Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Gary Carter’

The Fish(es) That Got Away

Posted by JD on June 8, 2011

With the Major League Draft in full swing these past few days, Baseball-Reference.com has been running a special draft section on it’s front page. Today’s section included a link to the 1982 Mets’ draft. That was the Dwight Gooden draft, but I have no idea why they linked to it today. The Mets picked up several useful players in that draft: Roger McDowell, Floyd Youmans (later included in the trade that brought Gary Carter to the Mets), Gerald Young (included in the trade for Ray Knight), Barry Lyons, and Rafael Palmeiro. Well, that caught me by surprise.

It turns out that the Mets drafted Palmeiro in the eighth round (189th overall) out of Jackson High School in Miami, Florida. For reasons unknown to me (maybe the money wasn’t right?), Palmeiro opted to enroll in Mississippi State University. Three years later the Cubs selected him with the 22nd pick in the first round and a long and ultimately controversial career was launched. A career that could have included the Mets had it worked out differently.

While Palmeiro’s story is not an uncommon occurrence (draft picks fail to sign each year only to grow as players and re-enter the draft at a later date), it got me wondering how often it happened to the Mets over the years. Furthermore, how good would a team of these “fish that got away” turn out to be? So I went through each Mets draft from 1965 (the first year of the amateur draft) to 2010 and picked out a team of the best players who never signed. These were my criteria:

1). The player had to be drafted by the Mets but be signed and start their professional career with another franchise. Obvious enough, but I wanted to point this out because there is one key player who actually played for the Mets later in his career.

2). I used Baseball Reference’s version of WAR and ranked the players by position. I took some liberties here: while there were plenty of pitchers to chose from (though not many were lefthanded) it was a little sparse in the middle infield. I had to make some judgment calls and some guys are not in the positions you may remember them for, but they did have major league playing time in the positions I assigned them.

3). I went with the “standard” lineup configuration used by most clubs today: 25 players, 13 position players (eight starters and a five-player bench) and 12 pitchers (five starters, six relievers, and a closer).

The following is a lark, an exercise in “what if” and “what might have been”. Without further ado, here’s what I came up with:

Starting Pitchers

(Name, Draft Year, career rWAR)

Roger Clemens, 1981, 128.8
Burt Hooton, 1968, 34.6
John Tudor, 1975, 31.8
Scott Erickson, 1986, 21.9
Rick Helling, 1990 18.6

I figured I’d start with a bang. The Mets drafted the Rocket out of high school in the 12th round. After he turned them down he went on to star at the University of Texas before being drafted by the Red Sox. He ultimately went on to become one of my least favorite players of all time but man, I think I 128.8 wins above replacement could help me get over it. While the Boston years of his career would have left him second behind Tom Seaver on the franchise’s rWAR leaderboard, what really struck me is that each of the other segments of his career would have qualified for the top ten as well. Still, he’s a dick.

John Tudor was a personal menace to me. 1985 was the first year I really paid attention to baseball and Tudor went on an absolute rampage that season. I didn’t remember this, but he actually started that season 1-7. From that point on he sandwiched one loss between nine and eleven-game winning streaks, picking up ten complete game shutouts along the way. He had a 21-8 record, and the Cardinals went 24-11 in games he started on their way to a World Series loss to the Kansas City Royals. This was Dwight Gooden’s career year and he was amazing, but he was on our side: Tudor was his “evil” counter part in my mind. My mind’s eye surely exaggerated Tudor’s performance that season (even though he posted a ridiculous 0.938 WHIP), but it was fun seeing his name pop up here. For the record, the 1985/86 rotation would have had Gooden, Clemens, and Tudor on it if these hypothetical signings occurred. I can’t even process that.

Since we’re dealing with hypotheticals, why not throw in a pitcher who had a no-hitter in his fourth career start? That would be Burt Hooten, who might have ended the no no-hitter nonsense before it got a chance to really get going. Or not. We’ll never know.

