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Archive for May, 2010

Julian Tavarez

Tavarez is a bad man. Just ask Joey.

Julian Tavarez pitched in the Major Leagues for 17 seasons.  Over that span he started over 100 games, appeared in over 800 games total, had a winning percentage of .518 and an ERA+ of 101.  Nearly perfectly mediocre.  When you consider the fact that the guy pitched for 11 teams that just makes him a legend.

Tavarez was signed by the Cleveland Indians as a free agent way back in 1990 at the age of only 17.  He played in the minors for a few years before debuting in 1993.  He was primarily a starter in the minors but quickly moved to the bullpen for the Indians.  1995 was his first full season and he was a valuable bullpen arm for the Indians team that lost to the Braves in the World Series.  He went 10-2 that season with a sub-3.00 ERA.  For his efforts he picked up a few ROY votes.

Tavarez had the good fortune of playing for some very good teams in his career.  He pitched in the postseason in five seasons, logging some serious innings for the Indians and the Cardinals.

Tavarez was not afraid to the throw the ball inside.  He OWNED the inside of that dish.  He had a penchant for hitting batters and then talking trash.  Tavarez was tossed from multiple games and served a few suspensions in his day.  Over the course of his career he hit 96 batters with pitches, good enough for 90th all-time.  While 90th all-time does not sound too nuts, keep in mind that he spent most of his career as a reliever.  Yikes.

Prior to the 1997 season he was traded to the San Francisco Giants where he appeared in a league-leading 89 games.  In fact, only one pitcher since then appeared in more games than Tavarez did in 1997 (Salomon Torres in 2006.  Julian put together two more decent seasons in Giants before heading to Colorado.  It was in Colorado that he began starting games again.  He was a spot starter for the Rockies in 2000, starting 12 games.

He spent 2001 and 2002 with the Marlins and the Cubs, starting the majority of his games and finding some modest success.  In those two seasons he had a record of 20-21 (HA!) and an ERA+ of 83 (HA! HA!).

From 2003-2006, Tavaraz was back in the pen, pitching in Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Boston.  The highlights there were his two years in St Louis where he posted above-league-average ERA numbers and logged some serious innings.  In 2007 he was back in the starting rotation with the World Champion Boston Red Sox.  At the age of 34 he started 23 games and had an ERA+ of 92.

2008 was a busy year for the wily veteran, Tavarez.  He pitched for Boston, Atlanta, and Milwaukee.  2009 is looking like his final season.  He pitched in 42 games last season with the Washington Nationals, all in relief with an ERA+ of 87.    Even last season he was still a decent strike out pitcher, whiffing 32 guys in 35 innings.

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SVG and JVG: two pillars of medocrity


The Van Gundy brothers of the basketball world are two men basketball fans owe a huge debt of gratitude. Between Stan’s incredulousness on the sideline when a call goes the other way, or Jeff’s hysterical commentary, these two guys bring a lot to the subtleties of what makes the NBA worth watching. I once heard somebody say that JVG is pound for pound the best commentator in sports. One could also make the argument that his brother SVG is pound for pound the most mediocre coach in the NBA.

I first became a JVG fan when he coached the Knicks in the 1990’s. He helped lead the Knicks to the 1994 finals as an assistant to Pat Riley and once more in 1999 as head coach. Stan Van Gundy looks like adult film star, Ron Jeremy. Vote below for your favorite Van Gundy.

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Jose Lima 1972-2010

Lima Time

Jose Lima was a big dog.  Make no mistake.  Lima passed away this week at the age of 37, due to what is being reported as a heart attack.  This is a considerable loss for the game of baseball.

Lima signed with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent in 1989 out of the Dominican Republic.  He made his big league debut in 1994 with the Tigers and played in Detroit through the 1996 season when he was dealt to the Houston Astros.  Lima had an ERA of over 6 in his three seasons in Detroit and his struggles continued during his first season with the Astros as he limped to a 1-6 record.  However, he turned things around in 1998.

At the height of the steroid era, Lima had his best two seasons.  He won 16 games in 1998 and 21 games in 1999.  He made the All Star team in 1999 and finished 4th in Cy Young voting.  Those seasons in Houston were his best as a professional.  His antics and enthusiasm on the mound were finally matched by his superb performance.

In 2000, Lima came crashing back to earth.  That season, Lima struggled to a 7-16 record and an ERA of 6.65, allowing a staggering 48 home runs, the second most in Major League history.  He was given a shot to get things back on track in 2001, but got off to a rough start and found himself back in Detroit with the Tigers.  He bounced around the next few years with Detroit, Kansas City, the Dodgers and the Mets.me

While in LA with the Dodgers, Lima bounced back, going 13-5 in 2004, when almost the entire baseball world thought he was finished.  He spent time in the bullpen and in the rotation with the Dodgers and made thousands of new fans with his performance and his attitude.  That season the Dodgers made the postseason and Lima threw a complete game shutout for his only career playoff win.  Big.

After exiting the bigs in 2006, Lima bounced around some Dominican and Korean leagues.  He complained of chest pain to his wife the night he died.  He died of a massive heart attack.

