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Monday, May 25, 2020

Gregg Jefferies complicated Mets’ failure looks different now

If the term did not exist, then Jefferies could pioneer the concept of “wrong place, wrong time.”

Wrong place? In 1988 where would be the worst location to send a 19-year-old who was lacking in self-awareness, who was bathed in self-interest, who was insular yet familial and a bit aw-shucks and was hailed as the next great player at a time when the sport did not love the concept of who is next as much as it was threatened by it?

Sending Gregg Jefferies to the 1988 New York Mets was like sending a choirboy to Sing Sing. The team had mainly been together for five years, played hard, lived harder, fought among each other but fought outsiders with more ferocity. The infighting, if anything, strangely strengthened the internal loyalty….

“I think different time, different place, he could have made a run at the Hall,” said Mark Carreon, an outfielder who played with Jefferies at Triple-A and the majors. “He was that kind of hitter.”

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 25, 2020 at 09:05 AM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: gregg jefferies

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   1. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:00 AM (#5953330)
I clicked on this prepared to think it was a puff piece toward a guy that the writer likes. Maybe that is what happened here but it’s a surprisingly interesting article. A lot of people including Jefferies himself plus McDowell, Hernandez, Darling, taking responsibility for actions and recognizing that maybe they could have handled things better. Well worth the read. It’s not “poor Gregg Jefferies” but “here’s what happened and why some slight differences could have made it work better.”
   2. Howie Menckel Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:35 AM (#5953331)
yeah, it is unusual and it is worth a read.
   3. Adam Starblind Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:57 AM (#5953332)
I was 12 in 1989, growing up on Long Island. I got the Jefferies rookie in my first pack of 1989 Topps. Word got out in my Jr High. By midday kids were coming up to me in the hall saying they’d heard I got the Jefferies card.*

In other words, Jefferies was HUGE. Such a disappointment.

*Donruss had beaten Topps to the punch with a 1988 Rated Rookie Jefferies, so the Topps was never worth as much, but it was brand new and exciting.
   4. PreservedFish Posted: May 25, 2020 at 11:08 AM (#5953333)
I went to one of his games in 1987 or 88, I can't recall - my father told me that he was the next Babe Ruth or Pete Rose or both - and he instantly became my favorite player. I was never aware of the clubhouse battles.

In 93, playing first base, he hit 16 homeruns and stole 46 bases - how unusual is that for the position? And this was a 5 WAR season, too!
   5. AndrewJ Posted: May 25, 2020 at 11:16 AM (#5953335)
I was at the Phils game where Jefferies hit for the cycle (by the fifth inning!) in 1995; the video is embedded in the NYP story. After the game he went to the hospital where his wife was giving birth to their son.
   6. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 25, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5953336)
Jefferies, 52 now
That’s the really depressing part of the article.
   7. Tin Angel Posted: May 25, 2020 at 12:15 PM (#5953341)
Haven't read the article yet but if I recall Jefferies had one of those extremely overbearing sports dads whose idea of "practice" was basically sadism.
   8. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 25, 2020 at 12:22 PM (#5953343)
Haven't read the article yet but if I recall Jefferies had one of those extremely overbearing sports dads whose idea of "practice" was basically sadism

that's directly addressed in TFA--Gregg denies it vociferously
   9. PreservedFish Posted: May 25, 2020 at 01:08 PM (#5953351)
He does, but not very convincingly. Lingering Stockholm Syndrome.
   10. John Northey Posted: May 25, 2020 at 01:10 PM (#5953352)
I recall the massive hype around him - he did get to nearly 20 WAR which isn't bad really, but for a kid who was viewed as a potential superstar it is. in the majors at 19, regular at 21, ROY votes in 2 seasons, 100+ OPS+ his first 9 seasons in majors (first 2 had just 35 games total), sadly his last 5 were all sub 100 OPS+ and he was done at 30 for all intents and purposes. His age 31/32 seasons were 111 games total with a 65 OPS+. Ugh. Played over 100 games in a season at 2B, 3B, 1B, LF. DH was his primary position in his 2nd last season in Detroit. Amazing how fast it all fell apart.

I recall the stories about his learning to hit by swinging a bat underwater thus building up more strength to improve his bat speed. Far harder to swing a bat underwater than above water.
   11. puck Posted: May 25, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5953375)
There was a lot of hype but it seems a big part of the "failure" was the inability to stick at a non-1B infield spot. 107 lifetime OPS+ is pretty good for a second baseman.
   12. Adam Starblind Posted: May 25, 2020 at 02:38 PM (#5953379)
His similars are all pretty much in the Hall of Cromulent Regular:

Joe Randa (928.1)
Shannon Stewart (928.1)
Martin Prado (926.4)
Kevin Seitzer (918.6)
Marlon Byrd (918.4)
Tony Gonzalez (916.8)
Jorge Orta (916.6)
Tillie Walker (916.4)
Roberto Kelly (916.1)
Jeff Cirillo (915.8)
   13. Ron J Posted: May 25, 2020 at 02:47 PM (#5953380)
#10 The hype around his was based on his chewing up AA.

