Piazza was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft and made his Major League debut as a September call up in 1992. Piazza would earn the starting spot during the 1993 season and won the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year award. His six years in Los Angeles were marked by six consecutive All-Star appearances coupled with six Silver Slugger Awards. It is believed that with free agency looming on the horizon for Piazza, with the desire to cut salary by the Florida Marlins a deal was made by both teams. The Dodgers traded Mike Piazza and Todd Ziele to the Marlins for Gary Sheffield, Bobby Bonilla, Charles Johnson & Jim Eisenreich. The Marlins then turned around and Piazza to the New York Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnell, & Geof Getz. Piazza would bat .348 with 23 HRs and 76 RBI in 394 at-bats for the remainder of the 1998. His performance and desire to be challenged by playing in New York City led Piazza to sign a seven-year contract worth a record $91 million. Piazza would be the heart and soul of the team until his departure after the 2005 season.
In 16 seasons, Piazza hit a career .308 with 427 HRs and 1335 RBI. In 6911 at-bats, he had 2127 Hits (344 2B/8 3B/427 HR), 759 BB, 1113 K’s, an OPS of .922 (.377 OBP/.545 SLG). In terms of fielding, Piazza had .989 fielding percentage but was lacking when it came to throwing out base-stealers, only throwing out just 23% of runners (423 out 1823) for his career. Piazza won the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year. He was a 12-time All Star, a 10-time Silver Slugger and though he did not win any MVP awards, Piazza was in the top ten of MVP voting seven times with three top five finishes (finished second in 1996 and 1997). What I find impressive about Piazza was his plate discipline. As a power hitter, I expected more strikeouts from him and looking at his career statistics, Piazza never had a season of more than 100 strikeouts. In fact his highest season total for strikeouts was 93 in 1996. So where does he stand with the 15 catchers currently in the Hall? Well, here goes.
Here is where Piazza ranks (with the leader in parenthesis)
Average .308 4th (Mickey Cochrane .328)
Hits 2127 3rd (Carlton Fisk 2356)
RBI 1335 3rd (Roy Campanella 1430)
HR 427 1st
SLG .545 1st
FLD% .989 Tied 3rd (Gary Carter .991)
SB 23% Last (Roy Campanella 57%)
There is no doubt that Piazza’s offensive performance puts him within the upper echelon of catchers currently in the Hall of Fame. Though his defensive performance places him at or near the bottom of the list, I don’t see that being something that would not get Piazza the necessary minimum 75% of the vote for the Hall of Fame.
To close, I want to mention the moment where Piazza stood out to me. I remember watching a Mets vs. Phillies game on TV, when it was I’m not sure but it was being played in Veterans Stadium and I don’t remember if the announcers had touched on this but Piazza stalked up to the plate for his at-bat with a nasty scowl on his face. Normally, Piazza was very smooth while at the plate. No wasted motion or superstitious movements as some other batters in the league. This time though Piazza was just chomping at the bit. I’m not sure what pitch in the count that Piazza connected on but I have to say, it was probably one of the hardest hit ball I’ve seen on TV. Piazza connected on this pitch and drove it deep to centerfield over the black part of the wall a number of rows back. His demeanor continued unabated as he rounded the bases. Locks bouncing as he slowly ran the bases. Whoever pissed him off that day made some pitcher pay for it.
For Further Reading
- Click Here for Mike Piazza’s career statistics from BaseballReference.com
- Click Here to access the list of Catchers currently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame from Baseball-Almanac.com
- Click Here to access the blogpost 1998: Mets Acquire Mike Piazza From the Marlins from the Centerfield Maz blogpage
- Click Here to access Jason Diamos’ article Piazza, Risking Boos, Accepts Challenge With Mets from the New York Times website dated October 27, 1998