Scott Erickson had a mop of mahogany hair and was one of People Magazine’s “Sexiest People” List. So there’s that.

Rick Helling makes a decent fifth starter, and swingman Jeremy Guthrie (who’s in the bullpen for now) can pick up the slack if needed.

Bullpen

Jeremy Guthrie, 1997, 15.7 (long man/sixth starter)
Darren Dreifort, 1990, 6.2
Mark Davis, 1978, 6.5 (lefty specialist)
Randy Wells, 2001, 6.7
Charlie Lea, 1975, 7.1
Todd Jones, 1986, 11.1
John Wetteland, 1984, 20.6 (closer)

That’s not a bad bullpen at all. Wetteland was one of the premier closers of his time, Jones has extensive closing experience, and Davis famously (infamously?) won a Cy Young as a closer. Billy Koch, another former closer, just missed the cut (6.0 rWAR) and could be “called up” if need be. Our team is in decent shape pitching-wise. How does it stack up on offense?

Catcher

Dan Wilson, 1987, 13.7

Wilson was part of the same draft class as Todd Hundley, who obviously signed and went on to set the franchise single season record for home runs. If I had to pick between the two I’d still take Hundley, but Wilson was an important piece of the Mariners’ division winners in the late 90′s.

First Base

John Olerud, 1986, 56.8

The Mets drafted Olerud in the 27th round (682nd overall) out of high school, but he opted to enroll in Washington State University. Had he signed with the Mets he would have been the perfect replacement for the aging Keith Hernandez.

Second Base

Mark Grudzielanek, 1989, 24.3

According to the Baseball Almanac, Grudzielanek’s nickname is “Grudzie”. I find this unacceptable and continue to refer to him as “Grudz”, which I find to be infinitely more gritty.

Third Base

Ron Cey, 1966, 52.0

Our earliest non-signer, Cey was selected in the 19th round of the second-ever MLB draft. He went on to be a six-time All Star for the Dodgers in the 70′s, a time when the Mets’ hot corner was a revolving door. Hindsight drives this list for obvious reasons, but none more painful than this one: had Cey been in the Mets system, the Mets might have kept Nolan Ryan. Sure, they might have traded him anyway, but for a couple thousand dollars more in 1966 they might have had an All Star third baseman and future Hall of Fame pitcher on their roster. It’s all “could-have-been” nonsense, but ouch.

Shortstop

Matt Williams, 1983, 43.9

This is admittedly the biggest position stretch on the roster, but Williams did have experience there: he played in 119 games for the Giants over five seasons and even appeared in two games for the Diamondbacks in 2001 when his career was almost over. Could he have played his whole career there? Maybe. But it sure would be nice to have a shortstop who hit 316 career home runs.

Left Field

Rafael Palmeiro, 1982, 66.0

I’m putting Palmeiro in left because he played 209 games there over his career. I think it’s fair to say that Palmeiro was a “compiler”, a player who built his gaudy career numbers by having many “good-but-not-great” seasons. That being said, his career numbers would absolutely dominate the Mets’ offensive leaderboards had he played for the club that originally drafted him.

Center Field

Darrin Erstad, 1992, 27.8

I have a feeling that Erstad would have been a fan favorite  in Flushing: a tough, gritty, tobacco-chewing, ex-football playing, wall-crashing center-fielder who would have arrived just in time to fill the void left by Lenny Dykstra. I’d bet he make a better financial advisor, though.

Right Field

David DeJesus, 1997, 21.3

A Brooklyn kid who played his college ball for Rutgers, I slotted DeJesus in right to accommodate Palmeiro in left. Could you imagine if the Mets had DeJesus from 2006-08? He would have been the perfect replacement for Cliff Floyd and the Moises Alou experiment might have been unnecessary. This one stings a little bit more because of how recently it happened, but I can easily see how having DeJesus would have resulted in playoff appearances in 2007 and 2008.