His numbers with the Mets line up unusually well with the MLE for AAA.

Didn't help that he spent most of his time at AAA playing third (because they were planning on dealing Hojo) and his time at AA was mostly SS and then they stuck him at 2B. I remember Chris Dial was furious when I pointed this out.

Sure, most major league 2B started out at SS but they're not normally just thrown in the deep end and told to figure it out.
   14. Adam Starblind Posted: May 25, 2020 at 02:53 PM (#5953381)

#10 The hype around his was based on his chewing up AA.


For the general public, it was more so his performance after being called up in 1988, including in the NLCS.
   15. McCoy Posted: May 25, 2020 at 02:59 PM (#5953384)
Ryne Sandberg

Gregg got more chances to play second in the minors over more years than Ryne
   16. greenback used to say live and let live Posted: May 25, 2020 at 03:12 PM (#5953387)
I'm a Cardinals fan, not a Mets fan, and putting the clubhouse circus aside, my recollection of Jefferies was that he had a swing that looked like it was built to maximize batting average to the exclusion of all else. Tony Gwynn proves that you can have that kind of profile and be a star, but he hit .340 for his career in a bit tougher environment with some extra baserunning tacked on. Jefferies was a 1b in a slightly better offensive environment who hit .290. That's just meh.
   17. Ron J Posted: May 25, 2020 at 03:19 PM (#5953389)
#15 Sure. But I think you'll find that Jefferies was an extremely marginal SS who didn't play all that well at 3B. That's not the profile of somebody who's going to have a smooth transition to a new poition.
   18. winnipegwhip Posted: May 25, 2020 at 03:30 PM (#5953392)
This was stated in the article and I imagine that being the replacement for Wally Backman would not have been fun. While Wally was probably liked by teammates, I could imagine him being a real insecure prick to any threat to his spot on the team and his teammates going along what Wally did to make life difficult for Jeffries.
   19. Jack Sommers Posted: May 25, 2020 at 03:54 PM (#5953396)
I started him almost every game in my shortened 1988 Strat season. I Flipped him back and forth between 2b-3b, giving Backman and Hojo turns on the bench.

Yeah.....I probably shouldn't have done that, but his card was phenomenal
   20. McCoy Posted: May 25, 2020 at 04:24 PM (#5953402)
Gregg and the whole team don't come off well in the book The Worst Team Money Can Buy.
   21. Rally Posted: May 25, 2020 at 04:47 PM (#5953405)
“I recall the stories about his learning to hit by swinging a bat underwater thus building up more strength to improve his bat speed. Far harder to swing a bat underwater than above water.”

Probably couldn’t have done that if he wasn’t a switch hitter. Helps to be amphibious.
   22. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 25, 2020 at 05:55 PM (#5953417)
There was a lot of hype but it seems a big part of the "failure" was the inability to stick at a non-1B infield spot. 107 lifetime OPS+ is pretty good for a second baseman.

I pretty much lost track of him after the Mets got rid of him and, looking at his record I was surprised to find

-he was a full-time third basemen in his one year with KC

-then played almost exclusively 1B in his St Louis years, then 1B and LF in Phillie

-slashed 342/408/485 his first year with the Cards and followed that up with 325/391/489 (142 & 130 OPS+)

-had a decent first year with the Phils, but then he was done

-he had SB/CS years of 21/6, 26/5, 46/9--I do NOT remember him as a base stealer

   23. The Duke Posted: May 25, 2020 at 06:42 PM (#5953426)
I remember him being pretty good in STL. Hard to believe he was only 24-26. He seemed like a grizzled vet
   24. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2020 at 07:12 PM (#5953430)
It's an oddly shaped career in some ways but he's hardly the first hyped prospect to not be a superstar. That was a great month in 88 but we've seen those before too. Clearly if he'd kept up hitting a HR ever 20 PA he'd have had a much different career but that was never his profile -- he had 7 HRs that year at AAA and 6 in that one month in MLB.

It is interesting that St L seems to have sorted him out as a hitter. From that season on, he hit 296. Unfortunately it was early sillyball and his 130 ISO was not very productive. We have G/F for most of his career -- Philly seems to have turned him into a GB hitter which was probably helpful. His BABIP is pretty low for his career but it was particularly bad in his early days (278) and not even all that impressive in his big month. After that, it was at least 294.

Being a high-contact hitter is great and I suppose it can help balance out low BABIP but in the absence of power, there's no way you can be a star hitter with a low BABIP. Gwynn, Boggs, Ichiro had BABIPs around 340, not 290. Jeffries also walked at an average rate which meant he wasn't gonna hit like Tim Raines (310 BABIP) either. He was also a bit of a FB hitter which doesn't help if you can't hit it over the wall. The jump in BA/BABIP later in his career does suggest he could have been better than he was early but it's not clear the pieces were ever there to be a star.

