Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

Posts Tagged ‘Tom Seaver’

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 »

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 »

A Look At The Mets Stolen Base Successes (And Failures)

Posted by JD on February 7, 2011

Last week, Sandy Alderson commented that “stolen bases are a footnote”. He’s right, though as James Kannengeiser of Amazin Avenue noted “the Mets have been an elite base stealing machine over the last few seasons.” Actually, Kannengeiser’s analysis thoroughly covers the issue (that’s not the first time I’ve said that about his work) and I pretty much agree with every word of it, especially his conclusion.

But it got me thinking about which Mets players were the most efficient base stealers. So, I went over to Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index tool to take a deeper dive. Here’s a few highlights of what I found:

  • 60 Mets have a perfect base stealing percentage. 55 of them stole 4 bases or less, including Tom Seaver (4-4), Kelly Stinnett (4-4), Josh Thole (2-2), Sid Fernandez (1-1) and Ron Darling (1-1).
  • The five players who were 5-5 or better: Paul LoDuca (5-5), Shane Spencer (6-6), Dan Norman (8-8), Jason Bay (10-10) and Manny Alexander (11-11).
  • The player with the best “non-perfect” stolen base success rate: Chico Walker, who went 21-22 in 222 games over the 1992-93 seasons. I liked Chico, because his name often reminded me of the immortal Chico Escuela.
  • Shawn Green is the only other Met to exceed a 90% success rate, going 11-12 in 164 games over the 2006-07 seasons. He also owns a very, very expensive house.

Now, let’s look at some arbitrary thresholds (current Mets in bold text):

  • Highest success rates, minimum 25 attempts: Bob Bailor, 40-46 (.870), Carlos Beltran, 97-113 (.858), Roberto Alomar, 22-26 (.846), Kaz Matsui, 22-26 (.846), Cliff Floyd, 32-38 (.842).
  • Lowest success rates, minimum 25 attempts: Elliot Maddox, 6-28 (.214), Ed Kranepool, 15-42 (.357), Jerry Grote, 14-34 (.412), Jeff Kent, 12-28 (.429), Felix Millan, 11-25 (.440).
  • Highest success rates, minimum 50 attempts: Carlos Beltran, 97-113 (.858), Lenny Dykstra, 116-141 (.823), Gregg Jeffries, 63-77 (.818), Luis Castillo, 55-68 (.809), Kevin McReynolds, 67-83 (.807).
  • Lowest success rates, minimum 50 attempts: Joel Youngblood, 39-75 (.520), Wayne Garrett, 33-59 (.559), Rey Ordonez, 28-50 (.560), Bernard Gilkey, 29-50 (.580), Lenny Randle, 47-79 (.595).
  • Highest success rates, minimum 100 attempts: Carlos Beltran, 97-113 (.858), Lenny Dykstra, 116-141 (.823), Jose Reyes, 331-416 (.796), Roger Cedeno, 103-135 (.778), David Wright, 138-180 (.767).
  • Lowest success rates, minimum 100 attempts: John Stearns, 91-142 (.641), Cleon Jones, 91-139 (.655), Tommy Agee, 92-139 (.662), Lee Mazzilli, 152-223 (.682), Frank Taveras, 90-131 (.687).
  • Success rates, minimum 200 stolen bases: Jose Reyes, 331-416 (.796), Howard Johnson, 202-265 (.762), Mookie Wilson, 281-371 (.757), Darryl Strawberry, 191-266 (.718), Lee Mazzilli, 152-223 (.682).

Three observations came to me:

  1. The late 60’s-early 70’s Mets ran a little, but without much success.
  2. The 80’s Mets ran a lot, with a fair amount of success.
  3. The current team has the three most successful runners in franchise history, plus Castillo (.809) and Angel Pagan (55-71, .775).

That final point brings me back to Kannengeiser’s post. I share his confidence in Alderson & Co., but I worry just a bit that this edge will be blunted. Time will tell, but it will most definitely be an interesting sub-plot to follow this season.

Posted in Angel Pagan, Carlos Beltran, David Wright, Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, Mets, Sandy Alderson | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Flushing Frivolity – Pedro’s Climb Up The Leaderboard

Posted by JD on January 20, 2010

Yesterday, Pedro Feliciano agreed to a one year, $2.9 million deal with the Mets. Since returning to the Mets from Japan in 2006, Feliciano has averaged 79 appearances each year. Should he match that average again this season, Pedro will finish 2010 with 446 appearances for the Mets (all in relief), passing Jesse Orosco (372), Jerry Koosman (376), and Tom Seaver (401) on his way to second all time. At the end of year, he would trail only John Franco (695) on the franchise leaderboard.

Allow me to clarify, just in case you think I’m giving Feliciano too much credit. I realize that appearances in and of themselves mean little. But for the record, Feliciano has averaged a 147 ERA+ during the last four years, meaning that he’s been 47% better than the average pitcher during that time. If he throws up another season like that in 2010 (say 81 appearances, 135 ERA+), you would have to consider him for the title of “Best Non-Starting, Non-Closing Pitcher” in Mets history. FWIW.

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

The Return of the Franchise

Posted by JD on December 16, 2009

For whatever reason, I always liked Lloyd McClendon. It wasn’t rational, he wasn’t one of my favorites, but I liked him as a player (and loved his steal of first base as a manager – couldn’t find the video). Part of it had to do with the fact that he was once a prospect in the Mets system. He never went beyond the backup/platoon catcher role, but the “what could’ve been” factor was always there for me. We all have players that we like despite their actual performance: Lloyd McClendon was one of mine.

Which brings me to today, December 16, 2009: the 27th anniversary of the second Tom Seaver trade. The original Seaver trade was an inexcusable mistake, a black mark that stained the organization forever. Seaver’s departure was the official end of the Miracle Mets’ run and was a smack in the face to an entire generation of fans: one of the greatest pitchers ever and the indisputible face of the franchise was shipped out of town in a disgraceful Midnight Massacre.

But Seaver would return on this date in 1982, reaquired from the Reds for Charlie Puleo and two minor leaguers. The homecoming brought a measure of closure but was not lasting; the White Sox claimed him in a free agent compensation draft after the 1983 season. Seaver almost returned to the Mets again via trade but it didn’t work out: he threw his final major league pitch for the Red Sox in 1986.

The anniversary of Seaver’s return often passes unremembered and that’s understandable, if unfortunate. His return should have been monumental; in a perfect world it would have served as a catalyst for the championship-caliber teams that were to come, a bridge between the ’69 and ’86 Mets. But it wasn’t. Age slowed Seaver, and though the franchise had begun to emerge it hadn’t traveled far enough down the road to contention. Seaver’s second term with the team became barely more than a footnote in club history.

I was much too young to remember it clearly, but looking back I feel robbed. The Franchise, the only player in team history elected to the Hall of Fame, came and went before the Mets could win again. It’s debatable that he would’ve made the rotation in 1985, nevermind ’86, but the fact that he never got the chance was just sad. December 16, 1982 should be a much brighter day in Mets history, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

By now you’ve probably guessed that one of the prospects traded for Seaver was Lloyd McClendon. I’ll never ask “what could’ve been” about him again: his potential was well worth sacrificing in return for The Franchise, no matter how unfortunate his second stay was.

Posted in Hall of Fame, Mets, On This Date | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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