New York Mets: walk-off home run

Welcome to the big time, Jesus Feliciano!

June, 9, 2010
6/09/10
12:39
PM ET
In this baseball fan's constitution, all major league debuts shall be created (and treated) equal.

That may explain why I consider whatever Mets outfielder Jesus Feliciano does in his major league debut to be as important as what Stephen Strasburg did in his.

It took Feliciano nearly 5,000 turns and 13 years in the minor leagues to earn a call-up, and it took hitting .385 at Triple-A this year to get him to the Show.

There won't be any Strasburg-like hype around this debut, and that's too bad, because right now, the two are on equal footing. Each has spent one day in a major league clubhouse and enjoyed a memorable triumph. One was a part of it. The other can't wait to get his chance.

In 1986, when I was an 11-year-old Mets follower, my father called me to come watch someone's major league debut.

It was Stanley Jefferson. He struck out in that first at-bat, but later got his first big league hit against Padres starter Dave LaPoint.

Jefferson, a prospect at the time, played 296 major league games from 1986 to 1991 and hit .216 for his career.

The next year, I went to a Giants-Mets game on May 16. That day, Jeff Innis made his major league debut and lost the game in extra innings when Jeff Leonard beat him with a home run that Darryl Strawberry missed pulling back by inches.

Innis pitched seven seasons in the majors, all in relief, and finished with a 10-20 mark, five saves and a 3.05 ERA.

This isn't Mets-related, but my favorite major league debut since I joined ESPN was that of Tigers starter Andy Van Hekken.

A native of Holland, Michigan, Van Hekken pitched a shutout against the Indians on September 3, 2002, before a large contingent of family and friends. The SportsCenter highlight that night showed the contingent reacting with jubilation to every out. It was pretty cool.

Van Hekken's major league career consisted of one win. That one.

The point being, instead of being caught up in what could be for Strasburg (and yes, his future looks incredibly bright), let's accept it for what it is. He and Feliciano are now major leaguers.

I wrote about the Mets former version of Strasburg, Tim Leary, on Tuesday, and of all the things he said, the one that stood out the most was: "I had a very successful major league career."

Leary was drafted No. 2 in the country, was supposed to be the next Tom Seaver. He never lived up to that billing. He finished 27 games under .500. But he still thinks he was a success, and rightfully so.

For some, the path to the Show is a little smoother, and a little glitzier than others.

But in the end, like Jefferson, Innis, Van Hekken, and thousands before them, they've both made it, and that is the most important thing.

***

Strasburg's debut brought back memories of another phenom who pitched amazingly well against an overmatched Pirates team one night.

It took Dwight Gooden until his 29th start to put up a line that matched Strasburg's in terms of strikeouts and walks. Gooden went a little better. On September 12, 1984, he went the distance on a 2-0 shutout win against a 63-83 Bucs squad. Gooden struck out 16 and walked none.

For those impressed by Strasburg's 14-whiff, no-walk debut, consider what Gooden did the next time out, five days later against the Phillies.

He struck out 16 and walked none. Again.

Except this time he lost, 2-1, giving up one run after a pair of errors (including one he made himself) and the tiebreaking tally on an eighth-inning balk.

***

Ike Davis and David Wright share something in common. The only walk-off home run they've ever hit has come against the Padres. Wright's came on Aug. 7, 2008. Davis got his on Tuesday. Some other notes about that one:

* It was the Mets third walk-off home run of the season, matching a total they last had in 2006. The last season in which the Mets hit more than three in the regular season (they had four in 2000 if you include Benny Agbayani's in the playoffs) was in 1996, when they had four.

* All three Mets walk-off home runs this season have been hit by players in their first year with the Mets (Rod Barajas, Henry Blanco, and Davis). Prior to this year, the Mets hadn't gotten a walk-off home run from a player in his first Mets season since Carlos Delgado in 2006 (cap-tip to the folks who pointed out our initial answer of Chris Woodward was not correct).

* Davis became the fifth player to hit a walk-off home run for the Mets playing in his first major league season (not necessarily rookie year, but first year in the majors). He's the third since 2000, joining Esix Snead and Craig Brazell.

Mark Simon is a researcher for Baseball Tonight. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn or e-mail him at webgemscoreboard@gmail.com.

Here's what happened to the walk-off homer

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
11:29
PM ET
It had been awhile since the Mets last hit a walk-off home run.

But no more.

We don't know the last time the Mets ended the top of a ninth inning with a fall-over-the-fence catch, then ended the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off home run, but our resources here allow us to know a few other things about Rod Barajas's game-ender.