Without question, through age 19, he looked very good. 73 XBH at AA at 19 is very promising -- to that point he hit for average and good power and it would be easy to think some of those doubles would become HR as he matured. But his age 20 season at AAA was not promising. I believe Tidewater had a rep as a very tough place to hit but 282/322/395 is not promising at any environment or age. Everybody was older but Carreon, Phil Lombardi, Greg Olson, Keith Miller and Darren Reed hit better or similarly. At AAA he had a 287 BABIP and 6% walk rate. Maybe that's where things went wrong -- up to that point, his BABIPs were in the range of 340-360.

With hindsight -- there was a chance he'd be a Gwynn/Ichiro type without the defense (and fewer steals than Ichiro) which of course gets you in the HoF if you last long enough. There was a chance he'd not hit those heights of BA but retain more of his early-career power and hit like George Brett (307 BABIP) -- which will get you to the HoF if you last long enough to get 3000 hits, especially if you can stay at 3B. More realistic would have been hitting like Keith Hernandez -- 296/384/436, 128 OPS+, 320 BABIP -- and maybe that sort of career length too but of course without Hernandez's defense (46 oWAR) ... and that line doesn't translate to a 128 OPS+ in sillyball.

Expansion era, BABIP < 300, ISO < 170, at least 50% at 1B, DH or LF ... plenty of solid careers but not an overly impressive list. Brian Downing leads the way with 50 WAR and of course he spent a good bit of time at C. The under-rated Roy White is next then his Holiness Don Mattingly (who had almost exactly as many PA as Roy White). Ron Fairly, Wally Joyner, Hal McRae (seems like a good Jeffries comp) are here. Chris Chambliss is here. Dan Driessen turns out to be a very good comp for the real Jeffries -- give yourself a lollipop if you knew Dan Driessen had over 150 SBs.

Anyway, 63 players had at least 3000 PA and those characteristics and Jeffries sits 16th by WAR; 14th of 19 who made it to 5000 PA. Turns out that he had pretty much exactly the sort of career you'd expect based on his age 20-22 performance. If there was anything specific that messed him up, Tidewater seems to be the place to start looking.
   25. Adam Starblind Posted: May 25, 2020 at 07:32 PM (#5953440)
In any problematic relationship involving Wally Backman, I have a hard time blaming the other guy.
   26. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: May 25, 2020 at 07:44 PM (#5953443)
As noted, he was great until he got to AAA. Maybe his problems match development in pitchers as they progress through the minors. Was he known for having trouble with off-speed pitches? Maybe he was feasting on fastballs in A and AA, and couldn't hack it when his peers started throwing good curve balls.
   27. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: May 25, 2020 at 08:44 PM (#5953446)
Jefferies wasn’t bad, he just didn’t live up to expectations. His problem seems to be he was what in basketball terms is called a tweener. He didn’t have enough bat for the corners and not enough glove to play up the middle. I think he’d be seen as more valuable today as a guy who can move around to a bunch of different positions semi-competently and hit enough to help a team. Looking at his track record he strikes me as a bit similar to Brock Holt (better hitter, not as good defensively or as quick). Once you get past the early hype he wasn’t a bad player though, just not a star.
   28. PreservedFish Posted: May 25, 2020 at 08:51 PM (#5953448)
I never thought of it before today, but the guy he was really similar to was a future Mets 2b/tweener, Daniel Murphy. In some ways, they were mirror images: Murphy was barely coming into his own at the age that Jefferies was declining, and Murphy started as a terrible LFer instead of ending as one. Both struggled terribly with 2b, both hit .340 after leaving the team, both had line drive swings built for doubles and good K:BB ratios. 20ish WAR for each.
   29. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 25, 2020 at 09:01 PM (#5953452)
Sandberg played third base as a rookie for the Cubs, then was moved to second base in September, playing there full time for the last month of the season except for a handful of games at third. After his rookie season, he never played another game at third base.

Jefferies was moved back and forth between second and third for all four of his Mets seasons. They almost made him a regular second baseman in his second season, giving him 123 games at second and 20 at third. Then they followed that up with 118 games at second/34 at third, and 77 games at second/51 at third. Gee, I wonder why he was such a bad defensive player.
   30. PreservedFish Posted: May 25, 2020 at 09:20 PM (#5953453)
Another similar Mets player: Jeff Kent, who was a good hitter and miserable fielder, and bounced back and forth between 2b and 3b. When he was traded, most WFAN callers thought it was addition by subtraction (they were wrong). He also reached new heights, except unlike Jefferies (and Murphy) he kept it up for a decade rather than just 2 years.

