Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘John Olerud’

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 »

Catching Up: The Week That Was

Posted by JD on May 5, 2011

A lot has happened since I last posted. The Mets dropped two out of three in Philly and then returned home to drop two out of three to San Francisco. Tough stretch, but not without its positives:

  • With the exception of the opener in Philly, the Mets were “in” every game. Citing moral victories is damning with faint praise, but they were facing Cy Young-caliber pitchers in three of those games (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Tim Lincecum).
  • Carlos Beltran has been on fire. His slash line over the past six games? Try .333/.429/.708 (in 28 plate appearances) for a ridiculous 1.137 OPS. Three doubles, two home runs, and four walks will do that for you. And for you trivia buffs, Beltran’s home run today gave him 1,443 total bases in 2,886 at-bats with the Mets. That means his slugging percentage with the team sits at a very neat .500 (good for sixth all time among the franchise’s qualifying batters, narrowly falling short of John Olerud’s .501). That will change the next time he comes to bat, but round numbers are neat.
  • Quality starts. The Mets received them from Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, Chris Young and Chris Capuano during the two series (t0o be fair, Pelfrey had a decidedly non-quality start in the series opener in Philly). The starting rotation has a long way to go before it’s out of the woods, but there were some positive signs this week.
  • Ronny Paulino finally arrived and, as the saying goes “he arrived in ill humor,” going 5 for 7 and driving in the winning run in extra innings on Sunday night. For what it’s worth, 27 other Mets have had as many as five hits in a game but Paulino is the first to do it in his debut with the Mets. So whatever else happens, he’ll always have his place in Mets history.

It may seem silly to you that I chose to focus on these four items when the Mets just lost four of their last six. I get that. They’re 13-18 and in last place, and their roster is still full of holes. There’s no reason to expect them to play all that much better. Yet, I find them to be much more compelling than last year’s group and I remain optimistic that they’ll claw their way back into contention for a Wild Card berth. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no rational reason for me to believe this. But I can’t help feeling that if they click, if they all perform at their career norms at the same time, they can be relevant in 2011. There’s still time, however fleeting it may be.

Posted in Carlos Beltran, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, Something Nice | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Manny Ramirez: A “What If” Scenario

Posted by JD on April 9, 2011

If you haven’t heard by now, Manny Ramirez abruptly retired on Friday. Apparently he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs a second time (which would result in a 100-game suspension) and retired rather than having to deal with it. Whatever your feelings on Manny (I mostly agree with Joe Posnanski’s take on him), his antics, and how his career ended, I think we can all agree that he was an amazing hitter.

That got me thinking: where would Manny rank on the Mets offensive leaderboard? The Mets have long been known as a pitching-first franchise (think Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Dwight Gooden, among others), so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Manny absolutely dominates the leaderboard. John Olerud would still own the highest average and OBP, but Manny would lead in OPS, runs scored, hits, total bases, home runs, doubles…you name it, Manny would lead it (and it’s not especially close).

It’s fairly unrealistic to act as if one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time suddenly played his entire career with the Mets. But what if the Mets had claimed him off of waivers in the fall of 2003? As you may remember, the Red Sox put Manny on irrevocable waivers that year: anyone could have taken him had they been willing to pay his full contract. Nobody claimed him then, but what if the Mets had?

Well, they would have gotten seven-plus years of miserable defense in left field. But beyond that, they would have gotten 1,251 hits (trailing only Ed Kranepool’s 1,418), 2,289 total bases (242 more than Kranepool), 262 doubles (1st all-time, though David Wright has 261), 254 home runs (two more than Darryl Strawberry), 670 walks (90 more than Straw), and 725 runs scored (63 more than Straw). Olerud would still hold the highest batting and on-base averages, but Wright (.305) and Dave Magadan (.391) would drop to second behind Manny’s .308 batting average and .411 on-base average. Mike Piazza’s .542 slugging average would fall to Manny’s .564 and his .975 OPS would be almost 50 points higher than Olerud’s. And did I mention that he put these numbers up between the ages of 32 and 39? That’s just ridiculous.

Going further down the rabbit hole, Manny was worth 23.7 rWAR (Baseball-Reference.com’s version of WAR) during those years. That would place him eighth on the Mets all-time list, below Piazza’s 24.6 but above Jose Reyes’ 23.3. That total wouldn’t get his jersey retired, but it dwarves the total put up by Mets left fielders since 2004. Cliff Floyd (5.4 rWAR in three seasons and a personal favorite), Moises Alou (1.9 rWAR in two seasons), and Jason Bay (1.2 rWAR in one season) played the most left field during those seasons (2008-09 saw 10 different players get more than 10 games each in left field; I didn’t bother adding up their rWAR totals).

