Posts Tagged ‘1996’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Steve Sparks

sparksbackI told you that I knew a lot about John Milton. Further proof: he wrote: “Truth never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth.”

It’s not often (although maybe it is) that you see, perhaps the second greatest English poet, have something in common with a journeyman major league pitcher.

Clearly, Sparks deserved to be disgraced for dislocating his shoulder trying to tear a phone book in half. When your body is your moneymaker, let’s try to treat it nicely. I mean there is a reason contracts have strict clauses in them — you can thank the Steve Sparks of the world, also Clint Barmes, Jeff Kent, etc.

While the dislocation breakdown is interesting, Sparks is one of the rare modern-day knuckleballers. As the card notes, its likely Sparks would have made the club in 1994 as a 28-year-old (knuckleballers are notoriously late bloomers).

This is all by way of saying that in his first taste of major league action, Sparks, 29, lead his club in innings pitched. He threw 210 in 1995 and would have his best season for a long time in the majors. While his ERA (4.63) and WHIP (1.46) leave a lot to be desired, on account of his sheer amount of innings, he finished 9th in rookie of the year voting and was worth 3 WAR.

It’d take three years before Sparks was that valuable again. In 1998, he posted a 4.34 ERA and 1.46 WHIP for the Angels in 128.2 IPs. Not great, but still about 2.8 WAR.

He finally put it altogether in 2001 as a 35-year-old for the Detroit Tigers. He threw 232 innings, posted a 3.65 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP and was worth 4.2 WAR. He would be out of the majors just three years later.

Still, for a guy who didn’t get to the majors until he was 29 (partly because he was an idiot), he amassed 1,319 innings and was worth, on average, roughly one win per year above a replacement. Not bad for Mr. Phone Book.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Raul Mondesi/Ruben Sierra

mondesimondesi frontI thought I’d kick of “deck the halls (aka music)” week with a two-fer!

I am in awe of Mondesi’s info. First of all it is supremely awesome to step to the plate in any major league stadium. It must be infinitely more awesome to do so while your own music is playing. It’s like banging the hottest chick in the world on top of a billion dollars while your multi-platinum Barry White cover-CD is playing in the background (yes the one that Sade graciously sung back-up vocals for).

Any who, I kind of feel like I grew up with Mondesi a bit. I was 11 in 1993 and he was one of the first big rookies of my time. I kind of stopped following baseball intently when I hit college which is about when this card was printed. What people seem to have forgotten was how good Mondesi was with the Dodgers. Sure he flamed out in the AL East for the most part, but, for seven seasons in LA, Mondesi put up a .288/.334/.504 slash line. He also earned 21.3 WAR during his time out west.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays and Yankees he would earn just 6.2 WAR combined with them over 4 years.

Still, Mondesi amassed some impressive numbers. He owns the 56th best slugging percentage in MLB history by a right hander — .485. He is tied with the great, yet somewhat forgotten, Joe Adcock.

sierra backNot to be outdone, six years before Mondesi’s 2002 Topps announced to the world that Raul is a better name then Enrique, Ruben Sierra released his second salsa CD. While that’s somewhat impressive (I mean Ron Artest has released like five million albums), what’s more astounding is that Sierra performed at Madison Square Garden. I would bet his performance was better than anything the WNBA has thrown out there (Lauren Jackson, Sue Bird notwithstanding).

sierra frontLike Mondesi, Sierra was also a hot prospect who put in some serious work for the club who first signed him. In his 10 years with the Texas Rangers, Sierra put up a .280/.323/.473 slash line with 180 HRs and 90 SBs. He was an 18.4 WAR player for them. While his early career resembled Justin Upton, Andruw Jones, and Adrian Beltre, when we look at the totality of it, his numbers look a lot more like Joe Carter and Bobby Bonilla – not bad, but eh.