At this point I feel safe predicting that Wilmer Flores will hit .340 within a year or two.
   31. flournoy Posted: May 25, 2020 at 09:47 PM (#5953455)
The guy Jefferies is most similar to is one of the guys in his comp list: Martin Prado. Very different pedigrees (Prado was a non-prospect utility player who hit his way into an everyday role), but otherwise very similar players.
   32. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:01 PM (#5953458)
Anybody else bothered by that misplaced apostrophe in the headline? Just me?
   33. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2020 at 10:29 PM (#5953466)
Digging deeper into Driessen just cuz ... He was an undrafted FA. His and Jefferies' birthdays are just 3 days (and several years) apart so the difference is Driessen wasn't signed until the end of Aug so didn't get to play at 17 but he also seems to have still been short-season ball after that. So that puts him one year behind Jefferies on the development scale (just to connect, i'll dropp the comparison from here).

Driessen was a high BA, low power 1B that the Reds started shifting to 3B in AA at 20. He hit over 320 at 19-20. At 3B in AAA at 21, he hit a modest 409/474/630 which got him a promotion to Reds' full-time 3B in mid-73 where he was solid (1.6 WAR on poor defense). He held that spot in 74 with another just-above-average season. Alas, in the Big Red Machine, he lost his playing time to Foster and Griffey with Rose taking over at 3B and he was a very solid bench platoon player on those teams. But clearly the Reds still believed in him as they traded Perez in the 76-77 offseason and gave the 1B job to Driessen and he never played anywhere else after that. He held that spot for the next 7 years, got traded to Montreal then fell off a cliff at 33. He did hit 300 in that half-season debut and again in 77 but settled into solid BA, solid walks, not much power.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: May 25, 2020 at 11:01 PM (#5953478)
Martin Prado. Very different pedigrees (Prado was a non-prospect utility player who hit his way into an everyday role), but otherwise very similar players.

Not particularly. They had very similar career slash stats but in addition to the pedigrees, Prado didn't steal many bases, is rated as an excellent defender, rarely played 1B (Jefferies' most frequent spot) and less time in LF too. Prado may be a reasonable comp of what Jefferies might have done if he was a good defensive 3B which is where Prado's 8.5 WAR advantage derives from. They both had 27 career triples though. :-)

Of course, Driessen's not a perfect comp either -- closer by defense and maybe baserunning, farther away by offense, very close by WAR. Obviously much less draft pedigree but I recall Driessen got good buzz by the time he came up (but not Jefferies buzz obviously).
   35. flournoy Posted: May 26, 2020 at 12:45 AM (#5953502)
Prado was a better defender, Jefferies was a better baserunner. Their hitting is so close as to be indistinguishable, and both came up as second basemen who wound up spending more time being shuffled around corner spots.

Walt concludes, "Not particularly similar."
   36. Jack Sommers Posted: May 26, 2020 at 01:35 AM (#5953507)
https://stathead.com/tiny/ctN4k

Comps
   37. Walt Davis Posted: May 26, 2020 at 02:54 AM (#5953508)
Yes, Jefferies' main flaw was poor defense which was not Prado's flaw. 3B is not a "corner" in any meaningful baseball use of that word with regard to defense. Prado is 13 dWAR ahead of Jefferies -- that is a very long way away. Jefferies most frequent spots were 1B (374 starts) and LF (362) while Prado's main position was 3B (708 starts). Prado was played all over the field because he could handle pretty much any position; Jefferies was played all over the field because he couldn't handle 2B/3B. From ages 24-31, Jefferies didn't start a single game at 2B; from 25-31 none at 3B; Prado was still a full-time 3B at 32. Those things are important.

They hit the same overall. It's the only meaningful thing they have in common. Different positions, different defensive capabilities, one full-time at 21 the other not until 26, 20 WAR vs 28 WAR, 196 SB vs 40, 5.7% K rate vs 11.5% coming out the same BA because one had a 288 BABIP while the other had a 310 BABIP. One guy was a solid hitter that a team hoped could stick at 2B/3B but couldn't; the other was a quality utility player who developed as a hitter to become starting quality. I was trying to be polite.

So, in the batter's box (at very different ages), they were quite similar. Outside of the batter's box, they had almost nothing in common. If you want to go with "Martin Prado with substantially worse defense" I'm fine with that. Those aren't similar players. He was also by that standard Jorge Orta with better defense or Asdrubal Cabrera with less defense or maybe even Michael Young never forced out of position to SS. Orta and Asdrubal were at least near-full time by 22-23 which makes them better age matches for Jefferies.
   38. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: May 26, 2020 at 08:51 AM (#5953517)
Different type of player, but Dan Uggla is the Moneyball/sillyball-era equivalent of Jefferies. Similar career lengths (Jefferies got 500 more PAs). Both started with a team that had recently won a World Series. Opposite offensive profiles (high BA vs Moneyball low BA + walks/HRs) but with the same OPS+. BBRef gives them nearly identical baserunning value, despite Jefferies' big lead in steals. Both were bad defenders, but in the Moneyball era Uggla got to spend his whole career being a bad 2B. And Uggla of course was an 11th round pick who debuted at 26 after being taken in the rule 5 draft by the Marlins, not a highly rated teenage phenom with the glamorous 1980s Mets.
   39. Jay Z Posted: May 26, 2020 at 08:51 AM (#5953518)
Digging deeper into Driessen just cuz ... He was an undrafted FA. His and Jefferies' birthdays are just 3 days (and several years) apart so the difference is Driessen wasn't signed until the end of Aug so didn't get to play at 17 but he also seems to have still been short-season ball after that. So that puts him one year behind Jefferies on the development scale (just to connect, i'll dropp the comparison from here).

