Mets Merized Online » Carl Aridas Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:50:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Shoebox Memories: 1981 Topps John Pacella Sun, 12 Feb 2017 17:00:48 +0000 john pacella topps 81

He was 23 years old and he threw hard.  So hard, as described on the back of the baseball card (No. 414 from the 1981 Topps set) shown above. “John has the unique habit of losing his cap after each pitch.”  That was okay, because he threw hard.

The card above is a perfect in-action shot of the young fireballer the Mets had developed. There wasn’t much to cheer for during the 1980 season as the team finished 67-95 that year, 24 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies.  Mark Bomback led the team with 10 wins and Lee Mazzilli led the team in home runs with 16.

But that was all going to change.  Before the 1980 season, a bright new General Manager named Frank Cashen had been hired and he was already working on a plan that would bring the Mets back to the promised land of playoff baseball. But I digress…

Besides throwing faster than anyone the Mets had at the time, John Pacella was also a native New Yorker, born in Brooklyn and with a big head of hair that reminded everyone of that famous sweathog Vinny Barbarino, played by John Travolta at the time. Pacella was drafted by the Mets in the fourth round of the 1974 draft, after going 21-4 for Connetquot High School in Bohemia where he flaunted his bell bottomed jeans when he wasn’t on the mound wearing his cleats.

I was at Shea in 1980 when on June 27th against the Phillies,  I watched as Pacella struck out seven including Mike Schmidt twice in 6.0 innings of work, out-pitching Hall of Famer Steve Carlton. The Mets would defeat the Phillies 3-2 and young John Pacella would earn his first major league win.

Three weeks later, Pacella combined with Jeff Reardon, another young fireballer who was just brought up from Tidewater (man this Cashen dude had the formula) to shut out the Braves 6-0.  The win made John Pacella 3-0 for a bad Mets team and he was briefly the toast of the town.  All over New York, little leaguers were adjusting their caps to be three sizes too big so they could likewise distract the batter as their cap flew off their heads.

Unfortunately, the Braves game was the high water mark for Pacella and he would go on to lose his next four decisions. He would finish his rookie campaign with a 5.14 ERA and little leaguers quickly re-adjusted their cap sizes after the season. Pacella was traded to the Padres along with 22-year old Jose Moreno (who had hit .194 in 1980) to the Padres for an aging Randy Jones.  Jones went 1-8 with a 4.85 ERA for the Mets in 1981.

John Pacella finished his major league baseball career in 1986 with the Tigers.  His career record was 4-10 with a 5.73 ERA.  Never able to harness his good fastball, John walked 133 vs. 116 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings. In 1987 he was sold to the Tokyo Giants in Japan, where he pitched for five seasons.

John Pacella is now a coach, providing private lessons, with the Big League Baseball School in Worthington, Ohio.  Hopefully he teaches a new generation how to wear their caps.

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Shoebox Memories: 1962 Topps Hobie Landrith Sun, 22 Jan 2017 15:00:34 +0000 hobie landrith

Before Travis d’Arnaud, before Mike Piazza, before Gary Carter, John Stearns or Jerry Grote, there was Hobie Landrith, pictured above on card number 279 of the 1962 Topps set.

The expansion draft for baseball’s two newest franchises, the New York Mets and the Houston Colt .45s, was held the day after the 1961 World Series ended. Picking first, the Mets selected Hobie Landrith, a back-up catcher for the San Francisco Giants.  As Mets manager Casey Stengel jokingly explained, “You have to have a catcher or you’ll have a lot of passed balls.”

Born on March 16, 1930, Landrith was signed by the Cincinnati Reds before the 1949 season.  A back-up catcher with the Reds/Redlegs through 1955, Landrith was traded to the Cubs after the 1955 season for Hal Jeffcoat, a poor hitting outfielder who had converted to a pitcher and would go 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA with the Cubs in 1956.

Hobie Landrith was the starting catcher for the Cubs in 1956, but hit a poor .221 with only four home runs and 32 RBIs before being included in a large eight-player trade to the Cardinals before the 1957 season.  Landrith remained a backup catcher with the Cardinals in 1957 and 1958 before being traded again with Billy Muffett and Benny Valenzuela to the Giants for minor league pitcher Ernie Broglio and Marv Grissom after the ’58 season.  Ernie Broglio would make the majors in 1959, win 21 games in 1960 and is best remembered for being the main pitcher the Cubs would receive in exchange for a young outfielder named Lou Brock.

As a 32-year old light-hitting back up catcher, Landrith was left exposed by the Giants in the draft, and was selected by Mets’ GM George Weiss.  Proof that Mets management have a history of not being overly generous with players, GM Weiss sent Hobie Landrith a salary offer of $7,500, which was the required minimum for all first round picks in the draft.

When Landrith was sent the contract offer, he turned it down, saying it was at least a $3,000 pay cut.  Weiss sent exactly the same contract three times, eventually leading to Landrith giving up and signing the deal on February 11, 1962.  Landrith was slated to be the first-string catcher, with Choo-Choo Coleman as the team’s backup catcher. Incidentally, Coleman passed away last season.

landrith (5)Landrith waas behind the plate when the New York Mets played their very first regular season game on April 11, 1962 against the St. Louis Cardinals, batting 8th for the Amazins.  It was an inauspicious start for both the Mets and Landrith as the team lost 11-4 to the Cards and Hobie went 0 for 4, allowed three stolen bases (two to center fielder Curt Flood), and he made an error as well. In a word, yikes.