So what happened? Well, in 1992, the Rangers traded him to spacious Oakland along with Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell for Jose Canseco. While Canseco is largely remembered as a flop with Texas, he was worth 3.4 WAR over three seasons and put up a .269/.363/.512 slash line. Meanwhile Sierra would stumble in his four years in Oakland (.253/.303./.435) and earn -1.7

Still, coming off the juice of his promise, the Athletics were able to turn Sierra into Danny Tartabul. In his first stint with the Yankees, Sierra was worth -1.4 WAR. After rejoining the Rangers in 2000 and posting a positive WAR (0.7) in 2001 for the first time since 1994, the Rangers would move Sierra to the Yankees again. This time it was for Marcus Thames and this time, again, Sierra would be worse than a replacement level player (-0.4 WAR).

In all, Sierra was traded four times and signed by eight different organizations. Outside of the Rangers, he was worse than a replacement level player for every single organization. I feel like there should have been a Mad TV lower expectations commercial about him.

Somewhat shockingly, given Sierra’s lack of non-musical value, he ended up with the 15th most at-bats by a switch-hitter and the ninth most doubles by a switch hitter (428). He also tied for 18th for the most seasons with a HR in MLB history. He hit a HR in 19 seasons, which was also done by Gary Sheffield, Craig Biggio, Barry Larkin, Gary Gaetti, Ken Griffey Sr., Alan Trammell, Willie Stargell, Enos Slaughter and Ernie Banks.

Lastly, let’s hope his salsa music helped soothe and relax him during his career as he ended up posting the 25th most career game-ending outs. Sierra ended a game 113 times (try finding a replacement player that can do that!), two more than Ricky Henderson.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Herb Perry

perry1bperry1b2I’m going to use a 2002 card to prove a 1996 card somewhat inaccurate. Watch me now.

Almost rightly so, Herb Perry thought his June 17, 1995 game against the New York Yankees would be the finest of his life. He was the main source of power in a three-run victory over the Yankees.

Coming out of the University of Florida, Perry was a second round pick of the Cleveland Indians in 1991. He’d blossom in 1994 in AAA, hitting 13 HRs in 102 games and posting a .327/.397/.505 slash line. Coincidentally (or not) he got his first sniff of the majors that season. He went 1 for 9. Next season would see Perry perform decently in the minors, but, again, get few MLB at bats, although he would show promise, posting a .315/.376/.463 slash line in 184 plate appearances. However, in 1996, he would see just 13 at bats.

In comedy, timing is mostly everything, in another era, Perry might have had a nice early career. The problem with his timing is a future Hall of Famer by the name of Jim Thome, who was both younger and far better than Perry. Not surprisingly, the Indians didn’t protect Perry in the 1997 expansion draft. He was the 68th pick in that draft by the Rays.

After that, he bounced around between Tampa, the White Sox and Texas.

Finally, in 2002, the clouds parted and Perry saw his first full season and he didn’t disappoint: 132 games and a .276/.333/.480 slash line. However, the success would be short lived as he’d appear in only 60 games over the next two seasons before leaving professional baseball.

It’s amazing how Perry peaked relatively early in his career. Most notably the two homerun game against the Yanks, which he called “the greatest day of his life.” However, I’ll counter and suggest that the day, in 1996, that he purchased a thousand-cow dairy farm from his parents was the greatest. In one fell swoop he was able to provide for his parents and own land. There is nothing finer than owning an acre, I believe that is what is called manifest destiny. I imagine his favorite time working on the farm during the off-season was the fall of 2002 – at that point anything must have seemed possible.

Alas, he’d finish his career not soon thereafter with a .272/.335/.436 slash line in 1,889 plate appearances. Along the way he picked up $6.1 million and a dairy farm. Not bad at all!

As a complete non sequitur what is with the name Chan? I don’t get it. Chan Perry would taste only 25 MLB plate appearances and collect only two hits, but he does own a .292/.345/.454 line in 10 minor league seasons. The brothers Perry sure did alright by themselves and their folks!

