Mike Friere - Blast From The Past - Kevin Mitchell


OK, so I will admit that the Mets' startling downturn has gotten to me quite a bit.  That has resulted in a bit of a negative turn in my recent contributions to this site and in my general fandom as a whole.  While I try to "call them like I see them", I prefer to be positive whenever possible.  With that said, I wanted to switch things up a bit and take a different approach for this series of articles.  I am calling them my "blast from the past" and I will pick a player from the Mets' teams of the past and take a deeper look at them, using the fancy "new" statistical models that may not have been in existence at that time.

Recent installments of this series have focused on players like Hubie Brooks, Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry.  However, today I want to take a look at "the one that got away" or "the bad boy", also known as Kevin Mitchell.

Kevin was signed by the Mets as an 18 year old "amateur free agent" in November of 1980, so he wasn't even drafted, which is interesting.  He was also listed as 5-10 and 186 pounds which is a few ticks light on the scale in my opinion, as he more accurately resembled a bowling ball.  Starting in 1981, Kevin worked his way through the minor leagues to include a "cup of coffee" with the Mets in 1984.  After another stint in the minor leagues, he made it back to the Mets and MLB for good during the infamous 1986 season.

During that year, he compiled the following statistical line (hinting at things to come);

378 Plate Appearances

.275/.340/.456  (.796 OPS)

12 HR/44 RBI/3 SB/51 Runs

2.1 WAR

***Played every position except 2B and Pitcher while contributing quite a bit to
the eventual World Champions.

***Third place in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1986.

After a start like that, what team wouldn't want the 24 year old on their roster?  Sadly, for as much promise as Kevin's potential provided, there were stories of an equally troubled individual when it came to his off the field conduct (assisted, no doubt by the high character of his Mets' teammates). Perhaps in an effort to "sell high", the Mets traded Kevin as a part of a multiple player deal for Kevin McReynolds from the San Diego Padres (one Kevin for another, I suppose).

While Kevin McReynolds was a solid addition, Kevin Mitchell eventually went on to become one of the more feared sluggers in the National League for a handful of seasons with the San Francisco Giants (he actually teamed up with Jeff Kent to provide an excellent "one-two punch" for those Giant teams.....much to the Mets' dismay).

Kevin actually played for 13 years as a professional ballplayer, primarily as a Left Fielder, for a total of eight teams (NYM, SD, SF, SEA, CIN,CLE, OAK and BOS) so he was actually a bit of a journeyman which was surprising.  He stayed with the Giants the longest (5 years) where he also had most of his success (19.3 of his career 29.1 WAR).   However, his 1989 season was RIDICULOUS!

NL MVP/Silver Slugger/All Star

640 Plate Appearances

.291/.388/.635  (1.023 OPS)

47 HR/125 RBI/3 SB/100 Runs

6.9 WAR (including negative defensive -1.7 WAR, which makes his offensive contributions even more impressive)

As a fan of the Mets during that era, the mere mention of Kevin's name always left me with a feeling of remorse.  He seemed like someone the team should have held onto and built around.  Upon reviewing the statistics today, it seems that he was an amazing player from roughly 1988 through 1991, with an additional "decent" year for the Reds in 1994.  Otherwise, he was more of a role player that continued to move around for most of his career.

Would the Mets have been better off keeping Kevin Mitchell?   That is hard to say, but my gut tells me that despite the "monster year" in 1989, he may have been more trouble then he was worth.  After all, how many players move around as much as he did?  Eight teams in thirteen years is a bit much, right?

Taking the "personal feelings" out of the equation, it is safe to say that Kevin did quite well for an undrafted free agent and he was one hell of a player when he was "on". 


Thomas Brennan said...

I loved that Mitchell bat with the Mets, and loved it more after he left the Mets.

Infielders seem to leave the Mets and excel - Kent, Turner, Murphy, Mitchell. Who am I missing?

And what round was he drafted in, if at all?

Reese Kaplan said...

No story about Kevin Mitchell could be complete without referencing the cat incident:


Of course, they may have parted ways with him over his loose cannon personality (yet managed to hang onto Lenny Dykstra)...

Mike Freire said...

Yeah, he was a wild child to say the least.

I remember his one handed, behind his head catch as he was running into foul territory in left field (for the Giants).

Mack's Mets © 2012