Blind Observer #3: Did the Mueller trade benefit

With Tim Worrell's performance as a closer, the Mueller trade may not have been as bad as it seemed in 2001, when the Giants had three untalented third baseman trying to fill Mueller's shoes.

As a huge Bill Mueller fan, I was shocked and appalled when the Giants chose to trade Bill Mueller after the 2000 season. However now, two and a half years later, I have decided to answer the question. Was the Mueller trade beneficial for the Giants?

First, we shall begin with the negatives. When the Giants traded Mueller, they were left with Russ Davis, Pedro Feliz, and Ramon Martinez to fill his role at the hot corner during the 2001 season. They had no real third baseman during the season. It was a tritoon (three third basemen), if that is a word. Russ Davis performed the worst defensively, receiving ten errors in only 81 chances, for a .890 fielding percentage. Ramon Martinez had the same fielding percentage as Bill Mueller did in 2000, .974. He had only 4 errors over 70 games. However, Pedro Feliz had 12 errors in 86 games, and a fielding percentage of .908.

Overall, the Giants tritoon had 26 errors at the hot corner. That is almost three times more than Mueller made in 2000, when he had nine errors. It was still 8 more errors than Mueller's worst defensive full season, when he had 18 errors.

Offensively, none of the Giants new third basemen produced very well. Sure, they combined for 19 HRs and 76 RBIs, but that was in 778 at-bats, and their batting average was a lowly .247. There is no way to argue that the Giants improved at the hot corner in 2001. That was one of their worst seasons for the position.

However, the Giants did gain Tim Worrell. In 2001, he went 2-5 with a 3.45 ERA. After the 2000 season, the Giants were in need of more relief pitching, and Worrell hit the spot. However, did the benefits from his 2001 performance negate the loss of Bill Mueller at third base?

The answer, in 2001, is no. 17 extra errors, not very good. There is also the fan aspect. Mueller was a fan favorite for the four years he was the Giants starting third baseman, and an inexperienced rookie (Feliz), a mediocre backup (Martinez), and a liability in the field (Davis) don't quite have the same fan appeal.

However, when you look into 2002, things change. Worrell had a much better season, going 8-2 with an amazing 2.45 ERA. The Giants got another solid third baseman in David Bell. No longer were they really feeling the effects of the Mueller trade.

In 2003, Worrell has been an invaluable resource to the Giants. He has become their closer because Rob Nen had a season-ending injury before the season began. However, at this point, Mueller is doing better than the Giants current third baseman, Edgardo Alfozno. Alfonzo is hitting .213, while Mueller is hitting .346. Mueller's 1.024 OPS is quite a bit higher than Alfonzo's weak .625. However, Alfonzo has been heating up since April. He hit .174 in the month of April, yet has hit .345 so far in May. Historically, Mueller struggles in June and July, so his current numbers are somewhat of a fluke. Alfonzo heats up in the summer months, especially in August.

One last argument in favor of trading Mueller would be his performance as a hitter in Pac Bell Park since it was rather mediocre. He hit only .251 in his career in Pac Bell Park, his worst batting average in any park that he has had at least 100 at-bats in.

Overall, the trade benefited the Giants, although not in the 2001 season. This year and in 2002 the Giants have been enjoying the benefit of the Mueller trade. As a fan, I still miss him, but I am aware that he and the Giants are now both better off.

Jesse Radin writes for SFDugout.com and has been a Giants follower since 1996. The Blind Observer is Jesse's column covering all things baseball, though mainly about the Giants. Questions or comments can be sent to videokid@videokid.com


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