The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Archive for the tag “San Francisco”

Top Ten Things For Which Mets Fans Can Be Moderately Satisfied

Though I’ve been a Mets fan since 1974, and have been writing this blog for nearly five years now, I don’t often indulge myself in all things Mets (probably because there’s not a great deal for which to indulge.)  Yet, given the declining interest among the fan base (do they still make Mets fans?), I thought I would do my best to try to cheer up my fellow refugees here in Mets-Land.

English: Citi Field with Shea Stadium's Home R...

English: Citi Field with Shea Stadium’s Home Run Apple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To that purpose, here is my list of the top ten things for which Mets fans can be moderately satisfied:

1)  Through 276 plate appearances, Curtis Granderson has not yet hit into a single double-play this season.

2)  Jon Niese’s 2.67 ERA ranks 8th-best in the N.L., and his 1.15 WHIP ranks 11th in the senior circuit.

3)  Compared to the San Diego Padres (210 runs scored), our offense (273 runs scored) looks like the ’27 Yankees.

4)  Through 274 plate appearances, Mets prospect Brandon Nimmo has an outstanding .449 on-base percentage in Single-A for the St. Lucie Mets in the Florida State League.

5)  Matt Harvey is still undefeated this year.

6)  If it’s true that with age comes wisdom, then Mets G.M. Sandy Alderson (66), manager Terry Collins (65), and team owner Fred Wilpon (77), are Major League baseball’s version of the Oracle at Delphi, if the Oracle at Delphi featured poor infield defense, and looked at lots of 2-1 fastballs down the middle.

7)  The Mets home attendance average of 27,823 fans per game (17th-best in MLB), means that there is normally plenty of leg and elbow room for the fans who actually do show up, not like out in San Francisco, where the park is 99.5% filled to capacity.  Being a Mets fan attending a game at Citi Field is, then, like enjoying a first-class deck cabin on the Lusitania.

8)  Mets third baseman David Wright still has a perfect driving record.  And, according to another blog I read recently, Wright plays baseball “above the neck.”  That might put him at a competitive disadvantage, however, in a league where most other players use their hands, feet, legs and arms.

9)  No Mets pitcher appears to be on track to match the team record of 24 losses in a season accumulated by retired Mets pitchers Roger Craig and Jack Fisher.  Zack Wheeler currently has just seven losses to lead the team, so he’ll have his work cut out for him if we wishes to join Craig and Fisher in the pantheon of Mets infamy.

10)  With just six triples as an entire team so far this season, the Mets appear to be on pace to at least match the all-time team low of 14 triples the team legged out in 1999.  But at least management will have to spend less money on footwear during the next off-season.  No doubt they’ll put that money to good use signing marquee free agents for the 2015 season, and beyond.







National League Picks: 2014

Following up on yesterday’s post featuring my A.L. picks, here are my soon-to-be-proven absolutely foolish N.L. picks.  Go easy on me, lads.  Playoff teams are in bold.

National League

National League (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

N.L. East:

1)  Washington

2)  Atlanta

3)  New York

4)  Florida

5)  Philadelphia

N.L. Central:

1)  St. Louis

2)  Pittsburgh

3)  Cincinnati

4)  Milwaukee

5)  Chicago

N.L. West:

1)  Los Angeles

2)  San Francisco

3)  Colorado

4)  Arizona

5)  San Diego

St. Louis Cardinals go to the World Series and take on the Detroit Tigers.  The Cardinals win in a classic seven-game match.


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Major League Teams – Best to Worst, By Run Differential

One way to list the 30 MLB teams from best to worst is by using run differential, that is, the difference between how many runs a team has scored minus the number of runs they’ve surrendered.  Although it’s still very early in the year, you will notice some real surprises on this list.

1)  Boston Red Sox   +34

2)  Atlanta Braves    +33

2)  Cincinnati Reds    +33

4)  Texas Rangers     +29

5)  Colorado Rockies  +28

6)  St. Louis Cardinals +23

7)  New York Mets      +18

8)  Oakland A’s            +17

9)  Arizona Diamondbacks   +15

10) Baltimore Orioles   +11

10) Kansas City Royals  +11

10) New York Yankees  +11

13) San Francisco Giants +8

14) Detroit Tigers             +6

15) Pittsburgh Pirates      +1

16) Tampa Bay Rays       -3

17) Milwaukee Brewers  -5

18) Cleveland Indians     -6

19) Chicago White Sox    -7

20) Minnesota Twins     -7

21) L. A. Angels              -10

22) Washington Nationals -15

23) Philadelphia Phillies   -17

24) Chicago Cubs             -18

24) L. A. Dodgers            -18

26) San Diego Padres      -28

27) Seattle Mariners      -29

28) Toronto Blue Jays    -29

29) Houston Astros          -40

30) Miami Marlins            -46

Starting at the top, certainly the Red Sox, Rockies, Mets and, to a certain extent, the Diamondbacks have to be counted as pleasant surprises.  Though many people had the Braves picked to at least win the Wild Card in their division, they have been playing perhaps even better than expected.  The A’s are the little engine that can, and does, always find a way to win.  Notice, too, that the expected collapse of either the Yankees and / or the Orioles hasn’t occurred to this point.  And the Rangers don’t appear to miss Josh Hamilton very much yet, either.