Never a slugger, Landrith hit only one home run with the Mets, and even that was almost a disaster.  As reported in the New York Times, on May 12, Landrith pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs and the Mets down 2-1 against the Milwaukee Braves.

Pitching for the Braves was future Hall of Famer and future Met Warren Spahn. Landrith hit Spahn’s first pitch for a game-winning two-run home run. However, Rod Kanehl, who was pinch running for Gil Hodges, failed to touch third base after the home run.

Third base coach Solly Hemus gave Landrith a sign to slow down, then escorted Kanehl back to third base. If Landrith touched third base before Kanehl, Rod would have been called out and the Mets would have been the first team to ever lose a game while hitting a walk-off home run.

After losing their 16th and 17th straight game, on June 7, 1962, the Mets included Hobie Landrith in the trade to the Baltimore Orioles as the player to be named later, in exchange for Mets legend Marvelous Marv Throneberry.  He ended his brief career with the Mets with a rather robust .289/.389/.422 in 23 games.

Now 86, Hobie Landrith, the Mets’ first ever draft choice and opening day catcher, is still with us unlike many members of the 1962 team.

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The Mets’ First African-American All-Star: Cleon Jones Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:02:57 +0000 all-time-mets-left-field-cleon-jones

Today, when America stops to remember its greatest civil rights leader, we thought it is appropriate to remember Cleon Jones, the team’s first African American All-Star.

Cleon Jones signed with the New York Mets at the age of 20 in 1963, before baseball had initiated the annual amateur draft.  After batting over .300 for both the Carolina League Raleigh Mets and New York–Penn League Auburn Mets, Jones received a September call-up to the major league club, thereby skipping both AA and AAA. Jones had two hits in 15 at-bats for a .133 batting average during his 1963 stint with the New York Mets.

Jones was the team’s starting center fielder in 1966, and had a fine season, batting 275 with eight home runs, 57 RBIs, and 16 stolen bases.  Jones was fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting that season.  In 1967, Cleon Jones’ batting average dipped to .246, and he ended up sharing playing time with Larry Stahl. Following the season, the Mets acquired Jones’ childhood friend Tommie Agee from the Chicago White Sox.  With the former gold glover Agee in New York, Jones was moved to left field.

In 1968, Jones had an outstanding season, batting .297 which was a fantastic batting average (sixth in the league) in the Year of the Pitcher.  Jones had 29 doubles, 14 homers and 55 RBIs. His OPS of .793, was 37% better than average.

cleon jones

Building on his wonderful 1968 campaign, Cleon Jones batted an incredible .341 with ten home runs and 56 RBIs in the first half of 1969 earning the starting left field job for the  All Star game, ahead of contemporaries such as Billy Williams, Willie Stargell, and Jesus Alou.  In the game, Cleon represented the Mets quite well, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored in the NL’s 9–3 victory.

Cleon Jones was the team’s hitting star of the rising Mets, with a team-leading batting average well above .330. The Amazins found themselves in second place, five games back of the Chicago Cubs in the new National League East (1969 was the first year of divisional play) when the Houston Astros came to Shea Stadium for a July 30 double-header.

After losing the first game 16–3, the Mets were down 7–0 in the third inning of the second game when Johnny Edwards hit a double off of Nolan Ryan to Jones in left field to make the score 8–0. Mets manager Gil Hodges emerged from the dugout, walked past Nolan Ryan on the mound, and walked all the way out to left field. A few minutes later, Hodges walked back to the dugout, with Jones a few paces behind him, and replaced Jones in left with Ron Swoboda.

cleon jones world series

Newspapers at the time said Jones suffered a leg injury and he was not in the Mets lineup for several games after July 30. Later accounts say that Jones was removed for failure to hustle, and Hodges decided to do so publicly to show that he would not tolerate lack of effort on his team, even from its star player.

In a 2009 interview, following pre-game ceremonies honoring the 40th anniversary of the “Miracle Mets”, Jones discussed the incident during a telecast of that night’s game. Jones said Hodges asked him why he did not look good going after a fly ball on the previous play. According to Jones, he pointed down to the water-filled turf. Hodges then said that something must be wrong with Jones’s ankle and pulled him for that reason.  Cleon Jones stated he believes that the fear instilled in other players by the incident was the turning point in the season.

As a reminder, in 1969 the Mets rallied to overtake the Cubs, Sweep Hank Aaron and the Braves in the playoffs (Jones batted .459 against Atlanta) and became World Champions by beating the heavily favored Orioles in the World Series with Cleon Jones making the final catch.

Cleon Jones, the Mets’ first African All Star, was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1991 and is also one of the eight inductees in the Metsmerized Hall of Fame. Well deserved honors for one of the franchise’s first young hitting star. 

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Shoebox Memories: 1978 Topps Joe Torre Sun, 08 Jan 2017 14:00:37 +0000 joe-torre

It may come as a surprise to some younger Mets fans who think of Joe Torre only as the former New York Yankees manager who won four World Series with the Bombers from 1996 to 2000 – when he beat our beloved Mets.

Joe Torre also served in the unique role as a player-manager for the Amazins in 1977. The card above, No. 109 from the Topps 1978 set, reflects two pictures of Torre serving in both his roles in the major leagues.

Joe Torre began his Mets career when he was traded to the Mets after the 1974 season by the St. Louis Cardinals for young right-handed pitching prospect Tommy Moore and veteran left-handed swingman Ray Sadecki.  Moore did not develop as a prospect, finishing his big league career with a 2-4 record and an ERA of 5.40.  Sadecki went 4-3 with a 4.03 ERA in 1975 and finished a fine career in baseball in 1977 back with the Mets, who were managed by the man he was traded for – Joe Torre.  In his 18-year career Sadecki went 135-131 with a 3.78 ERA, 85 complete games and seven saves.