Driessen was a high BA, low power 1B that the Reds started shifting to 3B in AA at 20. He hit over 320 at 19-20. At 3B in AAA at 21, he hit a modest 409/474/630 which got him a promotion to Reds' full-time 3B in mid-73 where he was solid (1.6 WAR on poor defense). He held that spot in 74 with another just-above-average season. Alas, in the Big Red Machine, he lost his playing time to Foster and Griffey with Rose taking over at 3B and he was a very solid bench platoon player on those teams. But clearly the Reds still believed in him as they traded Perez in the 76-77 offseason and gave the 1B job to Driessen and he never played anywhere else after that. He held that spot for the next 7 years, got traded to Montreal then fell off a cliff at 33. He did hit 300 in that half-season debut and again in 77 but settled into solid BA, solid walks, not much power.


Driessen never developed. He should have been peaking during 1978-79, instead he was the same hitter as at age 21 in 1973. Same value anyway. And a lot of that was walks. Power and average a disappointment.
   40. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:00 AM (#5953521)


-he had SB/CS years of 21/6, 26/5, 46/9--I do NOT remember him as a base stealer


I don't either. He stole 56 bases one year in the minors! He always struck me as a chubby, kinda unathletic guy who had great bat-to-ball skills.


Yes, Jefferies' main flaw was poor defense which was not Prado's flaw.


He played 3B for the Royals and was the worst defensive player I have ever seen at third. No lateral movement, poor hands, not a particularly strong arm. Once the Cardinals moved him to first and quit putting a square peg into a round hole, he seemed to relax and hit.
   41. Rally Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:12 AM (#5953525)
Looking at the skills he had, I see can see similarities to Pete Rose. Great at hitting for average and controlling the strike zone. Not power hitters, but enough to keep the pitchers honest. Each had a career high of 16. Speed? Jefferies stole 46 bases one year. Rose was not a good base stealer but according to Joe Posnanski's write-up in the top 100 was very fast as a young player, notably had a 30 triple season in the minors. Defense? Neither was all that good but could play a lot of positions. Similar splits between 1b-2b-3b-of.

But Jefferies just didn't last. He hit like Rose from 1993-95. His 1993 stats especially look like something that could fit into the middle of Pete's career. Pete on the other hand was a great old player. It's kind of obscured by the way he stuck around for the record after he should have been done, but Pete did hit .331 and lead the league in OBP when he was 38, and then hit .325 at 40.

Mets culture may have hurt his development, but he was very good at a relatively early age, 25 in 1993. But he was effectively done at age 30. It's hard to put the blame for that on the Mets. I don't know if it was injuries or not taking enough care of himself, or not having the desire to keep at it.
   42. dlf Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:25 AM (#5953530)
I don't know if it was injuries or not taking enough care of himself, or not having the desire to keep at it.


He was having on-again, off-again knee and back problems. A torn hamstring that was surgically attached was the final straw.
   43. Adam Starblind Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:26 AM (#5953531)
Mets culture may have hurt his development, but he was very good at a relatively early age, 25 in 1993. But he was effectively done at age 30. It's hard to put the blame for that on the Mets.


I still blame Backman. What a dumbass. Ojeda's a dick too.
   44. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:28 AM (#5953532)
All of the injuries could be a result of over-training. Wouldn't be the first time that happened, though impossible to know either way at this point.
   45. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 26, 2020 at 09:52 AM (#5953535)

Looking at the skills he had, I see can see similarities to Pete Rose.


That's a great comp in terms of body type and skills, and probably illustrates just how amazing Pete Rose was to put up the career he did.
   46. The Duke Posted: May 26, 2020 at 10:19 AM (#5953541)
The Rose comp is a good one in terms of style. Obviously nowhere as good. The position-shifting is similar as well
   47. . Posted: May 26, 2020 at 10:55 AM (#5953546)
he had SB/CS years of 21/6, 26/5, 46/9--I do NOT remember him as a base stealer


He had good speed. Saw him from really good seats June 20, 1993 at Wrigley, the day (Sunday) after my first-ever Wrigley game. Had a double and a triple and both were the result of balls-out hustle. (*) Actually had a real nice year in 1993; led the Cardinals in WAR. He was long gone from the Mets then, obviously, so it's hard to really connect anything that happened long-term back to the Mets. As you sat there in Wrigley in late June 1993, one's normal thought was, "Looks like he's panning out well."