On the negative side of the ledger, Don Mattingly’s days as Dodgers’ manager may be short-lived if he can’t turn his team around before the All-Star break.  Like the Dodgers, the Blue Jays have gone all in this year, but have realized the same lack of success.  The Astros and the Marlins were both expected to be terrible, and they are working hard to deliver on that promise.

What’s with the Angels?  Although Pujols is playing well, they are seriously under-performing to date.

The Washington Nationals slow start, however, must rate as the most stunning in all of baseball to this point.  Many people picked them to win the N.L. pennant this year, but (with the exception of Bryce Harper) they are playing like a team that is trying not to lose, rather than as a confident team playing good baseball.  I think they will turn it around.

Another team that I think will play much better as the season progresses is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Currently, they are a mediocre 16th overall, but I have little doubt they will finish the season among the top half-dozen teams in baseball.

As a Mets fan, I would like the see the Mets finish among the top seven teams at the end of the season, but, barring some peculiarly astute, timely trade,  I see little chance of that happening.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the Pirates finish at or above .500 this year?  I think they are capable of doing so.

Which teams do you think will improve, or implode, over the course of the rest of the season?

A One Year Anniversary Thank You, and a Shout-Out

Crowd outside Huntington Avenue Grounds before...

Image via Wikipedia

Well, looks like we made it.  Step right up, and have your tickets handy.  The gates are now open.

The On Deck Circle turns one-year old as of November 30th, a few hours from now.

Thank you all for the 5,062 hits over the past year.

Here’s a paragraph I wrote in that first blog-post, by way of introduction:

Memory is what keeps most of us (those of us who love baseball), hooked on this sport.  That is to say, we remember what we loved about baseball in our youth, and we try, sometimes a little too hard, to pass these memories on to our own children.”

Further attempting to clarify the intended purpose of this blog, I later added:

There are actually two questions here, important to both American history proper, and to baseball history:

  1. Who deserves to be remembered?
  2. How do they deserve to be remembered?

The answers to these questions comprise the collective historical mythology that we pass down through the generations, from father to son.”

Thus, this blog has primarily been focused on those two important questions over the past year.  I hope that my efforts to resurrect the careers of semi-forgotten stars, while also periodically sharing personal stories of my baseball youth, have stayed true to my original, intended purpose.

Meanwhile, I also wanted to take this opportunity to do a Shout-Out for several other baseball blogs that I have followed over the past year.  In some cases, the authors of these blogs have been kind enough to provide useful, constructive feedback on my 83 posts.

This is my way of saying thank you to some of the people who provided inspiration and support to me along the way.

In each case, these blogs have given me some reason to come back to each one of them again and again. 

So, in no particular order, here they are:

1) DMB Historic World Series Replay

Ever wonder how the old-time World Series match-ups would have turned out if they could be replayed once again, using the same rosters and lineups as were used in the original match-ups?  Well, look no further.  In a recent World Series replay, the 1908 Cubs were upset by Ty Cobb‘s Tigers.  Blog writer Kevin Graham provides brief commentary and full box scores of each replay.

Recently, Kevin has also added a series in which he takes a closer look at members of Baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I am subscribed to this blog, and always enjoy following along.

2)  Play That Funky Baseball

Where to begin on this one.

This is one funky baseball road-trip through the 1977 season, complete with a stopover at Graceland.  Populated by one of the strangest cast of characters to ever spill popcorn on unsuspecting patrons at a ballpark near you, including C. Buzz Gip, Crazy Amy, Mikey Spano, Friendly Fred and others, trying not to physically vanish from this alternate universe before their favorite teams are eliminated from playoff contention.

Ballplayers with names you have long since forgotten, like Doug Rau, Jerry Reuss, and Jack Billingham once again fill the baseball scorecards.  Check it out and you may find yourself riding along on this demented baseball road-trip.

3.  Verdun2’s Blog

I’ve been following this blog longer than any other baseball blog.  It is always well-written, and the author (who is that masked man, anyway?) is that rarest of baseball fanatics:  One who doesn’t have his head up his ass every time he opens his mouth.