With the Mets in 1975, Torre was a big money contract, earning $105,000 per year.  The 1971 MVP and an All-Star as recently as 1973, the Mets were hoping for Torre’s veteran bat to help the team rebound from a disappointing 1974 season in which the team went 71-91 under manager Yogi Berra.  The 1974 team was well-armed with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Jon Matlack along with George Stone (only four-man rotations in 1974) but no one hit more than 20 homers on the team and only one starter hit better than .270.

Splitting time with Ed Kranepool at first base and Wayne Garret at third, in 1975 the 34-year old Torre had a poor season, hitting .247 with only six homers and 35 RBIs in 400 plate appearances. In addition, he became the first National League batter to hit into four double plays in the same game.  Second baseman Felix Millan singled four times in the game batting ahead of Torre who would say after the game: “I’d like to thank Felix Millan for making this possible.” The fat lady was singing for Mets Manager Yogi Berra in the middle of the season and the team ended the year with Roy McMillan at the helm.  The club went 82-80, finishing in third place.

With Joe Frazier at the helm for the entire 1976 season, Joe Torre had a rebound season in 1976, hitting .306, with a .358 on base percentage and a .406 slugging percentage.  His OPS of 764 was 24 percent better than the National League average in 1976.  The team finish 86 – 76 in 1976, another third place finish as the Reds swept the Yankees in the World Series.


The 1977 team started poorly under Joe Frazier with a 15 – 30 record, and in May Joe Torre was named player-manager of the Mets.  1977 season is not remembered fondly by most Mets fans as in June the Mets management executed the Midnight massacre, trading franchise icon Tom Seaver to the Reds and outfielder Dave Kingman (who had led the team in home runs in both 1975 and 1976) to the Giants.

The player part of the Mets player-manager had a terrible season in 1977, batting only .176 with one homer.  The manager part of the Mets player-manager did only slight better.  The Mets went 49-68 under Torre in 1977, finishing in last place.  The .419 winning percentage under Torre was actually the best winning percentage any Mets team would have under him which isn’t saying much.  The team was actually worse for the next four seasons and Torre was fired after the strike-shortened 1981 season by the team’s new owners.

Torre would become one of the last two player managers the National League would ever see, the other being Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds.

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Shoebox Memories: 1978 Topps Tom Seaver Sun, 25 Dec 2016 14:00:52 +0000 1482665111542

Unless you marry your high school sweetheart, it’s almost inevitable that after you break up you will see your first love in someone else’s arms.  Maybe walking the hall, maybe outside the school, but somewhere you see the first girl of your dreams with someone else.

Those feelings are what many felt the first time they saw the card above, which was the first card produced by Topps with Tom Seaver, aka Tom Terrific, aka The Franchise wearing someone else’s uniform. To many Mets fans, this card served as both tangible proof and heartbreak reminder of the “Midnight Massacre.”

At the start of the 1977 season Tom Seaver was unhappy with his 3 year $675,000 contract, which had been signed prior to the 1976 season. Seaver wanted to renegotiate his contract to bring his salary in line with what other top pitchers were making, but Chairman of the Board M. Donald Grant, refused to budge. Grant was quoted at the time saying “The contract is the fundamental cornerstone in our country and baseball as well.”

After reading (proof ballplayers should never read papers) an infamous June 14th article by senior Daily News sports columnist Dick Young that said in part, “Nolan Ryan is now getting more money than Seaver and that galls Tom because his wife Nancy and Nolan’s wife Ruth are very friendly and Tom has long treated Ryan like a little brother.” Tom Seaver informed the team’s owner, Lorinda de Roulet, that he wanted out and asked the General Manager of the Mets at the time Joe McDonald to immediately trade him, feeling he could not co-exist with Donald Grant.

tom seaver.jpeg

In the first two trades that would come to be known as “the Midnight Massacre” (the second trade was Dave Kingman to the San Diego Padres), Seaver was traded to the Cincinnati Reds right at the trade deadline that year June 15, 1977 for pitcher Pat Zachry, infielder Doug Flynn, and minor league outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman.

After June 15, Seaver went 14-3 with a 2.34 ERA for the Reds, including an emotional 5-1 win on August 21 against the Mets in his return to Shea Stadium. Seaver struck out 11 in the return, and also hit a double.

Just over a year after the trade, on June 16, 1978 Seaver, who had four one-hitters for the Mets, pitched a no-hitter for the Reds against the Cardinals. Seaver stayed with the Reds through the 1982 season before returning to the Mets for one season. Seaver was 75 – 46 with the Reds, and finished in the top 4 in Cy Young Award voting three times with that team. The Reds won the 1979 National League West and in 1981 had the best combined record in baseball.

The Mets part of the trade? Doug Flynn hit 5 home runs in 5 seasons with the Mets. Manning the keystone for the Amazins, Flynn won a gold glove in 1980, the same season he reached his highest career batting average (.255) with the Mets.

Pat Zachry, the 1976 Rookie of the Year with the Reds, pitched for the Mets for six seasons, peaking in 1978 with a 10 – 6 record and a 3.33 ERA and was an All Star. However, in 1981 Zachry led the league in losses with 14 and in home runs allowed. After another poor season in 1982, Zachry was traded to the Dodgers for journeyman Jorge Orta.

steve henderson


Outfielder Steve Henderson was the best player that the Mets received back in exchange for Seaver. From 1977 to 1980 Henderson totaled 9.3 bWAR, was the runner up Rookie of the Year in 1977 to Andre Dawson, and had an OPS between .732 and .852 each season.

