Top 100 Mets: #95 - Roger Cedeno, Part II

Roger's First Tour With Mets Was Very Good

At the moment, the name of Roger Cedeno is a cursed one among Mets fans. The Metropolitan faithful lament his defensive ineptitude and his offensive weakness. In his second tour as a Met, Cedeno has become a favorite of the Shea boo-birds. However, these facts disguise the fact that Cedeno once was a dynamic player at the top of the most exiting lineup the Mets have featured in the last decade. He also was part of two of the trades that built the Mets teams of 1999 and 2000. (Free Preview)

Roger Leandro Cedeno started his career as a disappointing bit player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was acquired by the Mets in the Todd Hundley trade before the 1999 season, a three way trade in which the Mets sent away catcher Todd Hundley and received Cedeno from the Dodgers and closer Armando Benitez from the Baltimore Orioles. For the 1999 Mets, he joined future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, and had a career year under the tutelage of the legend.

Mets fans will remember that Cedeno set the Mets all time record for stolen bases in a season in 1999, with 66. A much more critical element in his offensive punch that year was his on base skill. Cedeno over the course of his career has not consistently displayed an ability to excel at what is the most important offensive skill in baseball. In 1999, however, he hit .313 and drew 60 walks in 453 at bats, leading to an On Base Percentage of .396.

On the whole, Cedeno hit .313/.396/.408 in a league that hit .269/.344/.434 at Shea Stadium. His OPS+, a measure of how his OPS (OPB+SLG) compares to the league average, was 108. His OPS was then roughly eight percent better than the average. Since on base skill is more important then power, this measure underestimates Cedeno's impact in 1999. Equated Average, EQA, is a metric tracked by baseballprospectus.com. It is based on the same principles as OPS, but gives each component its proper weight and is calibrated to the same scale as batting average. EQA is calibrated such that .260 is exactly league average. Roger Cedeno posted an EQA of .292 in 1999. This is 12 percent above the league average.

Mets fans cannot help but have painful memories of Cedeno's defense burned into their brains as a result of his misadventures in the field in the last two years. It would not be so easily remembered that Cedeno was not such a walking run hemorrhage in the field in 1999. According to the stats at baseballprospectus.com, Cedeno was –6, -33, and –9 runs above average in 2000, 2001, and 2002 (2003 statistics not available). In other words, he was 6, 33, and 9 runs below average. In 1999, however he was +5 runs above average.

A simple way to estimate what Cedeno was worth in 1999 is to take offensive and defensive runs above average.
D. Henson
Roger Cedeno: It's difficult to remember Cedeno was once very good, stealing 66 bases in 1999.
A clunky, simpleminded, measure that is surprisingly effective as a quick and dirty estimator is this: multiply OBP*SLG*AB to find RC (Runs Created – a Bill James invention). The league average RC in 1999 at Shea Stadium in 453 AB was 67.6, while Cedeno's was 73.2. Adding Cedeno's defensive runs from baseball prospectus, we find Cedeno to have been worth 10.6 runs above average. 10 runs above average on either side of the ball is worth roughly one win. So, we find Cedeno to have been worth one win for the 1999 Mets. Since this RC formula values OBP as much as SLG, it undervalues OBP. Plus, Cedeno may have created more runs with his speed. It is unlikely these add up to a second win, so we can leave it be saying Cedeno produced 1+ wins.

The 1999 Mets lineup was the best offensive team the Mets have fielded in years, ranking fifth in the National League with 853 runs scored. The strength of that lineup was on base percentage. That team led the NL with a team OBP of .361. Roger Cedeno, and his mentor Rickey Henderson (OBP of .423), combined to produce an OBP of .410 in 1051 plate appearances. The rest of the lineup produced an OBP of .351 in 5411 plate appearances. So, Cedeno and Henderson were responsible for increasing the team OBP by 10 points. This is a not an inconsiderable achievement.

Henderson, for his part, added more power than Cedeno. He hit .315/.423/.466 in a league that hit .269/.344/.434 at Shea Stadium. In Henderson's 438 AB, he produced 86.3 RC, compared to the league average of 65.4. He was worth 20.9 runs above average offensively, and despite losing 7 runs on defense was worth 15 runs – one and a half wins.

Though it cannot be scientifically proven, for whatever amount Henderson helped Cedeno to his career-best marks of 1999, he added that much more value to the Mets. Known as a good teacher of the baseball young, Henderson may have had his most profound impact on Cedeno. It is unfortunate that Cedeno could not retain more of Henderson's influence.

Cedeno indirectly took part in the Mets World Series run in 2000. He was included in a trade, along with now uber-reliever Octavio Dotel for LHP Mike Hampton and throw-in OF Derek Bell. Bell was a waste offensively, but Hampton pitched to an ERA of 3.14 in 217.2 IP, forming a formidable head of the rotation with Al Leiter.

Henderson was unhappy and disappointed in 2000, and was sent away. Separate from Henderson, Cedeno never replicated the success he enjoyed in 1999. With the losses of Henderson and Cedeno, the Mets did not replicate their remarkable on-base success of 1999. Nevertheless, the duo played a small part in Mets history, and it is fitting that they be written of together.

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