(*) On Getaway Day, no less.
   48. Adam Starblind Posted: May 26, 2020 at 11:18 AM (#5953549)
I was really excited about Jefferies/McReynolds/Miller for Saberhagen/Pecota too. Saberhagen/Gooden/Cone could have been a historic front three, and I think Viola briefly overlapped with that trio. The trade ended up slightly in the Royals' favor in terms of WAR, though they ended up trading McReynolds back to the Mets in exchange for Vince Coleman, and getting rid of Coleman has to be worth something.
   49. The Mighty Quintana Posted: May 26, 2020 at 11:37 AM (#5953557)
Bill James had a great article about Cliff Johnson that sums up Jefferies and dozens of others. Wrong place, wrong time...If a good organization put him in a position to succeed and just left him alone, he could've been Mark Grace or Todd Helton.
   50. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: May 26, 2020 at 12:31 PM (#5953565)
Looking at the skills he had, I see can see similarities to Pete Rose.


I recall Jefferies, or maybe his dad, right about that time he came to the majors, saying his goal was to break Rose's record for career hits. Obviously didn't go over well.
   51. Adam Starblind Posted: May 26, 2020 at 06:32 PM (#5953678)
I think it's also fair to question how much potential he had to begin with. Not much in the way of power or walks. Yes, he had bat to ball skills that led to excellent batting averages through AA, but you'd want quite a lot more evidence than that before entertaining the possibility that you had Gwynn or Rose on your hands, rather than Paul Lo Duca or Sean Casey.
   52. DanG Posted: May 26, 2020 at 10:28 PM (#5953724)
Retired 1B, 2B, 3B, LF with similar WAR, OPS+, PA, and dWAR to Jefferies in past hundred years:

Player          WAROPS+   PA dWAR From   To
George McQuinn  21.3  110 6597 
-5.8 1936 1948
Gregg Jefferies 19.6  107 6072 
-5.7 1987 2000
Pete OBrien     19.2  104 6168 
-1.3 1982 1993
Dan Uggla       18.2  107 5509 
-3.7 2006 2015
Jo
-Jo Moore     18.2  104 5850 -5.7 1930 1941
Joe Vosmik      17.8  104 6087 
-4.2 1930 1944
Jose Vidro      17.4  108 5708 
-5.8 1997 2008
Sean Casey      16.5  109 5644 
-7.0 1997 2008
Lyle Overbay    16.3  106 5802 
-4.9 2001 2014 
   53. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: May 27, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5953793)
They hit the same overall. It's the only meaningful thing they have in common. Different positions, different defensive capabilities, one full-time at 21 the other not until 26, 20 WAR vs 28 WAR, 196 SB vs 40, 5.7% K rate vs 11.5% coming out the same BA because one had a 288 BABIP while the other had a 310 BABIP.


That insanely low K rate is something I didn't appreciate about Jefferies until now. By Ks and power (132 ISO), he wasn't that different from Mattingly (164 ISO). But Jefferies had a very low BABIP (288) for a switch hitter with speed who hit a lot of line drives.
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 27, 2020 at 11:29 AM (#5953799)
True story: Last night I had a dream in which I heard that Gregg Jefferies had died of COVID.

This was not the focal point of the dream, but still...I think I may need some time away from here.
   55. Adam Starblind Posted: May 27, 2020 at 11:29 AM (#5953800)

That insanely low K rate is something I didn't appreciate about Jefferies until now. By Ks and power (132 ISO), he wasn't that different from Mattingly (164 ISO). But Jefferies had a very low BABIP (288) for a switch hitter with speed who hit a lot of line drives.


What do we think accounts for that? Is it possible that given enough ballplayers, over time you get somebody with consistently crappy luck over the course of his career?
   56. Mike Webber Posted: May 27, 2020 at 11:57 AM (#5953816)
@40

He played 3B for the Royals and was the worst defensive player I have ever seen at third. No lateral movement, poor hands, not a particularly strong arm. Once the Cardinals moved him to first and quit putting a square peg into a round hole, he seemed to relax and hit.


I think Dean Palmer was far worse at 3b than Jeffries as a Royal. When I think of terrible 3b, Palmer is the first name that pops into my head.
   57. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: May 27, 2020 at 12:24 PM (#5953830)
True story: Last night I had a dream in which I heard that Gregg Jefferies had died of COVID.

This was not the focal point of the dream, but still...I think I may need some time away from here.


And his dying words were "See you in court, pal."
   58. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 27, 2020 at 12:41 PM (#5953839)

I think Dean Palmer was far worse at 3b than Jeffries as a Royal. When I think of terrible 3b, Palmer is the first name that pops into my head.


That's quite possible, I was away at college when Palmer was in KC and didn't see many games. Seitzer was kinda poor defensively too, but Jefferies just stands out to me as someone ill-suited for third.
   59. Jay Z Posted: May 27, 2020 at 01:05 PM (#5953844)
What do we think accounts for that? Is it possible that given enough ballplayers, over time you get somebody with consistently crappy luck over the course of his career?


