Posts Tagged ‘New York Mets’

h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: Jeff Suppan

So Jeff Suppan was the Todd Van Poppel of the mid-90s? That was my initial reaction to the blurb on the back of the card.

However, that’s not really true.

As the card points out, Suppan had all the promise and pedigree of a highly touted young pitcher (he had more stuff than fluff which was the case with Van Poppel). And you can’t really fault those press clippings, as Suppan tore through the minors. In 1996, at AAA and just 21-years-old, Suppan had a 5.68 K:BB rate.

For whatever reason, though, his stuff at that time just couldn’t fool major league hitters. While he posted nearly a K per inning in the minors, he struggled to strike out more than five batters per nine with the Red Sox. After three unsuccessful seasons and 39 appearances (29 starts) with a 5.99 ERA, 1.60 WHIP and 1.83 K:BB rate, the Red Sox left him unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft* and the Diamondbacks pounced (that’s probably a poor onomatopoeia).

He pitched horribly for Arizona and they soon sold him to Kansas City. While his tenure with the Royals was unspectacular, he pitched over 200 innings during each of his four full years there (from 1999-2002), combining for a 4.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP and 1.60 K:BB rate. Dude just ate innings, pitching the seventh most during that span – just behind Livan Hernandez, Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Curt Schilling, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson.

After 2002, he signed as a free agent with the Pirates, who quickly traded him and Brandon Lyon to the Red Sox for Mike Gonzalez, Freddy Sanchez and dollar dollar bills. Talk about a deal involving some average players who ended up making serious bank. It was a one-year deal, so Suppan found himself a free agent again in 2003.

That’s when he met the god that is Dave Duncan. From 2004-2006, he threw 572 innings for the Cardinals, posting a 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 1.67 K:BB rate. Sure it was mostly smoke and mirrors, but that’s some quality durability.

He also came through when it matted. He went 3-3 in the post-season for the Cardinals during that stretch and dominated the New York Mets in 2006. He threw 15 innings and allowed one earned run. He was the MVP of the NLCS that year and even took Steve Trachsel (a very similar pitcher) deep in game three.

After his splendid 2006 regular and post season, Suppan was treated to a four-year $42 million contract by the Brewers (good gosh, my golly, what a folly). He pitched wretchedly for the Brewers, prompting one fan to put Suppan up for sale on eBay.

He was eventually released, but scooped up by the Cardinals. He posted a 3.84 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 1.32 K:BB rate for the Cardinals in 70.1 IPs during 2010. That would be his last season in the majors.

While I was able to mention Suppan in the same breath as Maddux in this piece, he never lived up to those press clippings. However, the $58 million he earned in his playing time, the NLCS MVP, 2006 World Champion and 12.8 WAR suggest he was a far better player than Van Poppel ever was (TVP was worth -2.1 WAR during his career).

*Man, there were four total All-stars in that draft (although possibly a Hall of Famer in Bobby Abreu). One All-star, Damian Miller, I vaguely remember as a subpar catcher. While I was annoyed Esteban Yan was gone from the Orioles, it didn’t hurt as much as Aaron Ledesma being scooped up in the final round. I was 15 when he played for the Orioles – I had no clue he was 26 at the time as I had never heard of him. That year was magical for the Orioles (at least for awhile) and I remember an 11-3 loss to the Tigers pretty well. Jimmy Key continued his second half swoon and Esteban Yan compounded the damage, but a scrappy infielder went 2-4, raising his average to .345. Ledesma hit .352 that year for the Orioles but didn’t make a postseason appearance. The following year he hit .324 for Tampa Bay, then would be out of baseball two years later. The only two HRs he ever hit were for the Orioles and he finished with a .296/.338/.365 line. His dWAR seems average, so I’m surprised his bat never stuck. Maybe he just wasn’t that good…like Luis Mercedes.

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h2h Corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side: David West/Frank Viola


And I thought the grammar on the back of the Topps cards were bad. Man, Upper Deck, which was so hot in 1990, really flubbed this one. There are so many missing words in this that it’s ridiculous. How hard would it be to write: “West was key part of 5 pitcher deal to the Mets for Frank Viola. He was drafted #4 by Mets in June ’83.” And, by #4 they mean a fourth rounder, not that he was the fourth overall pick.

So he wasn’t as big of a bust as you would surmise. He did spend 10 seasons in the majors, finishing with a 4.66 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 1.41 K:BB rate in 569.1 innings. He had one decent year for the Twins, in 1991, when he started 12 games and finished with a 4.54 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He really helped the Twins get to the World Series that year, as he threw 5.2 innings in relief in the ALCS without allowing a run. Of course, his World Series was terrible, as he finished with an ERA of infinity (he allowed four runs without recording an out).