Verdun2 specializes, but does not limit himself, to the extremely early days of baseball (19th and early 20th century.)  His historical perspective always provides an interesting learning opportunity for the reader.  He also writes about contemporary baseball topics such as picking the players who will win the post-season awards, and which retired players will / should be elected to the Hall of Fame.

V has also been an extremely loyal reader of The On Deck Circle since virtually the beginning, and for that I am ever grateful.

4)  Section 518

If you are a Mets fan, as I am, look no further for analysis of this ugly duckling franchise (with the current emphasis on ugly.)  A Mets fan in the truest sense, JD is an optimist willing to lay his head on the chopping block year after year, yet realistic enough to accurately gauge their chances for making the playoffs.

I like to read his take on which moves he thinks the Mets should make, and his analysis on moves they have already made.  JD’s evaluations are logical and often brutally honest.  Good stuff.

5)  The Ball Caps Blog

What can you say?  The man is addicted to ball caps.

Actually, my friend Daniel Day simply has a healthy appreciation for all things baseball, so long as you can wear it.  He has been known to travel to Timbuktu for an original 1912 Giants home baseball cap.  Or at least to the local Marshall’s for a facsimile.  Always willing to support other baseball fan’s blogs, it’s time he got a little love sent back at him.

Thank you, Dan, and keep up the good work.

6)  The World According to Keitho

On any given day, in any given post, Keitho is likely to write about how driving in San Fran compares to driving in NYC, his experiences playing jazz in a local nightclub, trying to program a VCR (!) on Thanksgiving, or, when the mood strikes him, his current opinions on all things baseball.

Reading Keitho’s blog is a bit like checking in with a friend of yours via any other social networking platform from time to time.  His style is open, engaging, funny, and interesting.  Reading the World According to Keitho is like opening a box of chocolates, because  it’s always better than NOT opening a box of chocolates.

Keitho pulls no punches, but he is an entertaining social critic with an eye for detail.  And his periodic descents into baseball analysis keep me coming back.

7)  Never Too Much Baseball

I have to confess that I don’t get around to reading this one as much as I should.  His posts pique my interest every time I read them.  His post, “Be Careful: What You Write Might Be Held Against You,” 10/5/10, is one of the most hilarious articles I’ve read in a long time regarding how imprecise writing can completely undermine a writer’s (otherwise) best efforts.

Charles April is never imprecise with his language.  And his logic is even sharper.  His analysis of the various blown calls in the MLB playoffs, and his subsequent arguments in favor of instant replay, are typical of the excellent writing you will find in this blog.  Have a look.

It would be impossible for me to include each and every one of the other baseball blogs and bloggers that I read.  There are links on the right-hand side of my homepage that will take you to several others that are certainly worth a look.  Therefore, with apologies to anyone who may feel slighted, let us stop here for now.

Meanwhile, my plans for future posts include an analysis of the most underrated player of the past 20 years, and why he belongs in The Hall of Fame (hint:  he is a first-time candidate on this year’s ballot.)  I also plan to write a third Underrated / Overrated blog-post about baseball and everything else I can throw in to the mix.

Otherwise, my hope is that this blog will evolve organically, perhaps into something like a Triffid that can only be destroyed by seawater.  Or perhaps into something that will continue to generate a reasonable amount of daily traffic due to the continuously high rate of leisure time apparently enjoyed by the average middle-aged baseball fan (like me.)

Anyway, here’s hoping that I am lucky enough to continue to meet and correspond with fellow baseball fans like you.  Until next time, carry your trash out with you, and please drive home carefully.

Regards, Bill Miller

Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 23 – The San Diego Padres

Petco Park

Image by marcusjroberts via Flickr

The San Diego Padres recently completed their 42nd year of existence without a single World Championship to their name.

An expansion team in 1969, they have never enjoyed a 100 win season, but have lost at least 100 games five times.

Over the years, however, they have produced some very good ball players, and even a few strong ball clubs.  This year’s version came within one victory of winning their division for the sixth time, finishing with a 90-win season for the first time since 1998.  They have gone on to the World Series twice, getting swept by the Yankees in 1998, and losing to the Tigers in five games in 1984.

Trivia Question:  Who is the only Padres pitcher to ever win a World Series game?  Answer below, after this post.

As a boy growing up on the east coast in the 1970’s, the Padres were a mysterious team of unfamiliar names sporting garish, ugly uniforms.  But since the Padres were almost always a bad team in those days, at least I knew that my Mets would stand a good chance of defeating them in a season series.

By the time the Padres enjoyed their first winning season in 1978,  I was already well into high school, and my interest in baseball waned as the Mets languished in the basement of the N.L. East.

Even as a youthful baseball card collector, I can’t say that many Padres players stood out as the kind of name players you could offer up in a trade for, say, Johnny Bench or Reggie Jackson.