Reversing part of the Midnight Massacre, in February 1981 Henderson was traded to the Cubs in exchange for Dave Kingman. As for Dan Norman, he played in only 192 games over parts of five seasons with the Mets, hitting a combined .227.

After the trade of Seaver, the Mets finished in last place in 1977, 1978 and 1979. After the 1979 season, Joe McDonald was fired and Nelson Doubleday, Jr. bought the team, the first move in what would become the 1986 World Champion Mets.

Many Mets fans, this one included, still get weepy seeing this card, the first of Tom Seaver wearing a uniform other than the Mets.  Hopefully we’ll never see a card with DeGrom, Harvey, Syndergaard or Matz wearing another team’s colors.

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Dwight Gooden’s Epic 1985 Season (Part 1) Sun, 18 Dec 2016 17:00:03 +0000 dwight-gooden-3

A review of the single highest WAR pitching seasons of all time on Baseball Reference shows that Dwight Gooden had 12.1 WAR in 1985, the fourth highest single pitching season ever. That season was the highest WAR season for any pitcher post World War II.

For those who prefer traditional statistics, in that magical season, Dwight Gooden had 12.1 pitching WAR thanks to his 276 2/3 innings with a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA and 268 strikeouts. His ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league average and the pitcher’s home ballpark) was 229, meaning his ERA was 229% better than league average. In addition, his .226 batting average with one home run, 9 RBIs and 11 runs scored created an additional 1.1 offensive WAR. In this article we’ll begin to relive and review each start of Gooden’s historic season of 1985.

The first start of the season for Gooden on April 9 was not a good one. On opening day at Shea Stadium, against the rival St. Louis Cardinals, Gooden allowed four runs, three earned, in six innings striking out six and walking two. Jack Clark took Gooden deep leading off the second. Gary Carter had the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 10th against former Met Neil Allen.

The second start of the season went much better for Gooden as he pitched a complete game shut-out at Shea Stadium on April 14 against the Cincinnati Reds, striking out ten and walking two while allowing only four hits. One of the four hits allowed was to Hit King Pete Rose. Gooden dominated the Reds in a game that lasted only two hours and 26 minutes. A very different time, as no manager now would allow his ace to pitch nine innings in a mid-April game, especially with a comfortable lead.

The next start for Gooden came against the Phillies, in Philadelphia on April 19. It was a brisk 2 hour and 12 minute game, Gooden and the Mets defeated the Phillies 1-0 for Gooden’s second win of the season. Gooden pitched eight shut-out innings allowing three hits and one walk while striking out seven, before Jesse Orosco came in the ninth to record his first save of the season.

In his fourth start  on April 24, Gooden was again matched up against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, opposing Joaquin Andujar. The two matched goose eggs through six innings before the Cardinals broke through against Gooden, scoring two in the seventh and three more in the eighth against Roger McDowell, winning 5-1. For the game, which lasted two hours and 16 minutes, Gooden allowed four hits and two earned runs with three strikeouts and two walks in seven innings. This was Gooden’s first loss of the season, dropping his record to 2-1 while Andujar improved to 3-0.

In the final start in April, Gooden pitched his second complete game of the month at home against the Houston Astros. Gooden allowed four hits and two walks, good for one earned run (a first inning home run by Denny Walling), while striking out eight. With two in the seventh and two more in the eighth, the Mets won 4 – 1, finishing the month in first place with a 12 – 6 record.
Gooden’s April statistics:




Hits Allowed





3 – 1








Notes: RE24, in the above chart is the base-out runs saved by the pitcher. Given the bases occupied, outs situation, how many runs did the pitcher save in the resulting play? The stat is compared to average, so zero is average and numbers above zero are above average.  WPA is win-probability added. Given average teams, this is the team’s change in probability of winning/losing the game. A change of +1/-1 would indicate a win added or lost.


Gooden’s first start in May was on the fifth of the month on the road against Tom Browning of the Cincinnati Reds. Gooden allowed seven hits, three walks and two runs in seven innings in a 3-2 Mets win. Forty-four year old Pete Rose had three hits that day, but was caught stealing in the first inning. Orosco pitched the final two innings for his third save of the season.

On the tenth of the month, Gooden pitched his third complete game and second shutout of the season in a 5-0 whitewashing of the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. On the day, Gooden allowed three hits and three walks in his nine innings of work, striking out 13. Gooden almost matched what he allowed from the batter’s box, with two hits and one walk.

The next start for Gooden came on the 15th against the Astros, in Houston. Gooden pitched “only” 6 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and two walks while striking out only one. Gooden allowed was responsible for all three runs the Astros scored that day before Jessie Orosco pitched the final 2 2/3 innings in the Mets’ 5 – 3 win, good for his fifth save on the season.

Dwight Gooden took the loss in his next two starts. On May 20th against the Padres at Shea, Gooden allowed at least one hit against every starter of the Padres with the exception of Tony Gwynn, who went 0 – 4. Gooden allowed two runs in eight innings, but took the loss against LaMarr Hoyt who blanked the Mets in a 2-0 Padres victory.

On May 25, the Dodgers visited Shea and handed Gooden his second loss of the week. In seven innings, Gooden allowed five hits, a walk, and three earned runs, two from a fifth inning home run by Greg Brock. Fernando Valenzuela pitched a complete game and beat the Mets 6-2. The loss was the Mets fourth in a row and dropped the team into second, a half-game behind the Cardinals.