The Mets hadn't hit one since Aug. 7, 2008, when David Wright poked one out to beat the Padres, and thus had never hit a walk-off home run at Citi Field, which opened last season. In between Wright's walk-off home run and this one, the Mets played 123 home games without getting one.

Their last against the Giants was pretty memorable (May 29, 2007). As referenced earlier in the day, Carlos Delgado's 12th-inning homer capped a rally aided by Jose Reyes drawing a balk call to tie against Armando Benitez.

There must be something about May, the Mets and the Giants. The last walk-off home run by a Mets catcher came on May 6 (almost six years to the day), a Mike Piazza winner in the 11th against San Francisco. The last to come against the Giants in the ninth inning was by Mets immortal Rusty Staub on May 9, 1982.

What you saw on Friday night was a rarity. It marked the first time in Mets history that they had a player hit two go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning or later within the same calendar week. Prior to that, the closest they came was on Aug. 21 and 28, 1971.

Back then, Cleon Jones hit walk-off home runs for the Mets on consecutive Saturdays. But that doesn't match what Barajas did this week in a four-day span against the Reds and Giants.

As for what Saturday will bring, a colleague just e-mailed to let us know what our next "whatever happened to" topic should be:

Whatever happened to the Mets no-hitter?

Whatever happened to ...

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
3:03
PM ET
There have been a couple of things missing from Metdom recently, two in particular have been brought to our attention recently. Maybe this homestand is when they’re re-discovered, both by the Mets and by their fans alike.

Whatever happened to the walk-off home run?

The Mets got burned by walk-off home runs twice in a three-day span against the Reds, giving Aaron Boone a chance to brag on Baseball Tonight about how he and the 1999 Reds invented the walk-off home run celebratory hop (Those Reds lost to the Mets in a one-game playoff for the wild card spot).

This brought to mind the query: Where did all the Mets walk-off homers go?

The Mets haven’t hit a walk-off home run yet at Citi Field, and after this series with the Giants, they’ll have played 100 games there.

Last season marked a Mets rarity -- they went walk-off homerless for only the fourth time in Mets history. The other three years without a walk-off home run: 1973, 1979, and the strike-shortened campaign of 1994.

The Mets have gone 21 months without a walk-off home run. The last time they went longer- a 22-month, 23-day drought that ended with a walk-off grand slam by Chris Jones against Trevor Hoffman and the Padres on May 31, 1995.

For the record, they’ve hit eight in the regular season against the Giants (plus one in the postseason by Benny Agbayani), most recently on May 29, 2007 when Carlos Delgado hit a game-ender to conclude a game that Jose Reyes famously tied by drawing a balk from former Met Armando Benitez.

The Mets last walk-off home run was hit by David Wright, the first of his career, against the Padres, on August 7, 2008, and that brings us to our next question…

Whatever happened to David Wright and out-of-the-strike-zone pitches?

Adam Rubin’s right. David Wright seems to be shaking out of the funk he was in during the early part of the season.

But there’s still one thing missing from Wright’s game.

Over the last three weeks, my colleague who helps prep Jon Miller, Joe Morgan and Orel Hershiser for the Sunday night telecasts, Katie Sharp, and I have been poring through Mets notes looking for points of discussion with the games best players.

Katie found a doozy about a week ago, supporting our statistical analysis on David Wright and it still holds true entering the homestand.

Since David Wright returned from the beaning last September, do you know how many hits he’s gotten on pitches that were judged (by the Inside Edge video review team) to be out of the strike zone?

One.

A single to right field against Braves starter Jair Jurrjens last September 17th.

Wright was 1-for-24 in at-bats that ended in a pitch out of the strike zone in September and October of 2009. He’s 0-for-19 so far in 2010 (think of all the times you’ve seen him whiff on a pitch down-and-away, and this should make sense).

Now you might ask: How often should a major leaguer get hits on pitches out of the strike zone? In Wright’s case, this is actually something that he had decent skill at doing.

Last season, prior to the beaning, Wright had 16 hits and a .222 batting average on pitches out of the strike zone. That was a step up from 2008 in which he had 18 hits and a .167 batting average.

Either case is respectably better than the major league average of .141. But Wright’s not even to that point yet in 2010.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Daniel Murphy
BA HR RBI R
.294 7 37 56
OTHER LEADERS
HRL. Duda 14
RBIL. Duda 49
RD. Murphy 56
OPSL. Duda .832
WB. Colon 8
ERAJ. Niese 2.96
SOZ. Wheeler 105