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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #90 Jerry Turner

JOHN WEBBER TURNER | LF/RF | 1974-1981, 1983 | CAREER

Like many 1970’s Padres, in 1979 Jerry Turner was a man asked to do a job at which he had no hopes of succeeding.

Turner logged one of the great pinch-hitting performances in baseball’s long history in 1978. His .408 average in pinch situations stands alone. He clubbed five pinch homers. And the San Diego Padre brass decided that he might make a fine regular leftfielder.

No less an authority than my father (forgive me, Dad…) deemed Jerry an approaching savior. My dad insisted that Turner would put up numbers to make my hero, Dave Winfield, blush. Perhaps the Hall of Fame voters missed something, but the debate over which team’s cap Jerry Webber Turner will wear on his plaque has sparked little interest to date.

Turner had been a 10th round Padre draft pick in 1972, but his performance in the farm system moved him quickly toward the big club, and he reached the majors in 1974, at age 20. Once with the Padres, Jerry settled into a steady bench role of mashing right-handed pitchers. Although he had plus power and speed, he didn’t hit lefties or play defense well enough to warrant a regular line-up spot, even for the lowly Padres.

My friend Frank, older than dirt and with the memory of an elephant, offered this Jerry Turner remembrance via e-mail:

“Quick Jerry Turner story: Late 70’s TV day game. Dodger Stadium, he’s playing leftfield, short porch in the corner near the foul pole. High fly hit, there were those little gates to keep fans off the field. The usher bumps into a gate and knocks it open while ball is in air. Jerry, who was a stick guy not in there for his D, tracks the ball straight back, goes through the gate, into the stands, climbs about four steps, and catches the ball. True story.”

Coincidentally, I remembered that play. I remembered it as a foul ball, and I recalled Turner stumbling/tripping up the steps. Pretty much the same story, though, and I’m sure it’s the same play (Somebody Retrosheet this for us. The security of the Free World is at stake. Plus, I need to know that I’m right, and Frank is wrong.).

Frank’s senility aside, Jerry Turner’s career as an everyday outfielder was unsuccessful and short-lived, being confined to 1979. And I want to remind my dad that Winfield led the NL in RBI that year, while hitting .308 with 34 dingers. Won the Gold Glove. Got screwed out of the MVP, as a matter of fact.

Jerry Turner in 1979? Nine homers. An OBP lower than Winfield’s batting average. Butcher in the field, fluke play at Dodger Stadium notwithstanding.

Turner’s career came to a close when he returned to the Padres in 1983, after having left for stints with the White Sox and Tigers. He was out of the majors by age 30. He remains involved in professional baseball, however, as batting coach of the independent Golden League’s Fullerton Flyers. And he was by all accounts a “good clubhouse guy.”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Well, It's A Pretty Graph

So, I made this graph and I'm fairly certain it should tell me something about Adrian Gonzalez and his "true" EQA. I'll see if I can figure out what that is later. For now, well, it's a pretty graph.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #91 Steve Arlin


Drafted by the Padres from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1968 expansion draft with the 57th overall pick, Steve Arlin began his Padre career with Columbus in the International League. Despite an atrocious 41:42 K:BB ratio, he was called up and predictably pitched at below replacement level. Arlin would begin the following year with Salt Lake City and would improve his K:BB ratio to 52:50. Allow the fact that 52:50 was an improvement to sink in. Arlin would get another call up and in two starts put up an impressive RA+ despite walking nearly three times as many batters as he struck out.

By 1971 it was clear that Arlin's unfortunate performance was "good" enough to warrant a spot in the starting rotation. His biggest "accomplishment" of 1971 outside of managing to keep his job was giving up a monster home run to Bob Robertson that landed in the 70-foot high RF upper deck at Three Rivers Stadium. Second on the list was leading the NL with 19 losses.

The following year was an improvement. According to Baseball Library, Arlin would throw three two-hitters, a one-hitter and also a 10-inning one-hit game. The one-hitter occurred on June 23rd and wasn't a near no-hitter as Garry Maddox tripled in the 2nd inning. Arlin's two-hitter on July 18, however, was as close as a Padre has come to throwing a no-hitter. With two outs in the ninth, it was still intact. Unfortunately, Zimmer would elect to have Dave Roberts play in close out at third and the result would be a ball dumped over his head. 1972 was also memorable for it being the second consecutive year that Arlin led the NL in losses.