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perry1fperry2fFor the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Chris Hammond

hammond1bac2 hammond1bacI was going to write about the 1996 Chris Hammond card awhile ago, but it got lost in the shuffle. Over Thanksgiving, I was at my parents house and rummaged through a few boxes of old cards and stumbled upon this 1992 Studio Club card of Hammond that seemed equally interesting. As the Spice Girls said tonight is the night when 2 become 1!

At first, my inclination with Hammond was to prove another sample size issue that was frequent in baseball as little as just 14 years ago (see also: Johnson, Mark). It is in fact true that Hammond posted a pretty nice slash line in 1995 (.271/.364/.375) – a line that would make Russell Martin blush at this point. He also hit one of the four HRs of his career that season. Oddly enough he hit two dingers in 1993, his slash line that year: .190/.292/.317.

So what happened in 1995? Hammond got a pitcher’s typical 40+ ABs, and anyone can look like Mickey Mantle in 48 ABs. When you blow out Hammond’s career (238 ABs) you get a typical pitcher Mendoza-line triple slash: .202/.285/.290. The lesson, as always, one season and a scant number of ABs does not make a career.

Other than his 1995 year at the plate, it was an altogether forgetful career – think of him as a Rheal Cormier doppleganger, or if you prefer akin to Dan Schatzeder (who loves home video!).

However, personally, he seems like an interesting dude. Like Mark Johnson (see above link), he has an affinity for deer. He also, oddly enough, collects matches. I assume this should read matchbooks. Right? I mean there is nothing different about matches, they aren’t snowflakes. Now, matchbooks can remind people of where they have been and the histrionics that ensued somewhere. I still have a matchbook from a formal in college, for instance.

Lastly, I assume Hammond is a fan of the band, Alabama — and really who isn’t – not the state. The band has some phenomenal songs paired deliciously with fantastic beards. Although, Hammond did live in Birmingham, so maybe he’s just a fan of the state. That’d be kind of odd – maybe they have a lot of matches there? Or at least some choice match factories?

Speaking of odd things and Hammond: only 20 times has a lead-off home run won a game 1-0. Hammond, on September 14 1993, gave up a lead-off round tripper to Carlos Garcia. The Marlins lost 1-0 and Hammond joined Walter Johnson, Frank Tanana, Gaylord Perry, Randy Johnson and others in the record book as the only pitchers on the losing end of this type of a game.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

hammond2fronthammond1front

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Larry Walker

Larry walker backwalker front













Shooter McGavin: Just stay out of my way… or you’ll pay! LISTEN to what I say!

Happy Gilmore: Hey, why don’t I just go eat some hay, make things out of clay, lay by the bay? I just may! What’d ya say?

I mean seriously? Walker’s parents must have been pretty Brady Bunch quirky to name their children Larry, Gary, Cary and Barry. Larry I get — it was a big deal back in the day for the first born son to take his fathers name (heck I’m a third). And it’s merely coincidence that Larry married Marry — but seriously, how obnoxious do you have to be to rhyme all your kids’ names? Could you imagine introducing them at a party or school function? Blech.

While naming your kids ridiculous things (Apple?) is all fun and games, Walker’s career was seriously awesome.

No season would be more serious than his 1997 campaign: .366/.452/.720 with 49 HRs, 33 SBs and only eight caught stealings. Certainly, combined, it was a fine year, but his highest batting average (.379) and OBP (.459) would come in 1999. In fact, from 1997-2001, he would bat over .350 four times and over .360 three times.

Think I’m cherry picking some years to make him sound more phenomenal than he was?

Well, Walker has the 38th best average (.313) by a left-handed batter in major league history — tied with two others. He has the 46th highest OBP in MLB history – a sublime .400 – just .001 behind Ricky Henderson – but ahead of Joe DiMaggio, Cap Anson and many others. Walker is also tied for 15th all time with a .565 slugging percentage — ahead of Stan Musial, Ken Griffey Jr., Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Mike Piazza, Frank Robinson and many others. Combine those two stats and you get the 17th highest OBP + SLG, which equals OPS, at .965. That number is higher than Alex Rodriguez, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Gary, Cary, Barry and on and on.