But my fog of ignorance regarding Padres players from that era has lifted to a certain degree recently while researching players and stats for this post.

I was surprised, for example, that the Padres pitcher with the highest single season WAR was not Kevin Brown, Jake Peavy or Randy Jones. It was, in fact, Dave Roberts.  No, not the speedy outfielder Dave Roberts of recent years, swiping bases for the Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, etc.

Dave Roberts was a left-handed pitcher for the Padres from 1969-71, before moving on, in quick succession, to the Astros, Tigers, Cubs, and a couple of other teams, eventually retiring after the 1981 season with a career record of 103-125.

1971 was Dave Roberts Best Forgotten Season with the Padres.

Dave Roberts finished the season with what, at first glance, looks like an unimpressive 14-17 win-loss record.  But the Padres record that year (just their third campaign since expansion) was 61-100.

Robert’s posted an impressive ERA of 2.10 in ’71, second best in the N.L.  He made 34 starts, completed 14 games, and hurled 269 innings.  His 1.109 WHIP was seventh best in the league.

Not a strikeout pitcher, he fanned just 135 batters in ’71, but he also knew how to keep the ball in the park, surrendering just nine home runs.

Robert’s  ERA+ was 157, almost as good as the 158 that Jake Peavy recorded in 2007 when he won the Cy Young award for the Padres.

Perhaps most impressively, as I alluded to earlier in this post, Dave Robert’s WAR in 1971 was 8.5, better than Kevin Brown’s 8.4 in 1998, better than Peavy’s 6.2 in 2007, and better than either of Randy Jones’ two best efforts of 7.7 (1975), and 5.1 (1976.)

But like Randy Jones, Dave Roberts was a good pitcher on bad Padres teams.  Jones, however, managed to get enough run support to enjoy consecutive 20-win seasons in ’75-’76, while Roberts never topped his 14 wins in ’71.

(As an aside, Randy Jones never won even as many as 14 games in any other season of his career outside of those two 20-win years.)

Dave Roberts efforts did not go completely unnoticed by Cy Young voters, however.  Even with a losing record, Roberts finished a respectable 6th in the Cy Young vote in ’71.

Roberts passed away on January 9th, 2009, having enjoyed one fine, yet largely forgotten season as a major league pitcher.

Roberts did have one teammate who could slug the ball, however.  His name was Nate Colbert.

From 1969-73, Colbert slugged 149 homers in five seasons, averaging just under 30 homers a season on a team that badly needed all the offense it could get.  Unfortunately for Dave Roberts, Nate Colbert’s best season occurred the year after Roberts got traded to Houston.

1972 was Nate Colbert’s Best Forgotten Baseball Season.

Colbert was not a well-rounded ballplayer, but he knew his strength, which was, in fact, strength.  He wouldn’t hit for much of an average, and he never won a Gold Glove for fielding his position, but he could certainly hit the long-ball.

In 1972, Nate Colbert finished third in the N.L. in home runs with 38, behind a couple of guys named Aaron and Bench.  He had also hit 38 homers a couple of years earlier in 1970, but this time around, he also added 111 RBI’s as well, good for 4th best in the N.L.

He added 27 doubles, 87 runs scored, 70 walks, and a .508 slugging percentage, sixth best in the league.

His 286 total bases was the fifth most in the N.L., and his 67 extra base hits were the third highest total in the league.

He posted an OPS+ of 145, and his WAR was 5.2.  Each of those numbers placed him in the top ten in the league.

Colbert wasn’t a huge speed threat, but his 15 stolen bases coupled with his home run power produced a Power-Speed # of 21.5, 4th in the league.

Colbert was named to the All-Star team, and he finished 8th in the N.L. MVP voting in ’72.  His .250 batting average, at a time when that statistic was more highly regarded than it is today, was a primary culprit in suppressing where he otherwise might have finished in the voting.

Unfortunately for Colbert, and for the Padres, he enjoyed just one more productive season the following year before going into a steep, irreversible slide at age 28.  He was out of baseball by age 30.

Nate Colbert’s .469 career slugging percentage is still sixth-best all-time on the Padres.  He remains on the Padres top ten all-time lists in at bats, hits, runs scored, RBI’s and walks.

He is the all-time Padres leader in Home Runs (163) and strikeouts (773).  Early next season, however, Adrian Gonzalez will break Colbert’s career home run record; Gonzalez currently has 161 career home runs for San Diego.

But in the first half-dozen years of the Padres existence, Nate Colbert was their primary offensive weapon.

Now, if only the Padres could find a slugger to pair up with Adrian Gonzalez, they might create some new team history their fans could be proud of.

Answer to Trivia Question:  Andy Hawkins defeated Dan Petry in Game 2 of the 1984 World Series.

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