There's no particular reason to think it luck. There is no evidence for batter BABIP being primarily luck, there never was. It was an overreach when applied to pitchers, there is zero justification to apply it to batters.

Rod Carew's batting titles weren't simply the result of avoiding strikeouts. Home runs aren't pure either, they never were, there is luck involved with them as well. Also, if batter BABIP was primarily luck, then all the shifting we see in today's game wouldn't work. Because batters would all be the same, they'd hit the ball to different parts of the field in a random fashion. This has proven to not be the case.
   60. PreservedFish Posted: May 27, 2020 at 01:23 PM (#5953854)
What do we think accounts for that?


Jefferies didn't hit the ball as hard as Mattingly did. Duh.
   61. . Posted: May 27, 2020 at 01:56 PM (#5953864)
There's no particular reason to think it luck. There is no evidence for batter BABIP being primarily luck, there never was. It was an overreach when applied to pitchers, there is zero justification to apply it to batters.


It's silly even as to pitchers because better pitchers are able to better control the quality of contact and quality of contact directly impacts BABIP. The obvious observation that major league hitters will have better contact against a 12 year old little leaguer than against Greg Maddux is essentially assumed away, and at that point the concept loses all rigor and persuasiveness. Any idea that can't explain and account for outliers isn't really worth anything. It essentially reduces to "the difference in ability to control contact among the universe of pitchers that pitch in the major leagues at any given time isn't really all that massive," at which point the proper response is "OK, so what?"
   62. Adam Starblind Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:08 PM (#5953869)
There's no particular reason to think it luck. There is no evidence for batter BABIP being primarily luck, there never was. It was an overreach when applied to pitchers, there is zero justification to apply it to batters.

Rod Carew's batting titles weren't simply the result of avoiding strikeouts. Home runs aren't pure either, they never were, there is luck involved with them as well. Also, if batter BABIP was primarily luck, then all the shifting we see in today's game wouldn't work. Because batters would all be the same, they'd hit the ball to different parts of the field in a random fashion. This has proven to not be the case.


It's pretty typical for a player's BABIP to fluctuate from season to season, often substantially, even for excellent players. There are player attributes that can contribute to consistently high or low BABIP, like speed vs. or hard contact %. But as mentioned in the post I was responding to, Jefferies was a line-drive hitter with speed, so you wouldn't necessarily expect a low BABIP. So the question was (a) is there some player attribute that contributed to Jefferies' low BABIP; or (b) did he just hit the ball hard and right at people so often that he turned into Lyle Overbay instead of Mark Grace?

As to "if batter BABIP was primarily luck, then all the shifting we see in today's game wouldn't work"--I don't think that follows unless you are breaking it down RHB vs. LHB. Nobody thinks pull hitter vs. not is random. Somebody on here must know, has the shift contributed to lower BABIP for left-handed hitters? Of left-handed pull hitters?

   63. Adam Starblind Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:12 PM (#5953871)

Jefferies didn't hit the ball as hard as Mattingly did. Duh.


Duh yourself. Mattingly hit the ball exceptionally hard before he got hurt, and therefore generally had exceptionally high BABIPs. The question is why the heck Jefferies fared so exceptionally poorly.
   64. Howie Menckel Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:17 PM (#5953874)
"if batter BABIP was primarily luck, then all the shifting we see in today's game wouldn't work"


how well does it actually work?
   65. . Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:21 PM (#5953875)
The question is why the heck Jefferies fared so exceptionally poorly.


Because he didn't hit the ball as hard and was probably a little bit worse on hitting the ball to particular in-field targets. Either he didn't conceptualize them as well as a Mattingly or a Carew, or he had worse feel/touch at hitting his spots. Feel/touch is particularly tough in baseball given the short time to execute.

Why are some elite golfers better at driving the ball straighter and farther than other elite golfers? (*) Why are some elite golfers better at hitting a particular target from, say, 60 or 100 yards out than other elite golfers? Though quick hand/eye coordination is more important in baseball, the fundamental principle is the same.

(*) If you called hitting the fairway a "1" and missing the fairway a "O," elite golfers would have significantly different "BABIPs," too.
   66. PreservedFish Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:49 PM (#5953883)
Who characterized Jefferies' BABIP as "exceptionally poor?" It's not. It's totally average.
   67. PreservedFish Posted: May 27, 2020 at 02:58 PM (#5953886)
Hitter BABIP is weird. Gary Sheffield had a .285 BABIP, same as Jefferies. Austin Jackson had a .355. Explain that.

Jefferies did not hit the ball hard. He made contact all the time, which means he was probably hitting a ton of flares and dinks that he just barely touched with his elite hand-eye coordination and might have done better to let go, most of which would have been outs. Nobody squares the ball up that often, at least not since Ted Williams. If you look at low-K hitters of the time, you get Tony Gwynn, who's a freak, and a bunch of guys like Ozzie, Sax, EY, Vina, Greenwell, and old man Mattingly, all of whom have basically the same exact BABIP as Jefferies. There's no reason to consider bad luck here, that's just the type of hitter he was.
   68. . Posted: May 27, 2020 at 03:14 PM (#5953891)
Gary Sheffield had a .285 BABIP, same as Jefferies. Austin Jackson had a .355. Explain that.