Gooden bounced back in his next start, beating the Giants in Candlestick Park 2-1. The sole run by the Giants was a solo homer by former Met Alex Trevino. Gooden pitched his fourth complete game of the season, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out 14.




Hits Allowed






4 – 2

46 1/3








7 – 3

85 1/3







After Gooden’s May 30 start against the Giants, the Mets had a 27-15 record, their fourth win in a row, and they climbed into first place.

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look Gooden’s June and July when he really started to turn it on with an incredible run of sheer dominance.

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Best I Ever Had: All-Time Mets Outfield Mon, 12 Dec 2016 17:00:36 +0000 tommie agee

As you read this, please think of the hit ballad “The Best I Ever Had” whether the version by Drake, Gary Allan or Grey Sky Morning, while mulling over who they consider the best Mets outfield of all time. Using the database for Mets outfielders and running pivot table in excel, and sorting all players by bWAR, which is the WAR calculation provided by, provided some outfields that were clearly better than others.

Most Mets fans of a certain age, when quizzed about which was the best outfield the Mets have ever had, will automatically think of the 1969 Mets. That outfield had Cleon Jones, who hit .340 in left field while accumulating a .904 OPS, and Tommie Agee who smacked 26 homers in center. Right fielder Ron Swoboda, despite his great catches in the World Series, hit only .235 during the regular season.

Using traditional statistics the three combined for 47 home runs and 203 RBIs. By bWAR, Cleon Jones had 7.0, Agee had 5.2, and Swoboda added .5 for a total of 12.7 bWAR accumulated by the regular outfield in 1969. Using bWAR, the 1969 Mets outfield was the third best the team has fielded.

The 1988 Mets outfield had Darryl Strawberry in right field, hitting 39 bombs and driving in 101 while batting .269, stealing 29 bases (just missing becoming a 30/30 man) and accumulating a 5.4 bWAR. Kevin McReynolds was in left field, and in that season he batted .288 with 27 homers, 99 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases, good for 4.5 bWAR. Lenny Dykstra patrolled center, hitting .270 with 8 home runs, 33 RBIs and 30 stolen bases, good for a total bWAR of 3.5.

Together, the 1988 Mets outfield accumulated a 13.4 bWAR with 74 home runs, 233 RBIs and 80 stolen bases and a combined batting average of .276. Despite their lofty numbers, as measured by bWAR, which combined both offense and defensive value into one number, the 1988 Mets outfield was only the second best outfield the team has ever fielded.

The best outfield, as measured by bWAR, was the 1996 Mets outfield. The otherwise forgettable team had Bernard Gilkey in left field, who in a career season, batted .317 with 30 home runs, 117 RBIs, 44 doubles (a Mets record), and 17 stolen bases. In 1996, Gilkey had a .955 OPS, 55% better than the league average. His superior defense, which included recording a Mets record 18 outfield assists and a range factor well above league average, saved 23 runs defensively. Gilkey had an 8.0 bWAR, which happens to be the highest single season bWAR ever accumulated by a Mets outfielder.

bernard gilkey

Lance Johnson patrolled center in 1996, and in that year he had a 7.2 bWAR accumulated from a .333 batting average, 9 home runs, 69 RBIs and 50 stolen bases. Johnson led the league in hits with 227, setting a Mets club record. He also knocked 21 triples, also a club record, and scored 117 runs, a Mets record at the time. Defensively, Johnson had 9 outfield assists and a better than average range, resulting in 17 runs saved defensively. The third main outfielder on the team that season was Alex Ochoa.

In 1996 Ochoa added 2.4 bWAR with a .294 batting average with 4 home runs and 33 RBIs with an OPS of .761, good for an OPS+ of 104. Ochoa saved 12 runs defensively, thanks primarily to a strong arm that recorded 8 outfield assists. Combined, the three Mets outfielders had 17.6 bWAR thanks to their combined .320 batting average, the highest average ever recorded by a Mets outfield, and despite not winning any gold glove awards that season, their defense was superior, as measured by over 50 runs saved defensively and a record number of assists.

While the 1969 Mets won the World Series, and the 1988 Mets won the National League East before succumbing to the Dodgers in the playoffs, the 1996 Mets finished a distant 4th in the National League East with a 71 – 91 record. Proof that, regardless of which version you were thinking of, the best I ever had – may not be satisfying.

With Yoenis Cespedes in left field, Curtis Granderson and Juan Lagares in center, and Michael Conforto in right, the 2017 Mets have the potential to rival the above teams. If Conforto hits close to his potential, Cespedes keeps doing what he’s been doing, and the Granderson/Lagares platoon works its magic, it could happen. And hopefully, like the 1969 Mets, they will be World Champions!

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Shoebox Memories: 1964 Topps Casey Teaches Kranepool Sun, 20 Nov 2016 16:30:30 +0000 casey-teaches-kranepool

As Casey Stengel was reported to say to reporters during the 1966 preseason, “We’ve got a couple of kids here, and they’re both 20 years old. In 10 years the first one, Kranepool, has a chance to be a star. In 10 years the other guy has a chance to be 30.”  The card above is card number 393 from the 1964 Topps baseball card set.  As the above quote shows, obviously Casey Stengel spent his time teaching Ed Kranepool and less time teaching the second prospect.

A member of the original 1962 Mets, Ed Kranepool made his major league debut at the age of 17 on September 22, 1962 as a late inning defensive replacement for Gil Hodges at first base.  The next day, September 23, 1962, Kranepool made his first major league start.  He played first base again, and had a double in four at bats.