Bench

Aaron Rowand, 1995, 19.5 (outfield)
Garrett Atkins, 1997, 9.6 (corner infield, corner outfield)
Scott Servais, 1985, 3.3 (catcher)
Tracy Jones, 1982, 2.3 (outfield, pinch hitter)
Adam Piatt, 1994, 0.5 (backup infielder)

As you can see, the talent level drops off consistently. It was really difficult to find a middle infielder with a positive career rWAR (I almost had to go with Kurt Bevacqua, he of the -4.4 rWAR). That’s how Piatt “earned” his spot on the squad. Jones was part of the class of ’82 that started this exercise. He bounced around for a few years and was somewhat of a journeyman. In other words, Omar Minaya might have signed him if he was available last season. Scott Servais, not to be confused with Scott Service, was a prototypical back-up catcher and fills that roll here. Atkins’ career started strong (he even received MVP votes in 2006) but has been ending with a whimper: he hasn’t played in the majors yet this season. But we’ll find him a spot on our bench. Rowand was originally drafted by the Mets as a shortstop. I was sorely tempted to put him there but Matt Williams’ presence combined with Rowand’s lack of playing time at the position conspired against me.

So there you have it, the Mets’ ultimate team of “fish that got away”. It definitely has a bit of a patchwork feel to it, but it seems like it would be a pretty decent team. All told, the players listed above accumulated 650.6 rWAR over the course of their careers (with Roger Clemens accounting for a staggering 20% of that all by himself). Would they have replecated that as members of this fictional team, or even as members of the Mets? Probably not, but it’s fun to think about it.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mets With Presidential Surnames

Posted by JD on February 20, 2011

With Monday being Presidents Day, I thought it would be fun to rank the Mets with presidential surnames. There are 23 of them (although Russ Adams is in camp and played for Buffalo last season, he’s never suited up for the Mets and doesn’t qualify for this list), and I used Baseball-Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement to rank them in reverse order. I have a feeling that you’ve probably already guessed the top three, but here we go:

23. Paul Wilson (-2.8 rWAR): I’ll admit, this one surprised me. I knew Wilson struggled while he was with the Mets, but I didn’t realize how much. A former number 1 overall pick and member of “Generation K”, Wilson started 26 games for the 1996 Mets, going 5-12 with a 75 ERA+ (and a 5.38 ERA). In terms of rWAR, Wilson’s 1996 is the single worst season by a Mets pitcher. Craig Anderson (-2.0 rWAR, 1962) and Randy Jones (-1.8 rWAR, 1981), are in the discussion, but it’s not really close. Wilson would go on to have moderate success in Tampa (and later in Cincinnati), but he seriously under-performed his hype while with the Mets.

22. Hawk Taylor (-1.8 rWAR): Robert Dale “Hawk” Taylor was a catcher/first baseman/left fielder for the Mets from 1964-67. According to the Wikipedia, Taylor appeared as a pinch hitter in the first game at Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964. This is true, though not especially significant (he struck out, and he wasn’t even the first pinch hitter used: that “honor” belonged to Ed Kranepool). The Wikipedia also credits him with hitting the first pinch hit grand slam in franchise history (against the Pirates, on August 16, 1967). So he’s got that going for him.

21. Darrin Jackson (-0.6 rWAR): Darrin Jackson had to very good years for the San Diego Padres in 1991 and 1992, posting 4.4 and 3.8 rWAR respectively as the Padres made an ill-fated push for the NL West pennant. Jackson was then caught up in the Padres’ infamous fire sale and traded to Toronto for future-Met Derek Bell (and minor leaguer Stoney Bell). It didn’t work out in Toronto and Jackson was traded to the Mets on June 11, 1993 for fellow former Padre Tony Fernandez. Jackson slashed .195/.211/.241 in 31 games for the Mets, which translated into a woeful 22 OPS+ (78% worse than the average outfielder). Jackson left for the White Sox during the following offseason where he rebounded in the strike shortened season (2.4 rWAR).

