Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 3, 2009
BASEBALL: Sheffield Finally Arrives

The Mets have signed Gary Sheffield. Generations of Mets front offices have been panting after Dwight Gooden's nephew since about 1988, so it was inevitable that they would get him eventually, and most likely when he wasn't any good anymore. On a gut level, I like the move: lacking corner outfielders who are good enough to play everyday, the Mets should probably be platooning both Church and Murphy, but Fernando Tatis can't play both corners at once against lefthanded pitching. Sheffield's been a great hitter for years, and roared down the stretch as recently as 2007, so he doesn't seem a bad bet to have some gas left in the tank for a cheap salary. And he's not really in a position to be that much a distraction if he's fighting for playing time; if he becomes one, you can just cut him.

Realistically, though, I'm not sure that's my head talking. His personality aside, Sheffield's 40, he's probably not using all of the, er, substances he's used in the past, he batted .225/.326/.400 in 2008 (a slightly more respectable .232/.328/.455 in the second half), and worst of all he hit .239/.314/.440 against lefthanded pitching, so platooning him may not end up yielding a lot of benefits. So, this may be a low-risk move but it's still one that may not generate much in the way of runs on the scoreboard.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:48 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

At least it means they can get rid of Marlon Anderson.

Posted by: A.S. at April 3, 2009 6:07 PM

Other problem - he's a DH. He's well below average defensively at either corner outfield spot.

Posted by: Joel B. at April 3, 2009 6:46 PM


Posted by: Mike at April 3, 2009 7:31 PM

Cheap, has upside, is cut able, and the attitude can play both ways. Proud, angry, bitter, willing to brawl, if the Phillies come inside we are going to see blood. It's about time.

Posted by: dave at April 3, 2009 7:49 PM

400k bet with a nice upside. It doesn't work out-no biggie-if it does its a steal.

Posted by: dch at April 3, 2009 8:13 PM

Pretty straightforward: he'll hit his 500th HR sometime in the next couple of months, put up numbers that make it clear to one and all that he's done, and retire at or before the end of the season--giving the brave souls in the BBWAA five years to come up with rationalizations for keeping a 500 HR man with a career OPS+ in the 140 range out of the Hall of Fame. Morons.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 4, 2009 2:09 AM

There is no way Sheffield gets into the HOF. His pre-30 year old numbers are spotty (one great season, one very good season and the rest are average, way below average or injury riddled). Suddenly in 1999 he becomes a beast. He's an admitted PED user. It's clear his numbers are a product of juicing. McGwire is gaining no HOF traction and his numbers are superior to Sheff's. He's got no shot.

Posted by: jim at April 4, 2009 2:05 PM

There is almost no downside to an inexpensive move like this. The Mets are too lefty heavy in the corner outfield spots, and Sheff could even give Delgado a needed spot from time to time. If he gives you an obp in the mid 300's and a slug in the low 4's vs lefties its worth it, and those are reasonable tallies even assuming age related decline.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at April 4, 2009 2:43 PM

(one great season, one very good season and the rest are average, way below average or injury riddled).

Um, what Gary Sheffield are *you* talking about? The actual record shows injuries, yes--but other than that his production was from well above average to spectacular. His adjuste OPS+ from age 23 through 29 were:

145 (87 games due to injury/strike)
176 (63 games due to injury/strike)

From age 30 on, his seasons went:

107 (39 games, injury)

Where's the discontinuity? He was healthier in his thirties than his twenties, but so was Paul Molitor. I'm hoping that the BBWAA will at least have the stones to admit they're blacklisting him due to PED issues rather than imagined mediocre performances--because Sheffield was never less than excellent between the ages of 23 and 36, including in injury years.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 4, 2009 7:53 PM

Putting Gary at first base would most likely be an adventure. He's only played 9 games there in the majors (plus 3 playoff games). All of them came in 2006 with the Yankees after he came off the DL - the Yanks had a surplus of outfielders/designated hitters and they needed him to play somewhere. For the record, he is a terrible first baseman and I mean that in comparison to Jason Giambi. He is going to be a major defensive liability no matter where you put him, though if he can still hit that probably can be tolerated.

Posted by: PaulG at April 4, 2009 11:00 PM

I can't see a scenario where Sheff plays first. If Delgado is playing well, he hits lefties as well as righties. He may not be Keith as a first baseman, but his footwork is sound within the confines of his limited range. He makes most of the stops you want a first baseman to make (but few outs that don't appear in stats).

The downside is what happens to Beltran. You are expecting a player in his early thirties (and easily the best all around center fielder in the game) to have to cover the ground Garry Maddox had to. Hard on a player for a full season. If Murphy hits, and covers decent ground, look for him to stay in the lineup if only for Beltran. Sheffield? They will give a veteran with a high profile the chance to fail. If not, the Mets get lucky If not, well, it's a cheap gamble.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at April 5, 2009 5:30 PM

The most impressive thing about Sheffield is that he never struck out more than 83 times in a season. That, plus his walk rate, made him more produtive than some players who hit more homers (like Sosa).

I think this is a decent gamble on the Mets part.

Posted by: per14 at April 6, 2009 9:05 AM

He also missed 27 and 32 games in those last two years. His OPS+ at 22 was 67 (hey, it's part of the resume). His power numbers, consistency and, apparently, his ability to recover from injuires went up markedly after 1998. He had no where close to HOF numbers prior to 1999. Then he took PEDs. Look at the HOF votes PED associated players are garnering. He has no chance.

Posted by: jim at April 6, 2009 7:02 PM

The argument about Sheffield and PEDs is all about durability, not quality. Yeah, he had a crappy season at 22, a lot of young players do and Sheffield was immature and famously unhappy in Milwaukee. That may reflect poorly on him but it's not really relevant to his abilities compared to the fact that he was arguably the best hitter in the National League at 23.

From age 23-26, Sheff batted .307/.389/.549 (150 OPS+) but averaged 122 games per 162 scheduled games, due almost entirely to two injury-riddled seasons. From 27-29, he batted .290 .441 .536 (161 OPS+), averaging 142 games a year. From 30-34, he batted .315/.417/.573 (156 OPS+), averaging 145 games per year. At ages 35-36, he batted .290/.386/.523 (139 OPS+), averaging 154 games per year, before breaking down at 37. That's a guy who held his skills well as he aged, but in terms of quality it's not an unusual career arc at all; the only thing that is dramatic is that he put his injuries of 1994-95 behind him when he turned 27, and grew slightly more durable in his mid-30s.

Posted by: Crank at April 6, 2009 7:20 PM

Aside from the question of his value to the Mets (could go either way as is pretty much acknowledged here) is his HOF potential. I would put it at zero. He's a known PED user and regardless of whether it was his career arc or not there is no argument that the most productive years of his career were from 1999-2004. He's clearly tainted and right now that ain't flying with HOF voters. Maybe that changes over the years but I would bet against him.

Posted by: jim at April 6, 2009 8:23 PM

Actually, Crank just established that Sheffield's real peak was at 27-29--completely normal--and that the major difference for Sheffield was increased durability after 1995 that continued to improve into his thirties, which--as I pointed out earlier--is a trait he shared with Paul Molitor, whose drug use was notoriously *not* performance enhancing.

If you're just arguing that he won't make the HOF, I already agreed with that--I just have contempt for their "reasoning" for it.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at April 7, 2009 12:28 PM
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