Kranepool, despite being taught by Manager Casey Stengel, struggled as a rookie in 1963, batting .209 in 86 games, playing mostly right field with some games at both first and left.  In 1964 however, Stengel’s teaching must have stuck as Kranepool became the team’s regular first baseman and hit .257 with 10 homers and 45 RBIs in 420 at bats as a 19 year old, in the Old Perfessor’s last full season as Mets manager.



Playing both right field and first predominantly in 1964, Kranepool even played one game in center, handling five flyballs without issue.  The following season was 1965 and Kranepool hit a similar .253 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs and was the Mets’ representative at the All Star game, although he did not get to play in the game.   This is particularly unfortunate as Kranepool was never selected to an All Star game in the remainder of his career.

The Mets regular first baseman through 1969, Kranepool did not have a great 1969 season, hitting .238 with 11 homers and 49 RBIs.  He did contribute though, especially during the Mets 11 game winning streak that included a two-home run game against the Dodgers.  On July 8, Kranepool hit a fifth-inning home run off Cubs ace Fergie Jenkins, and had a game-winning RBI single to center in the ninth to give the Mets a 4-3 win against Chicago.  In the World Series, Kranepool contributed with a home run in game three of the series against the Baltimore Orioles.


After struggling in 1969, Kranepool lost his regular first base job to Donn Clendenon and was actually demoted to AAA in June.  For the season, Kranepool was limited to 47 at bats.  By 1971 however, Kranepool was a regular again, shuffling between first and both corner outfield positions and kept the same role through the 1977 season.  In 1973, the Mets pennant-winning season, Kranepool contributed in game five of the playoffs, driving in the first two runs of the Mets’ series clinching victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

From 1974 through 1979, Kranepool excelled as a pinch hitter.  In 1974 Kranepool set a record that still stands with the highest batting average as a pinch hitter (minimum 30 at-bats) hitting .486 in that role.  Kranepool was the last of the 1969 World Series winners still on the team in 1979, and was the last of the original 1962 Mets to play ball, retiring after the 1979 season.  No other Met in history has stayed as long with the team as Kranepool’s 18 seasons.  I can still recall the entire Stadium chanting “Eddie, Eddie” every time our beloved hero came to the plate his last few seasons.

Periods of Career

Batting Average




1962 – 1970





1971 – 1979










The franchise record holder in games played (1,853), second in at-bats (5,436); plate appearances (5,997); hits (1,418) all behind David Wright, and in the top ten in doubles (225); triples (25); home runs (118), RBIs (614); and walks (454).  Obviously Casey’s pupil was paying attention in class.  A member of the Mets Hall of Fame since 1990, Ed Kranepool has not yet been named to the Metsmerized Hall of Fame. Maybe in 2017?

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Shoebox Memories: 1978 Topps ERA Leader Craig Swan Sun, 13 Nov 2016 15:00:10 +0000 swan

1978 was a tough time to be a young Mets fan. The first full season without Tom Seaver, the Mets went 66 – 96, finishing last in the National League East, 24 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The manager was future Hall of Famer Joe Torre, who had retired as player-manager the prior season to focus solely on managing the team. Future Mets manager Bobby Valentine played for the Mets that season, hitting .269, and his one homer was more than second base starter Doug Flynn. Staff ace Jerry Koosman went 3 – 15, an improvement over the 20 losses he suffered in 1977!

Grandpa took me to lots of Mets games in 1978 though as the club had numerous Veterans Days, where veterans were admitted to the ballpark for 50 cents (two quarters, not the singer). The highlight attending Mets games that season was watching Craig Swan, who over 207 1/3 innings went 9 – 6 with a league leading 2.43 ERA, and a league leading ERA+ (adjusting ERA for league and ballpark) of 143. At home Swan was even better, with a 5 – 2 record and a 1.68 ERA.

The card above, issued as 1979 Topps card #7, commemorated his achievement, showing that cross-town rival Ron Guidry was not the only pitcher in New York who could get major league hitters out. The back of the card showed our New York Mets star had a better ERA than contemporary pitching stars such as NL Cy Young Award winner Gaylord Perry (2.73 with the Padres); Vida Blue (2.79 with the Giants); Steve Carlton (2.84 with the Phillies); and the aforementioned Tom Seaver (2.88 with the Reds).

craig swan (4)Craig Swan pitched for the Mets between the highs of the 1973 pennant-winning season, and the 1984 return to contention. The only time Swan was able to pitch in the postseason was in 1965 when, after pitching a no-hitter in the PONY League, he was invited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium before Game 5 of the World Series. Don Drysdale was the Dodgers starter that day.

Chosen in the third round of the 1972 draft, Swan made his major league debut on September 3, 1973 at the age of 22. In just over 4 innings, he gave up 9 hits and 4 earned runs against the Phillies and took the loss.

Stuck in Triple-A for most of 1974 and 1975, Swan broke into the majors for good in 1976. In his first full season, he had a 6- 9 record and a solid 3.54 ERA. The season highlight for Swan was a five-hit complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts against the Braves in Atlanta. His best stretch came in June when over a span of three starts he gave up one earned run in 26 innings (0.35 ERA) with 21 strikeouts. In 1977 Swan improved his record to 9-10, but his ERA did rise to 4.23.

The 1978 and 1979 seasons were Swan’s peak as a pitcher with the Mets. His 1978 statistics were mentioned previously and his 1979 season saw Swan post a career-high 14 wins against 13 losses, with a 3.29 ERA, and a career-high 145 strikeouts in a career-high 251 1/3 innings.