The last two years of Arlin's Padre career were forgettable at best and his final season as a Friar actually did more to hurt his position on this list than help and by June of that year he was packaged for players to be named later. Neither amounted to anything as Padres.

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #92 Donne Wall


Drafted by the Houston Astros in 1989, Donne Wall wouldn't make his Major League debut until September of 1995. Two years later, the Cincinnati Reds claimed him off waivers. Then roughly a month after that he was packaged with Paul Bako to the Detroit tigers in exchange for Melvin Nieves. It would take another eight days before he was packaged with Ryan Balfe and Dan Miceli and sent off to the San Diego Padres in exchange for Trey Beamon and Tim Worrell.

As a member of the Houston Astros, Wall was used as a starter, but had little to no success in that role. The Padres didn't make that mistake. As a reliever for San Diego, Wall put up three of the four most productive seasons of his career. 1998 was his strongest effort and one that helped solidify the Padre bullpen. The next season, Wall regressed roughly half a win, but remained valuable especially for a middle reliever. Two successful seasons seemed to give Bochy more confidence in Wall because in 2000, Donne was used with a great deal more frequency in high leverage situations and he didn't give Boch reason to regret as you can see from his WXRL that year.

Wall's role on the team, that of a middle reliever, likely made him somewhat forgettable, but he was very productive in his time in San Diego. And that's what we're measuring here. I assume more Padre fans remember Eric Owens and Bubba Trammell, but they weren't as valuable as Wall and others who made the list.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Batted Balls and Blow Outs

If one were to look at the defense independent pitching stats applicable to today's game first, one would be shocked at the final score. That's because they suggest that Padre pitchers would have thrown over eleven innings while giving up roughly six runs, or a 4.88 ERA. The Rockies pitchers were only marginally better appearing to have thrown just over eight innings and allowing a bit more than four runs, or a 4.65 ERA.

How did we get the result we got then? Two factors: Awful fielding and bad luck. A lot of both, actually. We can only hope for a change in the latter, but the former we can expect to improve. Cameron's return from the DL will vastly improve the outfield. Dave Roberts cannot play a credible centerfield and I really can't say enough about how much I detest seeing Eric Young in the starting lineup. I won't wish injury on anyone, but we have a better chance of that taking playing time from undeserving veterans than we do of Bochy doing it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #93 Leron Lee

LERON LEE | LF/RF | 1971-1973 | CAREER

Leron Lee is Derrek Lee’s uncle.

The End.

To be fair, Derrek’s uncle had a career not entirely devoid of distinction. He was a prospect of note after signing with the Cardinals as the seventh pick in the 1966 draft. He reached the majors at age 21, and was seeing semi-regular duty by the following season. Despite his rapid ascension through the ranks, his primary attributes to that point were his outstanding athleticism (more applicable to football, a sport in which he was a high school star), and the fact that he looked good in a uniform.

His performance on the diamond failing to endear him to the organization, the Cards packaged the uncle of Derrek Lee with Fred Norman in a June, 1971 swap with the Padres for a guy named Al Santorini. That the Pads could pull off such a brilliant transaction, yet remain one of the worst clubs in history, continues to perplex. The fact remains, however, that they could, and that they did.

Upon donning the Padre urine-yellow-and-brown, Leron (he’s Derrek Lee’s uncle, you know…) made like his unborn nephew, and hit. He finished the ’71 campaign by posting an OPS+ of 107 with the Padres, a harbinger of the fluke season that he would enjoy the following year.

To call Lee’s 1972 season an outlier would be something of an understatement. He compiled career highs in at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, batting average, OBP, and slugging. His OPS+ of 125 at the tender age of 24 stamped him as an upcoming star.

Stardom, however, would not come to pass for Leron Lee (unlike his nephew Derrek). He apparently remembered that he was a Padre, rather than a major league ballplayer. Nineteen-seventy-three saw his OBP drop nearly 50 points, while his slugging percentage dropped a full 200 points. The Friar front office, having seen enough, put Lee on waivers in March of 1974.

