Archive: May 25th, 2007

Keith Hernandez: 9-time All-Star?

Keith Hernandez hitting for the New York MetsDuring the Thursday night TV broadcast of the Mets-Braves game, there was a discussion about the All-Star game, and how it means less now than it used to, for several reasons. One of the points brought up by Keith Hernandez was that the game lost a lot of its importance when the fans were given the vote, “and then it became a popularity contest.”

Keith went on to say, ” … I made the All-Star game five times, and should’ve made it eight or nine …”

He was serious.

That’s the Keith we know and love!

First of all, let’s establish the fact that I enjoy listening to Keith do the games, and find his inflated impression of himself kind of lovable, in both a sad and humorous way (it used to irritate the heck out of me, but Ron Darling’s presence has somehow fettered it).

Now Keith, do you REALLY think you should have been an All-Star starter EIGHT or NINE times in your career? C’mon, bro …

Keith was a starting first baseman in the NL from 1976 to 1987 — a total of twelve seasons. Keith thinks he should have been the All-Star starter in at least nine of them. Let’s take a look the NL All-Star teams over that span (the starting first baseman is in parentheses). BTW, the stats quoted are for the full year — not the perfect indicator, as the All-Star game occurs midseason, I know, but it’s the best we can go on for now. Also, the statheads can spend a few hours poring over all kinds of crazy stats and come up with more detailed comparisons, but understand that back in those days, the only numbers anyone found meaningful were batting average, homeruns, and RBI. It was a much simpler time then.

1976 (Steve Garvey): Keith’s first full year in the bigs. He batted .289 with 7 HR and 46 RBI. Garvey (.317/13/80) was much better, as was Tony Perez (.260/19/91) and Bob Watson (.313/16/102), among others. Decision: Garvey

1977 (Garvey): Again, Garvey (.297/33/115) outperformed Hernandez (.291/ 15/91 RBI). In fact, there’s a strong debate that the second-best guy was Watson (.289/22/110), though Willie Montanez (.287/20/68) was the one who made the team as an alternate. Decision: Garvey

1978 (Steve Garvey): Hate to say it, but Garvey(.316/21/113) was clearly better than Keith — who had a down year, hitting only .255/11/64. Heck, even Richie Hebner (.283/17/71) was better in that particular season. Decision: Garvey.

1979 (Hernandez): He was the co-MVP with another first baseman, Willie Stargell. But Keith had better all-around numbers. Decision: Keith

1980 (Garvey): Another good year for Keith — .321/16/99 — though Garvey was right there with him (.304/26/106). It could go either way, and Garvey was the starter primarily because the game was in Los Angeles, and the rabid Dodgers fans wanted to see their Stevie. Though Keith hit 17 points higher, I’m not sure he was deserving over Garvey. Decision: Garvey.

1981 (Bill Buckner): Buckner had a fine all-around season (.311/10/75), and Pete Rose (.325/0/33) finished second in hitting. Keith’s numbers (.306/8/48) were close to both of those players, and were better than Garvey, who was the alternate. Decision: Buckner

1982 (Al Oliver): Keith had a solid year, batting .299 with 7 HR and 94 RBI. But he was no match for Oliver, who had a standout year and led the NL in hitting at .321. Buckner had a better year as well, and Jason Thompson had a career year (31 HR, 101 RBI, .284 AVG, .909 OPS). Decision: Oliver.

1983 (Oliver): Al Oliver had another strong year, as did George Hendrick and Darrell Evans (who were both alternates). Hernandez had another typical year — .297/7/63 — but not nearly as good as Hendrick’s .318/18/97 nor Evans’ .277/30/82. In fact, future teammate Ray Knight had a better year as well, playing first base for the Astros (.304/9/70). Decision: Oliver

1984 (Garvey): Keith went .311/15/94 to Garvey’s .284/8/86. However, Leon Durham was in the mix (.279/23/96) as well. Decision: Keith.

1985 (Garvey): The game was in San Diego, so the hometown fans stuffed the ballot box for Steve Garvey. He was at the tail end of his career at that point, and probably didn’t deserve to be the starter. Keith went .309/10/91, and was probably the best first baseman in the NL that year. However, Jack Clark (.281/22/87) had a big season for the Cardinals, and Mike Schmidt (.271/33/93) played over 100 games at first base that season. We can probably give Keith this one. Decision: Keith

1986 (Hernandez): Keith hit .310/13/83 in that magical year, but was it better than Glenn Davis (.265/31/101)? Von Hayes (.309/19/98) was the Phillies’ first baseman that year, and Bob Horner (.273/27/87) had a strong enough year to earn a million-dollar deal in Japan. As a Mets fan, I’ll give it to Keith. But Hayes was the better offensive player that year. Decision: Keith

1987(Hernandez): Keith hit .290/18/89. Jack Clark was .286/35/106. You do the math and tell me if it was a popularity contest. Decision: Clark

So in the end, Keith deserved to be the All-Star starter a total of four times, and that’s giving him a questionable 1986. Whether he deserved to be on the roster (chosen by the NL manager) is another matter, and may be fodder for a future discussion.

