Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis Cardinals’

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Tony Pena

pen aqback pean front realReally? Lets bypass the fact that someone remembered Pena had 14 broken bat base hits during a road trip in 1985 (two years before this card was printed) and instead focus on the poor schmuk who had to calculate the amount of hits Pirate players got while also breaking a bat.

I know it became en vogue to have basketball managers tracking every little “hustle” play in a game, but why oh why was it ever important to track “hustle-like” plays in baseball. Certainly there was something more important than broken bat base hits. May I submit: broken bat homeruns? Or broken bat bunts? Or perhaps the number of times a player grounded into a double play (Pena did ground into the 35th most double plays (234) in MLB history — one behind George Brett and five more than let’s play two Ernie Banks).

One thing can be certain, 1986 would be the last year that the Pirates would tabulate the amount of broken bat hits Tony Pena would have on a road trip. From 1980-1986, Pena appeared in 801 games for the Pirates, he also hit 63 HRs, and posted a pretty good slash line for a catcher (.286/.327/.411). He accumulated 19.3 WAR in Pittsburgh. He’d actually be worth -0.6 WAR for the other 12 seasons in his career.

While the Pirates may have futilely tracked broken bat base hits, they smartly moved Pena to the St. Louis Cardinals at the high point of his value for Mike LaValliere, Andy Van Slyke and Mike Dunne. Pena would play three seasons in St. Louis and earn 1.4 WAR. LaValliere (making his second flip side appearance), was worth 10 WAR over seven seasons in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Van Slyke earned 31 WAR in eight seasons for the Pirates (never mind that they signed him instead of Bonds and missed out on all that PED WAR).

While the trade was real bad for the Cardinals, it in no way diminishes Pena’s career accomplishments. He caught the fourth most games (1950) by a catcher — behind Gary Carter, Bob Boone (FLIP SIDE HERE) and Carlton Fisk. He also posted the 10th best fielding percentage by a catcher in a season (.9973) in 1989. That year he recorded only two errors tied for third fewest in a season by a MLB catcher. Somewhat surprisingly, just three years earlier he recorded 18 errors, which is tied for 11th most in a season by a catcher. If that doesn’t shed light on what “errors” mean, I don’t know what does.

In all, Pena put together a career that stands up against Boone, Brad Asmus and Jim Sundberg – not bad company. Oh, and he earned upwards of $17 million. If he could have collected a few more broken bat base hits, he might have been a hall of famer…

Follow h2h Corner on Twitter (http://twitter.com/h2h_Corner)

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

chris richard backI’ve always liked Chris Richard- I can’t really explain why. Perhaps it is because he has a similar hobby to yours truly….namely a fondness for baseball cards. I love the make-believe involved in cards, the “kid at heart” feeling opening up a new pack and hoping to get a Griffey or Mauer or Posey rookie card. When it comes to hobbies, it doesn’t get much better than baseball cards – you can truly invent anything you want with them, rank them, trade them, write about them (what, you thought I’d link to myself?), look at them, etc.

As a 21-year-old, Richard was a 19th round selection by the St. Louis Cardinals out of Oklahoma State in 1995. He’d post pretty decent minor league numbers culminating in 2000’s AAA slash line: .277/.366/.469. Based on that, Richard would get the call and appear in 62 games for the Cardinals, putting up a .265/.326/.544 slash line.

However, in the middle of the year, the Cardinals traded him and Mark Nussback to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Timlin. At the time, I was ecstatic. It looked like my team had secured a good young first basemen for the cost of a reliever, who, in my mind, simply blew games. Certainly Richard would be much better than Randy Milligan or Sam Horn (who went to high school with Mark McLemore – no joke). Unfortunately, Richard’s mediocre start would simply be his ceiling, as he posted a .262/.323/.445 slash line in 837 ABs with the Orioles.

chris richard frontIn 2003, the Orioles would move him to the Colorado Rockies for Jack Cust. Cust, a former first-rounder, had prodigious power. Again, I thought the Orioles had secured their first baseman of the future for the paltry some of an older player who never would fulfill the faulty promise I bestowed upon him. Unfortunately, Cust would get just 74 ABs in Baltimore before he left. He’d go on to have a pretty successful three year stretch for the Oakland Athletics.

But there is one thing Richard accomplished that Cust (and many others) certainly didn’t. In fact, only 24 players in MLB history ever did what Richard did, that being hit a homerun on the first pitch they ever saw in their career. This is by no means a great predictor of success, but the feat was also accomplished by such notables as Bert Campaneris, Jay Bell and Adam Wainwright.

I wonder what Richard’s favorite baseball card growing up was.

Follow h2h Corner on Twitter (http://twitter.com/h2h_Corner)

h2h Corner ~ Check You Out On the Flip Side: Ozzie Smith

Ozzie 1987 backOzzie 1987 Front

So in addition to being the wizard, Ozzie somehow became America’s preeminent casual dresser. I was quite unaware of the fashions of the 80s, as you would mostly find me in He-Man footies, but, given the way Smith patrolled the diamond, it’s not hard to think of him in suave attire.

While he was a sweet fielder, the Padres were never impressed with his bat. As a Padre, he batted .231 with a .295 OBP. While he was second in the rookie of the year voting and accumulated two gold gloves, they had no problem shipping the future better version of Luis Aparicio to St. Louis for, essentially, Sixto Lezcano and Garry Templeton. That would be a big mistake.

In 1982, at age 27, Smith would post a .339 OBP. He would go on to post an incredibly serviceable .352 OBP from 1982 – 1994. According to Baseball Reference, Smith had a higher career WAR than Ernie Banks, Jackie Robinson, Mark McGwire, Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson and a great percentage of players who stepped onto a diamond.

Still, I’m perfectly willing to let the 1987 card put the footnote on an impeccable career that went beyond offensive statistics. The smooth wizard simply knew his way around a blazer and acid-washed jeans combination.

Follow h2h Corner on Twitter (http://twitter.com/h2h_Corner)