Carlos Delgado at the Top of His Game

Carlos Delgado’s official retirement in 2011 sort of slipped under the radar. It was understandable, since it came in April right after the beginning of the season. It was a bit unfortunate, though, because Delgado had an wonderful career. Yesterday at the Rogers Centre, the former Met and Marlin slugger was recognized by the team he was most closely associated with, the Blue Jays, during a ceremony in which he was inducted into the Jays’ “Level of Excellence.”

[It’s a tremendous name, isn’t it? I can imagine the brainstorming that went into it. Team President: “You need to come up with a name for our version of a Ring of Honor that is a bit different. Something like, ‘Level of Excellence,’ but, you know, better.” {President leaves rooms.} Marketing Person to others: “‘Level of Excellence’ okay with everyone?” {Others shrug in assent.}]

Delgado was outstanding, but he was no Hall of Famer. He move from catcher to first base early on, and even that position was a stretch, no matter how hard he tried. He was bad on the bases. But the guy could hit. From 1997 to 2004, he was one of the best hitters in the American League. His 148 wRC+ over that span was the equal of Alex Rodriguez and better than Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas.

Delgado never won the MVP, but he placed second in 2003, when he hit .302/.426/.593 (159 wRC+) with 42 home runs. And that wasn’t even his best year, 2000 (when he finished fourth in the voting) was. Delgado finished his career with 473 home runs, and his career 135 wRC+ is actually better than, for example, George Brett’s 132. Sure, Brett was a good third baseman as opposed to a bad first baseman, but who is going to say that Brett’s bat wouldn’t have played at first? I assume FanGraphs readers are smart enough to get the point — Delgado was good.

Relevant anecdotes and personal reflections are best left to others. More complete career overviews can be found elsewhere. What I can do here is recall some of Delgado’s biggest hits according to Win Probability Added (WPA).

Biggest Playoff Hit

Delgado only went to the playoffs once, with the 2006 Mets. Delgado actually was courted by the Mets when he was a free agent after 2004, but opted to sign with the Marlins. After the Marlins 2005 spending spree didn’t work out, they (surprise!) had a fire sale and traded Delgado to the Mets. Hey, Florida got Mike Jacobs in that trade, who says they were shafted the fans? So Delgado ended up a Met after all.

Delgado was nearing the end of his career, but at 34, he still had something in the tank when it came time to hit. He powered his way to a .265/.361/.548 (128 wRC+) lie in his first season in New York on the Mets’ way to the divisional title. Although the 2006 Mets are remembered for their failure to reach the World Series, that can hardly be blamed on Delgado. He hit .351/.442/.757 (204 wRC+) with four home runs in just 10 playoff games. During the Mets’ there-game sweep of the Dodgers in the NLDS, he hit .429/.429/1.071. He was even better in the Mets’ 4-3 series loss to the Cardinals in the NLCS: .304/.448/.826 with three home runs and three doubles.

Delgado’s biggest hit of the playoffs came during Game Four on October 15. Although the Mets would end up winning the game 12-5, that was a later-innings occurrence. In the top of the fifth, the game was tied at two. With runners on first and second and none out, Delgado hit a home run that put the Mets up 5-2 (.217 WPA), and that opened the floodgates for the eventual blowout.

Four Home Runs

When a player hits four home runs, one might reasonably assume his team won in a route. But that was not true on September 25, 2003. Delgado was coming to the end of one of the best seasons of his career as the Blue Jays welcomed the then-Devil Rays to Toronto. There was something of a (pathetic) rivalry between Toronto’s also-ran teams and the Tampa Bay’s miserable ones back then. Delgado not only hit four homers, but is, the only player to have ever done so in only four plate appearances. And given how close the game was, none of them were inconsequential “stat padding” homers.

The first was in the bottom of the first, a three-run shot to put the Jays up 3-0. In the fourth inning, Delgado’s solo shot put the Jays up 4-1. By the bottom of the sixth, though, the Jays were down 6-5, but Delgado tied the game up with another solo home run. The Jays fell behind again in the eigth, 8-7, when Delgado tied the game up with his fourth home run of the day, the Jays’ biggest play of the game (.271 WPA), though they went up for good later in the inning to win 10-8. Delgado finished the game with a total WPA of .684.

Delgado’s Biggest Hit

Few would doubt that the four-homer game was Delgado’s biggest single most memorable day. However, in terms of WPA impact, his home run on July 8, 2004 was bigger than all four of those put together. The Mariners were up 4-0 on the Blue Jays and Dave Bush in the second, but by the bottom of the fifth Toronto had rallied back to go up 6-4. The Mariners took the lead 8-6 in the eighth when Randy Winn hit a two-run homer. That was the score in the bottom of the ninth when Seattle sent their closer, Everyday Eddie Guardado, to the mound. With one out, Dave Berg managed a solo home run. The Jays managed to get two more on with two outs for Delgado. You know how this story ends: Delgado hit one into the second deck for .816 WPA and the walk-off win.

Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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10 years ago

Nice article, but Delgado deserves better proof-reading. Like Carlos in the field–plenty of errors.

Nick O
10 years ago
Reply to  Adrock

Carlos had a tendency to use comma splices as well.