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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mark Langston

Eligible in 2005.

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:00 PM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:05 PM (#2516783)
Not as good as Saberhagen, but more durable.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:18 PM (#2516789)
Now here is a guy who did not appear to be legendary to children at the time.
   3. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:33 PM (#2516796)
My lasting memory of Langston is him screaming at Rex Hudler during the '95 playoff game against Seattle.
   4. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 08, 2007 at 08:38 PM (#2516802)
Same here, GSRB. I think it's hilarious that Hudler nowadays just blows that off as some innocent miscommunication. Fact is, Hudler's f*ck-up may have cost the Angels that game. To this day, the real reason I can't stand listening to Hudler is because I'll always see him as the Merkle of '95.
   5. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: September 08, 2007 at 09:05 PM (#2516816)
Not to dredge up bad memories, but what was that play? I know it involved a sac bunt.
   6. Juan V Posted: September 08, 2007 at 10:07 PM (#2516857)
To me, he'll be always associated with Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott in the '91 Angels. Three pitchers who won 18 or more games on a last place team.
   7. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: September 08, 2007 at 10:40 PM (#2516874)
Not to dredge up bad memories, but what was that play? I know it involved a sac bunt.

Yeah. 1-0 Seattle lead in the 7th, with a man on and nobody out, Seattle bunts. The Angels send the corners. Langston picks it up, and looks to second, decides to just get the sure out at first... except that Hudler, the 2nd baseman who had moved to cover first when Snow charged, assumed Langston was going to go for the DP, and was looking to second base and DiSarcina.

Hudler never looked to Langston. He never saw the play develop. Langston more or less melted down after that, but he could have gotten out of the mess -- all four runs in the inning came across with two outs. If the out had been recorded, then Dan Wilson doesn't sac and maybe Langston gets him and Cora out, and it's still 1-0.

I still have nightmares about that game. I literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it, and the expression on Langston's face as he sat in the dugout, watching the playoffs slip away.
   8. Paul Wendt Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:33 AM (#2516989)
The team was behind at the time and was outscored 4-0 in the following inning, too, en route to losing 9-1.

Retrosheet shows Seattle 12.5 games behind after games of August 15, followed by 8-27 with two 9-game losing streaks thru September 23, now 2 games behind Seattle. The pattern of the team's pennant race is more like the 1978 Red Sox who led the Yankees by 14 games in August, crashed, and won the final eight games to force a playoff they would lose. The 1995 Angels won the last five to force a playoff.
   9. sunnyday2 Posted: September 09, 2007 at 04:53 AM (#2517129)
Mark Langston gets his own thread? Wow.
   10. baudib Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:06 AM (#2517132)
The Expos thought they clinched the division when they traded Randy Johnson, Brian Holman and some other dude for him in 89.
   11. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:50 AM (#2517147)
I was about to mention that trade myself baudib. As an Expos fan, that trade goes down as one of the biggest disasters ever. The other dude was Gene Harris, who had a decent year closing for the Padres in 1993.
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:29 PM (#2517195)
Mark Langston gets his own thread? Wow.


You don't think he deserves one, Marc?

He certainly is not close to being the worst player awarded this honor.
   13. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:30 PM (#2517197)
La belle pr├ęcieuse!!!

The trade that brought Langston to Montreal was not such a disaster at the time. I mean, Randy Johnson was a flamethrower but had no control whatsoever. The best player of the trade was supposed to be Brian Holman, who didn't turn out that well after all.

What really made this trade a bad one for the Expos was when he decided to leave Montreal at the end of the season. He was just hated for that. That's when he got his nickname "La belle pr├ęcieuse", which is really hard to translate but could mean something like "The cute womanish precious".
   14. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:34 PM (#2517199)
One more thing.

One of the thing I remember Langston for was that he pitched lefhanded and hit righthanded. I remember the Expos trying to change that because they didn't want him to expose his throwing arm when he was at the plate. Does anyone remember if he actually hit lefthanded when he was with the Expos? I was 12 at the time, so I don't.
   15. sunnyday2 Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:42 PM (#2517202)
Well, there's a question. Who's the worst player to get a thread?