BTW, you can see all the All-Star teams at Baseball Almanac.


Series Preview: Mets vs. Marlins

Florida Marlins baseball LogoThe Mets come out of a tough series with the Braves to face the Marlins, who are tied with the Phillies for third place, 6.5 games behind the Mets. Other than young stars Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera, their offense has struggled, especially lately. Their pitching staff is still a work-in-progress, as they’ve suffered several injuries to key arms and have yet to find a closer.

Pitching Matchups

The most detailed info on the Marlins’ pitchers can be found at MetsGeek. We’ll do a quick summary here.

Game 1: Orlando Hernandez vs. Sergio Mitre
El Duque returns to make his first start since April 24th. Other than one start against the Nationals (April 14th), Hernandez had been brilliant before succumbing to bursitis in his shoulder. He has only thrown side sessions, and no minor league rehab appearances, so suffice to say he’ll be rusty. How he’ll do is anybody’s guess, but this particular game is not as important as seeing if El Duque is indeed healthy and able to reclaim his rotation spot. His first start has to be sometime, so it may as well be against a currently struggling Marlins lineup.

Mitre is something of an enigma, with decent talent but having never translated it into performance. If he keeps his sinker down, and can throw his curve for strikes, he’ll be tough for the Mets — a decidedly high-ball-hitting team that has trouble with good curveballs. He also has the Wandy Rodriguez effect going for him, as the Mets have never faced him before.

Game 2: John Maine vs. Wes Obermueller
It’s time for Maine to get over his last few starts and come back with a fair performance. Notice I didn’t say “strong” nor “dominating” — he simply needs to give the Mets a solid six innings. If the Mets don’t score at least 4-5 runs off Obermueller, then it’s time to make some trades.

It’s not that Obermueller is a bad pitcher — but he’s a guy the Mets must mash. He’s similar to a high school pitcher, in that he has more pitches in his repertoire than his catcher has fingers, yet he can’t throw any of them consistently for strikes. If the Mets take their team approach of taking pitches and getting into deep counts, they’ll draw at least 4-5 walks against this guy, and should have him knocked out by the end of the fifth inning. Then they can feast on the Marlins’ questionable bullpen.

Game 3: Jorge Sosa vs. Scott Olsen

This matchup is up in the air, with both pitchers a crapshoot. Sosa was dominating in his first three starts, but fell to pieces in his most recent appearance against the Braves. Similarly, Olsen has been both outstanding and awful at times this season. Interestingly, Sosa and Olsen share a common approach as well, with both relying heavily on a sharp slider. Olsen, however, can mix in a good changeup — sometimes. If Olsen’s change is flat, he could be in for a long day. If it’s on, the Mets batters may be doing a lot of head-shaking on their way back to the dugout.

Mets Bats

Jose Reyes has cooled off in the last few games, and needs to get back into the habit of waiting longer on pitches. He’s done a good job of taking pitches with nobody on, but he’s returned to his over-aggressive ways with runners on base. It’s not so much taking pitches as it is waiting on them; with runners in scoring position, Reyes seems to be leaping at pitches, and is usually way ahead.

Carlos Delgado is slowly getting back into the groove, mostly by hitting the ball the other way. He needs to keep that strategy for at least a week or so — and if he does, his average will climb considerably, as teams insist on shifting everyone to the right.

Paul LoDuca continues to swing a hot bat, and should stay in the five hole. David Wright’s sombrero vs. John Smoltz is not a huge deal, as all Smoltz threw him were sliders. No one on the Marlins (or on the planet) has a Smoltzlike slider, so D-Wright should be back to his bashing this weekend. Shawn Green has been cool, but is getting the bat on the ball and hitting line drives, for the most part.

I have a feeling that Carlos Beltran is a sleeping giant, and is about to go on a maniacal offensive tear … or it could be wishful thinking.

Fish Sticks

This team has been ice-cold lately, and slugger Mike Jacobs is on the DL. Jeremy Hermida finally returned from the DL, and was red-hot for a while, but is currently cool. The only hot bats are Hanley Ramirez (.355 over the last 7 games) and Miguel Cabrera (.313 over the same span). Everyone else is .250 or below for the last week.

Bottom Line

Mets must take two out of three, and should be capable of doing so. Now would be a fine time for the bats to wake up — particularly those of Reyes and Delgado.