He finished his career with 89 wins and 102 losses.  His career ERA was 5.26, good for an ERA+ of 85.

Lima coined the term “Lima Time”.  Lima Time was what Lima called his time on the mound.  He was confident yet you could tell the guy just wanted to have fun.

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May 20 Birthdays

Happy Birthday, Buster!!

It’s a been a while since we’ve done this…here are your mediocre athlete’s born on May 20th:

  • Austin Kearns (MLB):  A .258 career hitter with just over 100 career home runs.
  • Todd Stottlemyre (MLB):  Stuck around for 14 big league seasons and finished with an ERA+ of  100.  He’s 45 today.
  • Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (NBA):  One of the greater names in NBA history, Ruben is a seven-footer from Cameroon with 43 points in 44 career games.  Brutal.
  • Hal Newhouser (MLB):  Newhouser was not mediocre, winning back-to-back MVPs with the Detroit Tigers in the 1940s.  Dude’s a Hall of Famer and an absolute stud.
  • Sadaharu Oh (Japanese Baseball):  Not only is the guy mentioned in a Beastie Boys lyric, he has 868 career home runs and once had 55 in a single season, both records in Japan.  He is turning 70.
  • Joe Cocker (musician):  Cocker turns 66 today.  He’s mediocre as a music-man.
  • Cher (musiciain):  Ughhhh.
  • Bronson Pinchot (actor):  He played Balki Bartokmous on the 1980s sitcom, Perfect Strangers.  Not sure what he’s up to today.
  • Bustah Rhymes (rapper):  Mr. Buster Rhymes is 38 years young.

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Frank Tanana

Killer 'stache

I’m going to be up-front here from the start:  I’m a BIG fan of Frank Tanana.  He is responsible for one of my favorite athlete quotes of all-time.  Late in his career he said something like “I’m a guy who threw 90s in the 1970s and 70s in the 1990s.”  The guy was decent and he had a sense of humor to go with it.

Tanana was a first round pick way back in 1971 by the Angels and made his big league debut at the tender age of 19 in 1973.  Early in his career Tanana was a flame-throwing lefty.  He teamed with Noland Ryan to give the Angels two of the bigger power arms in all of baseball.  It was not uncommon for these two to strike out a combined 600 batters in a single season.  HUGE.

Frank enjoyed his finest years in California with the Angels, making three All-Star games in a row and getting Cy Young votes three times.  Now, you may look at that and think, “hey, how in the world can a three time All Star be considered mediocre.”  Consider this:  Frank Tanana made his last All-Star game appearance when he was 24 years old and pitched in the Major Leagues until he was 39.  That’s 15 years of All-Star free baseball.  Now that’s mediocre.

After leaving the Angels, Tanana played in Boston (one season), Texas (3.5 seasons), Detroit (7.5 seasons), and then split a season with the Mets and Yankees before finally hanging it up.

Prior to turning 25 years old, Tanana led the AL in strike outs one season and in WHIP during another.  He even led the AL in ERA+ once for good measure.  The guy was a legitimate star for the first five seasons of his career.  However, during that time period, the young Tanana threw a dangerous amount of innings and pitches.  This dude was throwing  close to 300 innings a season at the age of 21 and his arm just could not take it.

Most pitchers would choose to give up at this point, but not Frank.  He got his stuff together, changed the way he pitched and hung on another 15 seasons on grit and determination.  When Tanana retired in 1993 he had a record of 240-236 with an ERA+ of 106, darn near perfectly mediocre.  However, there a few things that stand out:

  • Over 2,700 strike outs
  • More wins than Andy Pettitte, Whitey Ford and Catfish Hunter
  • More strike outs than Warren Spahn and Bob Feller.
  • In fact, he ranks 21st in big league history in Ks.  Everyone ahead of him is in the Hall of Fame or will be except for Mickey Lolich and maybe Curt Schilling.

Tanana gave up home runs to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds and 11 alone to Rickey Henderson.  Good stuff.

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Jim Abbott

When I think about Jim Abbott I have three factoids about the man pop into my head.  In no particular order:

  1. He had only one hand.
  2. He threw a no-hitter as a member of the New York Yankees.
  3. In his last full season he lost 18 games.

That’s a lot to chew on.  I know.  The guy was prolific.

Like me, Abbott is from the beautiful state of Michigan.  Unlike me, Jim Abbott is completely mediocre.  A student of mine actually suggested this post and pointed out to me that Abbott’s career ERA+ is 100.  In other words, he is completely mediocre and entirely average.

Abbott was a terrific collegiate pitcher at the University of Michigan.  He was named the top amateur athlete in the country in 1987 and is the proud owner of a gold medal.  Being that he had one hand and all, Abbott came into the big leagues with quite a bit of fanfare and was the #8 overall pick in the 1988 draft.  He was picked ahead of fellow first rounders like Robin Ventura and Tino Martinez.

Jim made his debut with the Angels in 1989 at the tender age of 21 and held his own.  In his rookie season he won 12 games and finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year vote (the immortal Gregg Olson won the award).  He bounced back to earth a bit in 1990, losing 14 games and leading the league in hits allowed (ouch!).