When Sheffield hit the ball his hardest and most on the sweet spot, it tended to have a launch angle and exit velocity that took it beyond the fences and therefore out of the BABIP universe. When A-Jax did this, it did not do this, instead flying lower and staying inside the fences but fast enough to be difficult to turn into an out.

He was also way faster than Sheffield and therefore a ball hit exactly on the same vector and same velocity would have a significantly better chance of being a hit. This would typically matter more on ground balls, obviously.
   69. Ron J Posted: May 27, 2020 at 03:16 PM (#5953893)
#64 No evidence it matters much -- if at all. Last time I checked BABIP has stayed roughly constant since the start of sillyball.

And if you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. Ground balls are already mostly outs . You get a few extra outs from re-positioned players but a small number of extra hits on mishit balls. It seems to roughly balance out.

Line drives? You might get a few more hard hit balls hit right at a defender, but still, line drives are mostly hits.
   70. Adam Starblind Posted: May 27, 2020 at 03:39 PM (#5953903)

Who characterized Jefferies' BABIP as "exceptionally poor?" It's not. It's totally average.


53 said "very low," and it is poor. Average is about .300; Jefferies was .288 for his career, so "exceptionally" is overstating it. It was much worse with the Mets.
   71. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 27, 2020 at 03:56 PM (#5953910)
53 said "very low," and it is poor. Average is about .300; Jefferies was .288 for his career, so "exceptionally" is overstating it. It was much worse with the Mets.


BABIP changes over time. In 1990, when Jefferies' BABIP was .282, the NL average was .286. In 1991, Jefferies' BABIP was .278, while the NL average was .281. The only time he really had what you could call a poor BABIP was his rookie season, 1989, and even then it was only 15 points below the league average.
   72. Ron J Posted: May 27, 2020 at 04:15 PM (#5953915)
#71 I prefer to remove pitchers when comparing to league average. Pitchers do lower the numbers.

It would be interesting to do a yearly z-score for Jefferies comparing his BABIP to all players with (for simplicity) 300+ PAs.
   73. Hysterical & Useless Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:09 PM (#5953932)
Perhaps it's just that memory plays tricks, but my recollection is that when Jefferies came up in late '88 he hit everything hard.

The following year, he seemed to continue to hit the ball hard, but didn't get the results. The next spring, one of the baseball annuals (don't remember whose) had started tabulating "hard outs" (aka "atom balls") and Jefferies was one of the top three. So the immediate thought was, oh, he was really unlucky, this year should be better. Well, it was a bit better, but it wasn't until his 2 years with the Cardinals that we saw the guy we thought we were going to get. And then he was done.
   74. Rally Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:40 PM (#5953943)
BABIP .277 as a Met, probably some ballpark effect there.
   75. Ron J Posted: May 27, 2020 at 06:02 PM (#5953948)
Maybe. But as I recall the park effects back then had more to do with K rates. Meaning that Jefferies might have been well suited for the park.
   76. Ron J Posted: May 27, 2020 at 06:13 PM (#5953950)
#73 I was talking with a lot of Met fans back then.

Almost to a man they dismissed the fact that AAA pitchers had no particular problem with him.

All they wanted to talk about was the young shortstop who chewed up AA (and not that interested in a very low unintentional walk rate) who had a great run in the major leagues.

I'm sure he hit a lot of balls hard in his initial run. No reliable way to get the results he did. I don't recall him showing up in the unlucky hitter lists that Stats used to include in their annuals in his days as a regular with the Mets. I'll have to see whether I still have any of them still handy.

   77. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: May 27, 2020 at 06:24 PM (#5953954)
The league average numbers in [71] are interesting. I had assumed that they have basically been ~.300 for decades.

So I was off to say that his .288 was "very low," though I still would have expected a player with his profile to have been a bit higher. Maybe his very low K rate (I'll stand by that one) was the result of a bunch of soft 2-strike swings.
   78. Jay Z Posted: May 27, 2020 at 07:37 PM (#5953971)
I looked at the BABIP for the 1988 Mets, all 14 players with more than 100 PA. Career numbers for all of them.

BABIP has a bias against power hitters, at least for this sample. All of the power hitters were below .300, the players with less power above. Players with power get less of a boost because the strikeouts and home runs ratio differently. 30 HR player doesn't strike out 6 times as often as 5 HR player.

Jefferies was the only one of the 14 whose career BA was lower than their BABIP. By a point. Gary Carter had the same. Keith Hernandez had the best at .322. Hernandez struck out considerably more often than Jefferies, had the same power, but higher BA all the same.

Jefferies' low K rate is interesting, but I don't think he really did anything valuable by not striking out. He didn't take advantage.

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