Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Zen Dayley: A slice of Piazza

While you were vowing to take it over the edge. The Jays left 15 runners on base tonight? You don't say.
  • One way to put Mike Piazza's career in perspective is to realize his uniqueness is kind of a proof of his Hall of Fame-worthiness.

    There is really was no one quite like him when you consider the hitting numbers he put up while playing catcher, a position that wears men down to a fine nub.

    Please consider just how much he out-hit two other slugging catchers who are in Cooperstown, Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. Baseball-Reference lists a stat called park-adjusted OPS+, which basically states how much a player out-hit the rest of the league. For example, a player with an OPS+ of 150 was 50% better than league average (and a player with an 80 was 20% worse, Rey Sanchez country). Here's how Piazza stacks up vs. the two Hall of Famers, plus a couple of his contemporaries:

    Piazza: 172, 166, 185, 152, 155 (plus seasons of 152, 147 and 140)

    Johnny Bench: 141, 166, 143, 140, 133

    Gary Carter: 137, 126, 146, 143, 138

    Ivan Rodriguez: 125, 126, 128, 120, 136

    Jorge Posada: 139, 144, 131, 154, 122
    In other words, Piazza's seventh-best season was more productive than Carter's best hitting season and Bench's second-best.

    More convincing is probably needed since both of them, along with the other two active players, all caught caught and threw far, far better than Piazza and as any devoted reader of Richard Griffin knows, fielding is, like, 80 per cent of the game. Well, for his career, Piazza hit 42% better than league average. Eddie Murray, a slugging first baseman who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer, was 29% better. Jim Rice, who will probably get into Cooperstown next season, was 28% better. He was a better hitter than several Hall of Famers who played less demanding defensive positions.

    (Piazza also had two seasons with 100 runs scored, while playing in two pitcher's park, Dodger and Shea stadiums. It's really hard for a catcher to score 100 runs in a season, between the off-days and being pinch-run for in the late inning. Bench only did it once and Carter never did.)

    Did anyone else ever confuse Piazza's spouse, Alicia Rickter (near right), with another pinup model from the late '90s, Alesha Oreshkovich (far right)? Alicia ... Alesha ... brown hair, brown eyes. It happens, people.
  • Hardball Times has a good retrospective piece up on Bucky Walters, the old-time Cincinnati Reds pitcher from the 1930s and '40s who had an unlikely road to greatness, breaking into the majors as a third baseman and switching to the mound. The assumption on this end is that he was in the Hall of Fame; it's stunning to learn that he was left out.
  • Thanks, Sports Illustrated, it's great being reduced to a cultural stereotype:

    "Somewhere, there are cranky old guys with 'Ban the DH' bumper stickers on their station wagons who still think that Bud Selig is the devil himself and that interleague play is his demonic play toy (and) live for the day when the wild card dies an excruciating death and interleague goes kicking and screamingwith it."
    Far be it to point out that a lot of young guys who aren't that cranky (and who like the DH and the wild card) would love to see interleague play deep-sixed. It screws with the integrity of the playoff races. It's boring if your team doesn't have a natural or historic rival in the other league (well, the Jays did play the Phillies in the Series 15 years ago, and that franchise called itself the Blue Jays for two seasons in the 1940s). Last but not least, it's an embarrassing reminder of baseball's post-strike down period in the late '90s, when it was desperate and needed a gimmick. Get rid of it, already.
  • Apparently, Nick Punto's equipment has magical powers when being used by anyone who's not Nick Punto (who hit, so to speak, .210 last season). Twins reliever Bobby Korecky borrowed Punto's helmet, bat and batting gloves on Monday, when he got a hit in extra innings after the Twins forfeited the use of the DH.
  • ESPN.com has an excerpt from Rob Neyer's forthcoming Big Book of Baseball Legends that touches on the way memory plays tricks on people. It's a pretty good read.

That's all for now. Send your thoughts to neatesager@yahoo.ca.

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