What would Game 6 have looked like with Manny Ramirez starting in left? Endy Chavez’ catch, one of the most iconic moments in franchise history, never would have happened, but would Manny have hit a home run to match Scott Rolen’s blast? Or, in the most alternate universe I can think of right now, what would have happened had Endy started the game (thus making his awesome catch) but Manny appeared as a pinch hitter instead of Cliff Floyd? How loud would Shea Stadium have been if Manny delivered the game winning hit, and how would Carlos Beltran haters denigrate him today if he never had to face Adam Wainwright’s wicked curveball? Would the 2007 Mets have made the playoffs? Would we be looking back on an era with multiple division-winning teams? Have I gotten carried away?

If you’ve read this far (thank you!) I’m sure you’ve noticed that I haven’t accounted for park factor. You’re right: the numbers listed above were compiled when Manny played most of his games in Fenway Park, a notorious hitters’ haven (although he did play 223 games as an LA Dodger during those seasons). Also, there’s the not-so-small matter of Manny’s salary during those seasons: he’s made more than $140 million since 2004. So, no: this is not the most likely scenario. But isn’t that the fun of asking “what if?”

Posted in David Wright, Mets, Performance Enhancing Drugs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One Year Wonders

Posted by JD on February 22, 2011

As I was ranking Mets players with Presidential surnames, I noticed a few of them only had one year tenures with the team. This got me to wondering which one-year Mets were the most productive, and I was back on the Baseball Reference Play Index before I knew it. The results are listed below (as with the President list, I’m relying exclusively on the version of WAR (rWAR) used by Baseball Reference).

One note before we start: I omitted the best “one-year Met” from my list. Ike Davis had a 2.5 rWAR in his rookie year, which easily tops all of the other contenders. Seeing as how he’ll be the starting first baseman this season, I figured he didn’t technically qualify. If he suffers a career-ending injury before the season starts feel free to blame me for jinxing him. Now, on to the list:

10. Derek Bell (1.3 rWAR, 2000): A throw-in in the Mike Hampton deal (at least, that’s how I always looked at it); Bell was the starting right fielder for most of the 2000 season (a season ending injury late in the year prevented him from playing in the postseason). He slashed .266/.348/.425 in 624 plate appearances over 144 games. He added 18 home runs and 69 RBI, but his 98 OPS+ indicates that he was slightly below average for a right fielder.

My favorite Derek Bell memory has nothing to do with his time on the Mets. He signed a two-year deal with the Pirates after the 2000 to be their starting right fielder. When informed that he would have to compete for his starting job, Bell launched his infamous “Operation Shutdown”. From the Wikipedia:

“Nobody told me I was in competition. If there is competition, somebody better let me know. If there is competition, they better eliminate me out of the race and go ahead and do what they’re going to do with me. I ain’t never hit in spring training and I never will. If it ain’t settled with me out there, then they can trade me. I ain’t going out there to hurt myself in spring training battling for a job. If it is [a competition], then I’m going into ‘Operation Shutdown.’ Tell them exactly what I said. I haven’t competed for a job since 1991.”

That’s one of the best sports quotes I’ve ever heard, trailing only Latrell Sprewell’s “I got my family to feed” and Rasheed Wallace’s epic “As long as somebody CTC, at the end of the day I’m with them. For all you that don’t know what CTC means, that’s ‘Cut the Check.” If I ever re-name this blog, Cut The Check is the hands-down favorite to be the new name.

9. Richie Ashburn (1.3 rWAR, 1962): While technically tied with Bell, I couldn’t bring myself to equate a Hall of Famer with “Operation Shutdown”. After all, Ashburn played his final season with the inaugural 1962 Mets, which was inglorious enough. He slashed .306/.424/.393 and had a 122 OPS+, an incredible line for a 35 year-old. In fact, Whitey’s .424 OBP stood as the team record (minimum 400 at-bats, an entirely arbitrary threshold) until John Olerud topped it.