20. Roy Lee Jackson (-0.5 rWAR): Possessing one of the cooler names in franchise history, Jackson appeared in 40 games for the Mets between 1977 and 1980 (starting 14 of them). He was on the AAA shuttle for most of his time with the Mets: 28 of his 40 appearances came in 1980 (when he was worth 0.1 rWAR). Jackson was traded to Toronto (for Bob Bailor) and had some success for them in 1981 (1.2 rWAR) and 1982 (2.1 rWAR).

17 – 19. Mark Johnson, Chuck Taylor, Billy Taylor (-0.4 rWAR): I’m not going to bother splitting these guys up, but I will add these three comments: 1). When he signed with the Mets, Johnson was one of three active “Mark Johnsons” in MLB. He wasn’t the best, but he wasn’t the worst, either. So there’s that. 2). This Chuck Taylor did not have a signature shoe line. 3). Billy Taylor was involved in one of the worst trades in franchise history, having been acquired for Greg McMichael and Jason Isringhausen. While Taylor was gone from the Mets after the 1999 season, McMichael and Isringhausen combined to produce 1.5 and and 11.8 rWAR in their careers. On a related note, Steve Phillips stinks.

16. Brian Buchanan (-0.2 rWAR): Buchanan was involved in two fairly big trades: the Yankees sent him to Minnesota with Eric Milton, Christian Guzman, and Danny Mota for Chuck Knoblauch, and the Twins later sent him to San Diego for Jason Bartlett. His last appearance in the majors came with the Mets on August 29, 2004.

13 – 15. Sammy Taylor, Tom Wilson, Preston Wilson (0.0 rWAR): Again, I’m not going to bother splitting them up, but I will add three comments: 1). Sammy Taylor actually appeared in 90 games for the Mets in 1962-63. I thought this was a record of sorts until I found that former Met Willie Montanez’ career total was also 0.0, but in 1,632 games. Now that’s impressive. I guess. 2). Tom Wilson was hitless in four at bats (with one walk) for the 2004 Mets. 3). Preston Wilson went on to have a decent career, but I doubt there’s a single Mets fan that wouldn’t have traded him for Mike Piazza.

11. & 12. Chris Carter, Ben Johnson (0.1 rWAR): I’m sure you remember the Animal (I’m going to miss that character. Not much, but still). Ben Johnson was acquired (along with pitcher Jon Adkins) for Heath Bell and Royce Ring. Adkins pitched one (flawless) inning for the Mets and Johnson received 30 plate appearances over nine games. Ring’s bounced around (-1.0 rWAR) but Bell became one of the best closers in the game (91 saves in 111 opportunities, 9.0 rWAR for San Diego). This is probably Omar Minaya’s worst trade.

9. & 10. Bob Johnson, Stan Jefferson (0.2 rWAR): A pair of championship Mets. Bob Johnson of Aurora, IL (Wayne’s World! Party time, excellent!) was a September call-up for the 1969 Miracle Mets, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings over two games. That offseason, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals (along with Amos Otis) for Joe Foy in one of the seemingly-countless trades the Mets made for third basemen. Most of the angst in this trade is generated by the loss of Otis, but Johnson had a decent career himself (6.6 rWAR over his next six seasons. In a twist of fate that means absolutely nothing to no one other than this author (and maybe his parents), Johnson played his final major league game on the day I was born.

A native New Yorker, Jefferson was a September call-up for the World Champion 1986 Mets, slashing .208/.296/.375 in 27 plate appearances (over 14 games). That offseason, he was sent to San Diego along with Kevin Brown (thankfully, not the Hall of Fame candidate), Kevin Armstrong, Shawn Abner (the second former number one overall pick referenced in this post) and Kevin Mitchell for Kevin McReynolds, Gene Walter, and Adam Ging. Two September call-ups on championship teams later involved in franchise altering trades. How’s that for a coincidence?

