel Cabrera tossed seven shutout innings.


He played sparingly after that, but finally got his first start against Kansas City 24 days later and rewarded John Gibbons with a 2-4 performance and was instrumental in the victory, driving in four runs as the Blue Jays slammed the Royals in the first game of the last series of the season.


He started the last game of the season as well and had a moment to remember, clubbing his first career home run off Jimmy Gobble as the Blue Jays won 7-2.


Griffin finished the season 4-13 (.308) with three of his four hits going for extra bases, slugging .692. In a small sample size, his OPS was 1.000 and his OPS+ was 154 (that means for the seven games he played, he was 54-percent better than the average hitter!) in a solid first audition in the major leagues, having a .416 wOBA and 157 wRC+.


2006 was an injury-riddled season for Griffin who batted just .225 and didn't get a chance to play in the majors.


Griffin returned to form in 2007, smacking 26 home runs and 83 RBI and sporting a ridiculous .818 OPS. He wasn't initially called up with the September call-ups, but when Vernon Wells went down with an injury, the Blue Jays recalled Griffin. He played in six games and drew three starts, including two in the final series against Tampa Bay. He hit a home run off Edwin Jackson and also got a hit in what was the final game of his career, finishing the year batting .300/.429/.700 with a 1.129 OPS, .449 wOBA, 178 wRC+ and a 192 OPS+ with two of his three hits being XBH.


This made what came next all the more head-scratching. Griffin was released by Toronto, and latched on in the Dodgers organization where he hit well again but wasn't called up. He spent time in the Cubs organization and two more in independent leagues before hanging up the cleats for good. It's disappointing to see that even after his great showing in the major leagues, he didn't get a fair shot by any organization.


His final MLB stat-line: .304/.370/.696, 1.066 OPS, 173 OPS+, .433wOBA, 168 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR.


John-Ford Griffin simply raked at every level he was at. There's nothing more to it. He was one of the best players to ever wear a Florida State jersey, and even in a brief career, showed he belonged at the major league level, sporting a crazy stat line.


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