During his career, four times he would bat .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBIs — that is tied for the 24th most seasons of all time. Walker is also one of just 24 players to bat over .300 and hit over 300 HRs in his career. Of all the left-handed batters in all the world that ever played baseball, Walker recorded the 16th and 17th highest slugging percentages in a season. The only immortals he trails: Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams. Not surprisingly he posted two of the top 21 highest OPS seasons by a left-handed batter – trailing only seasons by Bonds, Ruth, Williams and Gehrig.

Finally, he is tied with Carlton Fisk for 69th in wins above replacement (WAR) — ahead of the likes of Eddie Murray, Pee Wee Reese, Craig Biggio, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Gary Sheffield and Mark McGwire.

Of course, it’s hard to parse out the Coors effect and how that improved his numbers. But, if you remember, from ages 22 – 27, he played for Montreal and would accumulate a pretty decent line: .281/.357/.483. Sure it was super helpful to have played in Coors during his relative prime, but kudos to him for taking absolute full advantage of it. Ultimately, his career compares favorably to Vlad Guerrero, Duke Snider, DiMaggio and Ellis Burks. And, clearly, you could argue that he had one of the most devastating bats from the left-side in MLB history.

Quite simply, it’s amazing to me how many Hall of Famers his career is similar or better than. He is up for the first time for enshrinement this coming year along with first-timers Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Kevin Brown and Juan Gonzalez. I’m betting he doesn’t get in, but I wouldn’t be surprised or upset if he and Bagwell (and perhaps Kevin Brown) enter Cooperstown.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Brian Buchanan

Buchana backBuchana front

I really find this card funny – for a variety of reasons – not the least of which is that it allows me to make a little fun of the New York Yankees….

So let me get this straight. Matt Nokes walks in free agency because the Yanks have a young catcher in the minors who is playing pretty well and the team can obtain a supplemental draft pick when he signs with another organization. The Yankees then use that pick on someone named Brian Buchanan – a big 6’3, 190 lbs left-handed pitcher out of high school. Of course, as you (the reader) no doubt see, Buchanan played JV baseball for two years and didn’t pitch his junior season. So, the Yankees drafted a guy with exactly 42.2 varsity high school innings. Not typically the recipe for success.

He’d spend six years in the Yankees minor league system tapping out at AA. He’d finish with not exactly horrible minor league numbers spread over nine years (3.99 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 7.2 Ks/9). What really hurt him was his control; he’d walk 4.1 batters per nine in the minors. Unfortunately, like so many other draft picks, Buchanan would never toe the rubber for a major league ball club.

As for the other Brian Buchanan – and seriously was it the PR departments idea to draft guys with the same name in back-to-back years — he’d log 14 seasons in the minors, finishing with a .279/.341/.450 slash line and 141 HRs. He’d never play for the Yankees as he, along with Eric Milton, Christian Guzman and Danny Mota would be shipped to the Twins in exchange for Chuck Knoblauch. Truly this trade helped both sides. The Twins ultimately got two steady major league performers and Knoblauch played a solid second base for the Yankees. However, Buchanan would do nothing for the Twins – hitting a grand total of 16 HRs in 414 ABs before being traded to the Padres for Jason Bartlett.

Of course Bartlett would put up some great minor league numbers (.299/.373/.417) leading him to become a semi-darling of the stat-community. He was then packaged along with Matt Garza for, predominantly, Delmon Young.

So, the Yankees got no major league appearances from back-to-back Brian Buchanan first round draft picks. Of course, they did turn one into part of chuck Knoblauch — which is a pretty good thing.

You have to love the MLB draft – strange things always seem to happen which is decidedly the case with the only two MLB players to have been named Brian Buchanan.

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For the history of this series, check out this article: Check You Out On the Flip Side: Howard Johnson.