8. Claudell Washington (0.5 rWAR): Washington appeared in 76 games for the 1980 Mets, his only season with the club. I always remember Washington as a Yankee in the late ‘80’s (he had his second-best season with them in 1988), and I kind of wondered why the Mets let him get away. In the long run, it turned out to matter very little: the Mets outfield was more than solid for the rest of the decade.

7. Vance Wilson (2.5 rWAR): This was another surprise for me. Although he wasn’t an offensive superstar in his six seasons with the Mets, Wilson hit well enough (.254/.308/.354) to be slightly above replacement in each season. Wins Above Replacement is a cumulative stat, and he compiled enough steady seasons (in which he did little to help, but even less to hurt) to accrue a decent career rWAR.

6. Al Jackson (4.5 rWAR): An original Met, Jackson was something of a bright spot on some pretty crappy teams. Though never even a league-average pitcher (his highest ERA+ during those seasons was 94 in 1962), Jackson didn’t embarrass himself: he was never worth less than 0.5 rWAR in any given season and was worth 3.1 in 1962. His second stint was less successful (-0.6 rWAR in 1968-69). He didn’t get to see the Miracle Mets reach the promised land in 1969, but he returned to the club after retirement and has held a number of front office positions since.

5. Ron Taylor (4.8 rWAR): Another member of the Miracle Mets, Taylor had a productive run with the club from 1967-71, averaging almost a full win above replacement each season (0.96 rWAR). A spot starter earlier in his career, Taylor was exclusively a reliever with the Mets. He appeared in 269 games and earned 49 saves while never having an ERA+ lower than 94 (his average ERA+ in those years was 115). His post-playing career was also very successful: he graduated medical school in 1979 and became team physician for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979.

And now, the Mets’ “Mount Rushmore”:

4. Lance Johnson (8.9 rWAR): As Patrick Flood noted, Johnson is “The Trivia Answer”: he holds so many unique distinctions that, as Flood so aptly put it, “If you ever see a Mets trivia question, and the answer could be Lance Johnson … the answer is probably Lance Johnson”. I hated the trade that sent him away, but in hindsight it wasn’t that bad: Johnson accumulated just 0.3 rWAR in his remaining three seasons. It appears as if he emptied his tank in 1996-97. Sure, we had to put up with Mel Rojas, but Brian McRae at least had one decent season and the Turk Wendell experience was pretty awesome, so I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought at the time.

3. Gary Carter (11.2 rWAR): “The Kid” cracks the top three on our list of Mets with Presidential surnames. Carter was a WAR machine from 1977 to 1985, averaging 6.02 rWAR and failing to top 5 rWAR once (in the strike-shortened 1981 season). His 1986 wasn’t too shabby either (3.8 rWAR), but he fell off a cliff the next three seasons: 0.9 (1987), 0.1 (1988) and -0.3 (1989). Like Lance Johnson, he makes this list because of two excellent seasons.

2. Mookie Wilson (19.4 rWAR): I make no bones about this: Mookie Wilson is one of my favorite Mets of all time, and I’m thrilled to see him make this list. He was like clockwork from 1982 to 1988: he accumulated 17.8 rWAR during these seasons, averaging 2.5 rWAR and never going lower than 1.8 (1982) or higher than 3.2 (1984 & 1986). And, to top it off, he had one of the most pleasant public image I’ve ever seen an athlete have. I have to digress for a moment and share two personal stories about Mookie, one big, one small:

  • 1986 was my first full season as a Mets fan (I only started watching baseball in the summer of 85). On that fateful night, I went to bed at some point during the game. I guess my parents felt that bedtime was more important than the World Series, but I’ve never asked them. And, as a dumb kid, I listened to them and went to bed. Anyway, I have mixed memories about what happened next. My Dad definitely woke me up with the Mets trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the tenth. For a long, long time I thought he did it to let me watch my favorite team’s season end, but for the past ten years or so I’ve had a sneaking sensation (a false memory maybe?) that he woke me to see a bit of baseball history: the Red Sox’ first World Series since 1918. I’ve never talked to him about it because I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know this: what happened next was one of the greatest moments to ever happen to me, and I love my Dad for waking me up.
  • My first game professional game was the second half of a day/night doubleheader against the Cubs. I think it was 1987, but it could have been 1988. Either way, I remember being terribly confused and almost violently upset when the Shea faithful booed as Mookie Wilson lead off in the bottom of the first. My uncle laughed at me and explained that they were screaming “Mooo!” Needless to say, I screamed it at the top of my lungs each time he came to the plate after that.