8. Rick Cerrone (1.4 rWAR, 1991): Even though I remember Cerrone on the Mets in 1991, I have always thought of him as a Yankee. That’s why I was surprised to learn that he played for six other teams (Cleveland, Toronto, Atlanta, Milwaukee, Boston, and Montreal). Another interesting factoid is that 1991 was the second most valuable season of his career (in terms of rWAR, at least), trailing only his 1980 season (3.9 rWAR for the Yankees).

6. & 7. Joe Foy and Duke Snider (1.4 rWAR, 1970 & 1963): We touched on Foy during the Presidential post, but I’ll say it again: just an unnecessary trade. Duke Snider’s story was similar to Ashburn’s in that he was a past-his-prime future Hall of Famer still hanging around. Unlike Ashburn, Snider had a connection to the Mets as one of the brightest stars of one of the franchises they were meant to replace, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Snider didn’t play much center for the Mets, appearing in only 11 games there in 1963, but while his bat was not up to his previous standards he did have an above-average OPS+ (115). He would finish his career in 1964 with the San Francisco, making him one of only four men to play for the Giants, Dodgers, and Mets. The other three are listed at the bottom of the post.

5. Dick Schofield (1.8 rWAR, 1992): Jayson Werth’s uncle was acquired from the then-California Angels along with a PTBNL (Julian Vasquez) for Julio Valera. Schofield was a defense-first shortstop with an excellent arm, but he was a pretty poor hitter. That’s being nice actually. According to the Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Schofield Schofield shares the record (with Mark Belanger) for most seasons with more than 400 at-bats and less than 100 hits with four. This seems like a bad thing, but it isn’t really. They are arbitrary thresholds, and some good players (including Mark McGwire, Ricky Henderson, and Barry Bonds, to pick just three) appear on the list. For the record, 12 other players had similar seasons with the Mets, including Dave Kingman, Todd Hundley, and Tommie Agee.

4. Desi Relaford (2.1 rWAR, 2001): Relaford falls into the nebulous category of “players I liked for no particular reason”. The Mets picked up on waivers from the San Diego Padres and paid him just $475,000, then later packaged him with the also-awesome Tsuyoshi Shinjo for Shawn Estes. 2001 was a career year for Relaford (he didn’t come close to replicating that season again) so Steve Phillips was right to try to sell high. Being Steve Phillips, however, he completely botched the transaction.

3. Eddie Bressoud (2.2 rWAR, 1966): I didn’t really know that much about Bressoud, who played all four infield positions (but primarily shortstop) for the 1966 Mets. Turns out he was very productive (at least in terms of Mets from that era): his single season with the Mets produced the third highest rWAR among position players to that point in the franchise’s history (behind Ron Hunt’s 2.6 and Ken Boyer’s 3.0). According to Baseball-Reference.com, he’s fairly similar (as a player, not necessarily as a person) to Tony Bernazard. I wonder how many times he challenged minor leaguers to a fight?

1. & 2. Tommy Davis and Richie Hebner (2.3 rWAR, 1967 and 1979): A Brooklyn native, Davis had an 18 year career for 10 teams. He actually lead all Mets position players in rWAR in 1967, admittedly not the most impressive achievement ever. A former MVP candidate (his 6.8 rWAR in 1963 trailed only Willie Mays and Frank Robinson that season), Davis was acquired along with Derrell Griffith in a trade for Ron Hunt and Jim Hickman. 1967 would be a last hurrah of sorts for Davis: he would never again be that productive, and he would play for 8 more teams over the next nine years. Unlike with Relaford, however, the Mets successfully sold high on Davis: packaged with three other players, he brought back Tommie Agee and Al Weis in a 1967 trade with the White Sox.

Richie Hebner also had an 18 year career, though he was much less traveled (he only played for five clubs). Hebner was known for digging graves during the offseason, but more importantly the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richie_Hebner notes that “Few people know that Rich Hebner has 3 heros: Jerry Flynn, his son Joe Hebner, and his nephew Michael Hebner.” I felt I had to do my part to spread that important piece of information, so there you go.

Hebner came and went before my Mets fandom began and nothing jumped off of his Baseball-Reference page, so I originally didn’t have anything else to add. That is, until I read his page over at the Ultimate Mets Database. Holy crap did this guy elicit a lot of raw emotion from Mets fans, and they are all over the map. I had no idea so many felt so strongly about a guy who was only here for one year. Bonus: someone defended him by calling him a “gamer”.

Trivia answer: Jim Pignatano, Orel Hershiser, and Darryl Strawberry.

Posted in Flushing Frivolities, Ike Davis, Mets | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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