However, Jim showed his trademark resiliency in 1991, winning a career-high18 games with an ERA of 2.89.  That season Abbott finished third in Cy Young voting (a juiced up Roger Clemens won the award) and won the hearts of fans all over the nation.

The next season was a weird one.  Abbott improved on his already sparkling ERA with a mark of 2.77, fifth in the American League.  However, he was the victim of some tough luck and played for a really shitty team and lost 15 games.  Jim was a legitimate tough-luck loser.  That winter the Angels shipped the lefty to the New York Yankees for Russ Spring and JT Snow, it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It was in his first season with the Yankees, 1993, that Abbott hurled a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.  His time in New York was relatively brief and he spent the next few years bouncing around the league, playing for the Yankees, White Sox, Angels (again), and Brewers.  Abbott retired following the 1999 season.

Abbott had only 21 at-bats in his career (all with the NL Brewers).  In those 21 at-bats, he struck out 10 times and recorded two base hits.  It’s obviously difficult to bat with only one hand on the bat.  Stunningly, both of his hits came off of certified staff ace, Jon Lieber.

Abbott currently works as a motivational speaker.

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Listed below are the 10 worst All Stars of the 1980s.  To qualify for the list the player had to:

  • Make an All Star game in the 1980s
  • Make no more than one career All-Star appearance
  • Be painfully mediocre

10. Matt Nokes (1987):  Nokes had exactly one good year his entire career and it was his rookie season, 1987.  Nokes helped lead the Detroit Tigers back to the playoffs as he crushed 32 homers and finished 3rd in the Rookie of the Year voting.  He had some decent power numbers later in his career but at the cost of a low batting average and miserable on-base percentage numbers.

9.Ron Davis (1981): Davis made the 1981 All Star game as a member of the New York Yankees.  He was a reliever, and saved six whole games that season.  He retired with a career ERA+ of 101, making him almost completely average.  He is the father of Mets prospect, Ike Davis.

8.Jerry Mumphrey (1984):  Jerry Mumphrey was “okay”.  He stuck around the big leagues for 15 seasons and made one All-Star game.  In 1984, “Jer” hit .290 and slugged nine home runs.  He was a man amongst boys.  He had better seasons earlier in his career, and retired with an OPS+ of 108, just a tick above average.

7.Ken Reitz (1980): Ken “Zamboni” Reitz was good with the glove, but the guy couldn’t hit a lick.  In 11 big league seasons, he hit .260 (OPS+ 79).  In 1980, he hit .270, which was darn close to his career best.  In ended up being his final big league season.  While a deft fielder, Reitz had a reputation as one of the slowest runners in history.

6.Vance Law (1988):  I have a few Vance Law baseball cards, and I remember him as the guy that wore really creepy glasses.  These things were huge with thin frames, dude looked weird (pictured).  Personal attacks aside, The Long Arm of the Law was a pretty mediocre ballplayer.  He played above-average D, but struggled with the stick.  Law is currently the head baseball coach at BYU (that explains his weird look, no offense).

5.Tom Hume (1982):  Tom Hume was a first round pick that ended up being a mediocre relief pitcher.  Not what you’re looking for with your first round pick.  Hume was decent enough to play in the bigs for 11 seasons.  Over that time, he lost 14 more games than he won and finished with an ERA+ of 98.  Tom worked as the Reds bullpen coach for 11 seasons.

4.Bob Walk (1988): Bob Walk had a very decent career.  He was a major piece for Jim Leyland on some of those good Pirates teams of the late 1990s as he could start and relieve at a pretty average level.  Walk won 105 games, more than he lost, and finished with a ERA+ of 91.  Bob now does radio work for the Pirates.

3.Kevin Bass (1986): Don’t ask me why, but I always though my Kevin Bass baseball cards were “good”.  I thought they would be worth some serious cash.  Turns out that Mr. Bass was downright average, hitting .270 for his career (OPS+ 105), while hitting about eight home runs a year.  He made the 1986 squad as he hit .311 with 20 home runs on a pretty good Houston Astros club.  Two of Bass’ son’s were drafted by a big league team.

2.Pat Tabler (1987): Pat Tabler was another first round pick, that just kind of fizzled.  Tabler, drafted in 1976, made his big league debut in 1981 and started a bit in the mid-1980s.  He played all over the diamond with varying degrees of success.  In 1987 he hit .307 with 11 home runs (a pathetic career high).  For his career, Tabler had an OPS+ of 99, almost exactly mediocre.  Tabby Cat (seriously, that’s his nickname) does TV work with the Blue Jays.

1. Greg Swindell (1989):  Greg Swindell was an effective pitcher for good chunks of his big league career, both as a starter and as a reliever.  Swindell played 17 seasons, which is damn impressive.  He played in one All-Star game, which is damn hilarious.  Swindell made the mid-summer classic in 1989 as a young starter with the Indians.  He went 13-6 that season with an ERA+ of 118.  He transitioned from starter to reliever in 1996, winning a ring with the D’Backs in 2001. He now does TV work with the Diamondbacks.

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