It's just that among recent (post-expansion) players, Langston is one of the few that I just don't remember other than just a name. I can't see his face, his delivery, nuthin'.... I'll look him up.
   16. sunnyday2 Posted: September 09, 2007 at 12:50 PM (#2517205)
OK, Curt Davis? I mean, among 20C MLers. Obviously there were some fringy guys--19C, Cuban, NeLers--who may have been worse, though we wouldn't really know.

Or Willie Jones? Vic Power? Pete Runnels? Hank Thompson?
   17. Paul Wendt Posted: September 09, 2007 at 03:29 PM (#2517273)
>>> Mark Langston gets his own thread? Wow.
>> You don't think he deserves one, Marc?
>> He certainly is not close to being the worst player awarded this honor.
> Well, there's a question. Who's the worst player to get a thread?

I was thinking the same thing: most worthy candidate without a thread, least worthy candidate with a thread
This question is in the queue behind "most worthy without a vote" and "least worthy with a vote"
   18. Grumbledook Posted: September 09, 2007 at 04:06 PM (#2517290)
I remember when the Expos acquired him in 1989, the talking heads on WFAN were babbling on about how this trade had altered the balance of power in the NL East. The trade failed to put the Expos over the top (they finished in 4th place), and the Expos lost both Randy Johnson in the trade (who was a few years away from being the HOF-caliber Randy Johnson anyway) and Langston when he became a FA at the end of the season. At least they got Langston at the top of his game, even if his acquisition was pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things (for the Expos anyway; the Mariners, on the other hand, acquired an integral part of some of the good 1990's Mariner teams).
   19. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 09, 2007 at 04:32 PM (#2517306)
"The best player of the trade was supposed to be Brian Holman, who didn't turn out that well after all."

Holman was pretty good, just got hurt and disappeared after 1991.

Johnson had looked great in 1988 in limited duty and was off to a rough start in 1989, but I still don't know that it was a great deal, even from the lense of May 1989. Hell, Holman pitched pretty well for Seattle - in 1989!

I'm not a real big fan of giving up on high upside guys after 6 starts. Especially those who've already shown they can pitch well in the majors. Johnson had a 25-7 K/BB in 26 IP in 1988 - back when it was a big deal to strike out a batter an inning.

Unless that had a negotiated extension with Langston in advance, that trade had disaster written all over it from the beginning.
   20. Steve Treder Posted: September 09, 2007 at 04:46 PM (#2517312)
Johnson had a 25-7 K/BB in 26 IP in 1988 - back when it was a big deal to strike out a batter an inning.

Well, come on, Joe, that's really kind of presenting RJ in his best possible light at that point.

Yes, he did that in 1988 -- at the age of 24/25, in a season in which he'd walked 72 in 113 innings in AAA. Through his entire minor league career, his control had been terrible. As of May 1989, that 4-start stretch in September of '88 had been the only sliver of his career in which his control hadn't been rotten. How rational would it be to conclude that he was going to be a guy who would consistently put up good K/BB ratios in the majors?

And, of course, he didn't, for the next several years. RJ would be a league-average innings-eater through 1992, racking up strikeouts but also tons of walks, HBPs, and WPs. He wouldn't have his breakthrough season and emerge as a star until 1993, at the age of 29.

It just isn't plausible to say you saw The Big Unit's success coming in 1989. Nobody did.
   21. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:05 PM (#2517326)
Steve, lot's of people saw Johnson with high upside - that's part of why the Mariners traded Langston for him and Holman. Johnson was though of at the time as similar to a young Nolan Ryan - sure he was wild, but he was 6' 10" and also struck a ton of people out. As I said, Holman pitched well that season. And from 1990-92 Johnson had ERA+ of 108, 104 and 106 with below average defense behind him.

It was a terrible trade - at the time - unless you have Langston locked up long term. They were .500 at the time of the trade and had played .500 the year before. To think it was going to push them over the top was optimistic at best and foolish at worst. You don't trade two high upside guys who've shown they can pitch well in the majors, even if only in limited duty for 4 months of anyone if you only have a .500 team.
   22. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:06 PM (#2517328)
Don't forget this wasn't 2007 - only one in 6 teams, not 1 in 4 made the playoff. It was very rare for a team to make the playoffs with less than 90 wins back then.
   23. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:25 PM (#2517348)
Terrible run support. Historically dreadful.
   24. Steve Treder Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:35 PM (#2517360)
Steve, lot's of people saw Johnson with high upside - that's part of why the Mariners traded Langston for him and Holman. Johnson was though of at the time as similar to a young Nolan Ryan - sure he was wild, but he was 6' 10" and also struck a ton of people out.

