Once Upon My Mind: Gwynn, Molitor, Ichiro, and the Optimism of Spring

I get all nostalgic and sappy this time of year. It’s a stupid thing to do, but I can’t help myself.

Live in the present, right? Okay, most of the time. Today, we’ll indulge a little and revisit the past:

  • Age and Treachery Will Overcome Youth and Skill (March 21, 1998). “While I am willing to concede that some of the increased success of both [Tony] Gwynn and [Paul] Molitor is due to the factors mentioned above, I believe that in both cases they did in fact become much better at an advanced age.” Both men really enjoyed their thirties: Gwynn hit .344/.388/.476 (133 OPS+), while Molitor hit .320/.389/.477 (133 OPS+).
  • Random Musings before Heading to Vegas (March 23, 2002). “I respect the heck out of the work Baseball America does but they missed the boat on the Padres. They’ve picked San Diego to finish fifth in the NL West. How they expect the Rockies to stay out of the cellar, I have no idea.” Let the record show that the Padres finished 66-96, a full seven games behind fourth place Colorado. BA 1, Ducksnorts 0.
  • “Stars of the Future” Game (March 25, 2003). “Khalil Greene looked sluggish at the plate and in the field. He kept trying to pull [Jason] Jacome’s outside slop, with little success. Defensively, Greene made a weak effort on one less-than-stellar throw from the outfield, which allowed a runner to take an extra base. He also failed to go after a foul popup down the left-field line. In fairness, it ended up not being playable, but that didn’t stop Ben Risinger or Vince Faison from trying to chase it down. All in all, it was a pretty down day for Greene. I’ve seen him play much better than that, so I don’t place a lot of stock in what he did Sunday.”
  • Mailbag (March 31, 2004). “No offense to [Ichiro] Suzuki, who really is a great player (as Prospectus points out), but his best season so far in North America would match Gwynn’s 11th best season. There really is no shame in that. But to insinuate that Suzuki is a better player than (or even as good a player as) Gwynn was in his prime is silly.” Suzuki now has nine full big-league seasons under his belt. In 2004, he recorded his highest OPS+ (130). Gwynn beat that total nine times. In fact, his career OPS+ (132) is higher than Ichiro’s best.
  • Projecting Greene (March 27, 2005). “John Sickels has posted his community projections for Khalil Greene. They peg him at .279/.352/.458. Sickels himself expects a slight decrease in power this year due to his home park and looks to 2006 for a breakout. My personal expectation is that Greene is going to shock some folks with numbers around .274/.345/.490.” Let the record show that Greene hit .273/.349/.446. Sickels 1, Ducksnorts 0.
  • Barfield Takes Second (March 28, 2006). “Josh Barfield officially has won the starting second base job for the Padres thanks to a monster spring. Reminiscent of what Khalil Greene did in 2004, Barfield came out and took charge immediately, never letting up until there was no choice but to name him the starter.” Barfield, Greene, Adrian Gonzalez… what an exciting young infield the Padres were going to have. At least they still have Gonzalez; it’s not like he’s headed anywhere.
  • Weekend in Peoria: Everything but the Games (March 29, 2007). “One of the pitchers shagging flies was ex-Padre Chris Oxspring. I have very fond memories of Oxspring from his time with the Lake Elsinore Storm back in ’02. When my wife and I visit the Diamond in Elsinore, we tend to sit directly behind home plate, with the scouts and, often, pitchers who are charting the game. We ran into Oxspring one time there and didn’t really talk to him (he had a job to do), but a couple of young kids did and we were impressed with the way Oxspring handled himself. He charted his pitches, and he also made sure to give his time — cheerfully — to these kids. This is one reason I’ve always wanted to see Oxspring succeed at the big-league level.” Oxspring last pitched in North America for Nashville in 2007. I believe he spent last season in Korea and pitched reasonably well (I don’t read the language, so I’m not sure about that last part).
  • Sportswrappin’ (March 28, 2008). My second TV appearance… “I cited the continued development of Chase Headley as the most exciting item of the spring and said that we’d see him at some point during the season, but that the left field job probably was Scott Hairston’s for now (we taped this on March 15). I also noted that the Padres wouldn’t bring Headley up as a stopgap solution — an everyday job would need to open up for him, and given the age and injury concerns of Jim Edmonds and Brian Giles, this could happen sooner rather than later.” Let the record show that Headley did take over as starting left fielder in June 2008. Yes, I finally got one right!

There you go. Don’t we all feel old now…

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6 Responses »

  1. I give you a push with Sickels; you nailed the BA and were just as close on OBP as he was.

    Suzuki and Gwynn, an interesting comparison. OPS+ is often used as the petard upon which to hoist Suzuki, but it is also the one which is most likely to underrate him as it doesn’t incorporate baserunning and defense. He is notoriously weak in extra base power, but he excels in taking the extra base whether by stealing or advancing on base hits. Gwynn lost this ability fairly early on, at least when compared by age to Ichiro. As a RF Ichiro is fairly universally acclaimed as a stellar defender. Gwynn worked very hard and was a good defender for a few years, but also lost this fairly early on.

    I’m going to go with Sean Smith’s WAR and see how they stack up. Peak 5 for Gwynn first (in the hearts and minds of Padres fans), then Ichiro.

    8.1 6.8 6.2 5.4 5.2
    8.1 7.6 5.9 5.8 5.4

    That is close! I guess you could give Ichiro a slight edge due to the higher second season, but does .3 or .4 WAR constitute a better season? I’m inclined to say no. Where do you guys draw the line with WAR? How much of an edge does one need to say this is a better season than another? Next 4 seasons:

    4.6 4.2 3.4 3.2
    5.4 4.7 4.2 3.6

    Ichiro gets the nod here. Whether WAR is right or not, I don’t know, but I do like it as a complete metric. And, much as I hate to say it, it looks like Ichiro is the more complete ballplayer even though he is not the better hitter. Best 9 seasons by Batting Runs, Gwynn first:

    53 46 41 37 31 30 26 25 25
    32 26 26 18 16 13 4 3

    Um, yeah, Tony could hit a little. :-)

  2. http://baseballmusings.com/?p=48593

    I’d be happy if the Padres score that many runs/game this upcoming season.

    And this video of Ichiro is great:

  3. This video (courtesy of BP) of Ichiro! is even better :-)


    It’s from the 1996 Japanese All-Star Game … just classic Ichiro! … a renaissance man …

  4. Great link Didi, thanks. That is pretty exciting to see projections as high as 4.29 runs, an improvement of 1/3 of a run over last season.

  5. @Pat: Thanks for running those numbers; it seems Ichiro receives quite a boost when considering aspects other than just hitting.

    @Didi, @LynchMob: Thanks for the vids; good stuff.

  6. He picks up a lot on baserunning and Total Zone LOVES his defense. I think if UZR were used he might not fare as well. Still, he’s a lot closer to Tony than one might think just by looking at hitting.