The Mets opening day starter in 1979, his 14 wins that season were more than twice as many as any other Mets pitcher that season as the team lost 99 games. In the offseason, Swan signed the largest pitching contract in team history at that point in time, signing for $560,000.

Again the Mets opening day starter in 1980, Swan beat the Cubs. By mid-June of that season Craig was 5-4 with a 2.21 ERA. Pitching with what turned out to be a torn rotator cuff; Swan lost his last five decisions and was shut down by mid-August.

Swan missed most of 1981 with the same rotator cuff tear, but pitched well in his 1982 return going 11-7 with a 3.35 ERA and finished second to Joe Morgan for NL Comeback Player of the Year. Hoping for another good season in 1983, Swan “felt something pop” in his arm but tried to pitch through the injury. Pitching the 1983 season with what sounds like a torn UCL, Swan went 2-8 with a 5.51 ERA.

In 1984, with the Mets ready to contend and a young Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Walt Terrell and Sid Fernandez ready to lead the team in contention for a division crown, Swan was relegated to the bullpen, where he had an 8.20 ERA before being released on May 9. Finishing his career with a brief cameo with the Angels, Swan finished his career with a 59-72 record and an ERA of 3.74.

After retiring, Swan discovered the technique of Rolfing and enrolled in the Rolfe Institute in Boulder, Colorado and went into private practice. He now practices in his private office in Greenwich, Connecticut. Hardly a Hall of Famer, the card above reminds us all of a time when Craig Swan was one of the best pitchers in New York and one of the few bright spots during some very lean years for the franchise.

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Was Jacob deGrom Pitching Hurt Prior to September 1? Tue, 13 Sep 2016 15:30:39 +0000 jacob degrom 2

Jacob deGrom threw ten pitches off the mound in Atlanta on Saturday after playing catch on Friday. However, there is still no official target date for his return to the rotation.

“We’re just going to take it day-by-day,” deGrom said. “I felt good today, so I just wanted to throw light off the mound and just see how it reacts Sunday.”

Confession time – despite my mother’s strongest urgings, I am not a doctor.  I also have never spoken with Jacob deGrom, seen his medical records, nor spoken with team doctors.  However, by looking at publicly available pitching statistics from FanGraphs, I can reasonably conclude that Jacob deGrom was likely pitching with an injured arm prior to his most recent start on September 1st.

Basis of Analysis:

On August 7, deGrom pitched 6 2/3 innings against Detroit in Detroit, allowing only 1 earned run and walking three.  On August 13, against the Padres, DeGrom pitched seven innings against the Padres, allowing only three hits, one earned run and striking out nine.  These two recent starts will serve as the “healthy” baseline.

On August 18th, DeGrom allowed eight earned runs and 13 hits in five innings against the Giants on the road and on August 24th, in 4 2/3 innings allowed 12 hits and five earned runs against the Cardinals.  These two starts will be our “Possible Injured Condition.”

On Sept 1, against the Marlins at Citi Field, deGrom allowed three earned runs in five innings against the Marlins.  After leaving the gamed deGrom was seen motioning to the team’s trainer and for our analysis will serve as the “Injured Condition.”

A deteriorating arm will have, in order, an impact on release point, movement of pitches, and finally velocity.  This article will investigate all three to indicate whether Jacob deGrom may have been pitching with a hurt arm before he and the Mets publicly admitted it.

Release Point:

The chart below reflects Jacob deGrom’s release point by pitch type during his healthy August 7 start against the Tigers:



Note that the cutter (CU) has the highest vertical release point and that for all of his pitches cluster between 5.5 and 6 inches with none all that close to 5 inches.

In Chart B below from deGrom’s August 24th start against the Cardinals, note that the fastball (FA) now has the highest vertical release point and the cutter is not as high.  Actually, the vertical release point is not as high as it was on August 7th for any of the pitch types, most release points were much closer to 5 inches.



The chart below is from the Sept 1 start, after which it was reported that deGrom would need to miss a start and was suffering from elbow inflammation:



Again, the release point is lower than it was in the healthy baseline of the first chart and in that start his horizontal release point was much closer to zero than it was in either of the previous charts.  T the changes in both vertical and horizontal release points indicate that it is possible deGrom was experiencing pain in his arm prior to the September 1 game against the Marlins.


Horizontal Movement: In the following chart, negative numbers reflect arm side movement (fade) and positive numbers are moving, from the pitcher’s perspective, from right to left:


Note that the horizontal movement of the slider and cutter declined in the two “Possible Injured” starts (likely why they were poor starts) and the fade increased on the fastball and changeup, likely too much movement out of the strike zone and was why the hitters were constantly in hitting counts.

Vertical Movement: The following chart reflects the vertical movement on DeGrom’s pitches:


In the two Possible Injured starts, there was less movement on the fastball, slider and cutter, indicating that deGrom was either pitching with a sore arm and not admitting it, or his or his arm was not hurt but the changes in release point was impacting the movement on the pitches.


The following chart reflects deGrom’s velocity in each of our three breakdown categories over his last five starts:


Note that his velocity actually increased in the two bad starts against the Giants and Cardinals, but the velocity of all four pitch types declined somewhat dramatically in the September 1st start which is indicative that deGrom was pitching with a sore arm.  Taken together with the changes in arm slot in changing movement on all pitch types, the health of deGrom’s arm had likely been deteriorating prior to September 1.