And while events proved those people right, the evidence at the time wasn't in support of their view. I remember people making the comparison to Ryan, and at the time I thought they were looking at RJ through heavily rose-tinted glasses. Ryan made the major leagues at age 21 after having simply dismantled minor league competition, and by age 25 he was a 19-game major league winner with a 128 ERA+ and 329 strikeouts; Johnson in May of 1989 was 25 1/2 years old, had never been more than pretty good in the minors, and had a grand total of 11 major leage games, 56 innings, and a 4.69 ERA under his belt.

You don't trade two high upside guys who've shown they can pitch well in the majors, even if only in limited duty for 4 months of anyone if you only have a .500 team.

I'm not arguing this point; I agree with it. I'm arguing with your premise that Randy Johnson in May of 1989 was a guy who had actually "shown he could pitch well in the majors." To isolate his 4 September 1988 starts out of his very brief and largely ineffective major league record at that point is to demonstrate 20-20 hindsight.

His great fastball obviously meant he had potential for success. But that's all he had; his actual professional record since 1985 had been erratic (his minor league record was 28-26, with 327 walks in 438 innings), and he was already almost 26 years old. Randy Johnson in 1989 was a project, not a hot-ticket young prospect.
   25. OCF Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:44 PM (#2517369)
Terrible run support. Historically dreadful.

But that doesn't show in the difference between his actual W-L and his RA+ equivalent W-L. His actual W-L was 179-158; I have his equivalent record at 178-151. The equivalent record is a little better, but it's hardly anything to comment on.

That equivalent record puts him in shouting distance, one side or another, of Curt Simmons, Rube Marquard, Claude Osteen, Curt Davis, Murray Dickson - good pitchers, all of them, but not ready for the HoM.
   26. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 09, 2007 at 05:54 PM (#2517384)
I'll run Langston through my system a little later OCF - I tend to have bigger disparities between my DRA+ and ERA+ than your equivalent W-L and actual, for whatever reason . . . I'm curious if that would apply here.
   27. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: September 09, 2007 at 06:38 PM (#2517478)
But that doesn't show in the difference between his actual W-L and his RA+ equivalent W-L.

Which reminds me - he also either wildly exceeded or undeachieved his expected win total based on his actual run support and RA/9IP. Based on what you're saying, I think he wildly exceeded.
   28. Amit Posted: September 10, 2007 at 12:45 AM (#2517898)
Always rumored to be coming to the Mets, probably for Howard Johnson and Sid Fernandez. I also remember a rumor that would have also involved the Royals and Danny Tartabull.
   29. Chris Cobb Posted: September 10, 2007 at 01:16 AM (#2517923)
I think he wildly exceeded.

If one pythags Langston off of either his era+(108) or his DERA+ (conveniently also 108), his support-neutral record would come out to 181.4-156.6, which is very close to his actual 179-158, that is 13 wins above .500 for his career.

However, since his career RSI was 90.56, his expected record, if he had been an average pitcher with that support, would have been 152-185. Given that combination of below-average support and above average pitching, we would expect a career record of 165-172.

Compared to 165-172, 179-158 counts as pretty wildly exceeding projections, I think. If one fussed around for proper exponents, that might change a bit.

WARP lists him as having 8 more wins than his component stats would lead them to expect.

I wonder if Langston got exceptionally good support from his relievers? He certainly didn't from his offense, and his defensive support was slightly below average as well.
   30. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: September 10, 2007 at 02:53 AM (#2517964)
Langston's DRA+ comes out to 108, just like his ERA+, so it's a fair estimate of his overall value, in my opinion.

However, he had 326.7 IP in years that he had no value, if you zero those out, his DRA+ would rise some.

He had a nice peak, 1993, 1989, 1991, 1988 and 1987 were all years from 5.1-7.2 WAR.

I've got him coming out pretty similar to Mel Harder or Fernando.