Two years later, he had arguably his best season (2.92 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 1.71 K:BB) for the Phillies. Thanks to Mitch Williams, his utter relief failures are not as heavily remembered. In the NLCS, he allowed five runs/four earned in 2.2 innings and in the World Series, he allowed three earned runs in just one inning of work. He made well over $2.5 million in his career, tasted victory and defeat and even played in Japan. Still, he was by no means the key part of the Frank Viola trade (at least in hindsight).

In addition to West, the New York Mets sent Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummon and Kevin Tapani to the Twins.

Adding in those elements makes this not a particularly astute move by the Mets (but what else is new). While West was worth -0.3 WAR for the Twins, Aguilera was worth 16.1 WAR, Drummon was worth 0.7 WAR and Tapani was worth 17.5 WAR. At the time of the deal, Aguilera (who has an awesome beard) was 27 and owned a career 3.58 ERA and 1.29 WHIP for the Mets over 473 innings. Aguilera was especially valuable in 1991, posting a 2.35 ERA with 42 saves and a 1.07 WHIP – heck he even received some MVP votes. He also threw 8.1 innings in the play-offs, earning five saves and allowing just one earned run.

Tapani also turned in a banner season in 1991: 34 starts, 244 innings, a 2.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 3.38 K:BB rate. He finished seventh in the CY Young voting, but you could make the argument that he deserved to be top four, at least. Tapani didn’t fare so well in the 1991 ALCS, getting shellacked by the Toronto Blue Jays. But he redeemed himself in the World Series: he started two games, pitched 12 innings and went 1-1.

That’s a blueprint for building a championship there. The Twins gave up one decent starting pitcher who was near 30 for a bunch of younger cheaper pieces.

So what about Viola? At the time of the deal, Viola was 29 and would be worth 9.6 WAR for the Mets. He was effectively done after 1993, just four years after the deal.

Still, he had a fantastic career. He gave up the 3,000th hit to Rod Carew in 1985. When it was all said and done, Viola started 420 games, the 27th most in baseball history by a southpaw. He won 176 games of those games, the 43rd most by a lefty. Of course he also lost 150 games, tied for the 34th most by a southpaw (with Hal Newhouser and Ken Hotlzman). Viola finished with 1,844 Ks, the 26th most all-time by a lefty. Not bad.

I always love looking at these types of deals – it seems that giving tons of young cheap talent for near-30s “stars” comes back to bite the team giving the young talent more often than not. Still, you have to give the Twins credit for dealing Viola who had just helped them win a World Series two years before.

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h2h corner ~ Check You out on the Flip Side ~ Charlie Kerfeld

I feel like this entire card is an homage to a practical joke. While the grammar leaves one wanting, it’s pretty darn accurate. Kerfeld was absolutely a free spirit: when Jim Deshaies signed for $110,000 in 1987, Kerfeld demanded $110,037.37 and 37 boxes of orange Jell-O. His uniform was number 37.

Kerfeld, it is rumored, also always wore a Jetsons’ tee shirt because of the name of the dog in that particular cartoon. He hung out with Larry Anderson and Dave Smith in the bullpen while wearing Conehead heads…no talk of whether they played pong, drank Southern Comfort or ate bar-b-q.

A former first round pick in the June secondary draft of 1982, Kerfeld was a good reliever for exactly one season for the Astros. That happened to be 1986, which had to be the highlight of his life for so many reasons. He went 11-2 in 61 appearances, spanning 93.2 IPs. He walked a ton of batters (as he did his entire career), but made up for it with a good strand rate and BABIP.

The Astros happened to be a pretty darn good team in 1986 – good enough to win the NL West (back when the Astros were in the West division). If you don’t know, he gave, perhaps, the greatest drunken interview in the history of sports after they clinched: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC2y3RmQUdw. Kerfeld is a good ole boy, who drank a Busch on camera and got away with pouring a beer on Nolan Ryan (1:48 mark).

He pitched pretty well in the post-season that year, making three appearances and posting a 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 4 K:BB rate in four innings. Unfortunately, he gave up the winning run on a Gary Carter single in the bottom of the 12th inning of game five. Two-time flip sider, Jesse Orosco got the win…go figure.

Kerfeld would battle regression, poor walk rates and calcium deposits and other injuries for the rest of his career. He was out of baseball after the 1990 season.

You might wonder what that good ole boy is up to now. Well, he’s special assistant to the general manager for the Philadelphia Phillies…go figure.

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Don’t Look Back in Anger: Angel Pagan, Matt Wieters, James McDonald

Don’t Look Back in Anger: Angel Pagan, Matt Wieters, James McDonald

http://razzball.com/don%E2%80%99t-look-back-in-anger-angel-pagan-matt-wieters-james-mcdonald/ Continue reading

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Jimmy Piersall/Jesse Orosco

oroscoback oroscofrontAs I’m wont to do, I (shockingly) complained about the 1986 set and lack of usable info on the back of cards. Well, with Schoolboy Rowe in tow, I guess it wasn’t all bad, especially with this little nugget from Jesse Orosco’s card (his flip side, here).