1. Howard Johnson (24.7 rWAR): Hojo’s 1989 (7.7 rWAR) was a season for the ages: according to B-R.com it was the fifth best season in Mets history, trailing only John Olerud’s 1998 (8.1), Bernard Gilkey’s 1996 (8.1), Carlos Beltran’s 2006 (8.0), and David Wright’s 2007 (7.8). His six-year peak was generally excellent as well: he averaged 4.84 rWAR from 1986 to 1991 and received national recognition for it with three top-10 MVP finishes (including top-5 in 1989 and 1991) and two all-star appearances. And just like that, it was over. He earned just -1.4 rWAR over his final 1,165 plate appearances for the Mets, Rockies, and Cubs.  In a minor coincidence, he left the organization (after they made him wait months for a job offer that turned out to be a major demotion) in the same year that Mookie Wilson returned to it.

And so, to recap:

  • 23 Mets share a surname with a POTUS.
  • There are five Johnsons (Andrew, Lyndon Baines), five Taylors (Zachary), five Wilsons (Woodrow), and three Jacksons (Andrew), two Carters (Jimmy), one Buchanan (James), one Jefferson (Thomas), and one Washington (George).
  • When their careers are combined, the 23 Mets are worth 70.0 rWAR.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Mets, Mike Piazza | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Biding Time Till Spring

Posted by JD on January 27, 2011

It’s been quiet in Mets-land lately, and that’s ok. A productive offseason is just about finished and there’s not much more to do but wait for spring training to begin. In that spirit (and to get back to writing: I’ve been seriously slacking this month), I’m going to count down the days till pitchers and catchers report by looking at a player whose uniform number matches the number of days left.

This is not to be confused with Patrick Flood’s statistics-driven Top Fifty Mets of All-Time or the Real Dirty Mets’ blog’s fan-submitted Top 50 list, both of which are thoughtful projects that required serious thought and effort on the part of their authors and editors. Nor is it an exercise to determine the best player to ever wear a particular number for the Mets. No, this is a lark, inspired by Lohud.com columnist Rick Carpineillo, who went through a similar exercise prior to the start of NY Rangers training camp on his excellent Rangers Report blog. If a particular number brings a different player to mind for you, please: use the comments section to tell us why. Let’s have fun with this.

One last note: this project would be impossible without the Numerical Roster put together by Jon Springer of Mets By The Numbers, a truly indispensable asset when researching Mets uniform numbers.

#21 – Herm Winnigham

Drafted by the Mets in January 1981, Winningham debuted with the Mets in 1984 with a .407/.429/.519 slash line and a robust 167 OPS+. The Montreal Expos suffered the brunt of his offensive onslaught (he slashed .500/.500/.700 against them) and immediately traded future Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter to the Mets to secure his services.

Or something like that. Hubie Brooks was probably the Expos’ main target. Or Mike Fitzgerald. Or Floyd Youmans. But Winningham was definitely included in the deal. He went on to slash a less-impressive during his time with the Expos. He earned a ring with the World Champion Cincinnati Reds in 1990, and finished his career with the Red Sox. For his career, he slashed .239/.296.334, was worth -2.0 rWAR (B-R.com), won a World Series (not by himself: that would be amazing) and was part of the trade that brought one of the most important 1986 Mets to Flushing. Not bad.

Fun fact: His middle name is Son. Herman Son Willingham. That’s awesome all by itself.


Posted in Mets, Offseason Moves | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.