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Are Mets Loony to Let Loney Keep Hitting? Fri, 02 Sep 2016 17:29:50 +0000 james loney 2

James Loney is now hitting .260 on the year for the Mets, with only six homers and 24 RBIs in just under 300 at-bats. With a below-average walk rate of 4.7%, his OBP is .a low 302 and his .OPS this season is now .674, .which is 17% below average. His only somewhat solid glove (7 errors on the season is not great) is not enough to offset his below-average bat and his fWAR is now -.6.

Using Fangraphs, let’s take a look at what type of hitter Loney has been this year:

1. He increasingly swings at both strikes (Z-Swing%) and balls (O-Swing%), which is what one would expect given the below-average walk rate mentioned above:

    O-Swing%    Z-Swing%   Swing%
2016     33.7%      71.3%     51.2%
Career     30.2%      62.2%    45.6%

Thought: Negative

2.  Loney generally makes contact with what he swings at:

  O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact%
2016     81.0%    93.1%  88.8%
Career     78.9%    92.9%  88.1%

Thought: Positive

3. And he sprays the ball around, hitting to all fields:

Pull Percentage Center Percentage Opposite Field Percentage
         35.0%         33.3%                 31.7%

Thought: Positive

4. But he makes a lot of soft contact:

  Soft Percentage Medium Percentage Hard Percentage
2016 J. Loney          22.4%           49.6%          28.0%
League Average          18.0%           47.0%          35.0%

Thought: Negative

5. And as a result he produces very little against almost all pitch types, especially fastballs and changeups:

Pitch Type Runs above average
Fastball -2.7
Slider -2.4
Cutter -1.1
Curveball +2.0
Changeup -3.3
Split Finger -0.7

Thought: Negative

6. Knowing this, pitchers are throwing more fastballs and changeups and fewer curveballs:

Fastball Percentage Changeup Percentage Curveball Percentage
    2012-2015 33.7% 10.5% 9.1%
        2016 36.7% 14.5% 6.7%

Thought: Negative

7. And his production has suffered as a result:

chart 1

chart 2

Thought: Negative


James Loney certainly helped the Mets in the short term when he was picked up in late May.  However, the magic has run out and at this point Loney is best utilized as a lefty pinch hitter and late inning defensive replacement.

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Farewell to Choo Choo Fri, 19 Aug 2016 15:40:11 +0000 ChooChooColeman

Upon return from a family vacation, I learned that Choo Choo Coleman had passed this week of Cancer down in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Younger Mets fans probably know little of Clarence “Choo Choo” Coleman who was a member of the original 1962 Mets and played for the team for parts of three seasons in the 1960s. While I was not alive to hear the interview, Grandpa and Dad would always gladly recount the time during a pregame interview that Mets announcer Ralph Kiner, unable to engage the Choo Choo in conversation or to give more than one word answers, changed tactics and tried to ease the tension by asking Choo Choo what his wife’s name was and what she liked. Choo Choo replied, “Her name is Mrs. Coleman, and she likes me, Bub”.

Bub was a nicknamed Choo Choo used on everybody, as he had trouble remembering people’s names. After rooming with Charlie Neal the entire 1962 season, Charlie Neal was kidding him the following spring training that Choo Choo didn’t know his name. Choo Choo replied, “I know your name. You number four”.

As a player, Choo Choo was well below the level of Gary Carter and Mike Piazza. Choo Choo started his playing career in the Negro Leagues playing for the Indianapolis Clowns in 1954. Signed by the Washington Senators (now Minnesota Twins) in 1955, Choo Choo went 3- 20 with 1 home run in the Class D Florida State League at the age of 17. Choo Choo was released the following season when he appeared in only 2 games, and he did not play as a professional in 1957.

Resigned by the same minor league team in 1958, Choo Choo hit .234 and showed his speed with 15 stolen bases, 13 doubles and 9 triples, and had a better season in 1959 at the age of 21, hitting .259 with 8 homers and 80 RBIs. Promoted to AAA in 1960, Choo Choo hit .258 with 24 extra base hits and 10 stolen bases playing with the Montreal Royals.

Choo Choo made his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on April 16, 1961 after being drafted by the team from the Dodgers in the 1960 Rule 5 Draft. Struggling in limited playing time, in 1961 Choo Choo hit only .128 in 34 games. Choo Choo became a Met when selected as the 28th pick in the 1961 expansion draft. New Mets manager Casey Stengel faintly praised his new catcher, saying Choo Choo was the fastest catcher he had ever seen chase after passed balls”. Manager Stengel was able to see his fast catcher utilize his speed far too much that season as Choo Choo had five passed balls in only 44 games. However, Choo Choo had only one error in 1962, and even that seems to be more than he deserved.

The error was charged on a pickoff play against the Dodgers with big Frank Howard (Howard was 6 7” and a slow runner) at first and Marvelous Marv Throneberry as the Mets first baseman. As quoted in the New York Times, “Marv missed the signal, and the ball went right past his head. The official scorer must have reasoned that anybody who tried a pickoff with Marvelous Marv deserved an error, just for bad judgment.”

After hitting .250 with six homers and two triples in 1962, in 1963, Choo Choo hit only .178 and had 15 errors in 91 games. Choo Choo did not make the major league squad in 1964 or 1965 and toiled with the Mets AAA team in Buffalo. Making the team again at the start of the 1966 season, Choo Choo hit only 188 in six games, playing his last major league game on April 23, 1966.

As reported by George Vecsey in the New York Times, in 2012 at the 50th reunion of the 1962 Mets, Choo Choo finally explained how he got his nickname. “When I was 8 or 9, I ran around a lot. My friends called me Choo Choo because I was fast.”

Choo Choo will now be running around in heaven.

(Photo: NY Mets)

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