Piersall was a slick fielder by all accounts. From 1953-1961 he finished no worse than 10th in Defensive WAR, and the 10th place finish was the only time he placed outside the top five. Defense was clearly where Piersall provided value, as a .272/.332/.386 slash line is nothing overly special.

In addition, he didn’t hit for power (just 104 HRs, however his 100th HR was incredibly memorable) or run particularly well (115 steals in 172 attempts).

But, boy, could he field. I mean, heck, he posted a .990 fielding percentage (tied for 13th all time with the likes of Robin Yount, Bernie Williams, and others). He didn’t post such a good fielding percentage by having poor range either. Quite simply, in 1956, he got to more balls than most players do in a career. In that magnificent year, he recorded 455 put outs. That ties him with Gorman Thomas for the 41st most in a season all time. That would be his finest year at the plate as well (.293/.350/.449) and he lead the league in doubles. He earned his second and final all-star appearances and finished 14th in MVP voting.

Unfortunately, I thought this Flip Side would be more light-hearted than it turned out to be. After researching Piersall, it turns out that circling the bases backwards was not an attempt at clowning but an example of his bi-polar disorder – one that was highly publicized in the book/movie Fear Strikes Out. In my research, I also found that he circled the bases running backwards – but in the correct order – to celebrate his 100th home run – a homer he hit off Phillies pitcher Dallas Green.

Perhaps it is fitting, given Piersall’s condition, that I started this Flip Side off looking to be jovial and have ended it on a relatively sad note.

Or, conversely, in the man’s own words (and during one at bat he did wear a Beatles wig and play air guitar), “Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Who ever heard of Jimmy Piersall, until that happened?”

Had he never circled the bases backwards, I certainly wouldn’t have learned much about him. But at least he went nuts in a funny way…

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h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Daryl Boston

boston backboston frontA guy with the last name, Boston, clearly has to have some music in him. I think Boston is an underrated band — they had several good tunes – all of which Detective Dan Stark would love!

However, that said, doesn’t everyone own a good impression of Stevie Wonder. All you have to do is stare off into space and move your head around melodiously while tickling some ivory.

Also the majority of people like popular music, it’s why it’s…ummm…popular and why Katy Perry has fantastic bosoms (or versa-vicea). Still, popular music in the 80s is a bit different than it is now, so I wonder (get it?) if he has remained a fan of popular music. It is kind of hard to see Daryl Boston grooving to Miley Cyrus like all the kids do. And, in all fairness, because I like Miley, Stevie Wonder had a much better groove than Cyrus does.

Boston was the seventh overall selection by the Chicago White Sox in 1981. He torched the minors as a 21-year-old in 1984 (.312 AVG and .533 SLG) before getting the call. His first two stints wouldn’t be as successful as Stevie Wonder’s career (heck they weren’t even as successful as Rat’s career) as he would post a .213/.254/.305 line in 130 games.

But the White Sox would stick with him and he’d show some glimmers of first-round talent, going .261/.317/.424 in 159 games from 1986-1987. Unfortunately that would be the height of his tenure with the Sox, and he’d be signed, sealed, and delivered off waivers by the Mets in 1990 after accumulating just 2.4 WAR over seven seasons in Chicago.

It was a timely acquisition for the Mets, as Boston was hitting his years 27 – 29 seasons. During that time he posted a .266./.338/.429 line – much more in line with his minor league trajectory. He was worth 3.9 WAR in just 382 games with the Mets – this span would be the high point of his career.

After the 1992 season, Boston would spend one decent year in Colorado and one unsuccessful year in Pinstripes before leaving baseball. Still, Boston most certainly found the Key to Life – he had an occupation he loved and a healthy fondness for music and comedy.

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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: Len Dykstra

Dykstra 1987 backHold for the shocker of the century…Len Dykstra has Dykstra 1987 fronthockey blood in him. Is anyone really surprised? I read the back of this card and was like yep that makes a ton of sense. Dykstra reminds me of baseball’s version of Tie Domi – someone who was willing to abuse his and your body to ensure victory…someone with a huge honking wad of chew in his cheek, scratching, and spitting. Basically, your everyday fire and brimstone igniter player.

My empirical sense of Dykstra was corroborated by an objective view of his career. Dude finished with a .375 OBP and had three seasons with an OBP over .400. In 1993, he led the Phillies and league in runs, hits, and walks. Hits and walks in the same year – that’s absurd. Basically, he got on base and caused damage.

Unfortunately, perhaps because of his continually aggressive play, his body never let Dykstra join the upper echelons of baseball history. He only managed 1,278 games over 12 seasons. His last season, 1996, he played in just 40 contests, but managed a .387 OBP.

He was also part of a pretty poor trade by the Mets. Along with Roger McDowell he was sent to the Phillies for Juan Samuel.

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