Claimed off waivers by the Cleveland Indians, he continued his new trend of being a crappy player on a crappy team. No matter, as Leron Lee will always have 1972. Plus, he's Derrek Lee’s uncle. I’m sure he’s proud of that, too. And making our Top 100 is quite a feather in his cap, as well. Did I mention that Derrek Lee is his nephew? Well, he is, and he’s really good.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Syringe

The kerfuffle over the syringe thrown onto the field is beyond stupid. The comparisons I've heard to throwing batteries (I'm talking to you, Mighty XX talk show hosts!) are incredibly off base. Throwing something onto the field of play is wrong and is grounds for dismissal. That's a given. That said, throwing a plastic syringe with no needle is far closer to when some idiot Dodger fan blows up a beach ball and it ends up on the field than hurling batteries intending to cause bodily harm.

Moron who threw syringe ≠ to Phillies fans

Moron who threw syringe = to Dodger fans

Yes, that's still bad, but seriously this has been way overblown. We should be talking about how dominant Peavy was or how ugly Dave Roberts's fielding in center is not that some dork threw a piece of plastic within ten feet of Bonds.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Musicians: #1 Buddy Blue

Today I was supposed to post Padre #93. It will have to wait until tomorrow.

My friend Buddy Seigal died yesterday. Known in music and journalism circles as "Buddy Blue," it is doubtful that anyone had a bigger impact on the San Diego music scene in my lifetime.

As a musician, Buddy was a virtuoso on any instrument with strings. As a songwriter, his masterfully-crafted works in rockabilly, jazz, swing, jump-blues, and bluegrass stamped him as an American Roots giant.

Buddy was a founder and integral member of The Rockin' Roulettes, The Beat Farmers, The Jacks, The Buddy Blue Band, The Flying Putos, and The Farmers. He produced and/or played on albums by such luminaries as Darlin'& Rose, Romy Kaye, Billy Bacon & the Forbidden Pigs, Joy Eden Harrison, Earl Thomas, Mike Keneally, Judy Henske, The Rugburns, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Every Thursday for the last four years, the Union-Tribune featured his "Blue Notes" column, a collection of notes and commentary on music that was often controversial, and always entertaining. He was in demand as a music journalist, writing regularly for a wide variety of publications. His influence as a journalist loomed nearly as large as his influence as an artist.

Buddy Blue's artistic impact was matched, or even exceeded by, the magnitude of the mark he left as a husband, father, and friend.

When I was a toddler, I wanted to be around the "school-aged" boys. Once in grade school, I looked up to the junior high guys. By the time I was a high school freshman, I yearned to be seen with the seniors. And as a young adult, I desperately wanted to hang out with Buddy Blue.

I got my wish, as I was fortunate enough to become friends with my musical hero. From afar, I had idolized him, but as his friend, I loved him.

My heart is with Buddy's family, and his countless friends.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Top 100 San Diego Padres: #94 Dave Roberts


Drafted June 6, 1972 by the San Diego Padres with the first overall pick, Dave Roberts would make his debut the very next day when called upon to replace John Jeter in the top of the 12th inning. He would strike out twice that day while going hitless. It wasn't the kind of start one would want to get a career off to, but it was only his first day on the job. And while Roberts didn't rebound much from his lackluster start he did manage to be worth about one win better than replacement over the course of his rookie campaign.

Perhaps the most memorable moment of Roberts's season was on July 18 when Steve Arlin took a no-hitter into the 9th inning and with two outs Philadelphia's Denny Doyle hit a 2-out bloop single over the rookie's head to break it up.

Roberts's second time through the league seemed to erase any possible doubt that he was deserving of the #1 overall pick the year before. He hit .286/.310/.472 while playing a solid third base. That line probably doesn't look impressive to some, but you have to look at it in the context of the 1973 National League where an average player hit .254/.318/.375.

Unfortunately, 1974 would swing opinion permanently back the other way. Dave's stat line was atrocious for any era and it would be the last year he cracked 100 games as a Padre. It's likely for the best that he didn't because he ceased to hit rather completely.

In 1978, the Padres would ship Roberts out as part of a five player deal that featured no big names (unless you count Bevacqua, and I don't). Roberts's Padre career was a disappointment given the expectations of being the first overall pick, but his one excellent season combined with his production off the bench was enough to make him one of San Diego's top 100 players.