His defenses were pretty bad, but it's offset somewhat by his playing in the slightly below average league.

He's in the top 100 in Pennants Added, I'd say that's thread worthy.
   31. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: September 10, 2007 at 03:51 AM (#2517978)
Retrosheet shows Seattle 12.5 games behind after games of August 15


Without the wild card, the Mariners would have given up on the season by then. With something to play for, they wound up winning the division.

The 1995 Angels won the last five to force a playoff.


As I recall, Piniella helped cough up some games at the very end of the season by tinkering with the rotation, trying to avoid having rookie Bob Wolcott pitch in any kind of pressure game. The M's wound up sending some guys out on short rest, losing when they should have won, and then needing to use Wolcott anyway.
   32. Howie Menckel Posted: September 10, 2007 at 03:53 AM (#2517979)
Yeah, I had Johnson in my NL-only fantasy-ball minor league system at the time, and I can't say I was devastated when I lost him to the AL.
Even back then, the "age issue" had begun to crop up - if a guy hadn't shown that much by age 23, his stock started fading.
   33. Paul Wendt Posted: September 10, 2007 at 05:55 AM (#2518012)
(apologies to Mark Langston)

Randy Johnson was taller than any other major league pitcher with a reach about 6 inches greater than all but the tallest predecessors. I suppose there were many doubts whether he could master consistent mechanics *and* many knowing nods in the mid-1990s when it seemed that back trouble would do him in.

On the other hand, I wonder whether some exceptionally tall young men try baseball now, following his example.
   34. Chris Fluit Posted: September 10, 2007 at 05:24 PM (#2518355)
like Mark Hendrickson and Chris Young
   35. Ned Garvin: Male Prostitute Posted: September 11, 2007 at 09:10 PM (#2520304)
#15 is funny to me, as I grew up north of Seattle watching the Mariners, and Langston was one of the guys I would emulate while playing wiffle ball with my brother. If I recall correctly, high-knee kick, throwing way over the top, famous for big Zito-style curveballs, though not quite so big/slow. Langston was one of the big stars on the cruddy 1980s Seattle teams. You may not think a lot of Langston, Alvin Davis, and Harold Reynolds, but they were the best we had until Griffey and friends came along.

I also remember Randy Johnson being a huge project - everyone seemed to be pressuring him to throw over the top instead of sidearm. The thought was that his height gave him the advantage of having a release point closer to the batter, and a very high angle. Throwing sidearm relenquished some of that advantage. Supposedly he had some talk with Nolan Ryan in 1993 (?) that put him on the right track to become the dominant pitcher he was for so long. Don't know how much stock to put in that.

And since we're not too stressed about whether Langston is HOM worthy, I'll add the story of Brian Holman's almost perfect game. 8 2/3 perfect innings against the A's. Two outs in the 9th, the PH is ex-Mariner Ken Phelps, who not only breaks up the perfect game, but launches one into the RF stands, as he was known to do. Seattle's first no-hitter would have to wait for ... Randy Johnson.

Sorry, no Gene Harris stories.
   36. Los Angeles Waterloo of Black Hawk Posted: September 11, 2007 at 09:52 PM (#2520329)
1-0 Seattle lead in the 7th, with a man on and nobody out, Seattle bunts. The Angels send the corners. Langston picks it up, and looks to second, decides to just get the sure out at first... except that Hudler, the 2nd baseman who had moved to cover first when Snow charged, assumed Langston was going to go for the DP, and was looking to second base and DiSarcina.

Hudler never looked to Langston. He never saw the play develop. Langston more or less melted down after that, but he could have gotten out of the mess -- all four runs in the inning came across with two outs. If the out had been recorded, then Dan Wilson doesn't sac and maybe Langston gets him and Cora out, and it's still 1-0.

I still have nightmares about that game. I literally wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it, and the expression on Langston's face as he sat in the dugout, watching the playoffs slip away.


Funnily enough, I have no memory of these events at all.

My memory of the game was JT Snow failing to field a slow-hit grounder, Langston deciding to play cut-off man and throwing the ball 400 mph past the catcher from 20 feet away, and then -- and this is the defining moment -- Langston laying on his back at home plate after the catcher's desperation throw to Mark covering was a failure.

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