Opening Day 2011 will be the 50th Opening Day in Mets history. To honor that, around here we’ll be counting down the top 50 Mets in team history, one every weekday from now until we’ve done ‘em all. Today, #5, Darryl Strawberry:
The Mets with the most intentional walks drawn:
It’s a mix of cleanup hitters, Ed Kranepool — the guy who shows up on all of these lists — and . . . Rey Ordonez? The proud owner of a .310 career slugging percentage, Ordonez has drawn the sixth most intentional walks in Mets history. 63 of Ordonez’ 64 free passes came when he was batting in the eighth spot, presumably just to get to the pitcher. If you count the IBBs as non-events, Ordonez’ career on base percentage drops from an awful .289 to a somehow more awful .276. I seriously doubt the advantage of facing the pitcher outweighed the disadvantage of putting a terrible, terrible hitter on base all those times.
Anyway, I think this list indicates something about how feared Darryl Strawberry was as a hitter. 2.4% of Strawberry’s plate appearances with the Mets ended with a free pass, a rate that would place him 8th all time if it held up for his career. That list is perhaps more telling (minimum 100 IBB):
- 5.5% – Barry Bonds
- 3.5% – Albert Pujols
- 3.1% – Ryan Howard
- 2.9% – Vladimir Guerrero
- 2.7% – Willie McCovey
- 2.5% – Willie Stargell
- 2.4% – Miguel Cabrera
- 2.3% – Johnny Edwards
- 2.3% – Mo Vaughn
- 2.2% – Manny Ramirez
Strawberry drops to 16th for his entire career, but would have been right behind Miguel Cabrera had he stopped playing after the 1990 season. Notice that 6 of the top 10 have been active this decade, as well as 13 of the top 17. This is partially because intentional walks weren’t officially tracked until 1955, but it’s also partially because all modern managers are overmanaging cowards. I think we can blame Tony LaRussa for that one. Still, I think this list hints at the track Strawberry was on for the first half of his career — that’s a heavy list of names to be among, Pujols, Bonds, McCovey, Stargell.
And then there’s Johnny Edwards. A light hitting catcher, he played for the Reds, Cardinals, and Astros in the ’60s and ’70s. He popped 17 home runs one year and made a few All Star teams, but he’s clearly the oddity on this list. Edwards hit in the 7th or 8th spot for most of the career, and appears to have been in the right place at the right time often enough to find himself among all these slugging greats.
And then the notable exclusion from this list: Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez has received just 87 intentional walks during his career, and is the only player with at least 500 home runs and fewer than 100 free passes (excluding those who did most of their work before 1955). For comparison, Ted Williams managed to draw 86 IBB just from 1955-1960. This probably has more to do with Rodriguez playing with Griffey and Edgar Martinez in Seattle, and playing with just about everyone as a Yankee, making it useless to pitch around him. Or, maybe it’s just that no one is scared of A-Rod. I think it’s the former, but it’s more fun to pretend it’s the latter.
Actually, if you want evidence for the stupidity of intentional walks, per plate appearance, Rey Ordonez was intentionally walked more often than Alex Rodriguez.
The second way to look at Straw and Doc is through the eyes of an artist. “The similarities between them are amazing, aren’t they?” says LeRoy Neiman, the popular painter and an unregenerate Mets fan. “They are the two I’ve drawn the most of all the Mets. The first time I saw Gooden, I didn’t know who he was, but I knew he was somebody. Darryl has that, too. They both have a grace you can’t express in words. I think they’re the most extraordinary pair in baseball, in sports….”
– Sports Illustrated, July 1988